25 April 2019

Milking it: How Hegen is nurturing growth in international markets

Baby bottle maker rises from its contract manufacturing roots to build its own brand

Hegen is a young Singapore-based business currently making waves overseas. It creates multifunctional and innovative products that aim to make breastfeeding a positive experience for mothers and babies.

Hegen’s parent company, Fitson Singapore, had been designing and manufacturing baby care products for major international brands for 30 years, but lacked a brand of its own. The company’s focus was on creating products for mother and baby care brands all over the world.

When Fitson won a major contract in 2008, it increased its capacity to meet the orders and avoid penalties for missing deadlines. However, its client cancelled the product two years later, leaving Fitson with too much capacity. This pushed Fitson Director Yvon Bock and her father Chan Ching, the company’s Founder and Managing Director, to rethink their business model and consider developing their own brand.

“The experience shook us to our core, but it forced us to examine how we could have more control of our business,” says Yvon. “We had been producing products for other companies for decades, so we thought, ‘Why not create something we could call our own?’”

With her father’s support, Yvon took a leap of faith in 2011 and started designing milk bottles that would enhance mothers’ nursing experience and the baby-feeding process. She drew inspiration from her own experience breastfeeding her four children, and leveraged Fitson’s manufacturing capabilities.

 

Facing a roadblock

However, a year into the design process, Yvon and her team hit a major snag. They discovered their design had been leaked and another baby bottle manufacturer had copied it.

But instead of being discouraged, Yvon and her designers decided to create a revolutionary product – something that no other manufacturer of baby bottles had developed.

We went back to the drawing board and started from scratch. We wanted to make a product that would defy design conventions.

YVON BOCK

Three years and more than 200 prototypes later, Yvon and her team developed a unique bottle that mothers could use to express, store and feed milk – and Hegen was born.

“It was certainly not an easy journey,” says Yvon, who is also Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hegen. “We faced huge challenges from design and branding to manufacturing and intellectual property protection. But we had a vision and stuck to it.”

Going global

Hegen wasted no time in manufacturing its baby bottles and capturing new markets. After successfully launching in Singapore, it worked out an international expansion plan to distribute its products in 14 markets, including the US, China, Russia, Indonesia and Philippines.

But to realise its global plans, Hegen needed a banking partner to enable it to produce on a larger scale. Although Fitson had a factory to manufacture Hegen’s products, it wasn’t enough to meet global demand.

Yvon took this challenge to HSBC Business Banking. Through a dedicated relationship manager, the bank assessed Hegen’s requirements and financed the purchase of a new manufacturing facility in Johor, Malaysia.

That started a banking relationship that would support Hegen’s expansion into more markets. When Hegen decided to venture into China and the US, it worked with HSBC’s Pioneer programme – an initiative for fast growing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – to help it quickly set up bank accounts and cash management systems in a tailored solution.

Drawing on the flexibility, support and business expertise that HSBC’s Pioneer programme offered us, we were able to move more quickly into our chosen markets beyond Singapore’s borders.

YVON BOCK

“Since then, HSBC has always supported us as we continue to realize our vision and scale new heights.”

HSBC’s proactive and dedicated relationship management played a key role in boosting Hegen’s confidence to pursue its global ambitions, according to Ng Li Lian, Country Head of Business Banking at HSBC Singapore.

“As soon as we had onboarded Hegen, we provided Yvon and her team with a relationship manager to meet all their banking and financing needs,” says Ms Ng. “Our product specialists also make sure they get the right solutions for their business.”

Pursuing bigger ambitions

With HSBC’s international network and support, Hegen now distributes its products in 14 markets outside Singapore. It has been ranked by Alibaba Group’s Tmall.com as one of the top three baby bottle brands in China.

It expects to work more closely with the bank as it grows its number of overseas markets to 35 by 2022, selling millions of baby feeding products a year.

“We see ourselves working with HSBC for years to come,” says Yvon. “We have bigger ambitions for Hegen, and we’re counting on HSBC to grow with us.”

 

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