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Hong Kong’s new wine trading platform has grand ambitions

Using Hong Kong’s role as a wine trading hub in Asia, Wine World Xplorer (WWX), a new wine trading platform set up last year in Hong Kong, is trying to build a ‘complete ecosystem’ from wine trading to multi-location warehousing and cellar management solutions, according to its founder.

Bernard de Laâge de Meux of Château Bon Pasteur and Mariana Lam of Wine World Xplorer

Providing buyers with real-time prices and stock level checks in three different locations and currencies, the platform launched last October is a virtual wine trading marketplace for buyers and collectors of fine wine. 

The result, according to its founder Mariana Lam, is a complete “ecosystem” from wine trading to supporting logistics module, upcoming multi-location warehousing and cellar management solutions.

Stressing the platform provides accurate wine prices and stock quantity, Lam argues it allows for “easy synchronisation” of wine offers from Hong Kong, the UK and France in Hong Kong dollars, British pounds and Euros, while hinting the platform might expand to more locations in the future.

“From there, the trading ecosystem is complete with a seamless logistics module and soon, a multi-location warehousing and cellar management solution,” she concluded.

Bernard de Laâge de Meux, president of Château le Bon Pasteur, Château Rolland-Maillet and Château Bertineau Saint-Vincent in Bordeaux, is among many of the vintners to see his wines traded on the platform, and believes this birth of such platform in Hong Kong is a, “logical and normal,” step.

“It’s a very positive evolution to bring to consumers what they are looking for,” said de Laâge, especially considering Hong Kong is now 10 years on from its abolition of tax which has seen it become Asia’s leading wine hub. “It’s logical and normal that this kind of system of exchange has developed now in Hong Kong,” he added.

The biggest draw for Hong Kong is its zero tax policy on imported wines and its close proximity to mainland China and other neighbouring southeast Asian countries, where taxes on imported wines are high and punitive, due to longstanding Muslim culture in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Speaking of the platform’s role, he continued, “It’s not a just a distribution channel. It’s also a marketplace and an entrance door to China. [There are] A lot of bonded facilities here that make things much easier for importers to source from Hong Kong or through Hong Kong, and it’s also a little hub to other markets around Hong Kong.”

Asked if a platform like WWX, which puts distributors and merchants on one trading platform would heighten competition and squeeze profits for merchants, de Laâge argued that in today’s wine world information is becoming more transparent and consumers today can compare prices across different websites and mobile apps.

“But today, more or less, the market has become transparent, everybody knows everything, so the question is how the wines can be made available at the right moment at the right place?” he asked. “In any business, the big question is how do you reach consumers, so if you have more exposure it can always be good.”

So far, a few months since its launch last October, the platform has attracted more than 17,000 listings in France, the UK and Hong Kong with the total value of wines amounting to HK$873 million.

Aware of the platform’s potential to link all of its actors and users, Lam believes governance of the platform is crucial to its success, making references to large social media platforms like Facebook and e-commerce platform Alibaba. “Specifically when it comes to governance, it’s all about defining sensible limits to user rights in order to maintain, first and foremost, accurate listings; and more importantly, to eliminate or at least reasonably minimise any acts of malicious intents on the platform,” she said. 

In addition, developing IT capabilities, balancing user access, convenience and platform governance, on top of logistics are key areas that the platform needs to tackle.

“I want WWX to be more than just a trading platform – at its core it’s about getting the wines to the drinkers for consumption. WWX is about enhanced access to the world of wines, and on top of that, enhanced liquidity.”

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