1 April 2001
Hippo Highlights(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2001)
Vol. 2 2001
Paper With A Difference
BABY hippos have not always been synonymous with fun, colourful cosmetic bags, bathroom accessories and pencil/pen cases, but Hong Kong-based Baby Hippo Int'l Ltd has found success by adopting this strategy.
Established in 1974, the company changed its name to Baby Hippo in 1987 and adopted its unique logo. "The founder of the company believed that the name and logo were unique, would be easy to remember and would be attractive to customers," says marketing manager Steven Poon. "He was right."
The basic product lines have not changed, though the company regularly updates the models, shapes and colours. "Our own designer continually creates new products on a monthly basis," Poon explains.
The Happy Family range of multipurpose bags comes in bright colours and features a moulded face of a frog, duck, bear or lion on the outside. This range reflects the company's dedication to innovation and added value. "This year many of our items will come with an accessory such as a moulded animal and other fashion trends. We believe in the products and are willing to accommodate the development costs to ensure maximum market advantage for our customers."
Also in this range are pencil cases; bathroom accessories and cosmetic bags featuring a cute green frog; yellow ducks for the bath; colourful CD cases; animal table lamps; storage cases; and bright see-through PVC bags and cases. Traditional cosmetic bags round up the rest of the product line.
Baby Hippo sources design ideas from monthly trips to Italy and other fashion capitals in Europe and Asia. "Our designer uncovers emerging trends and we make the products according to this research," says Poon. For example, the trend in Milan for the coming year points to green-coloured items with added accessories such as flowers and animals.
Poon also sees a big market in stylish mobile phone accessories, and the company plans to develop its own range.
Production takes place in a factory in Shenzhen, on the Chinese mainland, which is divided into three sections: production, inspection and an office/showroom. With a separate office and showroom in Hong Kong, Baby Hippo employs a total of more than 300 staff.
The products find their way to markets in Europe, especially Germany, France and Italy. "These have been our main markets from the beginning. We believe Singapore, Malaysia and Japan are emerging markets for Baby Hippo, offering a lot of potential," explains Poon.
Although the company believes in the importance of its own brand, it also has a number of well-known OEM clients such as Warner Brothers and Walt Disney. "About 50% of our customers are OEM clients, and all designs are exclusive to those customers."
Baby Hippo also utilizes the power of the Internet to send monthly mailings to clients, informing them of new products. Its Web site (www.hippoint.com) is fun and colourful, and encourages users to explore the product range. "After we launched our Web site, [the number of ] enquiries increased dramatically and we secured many new customers," says Poon.
He is confident of continued success through innovation. "We will continue to introduce new products, expand and innovate our Web site, stay abreast of design trends and use new and environmentally friendly materials."
UNION Paper Box & Printing Press Ltd makes the business of keeping in touch - the old-fashioned way - easier and more attractive. From its humble beginnings as a supplier of printed folding boxes for the Hong Kong market, the company has evolved to a highly successful manufacturer and exporter of premium stationery and gift paper products.
Established in 1950, the company started out with a staff of 10. Five decades later, Union Paper employs more than 1,500 workers at a wholly owned facility measuring more than one million square feet and divided into four specialized buildings. Located in Panyu, on the Chinese mainland, "the custom-built factory is very conveniently located," says director Angela Lui. The Hong Kong office has a staff of 50 and its large showroom displays the company's complete line.
Paper-related products include diaries, address books, photo albums, shopping bags, gift boxes, writing sets, photo boxes, paper clocks, telephone indexes, notepads, jotter boxes with pencils, briefcase sets, stationery boxes, storage boxes, boxes with drawers, pen pots and desk trays.
The products are divided into design groups. For example, Flora features an antique-look rose, while Smiling Maitreya shows a smiling Buddha on a plain background. Tapestry features patterned satin coverings, and Optillusion has visually stimulating patterns. Union Paper's 2001 catalogue carries 22 different design groups.
"Our design ideas come from a variety of sources, including an in-house design team and local freelancers," says Lui. Visits to the US and Europe also generate ideas, which enable Union Paper to provide such a diverse selection of innovative designs.
According to Lui, the company has built an international reputation based on the combination of quality products, reliable service and timely delivery. It provides products to leading multinational companies under OEM terms. "While we have a solid client base, we are always looking to expand and advertise and promote our products through the usual channels," says Lui.
Union Paper is also developing a Web site and will be very careful in the way that the products are presented to protect intellectual property. "We must ensure that our clients' and our own products are protected by using special access codes."
Recycled materials can also be used, although the demand for these products is not great due to the pricing constraints, says Lui. "The cost of using these materials is very high and the market is very limited as is the choice of materials, which can sometimes triple the cost of an item."
Union Paper will focus on using different materials and components, in line with current trends. It has started incorporating materials such as satin with prints and plain covers with fabric motifs in its stationery products. This translates into a product being more than its appearance - not just a plain box, for instance, but a satin-covered box with ribbon enclosure. "We will always continue to source new materials and ideas to provide maximum value for our partners - our customers," promises Lui.
WRITTEN BY VICKI WILLIAMS
Union Paper Box & Printing Press Ltd
Union Industrial Bldg, 27 Ko Fai Rd
Yau Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong
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