The Group of Two’s recent protectionists policies followed by Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election and China’s economic retaliation against Korea over the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system seem to be serious risks for Korean exporters.
B2LiNK CEO Lee So-hyung, however, confidently said no government can interfere with macro-trends in the market. The 33-year-old is one of the co-founders of the IT-based business-to-business startup which distributes Korean beauty brands to global retail channels in the most effective way possible.
“The U.S. will not restrict small areas. It may impose anti-dumping tariffs on steel, but consumer goods ― especially Korean cosmetics ― will not be regulated as they are not in the majority of the market,” Lee said in an interview with The Korea Times on Friday.
“Most people fear that trade with China will be threatened, but local Chinese firms actually earn more money than Korean businesses through the cosmetics trade. Chinese authorities will be unlikely to regulate the trade, as most Chinese consumers purchase Korean cosmetics via their local online platforms.”
After working in many industries in several countries as a consultant of McKinsey & Company for four years, Lee decided to operate a business that introduces Korean consumer goods to the world. He said, “The industry in which Korea has an advantage over other countries is in consumer goods.”
His company initially targeted the Chinese market and has expanded its presence there. The Seoul-based company established local offices in Tianjin and Shanghai. It also signed supply contracts with China’s top commerce firms including Watsons China and RuHnn.
“When I began to run my business in 2014, China’s economy was growing rapidly with its e-commerce market which was growing much faster,” Lee said. “The rate of cosmetics consumption, on the other hand, was still low at that time, so I thought there might be a chance for a success.”
However, B2LiNK is drawing up a blueprint to globally expand the presence of K-beauty beyond China. Lee said, “Korean consumer goods have depended too much on China so far, and we want to help the firms gain competitiveness in the global market. Demand for Korean consumer goods is rising in the U.S., Europe, Africa and the Middle East.”
B2LiNK began to supply Korean cosmetics to retail channels in Southeast Asia this May and posts more than 100 million won ($85,000) in monthly sales there. It plans to establish an office in the U.S. next year, which will be the company’s first base camp toward the developed market.
“We are actively recruiting employees in the U.S. and Southeast Asia,” Lee said. “We will hire local people to lead our subsidiary companies there.”
Lee said B2LiNK wants employees who can build their careers in the company, rather than those who already have experiences in similar industries. “Our basic concept is to develop less advanced industries. Expertise is an old-fashioned concept in B2LiNK,” he said.
Among young “B2LiNKers” whose average age is 29, B2LiNK posted more than 11 billion won in sales last year. The company estimates its sales will be over 30 billion won this year.