Kezhi Jiang, GM, Miniso, on launching the Chinese retail giant and its future in Pakistan.
SYED WAJEEH-UL-HASSAN NAQVI: When was Miniso launched in Pakistan?
KEZHI JIANG: Miniso was launched in June, 2017. From market research to establishing Miniso’s presence, I managed everything.
SWHN: Is Miniso a franchise?
KJ: Our HQ is in China and almost all Miniso outlets worldwide are company-owned stores. However, to expand our presence further, we developed a franchise model. In China, the franchise model is completely managed by Miniso, however, since some overseas markets are unique, it is difficult for the company to directly manage all stores. This is the reason why a different type of franchise model was established.
SWHN: In Pakistan, in how many cities does Miniso have a presence and how many outlets are there overall?
KJ: We have 68 stores in Pakistan, of which 34 are operational in 11 cities so far. Once all the stores become operational, we will have covered two-thirds of Pakistan’s market.
SWHN: What product categories does Miniso offer?
KJ: We have over 10,000 SKUs in Pakistan. They are divided into 11 categories – creative, homeware, stationery and gifts, health and beauty, accessories, food and beverages, boutique and bags, toys, textiles, digital products, life department and seasonal products.
SWHN: What brought Miniso to Pakistan?
KJ: In 2015, our HQ management decided to expand Miniso worldwide. We are already operational in 72 countries and aim to be in 100 countries by 2019. The main factor here is China’s friendship with Pakistan. When we first visited Pakistan, we felt the hospitality and the market research determined that there is high customer demand in Pakistan for Chinese products.
SWHN: What is the competitive landscape of the category?
KJ: We don’t think we have any competitors. Ours is a completely new business model and the opposite of conventional retail models. In a traditional retail model, the product goes from the manufacturer to the branding section to agents and then to the franchise stores and in the end, to the customers. This way, the cost to the customer increases with every layer of intermediaries. At Miniso, we have revolutionised the process and deliver directly from the manufacturer to the customer, which eliminates the intermediaries. Considering the uniqueness of our business model, we believe that our market share will only grow.
In 2015, our HQ management decided to expand Miniso worldwide. We are already operational in 72 countries and aim to be in 100 countries by 2019.
SWHN: Who is your target audience?
KJ: We cater to all age groups and have a variety of products to suit everyone. Our prices cover all segments because we want to cater to all socio-economic groups. Our products are low in price but high in quality. We want to fulfil the needs of every person in the global market and this is an ongoing subject of study at our HQ.
SWHN: Is Miniso’s pricing premium, average or below average compared to other retailers?
KJ: Thanks to our business model, we believe that our pricing is the lowest in the industry.
SWHN: How are customers facilitated, in addition to quality and affordability?
KJ: We focus on giving the customer a premium shopping experience, which we achieve through a combination of the quality of our products, our store design, our customer service and our management.
SWHN: How is Miniso promoted in Pakistan?
KJ: The people who visited our stores were the initial message carriers and this word-of-mouth marketing worked so well for us that there was no need to spend much on marketing. For new product or store launches we use OOH. Print advertising in magazines has been used occasionally. We have undertaken several promotions on radio and we do a great deal of BTL activities at our mall outlets. We do not think TV is the right medium just yet. On the digital front, we have bloggers reviewing our products and posting videos with hashtags without receiving payment from us. At the moment, our focus is not on spending excessively to advertise. We have an in-house team that handles all brand communications and they are supported by our HQ in terms of content, which helps us maintain global standards for all our campaigns across the world.
SWHN: What is the future of retail in Pakistan in terms of challenges and opportunities?
KJ: Retail in Pakistan doesn’t present any significant challenges. We keep optimising our systems so we don’t face any challenges in terms of customer response. The only challenge at the moment is the fact that the number of our stores is limited. The big opportunity is that the market is virtually empty and we have the first mover advantage in developing this special category. At Miniso, everything is available under the same roof, so the ease of access is there. According to our research, Pakistan’s market has a potential capacity of 150 to 200 Miniso stores, so there is room for expansion.
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