“To empower health-conscious families in their self-care regimen towards wellness, confidence and happiness with natural, safe products they can trust” is the mission of Brunei-based Bellary Enterprise.

During their startup years, Bellary Nature was a digital-native direct-to-consumer brand. Since 2013 when the business was founded, making digital channels and e-commerce platforms, such as the company website, social media platforms and marketplaces, has become a priority. A digital focus has enabled Bellary Enterprise to capture and convert existing and new customers while increasing online engagement and dialogues with consumers.

“Understanding how to reach and speak to them is critical for our brand’s success in this beauty and healthcare ecosystem. We evolve to operate an omnichannel business model as we expand from digital space to collaborate with key partners in physical retail channels to allow our brand to get closer to consumers in-store,” shared founder Diana Han.

A Silver Lining

When the pandemic hit, Brunei tourism came to a standstill. 

“As a result, our travel retail had been impacted by the collapse of international travel. On the flip side, due to diversification of our distribution channels, our local physical sales and online sales performance continued to grow backed by domestic demand and seismic shift in consumer habits,” said Han. 

Bellary Nature has always meticulously handcrafted natural, safe and ethical skincare and body care products. With heightened health consciousness because of CODIV-19, Han has noticed an increasing focus on self-care and individual well-being among consumers.

The Global Supply Chain Challenge

“The biggest challenge we see right now is still a logistical challenge, especially international shipping,” Han expressed. “The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the global supply chain is a major disruption and an unprecedented type of disruption.”

Interruptions to Bellary Nature’s regular flow of goods and services, and its ramifications, can be felt in every aspect of the supply chain, from the raw materials to the finished products. 

“On our retail ends, we encountered difficulty in orders (products) fulfillment as some regions are severely affected by service disruption. We have dealt with delivery delays trying to get the packages to our customers’ hands,” Hans remarked. “Our manufacturing arm, which is dependent on global sourcing for raw materials, is dealing with continually rising shipping cost and supply shortage of certain raw ingredients, despite supply diversification already in place. The scale and extent of logistics disruption has caused quite a number of our international suppliers to cease shipping of raw materials.”

Even without the difficulties presented by COVID-19, small businesses face significant logistical and administrative burdens when shipping internationally. A powerful force in expediting cross-border trade can be increasing access to digital tools that enable the simplification and digitization of trade and customs clearance. 

Digital Escalation in the New Normal

Across the globe, the pandemic has fast-tracked the adoption of digital technologies for businesses and customers alike. After witnessing customers become more comfortable with the convenience and safety of shopping online, Bellary Nature has become more reliant on the widespread use of social media. 

As a niche brand, customer engagement and education is critical to the company’s success. “In this new normal, we are elevating and strengthening our digital capabilities in digital media, content and services that will enrich the consumer experience. We have really doubled down on digital marketing and digital PR,” shared Han. 

During the last year, the team has invested in a cross-channel platform. By connecting email marketing and automation tools, the advanced strategy empowers Bellary Nature to create, optimize and measure every interaction with their consumers.

“By strategically and meaningfully adjusting our content and keywords search terms, these are driving search visibility, traffic, online engagement across different touchpoints. We also analyze our digital advertising strategy and critically scrutinize what we spend across our own website and paid social campaigns to gauge their effectiveness in driving conversion and moving inventory,” the CEO emphasized. 

Barriers to Global Markets

As is the case for many small businesses, one of the biggest challenges for Bellary Nature is the learning curve associated with entering new markets as a new brand. 

With rules and regulations varying from country to country, the process is often unnecessarily complex, expensive and burdensome for smaller companies. Once in a new country, there are frequently a new set of obstacles. 

“We find business negotiation to be extremely time-consuming because it involves tremendous efforts in reconciling differences with potential trade partners and addressing risks arising from legal contracts and agreements, cultural differences, regulatory issues, training and transfer of know-how, client management and support,” Han articulated. 

Still, digital tools can help ease some of the hurdles. “Once we onboard a business partner, we would ensure partner enablement with our cloud-based digital learning platform which is essentially a training platform that is easy to deploy and capable of educating, onboarding and supporting our partner and its employees to drive business growth.”

Demands of Dual Responsibilities

More women than ever are starting businesses, but the challenges of being a women entrepreneur remain. Han is not only an entrepreneur but also a mother and a wife with personal commitments. With responsibilities to business and family, she is always working towards a stable balance. 

“Running my own business takes significant time and effort but it does allow more flexibility and control over my schedule. For me, my work also bleeds into my personal life. This brand was essentially born out of my life-changing chronic illness and my deep passion to create a healthy lifestyle for myself, my family and my loved ones. Rather than thinking of it as a separate part of my life, I’m shifting my mindset to embrace it as an integral part of how I should live my lifestyle,” she shared. 

Looking Ahead

From complications entering new markets to work-life balance, Hans has used every experience as an opportunity to grow a stronger business. Now, faced with the ramifications of the pandemic, she is continuing to focus on how the business can continue to evolve and rebuild stronger.

The pandemic has accelerated the widespread adoption of e-commerce and fast-tracked digitization. Hans observes that for small businesses that have already adapted by establishing a strong e-commerce presence, the priority must be “continuing to manage the platforms successfully i.e. managing the back end of a digital operation. This includes staying in stock, fulfillment, avoiding delivery delays, managing digital advertising and so forth.”

“In light of these trends, we are hoping that the policymakers will continue to roll out programs specifically geared towards helping small businesses build their e-commerce capabilities and enhance e-trade readiness. At the same time, they must improve policies and strategies in response to challenges posed by COVID-19 relating to disruptions in supply chains or trade logistics, trade facilitation and e-payment infrastructure,” she concluded.