The firm, founded in Australia but now owned by Hong Kong-listed Health & Happiness (H&H) - entered the market in February 2020 in partnership with Amazon India, in a move which Akash Bedi, Group Chief Strategy & Operations Officer for H&H, said was a logical next step for Swisse’s market expansion progression.
However, he added that India presented exporters with unfamiliar hurdles, not least the complex regulatory landscape and challenges in finding local partners.
Bedi said that the firm sought advice from Austrade - the Australian Government's trade, investment and education promotion agency – who were able to share their “tales from the trenches” in India.
“This helped us figure out what’s going on in India’s FMCG [fast moving consumer goods] market,”said Bedi. “These professional insights supplemented the picture we built up from market research from other sources.”
To mitigate risk, Swisse decided on an all-digital entry strategy, launching first with Amazon India. This enabled the firm to build its brand without having to negotiate distribution agreements, or invest in traditional advertising.
“Amazon India could give us access to millions of consumers,” said Bedi. ‘Also they could help with logistics and distribution.”
The trigger for Swisse’s launch in India was the Australia–India Business Exchange (AIBX) in February 2020.
Organised by Austrade, AIBX was a high-profile business delegation to India led by Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham.
“We had participated in Austrade events in the US and Korea, so we knew their value,” said Bedi.
“These trade events deliver good commercial outcomes for us, and we can leverage Australia’s reputation as a source of high-quality produce.”
Swisse had intended to mount a ‘soft-launch’ during the AIBX visit, but as collaboration increased it decided that a full-scale product launch was actually viable.
“As February approached we progressed faster than expected, so we launched Swisse in Bangalore with Trade Minister Birmingham, Nick Mann, Managing Director for Swisse ANZ and the Amazon team all in attendance,” said Bedi. “It was a big success: we became the first Australian brand to go live on Amazon’s Australian store in India.”
When Amazon India launched its Australia Store in February 2020, it showcased just 12 Australian brands; by October there were 37 on the site including Capilano, Carman’s, San Remo, and Sand and Sky Australia.
Austrade Business Development Manager Yaser Siddiqui said there are approximately eight comparable e-commerce platforms in India, broadening the commercial horizon for Australian exporters.
“We continue to work with Swisse – helping them to explore sales opportunities and understand labelling requirements,” said Siddiqui. ‘In India, e-commerce is a game-changer for exporters. Our role is to help brands get up and running in India, so we are eager to connect Australian exporters to e-commerce platforms.”
Bedi added that the prospects for Swisse in India are strong, not least because middle class is rapidly developing a taste for premium produce with wellness connotations.
“We believe that, for Swisse, India will prove as valuable a market as our other export markets,” he said.
“Technology and retail are at different stages of development in India and there are many complications. But having launched, we know that India will be a major market for us in the future.”