While travelling for work, Frank Ma sees the influence his company has on the world and feels grateful. “I see many people travelling with our bags,” he says.
“I see the consumers happy with their product and this motivates me. I travel through different airports and see many of our stores. The consumer is looking for what they need and we’ve provided different solutions to make their travel easier.”
Frank was appointed General Manager of Samsonite China in 1999, having joined the company just the previous year as Operations Manager. At the time, the company had built a production facility in China with the purpose of serving the global and domestic markets.
Following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Samsonite China turned its focus primarily to the local market and Frank was charged with the company’s development in the country. Frank was promoted to Vice President in 2007 and in 2015 he accepted the role of President.
Since then, he has established a solid team and the company has grown significantly. “In the 1990s, our business was quite small; it was just starting,” he reflects.
“Today, we are the second-largest country market for Samsonite worldwide and still growing. We have also developed a great team. The next generation is ready to take off, which is a big achievement for us in terms of business readiness for the future.”
Consumer habits in China are different from those in Western countries, which prompted the company to rethink its business strategy. “We switched the focus from general travel to business travel for frequent business travellers,” Frank explains.
“We adapted our product in terms of size and features to meet local needs, and advertised differently. We are focusing on airport retail.”
Samsonite is a worldwide leader in premium travel bags, luggage and accessories. For more than 100 years, Samsonite has leveraged its rich design heritage to create exceptional products that fulfil the on-the-go lifestyle needs of the business professional.
Frank says that although China is a huge market, the number of people consuming goods is relatively small compared with the size of the population. Samsonite must attract new customers through a clear vision, with measurable goals and targets.
“You need to test the achievement of your goals and find gaps periodically. When assessing the market, sometimes you must readapt your goals and make sure they are achieved with flexible means. Building the team is also very important. To measure productivity in the short and long term, we must have a clear vision.”
The market in China is developing quickly and Samsonite must always remain one step ahead. “Over the past 20 years, the retail industry has evolved significantly,” Frank says.
“It is constantly changing, with new stores opening all the time. We must be able to adapt and to anticipate the future. We win one war while planning for the next one.”
"We win one war while planning for the next one."
Preparation has served Samsonite well. The company has seen much success over the past 10 years, with the China market generating more than US$270 million in net sales in 2017.
“Our goal is to be using a multi-brand marketing channel and strategy to reunite our brand, to achieve more than double-digit growth in the years to come. We are rejuvenating the brand and targeting millennials and generation Z, making the brand relevant to today’s consumers.”
Business conduct and culture at Samsonite is guided by the company motto: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ “This is our founder’s motto and something our whole company believes,” Frank adds.
Samsonite also encourages local initiatives and entrepreneurship in a family atmosphere. “We encourage healthy conflicts and do what we can to be inclusive, from top management down to the lower levels. This inclusivity helps people to express opinions, find opportunities and quicken decision-making.”