Opinion | Iconic brands and new stars show Hong Kong has what it takes for global success

Opinion | Iconic brands and new stars show Hong Kong has what it takes for global success

Opinion | Iconic brands and new stars show Hong Kong has what it takes for global success

These developments are no surprise. Hong Kong was the most prosperous city in China, known for its entrepreneurial zeal and ability to create products with great appeal. The success of these brands were built on a foundation of trust, quality, efficient distribution and a deep understanding of consumer needs.

Today, as Hong Kong grapples with economic challenges, we must nurture a new breed of iconic brands. These brands must not only overcome market limitations but also ignite innovation, becoming beacons that help Hong Kong navigate its way out of its economic glut and propel it forward on the global stage.

However, the global arena is different from when these legacy companies were founded. The rules of the game have changed too. Will trust alone suffice for success in today’s market? Creating a brand may be easier, but forging an “iconic” brand has never been more difficult.


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Since local apparel brand Giordano was founded in 1981, commerce has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from physical storefronts to a global, digital arena where technology reigns supreme.
The advent of e-commerce has turned the world into a fiery crucible where businesses from every corner of the globe vie for consumer attention. This shift has not only expanded the reach of businesses but also changed the nature of competition itself.

Data has become a crucial asset, enabling businesses to understand and predict consumer behaviour, tailor experiences and optimise operations. Increasingly, product differentiation hinges on brand, innovation and the ability to deliver unique value propositions.

Against this backdrop, a wave of home-grown companies is rising, each breaking through barriers to achieve global success. Hong Kong companies revolutionising tech accessories, disrupting logistics and redefining note-taking represent only the beginnings of a broader movement. And let’s not forget Coa’s dominance as Asia’s top bar.
Casetify, founded in 2011 by Wesley Ng, began as an e-commerce platform for customising phone cases with Instagram photos. Now boasting over 15 million cases sold globally, the brand has turned tech accessories into personal style statements, collaborating with the likes of Kylie Jenner and Blackpink. Interestingly, Ng credits his business acumen to observing his parents manage their restaurant in Hong Kong.
Casetify founder Wesley Ng at the company’s headquarters in Kwun Tong in February 2023. Photo: Jonathan Wong
“For a Hong Kong team to say that we can actually succeed in the China internet business is … tantamount to almost a mission impossible,” says Chow Shing-yuk, founder and CEO of Lalamove. Initially, the logistics platform’s success hinged on hyper-localisation, prompting Chow, when they started the mainland business, to relocate his entire team from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and Guangzhou for closer market engagement.
The hyper-localisation strategy seems to have worked. Lalamove now commands a formidable presence, operating in over 400 cities across 11 markets, with over 420 million orders globally in 2022. The company has submitted its listing application to the Hong Kong stock exchange; its initial public offering could be one of the largest in recent years.

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Goodnotes, too, evolved from a simple app to an AI-driven digital paper pioneer, amassing 24 million users and gaining recognition as Apple’s 2022 iPad App of the Year.

These companies’ journeys, however, have not been seamless. They face the complex task of adapting to various markets and consumer behaviours. Hong Kong’s small market is shaped by the “one country, two systems” framework, a setting which necessitates a two-pronged strategy: adapting to the global landscape while forging an identity that resonates within the city itself.

Goodnotes founder Steven Chan faced difficulties early on due to limited resources and support, epitomising these challenges. He even grappled with doubts about the app’s long-term viability, given that he was its sole developer and lacked capital, marketing expertise and connections.

Goodnotes founder Steven Chan at the company’s UK office in August 2022. Photo: Handout
Another example is the effort to shift taxi drivers towards accepting cashless payments, a stark contrast to the widespread adoption of such systems in mainland China where cash is increasingly obsolete. This situation highlights the broader struggle for Hong Kong in fostering sizeable internet companies, but there is a growing optimism for change.

The time is ripe for policies, investments and a business ecosystem that support and propel these emerging brands to iconic status, ensuring that Hong Kong retains its relevance in the rapidly evolving global landscape.

While the Hong Kong government has invested HK$150 billion in promoting innovation and technological development, returns are yet to be proven. Moreover, there is room for improvement in enhancing public-private partnerships, expanding internationalisation support and improving talent development.

Despite these challenges, there is an unmistakable air of optimism about Hong Kong’s future as it navigates through the current economic trials. The road ahead is long and uncertain, but Hong Kong cannot afford to sidestep it.

After all, the city’s emerging companies hold more than just the promise of global success – they embody the dynamism and innovative spirit of Hong Kong, just as their predecessors did.

Jeffrey Wu is a director at MindWorks Capital, a leading Hong Kong-headquartered venture capital firm specialising in technology investment across Greater China and Southeast Asia

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