12 Nov 2004
Calculated Success(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 11,2004)
Hong Kong Brands
Leona Electronics Co Ltd
|Leona Electronics Co Ltd first launched the Medi-Cal brand followed, two years later, by its Pharma-Cal name|
"While most small- and medium-sized enterprises in Hong Kong were still manufacturing on an OEM basis in the 1980s, our company was among the pioneers in creating our own designs and brand names. We drew up these plans as soon as we started operations in 1985," he recalls.
In the beginning, Leona's 100-worker factory in Hong Kong produced calculators that were exported to the US and Europe. "Despite a steady growth in business, intensifying competition in the electronics sector in the 1990s forced us to come up with a more long-term strategy," Ho says.
"Due to our large overheads in Hong Kong, and the severe competition from mainland counterparts, we realised that there was no niche in offering just ordinary calculators."
The way forward was to build on the company's expertise in the field and "develop products that were more sophisticated, more professional, and offered added value".
Eventually, in 1996 Leona Electronics decided to specialise in calculators with medical and health-care applications.
"Initially, we started manufacturing on an OEM basis. But encouraged by our buyers' response we launched our first brand name, Medi-Cal, within two years. This was soon followed by another brand name, Pharma-Cal," Ho notes.
"One of the reasons we developed our own brand name is because it provides higher visibility for the product as well as for the owner. In the OEM area, however, products made by us would only be marketed under our customers' brand names and no one would notice our expertise in designing and manufacturing the products."
Thus, a distinct brand name is easier for an enterprise to market and promote. "The Medi-Cal and Pharma-Cal brand names clearly identify our products while also highlighting the area that we specialise in," Ho explains.
When it launched the Medi-Cal brand name, Leona Electronics targeted it at European and US consumers due to the generally higher levels of education and receptivity to health-care related products in these markets.
"We spent a lot of time, energy and money on developing brand awareness, especially in these two markets," Ho notes. The marketing efforts, which are still being continued, included product catalogues, advertisements in trade magazines and websites, and product promotions at trade fairs.
The company's branding strategy has proved to be successful in expanding into other markets. Ho recalls the increasing enquiries and sales from Japanese, Korean and Australian buyers, though Europe and the US still remain Leona's major markets.
Today, a wide range of medical calculators are offered under the Medi-Cal and Pharma-Cal brands. The calculators that are more widely used by general consumers include those for calorie control and general health-care.
Many professional calculators, which measure the risk of coronary problems, cholesterol ratio and risk of diabetes, are used by hospitals and clinics.
"Medi-Cal and Pharma-Cal are up-market brands that have so far been very well received by our customers. I believe that our design, features and quality are the real ingredients behind our success," Ho claims.
Leona's eight-member design and R&D team introduces at least four new product series a year by working closely with medical professionals.
Production is done at a 250-worker, 2,000-square-metre factory in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland.
"Looking ahead, our two brands will be the driving force that propels our business growth," Ho explains.
"Product-wise we will keep innovating while developing new electronics products for the medical cum health-care field, while market-wise we are looking at introducing our brands to the Middle East and South America."
With consumers worldwide becoming more health-conscious, Ho is confident that the outlook for Leona's Medi-Cal and Pharma-Cal products is indeed a healthy one.
WRITTEN BY WINNIE HUI
Leona Electronics Co Ltd