Tomy Wu, Co-founder of innovative Hong Kong’s wine company, My iCellar, tells the newsDesk how the company are bringing the enjoyment of wine to everyday people, not just the elite. A digital-first platform, this enterprising startup is sponsoring the launch party for theDesk’s newest and largest co-working and events space. theDesk Leighton Centre, Causeway Bay.
A glass half full
MyiCellar is a mobile platform for people to discover wine and tasting events. The company are supporting the launch of theDesk’s newest and largest co-working and events space, theDesk Leighton Centre.
The company launched in early 2018, bringing innovation to the market through an app-based service. You can easily find a wide variety of wines from local distributors with just a few clicks. And get it delivered to your doorstep. Who could want more!
Stories of wine
But helping people discover great international wines is only one side of the service. Every wine has a story that can be told through tasting and pairing. Through the app, the company brings customers the latest wine news and invitations to tasting events around town.
For those who are more serious about their wine, the app provides these customers with a wine journal and handy tools to manage their wine collections.
The company’s goal is to guide customers’ taste buds on an exciting wine journey. And introduce people to a thing or two about wine.
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A bubbly business
According to data from HKTDC, Hong Kong’s wine imports exploded after the removal of import taxes in 2008. In January-June 2017, the latest data available, wine imports reached HK$5.7 billion. This is more than three times the value in 2007, which stood at HK$1.6 billion.
Even though our climate isn’t suitable for growing grapes, the city had grown to become a leading exporter. In the first half of 2017, 91% wine was re-exported to fill glasses in Mainland China and Macau, taking up more than 91% of the total in the first half of 2017.
It’s not all good news, though, the data shows a 24% decline in the export market in the same period. And the value of wine imports also decreased by 9%. While most imported wines came from Europe – particularly France and the United Kingdom, there’s been a significant share coming from Australia in recent years.
My iCellar: Your mobile wine store
“We’re working hard to create a mobile platform to connect the wine lover and wine sellers,” says Tomy Wu, the young Co-founder of innovative Hong Kong wine company, MyiCellar. We’re meeting at theDesk Leighton Centre where the company are sponsoring the March launch party.
“Wine lovers can browse and purchase a wide variety of wine from local merchants.” Not only that, the app-based service includes invitations to tasting events as well as information and resource to help customers make great choices.”
Launched in early 2018, the founders began devising their product a several years before. “I previously worked in the banking industry, on the IT side. We started because there are a lot of wine lovers in HK but the way wine merchants didn’t seem to be systematic.”
A discerning palate
Tomy explains that the usual way for merchants to reach their audience was through newsletters. These typically include a simple price table. “They assume that the customers know what wines to choose,” he says. “So, my partner and I realised that there is a way to do this better through a digital platform.”
Their goal was for people to discover a different variety of wine. And at the same time, learn something about wine. Through their app and social media channels, they began offering educational materials for people who wanted to know more.
“We include a range of content so that you can learn about wine concepts. For example, light or full wine body. It means people can learn more through tasting.”
A world of wines
More and more, people also want to know the story behind the wine. “Because we’re a digital-first company, we can easily describe the winery, the origin and location of wines and the background to winemakers.”
“As a platform ourselves, we don’t focus on any specific wine. We work with our merchants to provide a wide and rich offer,” Tomy explains. “Some merchants will specialise in Australian wine, for example. But whatever the origin, we work with them to build a portfolio and to provide as much information as possible for our customers.”
Something to suit everyone’s pockets
“We’re interested in reaching a wide audience,” says Wu. “We have great house wines below $100, all the way to fine wines worth more than $10,000. It’s a well-crafted selection.”
“There’s a minimum order,” he explains. ”When a customer purchases more than $500 we provide free delivery.”
“We want to lower the barrier for people to enjoy wine. For most merchants, the minimum payment is usually high. We want to fix that problem.”
A personal journey in wine
Tomy’s own experience mirrors those of many customers. “I don’t have a formal background wine but I’m a wine lover. I particularly like red wine,” he tells me.
“I always used to choose Pinot but I’ve discovered a lot more. These days I’m more open to discovering new types. Wine is fascinating, there’s so much to learn.”
“We find that people in Hong Kong tend to focus mostly on French and Italian wines. But we want to use our platform to introduce new world wines, which we believe offers great value for consumers.”
New market, old bottles
The elimination of local wine duties in 2008 has been a significant factor in market expansion. Mainland China has experienced a similar phenomenon.
“Previously, when a company imported wine to China they were charged with 30 – 40% tax. For many countries, like Spain and Portugal, the tax is more relaxed so they are importing more. It’s become affordable for the average person.”
“Our experience is that Chinese people are enjoying wine more and more. A few years ago they tended to only buy well-known brands. Now, there is more curiosity. Wine merchants are becoming more ‘consumer friendly’. And there’s far more choice.”
Wine of the times
“We’re excited about broadening our reach,” Wu explains. “Our expansion plans right now are primarily focused on Singapore and Taiwan, and of course Mainland China. These locations have commonalities in language and culture.”
“For China, we need to take time to study before we fully enter the market. We expect to expand through trial and error in the earlier stages.”
As traditional retail adapts to the rapid changes in customer expectations, My iCellar are in the fortunate position of starting at a time when ecommerce is beginning to take off in Hong Kong. By combining a dazzling selection of international wines with information and educational content to help customers develop their knowledge and love of wine, we can expect bubbly and vintage time for those who enjoy the juice of the vine.
My iCellar – Find out more
Download the free iOS/Android app today: https://goo.gl/HWQKLT
Phone: +852 9851 4772
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Read more on the Hong Kong’s wine industry: Wine-Industry-in-Hong-Kong