Dynamic duo relaunch Denmark’s iconic audiovisual electronics brand, Bang & Olufsen, in Thailand
A penchant for mixing business with pleasure brought Danish businessmen Kenneth Hovmoller and Peter Waagensen to a Scandinavian golf tournament in Thailand three years ago. Back then, Hovmoller, at the peak of his luxury car importing business to Thailand and other Southeast Asia countries, was in the market for accounting and financial services.
Around that time, Waagensen was juggling between a trading company, SME investment firm, consulting outfit and Mermaids Dive Center outlets in Pattaya and Bangkok . Waagensen, an astute investor/trader and expert in structured finance, ended up making a new friend and taking care of all of Hovmoller’s business accounting as well as providing financial advice.
That chance meeting turned out to be the beginning of a symbiotic partnership down the road.
Flamboyant Hovmoller, 50, possesses all the attributes that have made him a successful parallel importer of luxury cars. Waagensen, 42, an economist by training, describes himself as being more comfortable in analytical and structural modes. Both men share a taste for finer things in life, are avid social networkers and natural multitaskers.
One day in April 2014, Hovmoller mentioned to Waagensen that an exclusive distributorship in Thailand for iconic Danish home entertainment electronics, Bang & Olufsen, was up for grab. It didn’t take long for both to put their heads together to develop a business plan that quickly turned into an exciting new venture under the name HW Trading Co., Ltd.
“The first time we discussed this opportunity was in April 2014 and initially we looked at the potential as well as challenges involved, and it was and is a very exciting opportunity off course. We looked at financial aspects as well as structural needs involved,” Waagensen said.
Hovmoller, has had experience marketing the Bang & Olufsen before – in Vietnam. A Vietnam-based company he co-owned had exclusive rights to distribute the high-end Danish electronics products in that emerging country. A few years previously he sold off his majority shareholding in that company in order to consolidate his business interests, including luxury vehicle imports and a modeling agency, in Thailand, which now serves as his base to reach other Asian markets.
A fresh opportunity to market Bang & Olufsen, this time, in Thailand, fills Hovmoller with enthusiasm.
“Thailand is a more mature market compared to Vietnam,” said Hovmoller. “Many consumers here have been aware of B&O products for decades.”
Awareness of and appreciation for the B&O products, the embodiment of distinctive aesthetics, cutting-edge technologies and uncompromising quality, are certainly the key. The starting price of the latest B&O television, BeoVision Avant, is about the same as a subcompact car – not that the typical B&O customer will ever need a low-cost personal transport.
For Waagensen, making a business out of promoting and marketing Bang & Olufsen as a top-tier Danish brand with a global reach, is a source of national pride and no small amount of personal satisfaction. “B&O is a prime brand that we want to uphold,” he said.
“Bang & Olufsen has been represented for more than 15 years in Thailand and as a brand has a lot of followers and potential for a lot more. Doing this is off course not an easy step and in doing so we need to fulfil a lot of things,” Waagensen said. “But it has its rewards, not only financially but personally when we meet people that we have helped in getting their systems to work optimally. That was also part of our decision to take on this project from the beginning.”
“We both have experience in distribution as well as solid social networks. That makes this business easier to run, which was also a deciding factor in considering the opportunity in the first place,” Waagensen said.
HW Trading Co., Ltd. is scheduled to open a brand new flagship store at Gaysorn Plaza before the yearend.
“After Shanghai and New York City, our B&O store in Thailand will be the third in the world to feature Beoplay as part of the concept store,” Hovmoller said. “We are combining B&O main line of home entertainment systems with lifestyle products.”
Beoplay products are positioned at lower- to mid-market as an entry point for new generations of younger people to familiarize themselves with well-designed, high-quality products that are pleasing to look at.
Even before the opening of the concept store, HW Trading has been busy getting to know existing B&O customers by offering free on-site assessment and optimization to ensure their audiovisual systems continue to operate at their full potential. “Right now, it’s service, service and service. This is to restore customer confidence,” Hovmoller said. “There’ll be no sales without putting the best services in place. B&O customers need to feel secure for their investment.”
B&O has no direct competitors as far as its segmentation goes. Aesthetically-pleasing audiovisual electronics products that deliver high-end performance. Part of HW Trading’s marketing strategy apart from marketing to high net worth customers with B&O home entertainment systems and Beoplay line to fashion-conscious younger crowds. “We also work closely with architects, interior designers, hospitality establishments and property developers,” Hovmoller said.
“Thailand is a great place location-wise. Doing business as foreigners has many challenges but these can be overcome very easily, with the right attitude and connections. As a country Thailand offers a lot of good things and opportunities and living in Bangkok gives one a lot of choice in terms of entertainment and lifestyle, off course we can miss Denmark, but overall it is a good life here,” said Waagensen.