As we continue to investigate the Vietnamese appetite for premium foreign brands, we went through our rolodex of contacts to find people in Vietnam who know it best. We had the chance to sit down with Loic Gautier, CEO of Leflair.
Why not learn from someone who knows best.
Leflair is a premium e-commerce website that specializes in selling foreign brands at steep discounts. Like China, South Korea, and Singapore before it, Loic believes that Vietnam will be the next big Asian market for brand consumption.
What led you to Ho Chi Minh City?
Lazada poached me out of Groupon, where I spent a couple years in France and the UK.
I spent some time in China and Cambodia before arriving in Vietnam. Generally Asia is an exciting place, though I didn’t know much about Vietnam before arriving. My first experience with the country was 15 years ago when I visited with my parents. I’ve always been curious about it and now I’ve come to love the country. Enough where I’ve decided that the best way to get involved was to help shape its future as an entrepreneur.
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What kind of clientele shop at Leflair?
Women represent 85% of our audience. We’re beginning to notice that many of our loyal customers don’t have an alternative e-commerce shopping option. ZALORA targets young women around 18 to 25 years old, while Lazada is a generalist platform catering to mostly men.
Our customers typically have higher household income, live in urban areas, have families, more brand awareness, and they care about quality.
What inspired Leflair and what’s next for it?
I saw the opportunity at Lazada. Many people want to make a statement about their new social status. One way to do it is to buy foreign brands. Right now the premium brand offering that Vietnamese consumers have online is weak. Building trust with an online marketplace for a premium purchase is difficult. And premium brands don’t want to work with marketplaces, they want to cut out the middleman.
Because of this, I saw two opportunities. I wanted to create a business model that gets consumers excited. At the same time, I wanted to protect premium brand integrity with our suppliers by offering a marketplace that only sold premium goods. We had 100,000 registered users in our first 8 weeks.
We started with Vietnam, because we believe the opportunity is largest here. But everywhere in Southeast Asia we see the same problem. We’d like to offer all the brands to a customer anywhere at the same price regardless of import duty rates in each country. Ideally we’ll eventually be able to offer the same prices as those found in the US.
What are your favorite cafes in Ho Chi Minh City?
It’s been months since I visited a cafe. When Leflair was 10 or so people, we worked out of a cafe everyday.
If someone wants to meet outside my office, I would usually take them to The Workshop Cafe. I also really like WORK Saigon and WORK Cafe in Bitexco Tower. The Dien Bien Phu location has a lot of regulars from France and it’s an excellent place to get work done. The Bitexco Tower location is a fancy place to send emails!
Where do you take your Friday night date out in Ho Chi Minh City?
It’s been so long I have been on a proper date. And been so long to do anything too fun really! I like having dinner at the Refinery because it’s a little bit French. It’s not pretentious and the food is good. Another spot is Qui Lounge, the new club and bar on Le Thanh Ton. It’s not good for dates though, you can’t hear anyone.
I wouldn’t know anymore to be honest, hah.
What are your favorite travel destinations? Where do you want to go next?
Mongolia. I dream about riding horses and spending a month completely offline.
What are some random nice to know facts about Leflair?
- 90% of Leflair employees are under 30
- Leflair’s #1 customer has bought… 100 items! She must have a hell of a dressing room.
- The company producing Leflair boxes is the same as the one producing the iPhone packaging
- The Leflair logo was made very randomly. One day I was playing with the fonts and just found one that totally matches the look and feel of brand. It became our logo ever since
Who should I talk to next?
Two of our seed investors.
Vice President, Southeast Asia and India at Google , Rajan Anandan. He was one of the first to tell me that the Vietnamese are consuming online content in ways unlike any other Southeast Asian population.
CEO of Roland Berger, Charles-Edouard Bouée. He has incredible experience and insights into the China and Southeast Asian markets.