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How A Malaysian Skincare Brand Took On The International Market

By Kaii Lim | First published: April 26, 2022    Updated: October 25, 2023

Dynamic Malaysian entrepreneur Kaii Lim shares secrets of how his local skincare brand expanded overseas by solving an international logistical challenge

In the ever-evolving world of skincare, it takes more than just a great product to conquer the international market. Below, Kaii shares the story of how he first embarked on a journey that would test his entrepreneurial skills and push the boundaries of his brand.

Not every business owner makes it first time. Entrepreneurship is a tough journey, and some ideas take a long time to come fruition. My current business, CLEF Skincare, was a slow burner.

That’s because the product had to be right. I had to embark on a relentless search for the exact ingredients that would target different skin-related issues in the way I needed them to. It took me years of research to finally hit on a skincare formula that worked.

But even before this, entrepreneurship was in my DNA. I’ve been an entrepreneur since my college days, starting with a clothing brand called 97Bros, and eventually a jewelry brand called 18Celebration.

Reaching our target audience with a new type of marketing

Looking for ways to make advertising budgets stretch further, I began to dabble in a new form of marketing – online influencers. Unlike today when the influencer marketing industry is worth billions, influencer marketing then was still in its infancy. However, it proved to be the right platform for my brands, which gained traction and exposure quickly as a result.
Flatlay image of Clef skincare products

Looking for something new, in 2019 I kick-started a holistic skincare company with a business partner. We named it CLEF Skincare - CLEF being a combination of clean and effective, the two core principles of our products.

Our philosophy for CLEF is that we don’t want to treat skin issues - we want to uproot them. To do that, we needed high quality ingredients that are indiscriminately friendly to all skin types and suitable for different environments. In Asia many countries have high humidity and extreme temperature changes. And globally, urban living is blighted by pollution and exposure to different everyday chemicals.

Taking the leap to expand overseas

CLEF grew rapidly, fueled by product innovation and affiliate marketing. We secured a partnership with the department store SASA, who stocked our products in 72 of their stores. Our sales reached 50,000 sold products in just over a period of 20 months!

With the swift success of CLEF in Malaysia, I wanted to expand the brand. Malaysia might be my home turf and has a sizeable population, but ultimately the market is limited. The only way for CLEF to expand was to go international.

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Clef CEO and Chief Executive Officer Kaii Lim

To get the brand name out to an overseas audience, my team and I spent a long time strategically targeting the right influencers in each country and identifying suitable platforms for our marketing campaigns.

Within a year, our overseas sales had penetrated 17 countries, and to this day, our four biggest markets for CLEF products remain the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. We also serve other markets in Europe, such as Germany and Spain, and in Asia, Singapore and China.

Solving CLEF’s logistical challenge

Any online retail business knows that logistics issues create unwanted delays, disrupt the customer experience and cause dissatisfaction that could rebound on them. During the early days of expanding internationally, we faced multiple logistics challenges - long shipping times, delivery issues at the last mile, lack of verified receipt of the shipment, mis-delivery and more.

Once we started using FedEx, we had immediate access to a host of e-commerce solutions tailored for SMEs like us. We discovered an ideal balance between speed and cost, and I was able to pass the convenience of a hassle-free shipping experience on to my customers – a big win all-round.
man working at a desk with FedEx package

One feature that stood out for me was FedEx Ship Manager which allowed my team to prepare shipments and print shipping labels online. The platform also ensured everyone involved could see digitalized status updates of each shipment, as regular notifications and updates would be sent to my team as well as the customer.

The FedEx Delivery Manager International solution also lets recipients customize deliveries to fit their busy lives. Our customers can set notifications and receive a tracking number showing where the products are in every stage of the delivery journey.

As an SME, it’s important that our customers have peace of mind and enjoy a great purchase experience. As business owners, we’re hyper-aware that a positive customer experience is vital to a company’s longevity and growth.

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Getting logistics right means I can scale up my business. It’s more than just delivery – it shapes how we operate. Knowing what shipping capacity I have access to and speed of transit means I can plan long-term for both local and overseas marketing. I know what quantities I can dispatch orders in and not experience delays in delivery.

Working with a reliable logistics provider has placed CLEF on a stronger footing. We continue to focus on broadening our reach in international markets – onwards and upwards!

For more stories on how other SMEs are working with FedEx in APAC, head here.
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About the Author
the author bio

Kaii Lim

CEO, CLEF Skincare

Kaii Lim is the co-founder and CEO of CLEF Skincare, a Malaysian skincare brand that is dedicated to meet various skincare needs. Founded in 2019, CLEF has expanded across the United States, Europe and Intra-Asia including China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

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