“One of my biggest and best decisions was to join the company and decide to stay,” replied Ketin Lei, General Manager Corporate Affairs Beiersdorf China, in a recent interview with CHAILEEDO, without thinking twice.
Before joining Beiersdorf in 2010, Ketin Lei had spent many years in the real estate and automotive industries. The crossover from the automotive to the cosmetics industry, as it was understood by the outside world, was, in Ketin Lei’s view, “an act of God”.
At the time, Nivea was already well known in the industry. From a personal point of view, he had been in contact with and used Nivea products since he was at university in 1998. He was also a beneficiary of the brand. By coincidence, he joined Beiersdorf and has been there for 13 years.
Over the past 13 years, he has witnessed the take-off of the cosmetics market in China, the changes in the channels, the regulatory adjustment period and the pains of the pandemic. He has also witnessed and participated in the “letting go” and “taking in” of Beiersdorf China. Most notably, in 2019, the Beiersdorf Group is implementing its “C.A.R.E. +” strategy, which encompasses a focus on skincare, investment, digital transformation and care for people and the environment, as China begins a new cycle as a strategic market for the Group.
“In 2019, we have decided to focus on Skin Care, until then we are looking to fly on both wings (skincare + hair care). So as you know, we are sending off the Slek in 2019 to focus more on skincare, containing skincare brands such as Nivea, Eucerin, Chantecaille and Coppertone.”
During the interview, Ketin Lei repeatedly emphasised the Group’s determination to focus on Skin Care. For example, how to strengthen the new communication between Nivea and consumers, and how the channel can adapt to the current fragmentation, more products of Eucerin can come in through general trade, and then go offline when the time is ripe, so that the online and offline can develop synergistically, Chantecaille, which is still taking cross-border trade, how to land in China step by step in the future.
“I think all these things alone are enough for us to do well for three years, and any one thing done well is a good thing for the whole group to take root in China.” Ketin Lei said. According to Beiersdorf’s financial results, overall group sales grew to €6.7 billion ($7.1 billion) in the first nine months of 2022, representing organic growth of 11.1 per cent, with all three brands – Nivea, Eucerin and La Prairie – achieving growth.
The new strategy Beiersdorf is pushing forward in 2019, which was not precipitated by the pandemic and, as Ketin Lei said, “there was no pandemic yet. But even if it came afterwards, we still adjusted well these three years.”
As a top cosmetics company, “we also place a lot of emphasis on sustainability. In response to the ‘double carbon’ goal, we have a series of sustainability landing programmes in China.” Ketin Lei told CHAILEEDO that the Shanghai Innovation Centre is focused and deeply committed to product sustainability, developing and integrating all product packaging in a green and sustainable way from the perspective of the four “Rs” – meeting the requirements of 100% refillable, reusable or recyclable, and using recycled packaging. reusable or recyclable, using recycled materials and optimising design for lightweight packaging.
It is understood that the Shanghai Innovation Centre is the second largest innovation centre in the world for the Beiersdorf Group and is both an important innovation base for the local Chinese market and also carries the responsibility of linking the global and Chinese missions. “How to balance global region and local is a constant topic for multinational companies.” This is how Ketin Lei sees it.
In simple terms, in terms of linking the global and China, “From the R&D perspective, we have nearly 1,000 scientists worldwide, with our headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, gathering scientific and technological strength to carry out ground-breaking cutting-edge basic research, while China does a good job of developing the application layer, that’s one aspect.”
The second aspect, according to him, is that the Shanghai Innovation Centre has a high level of authority and is one of the few innovation centres that can develop its own products independently, being able to develop them for the Chinese market. “This is also based on the fact that the Chinese market is big enough that we feel the need to do this.” He revealed to CHAILEEDO that Beiersdorf has proposed to the relevant authorities to initiate the establishment of a cosmetic industry promotion centre in the Yangtze River Delta.