To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, we asked you for nominations of female entrepreneurs or businesswomen whose work, projects, attitude or perseverance you admired. In part four of our story, we meet RENU MALANI who is an independent importer of Avon UK and other British products to Hong Kong.
Where are you from and how long have you been in Hong Kong?
I was born here and have lived here over 50 years. My parents moved here from India in 1957 and only retired back to India in 2003. The fourth generation of our family is now being brought up here too.
Tell us about your importing business.
I’m a sole proprietor who retails products from the UK. (I’m a proud British citizen as well!) – beauty products and cosmetics, in particular, but also chocolates and other food (including gluten-free and vegan products) and even kids’ stocking stuffers. (facebook.com/AvonInDB)
I started very small, 14 years ago, and I’ve grown the business to something I’m extremely proud of – worth working through all those weekends, public holidays and vacations!
My aim has always been to keep it fun and respectful at all times for every client, so they have a great experience buying from me. A mentor once told me, “Lots of people can sell the things you sell and find a way to do it cheaper; just make sure no one does it better.” This is what drives me to answer messages at midnight or meet a client on a Sunday morning.
What’s your biggest achievement with the business so far?
The loyalty of my client base. It humbles me how they have stood by me over the years. This was so evident during the pandemic, too; they understood the need for me to keep working and they made sure I was still standing after the worst of times in HK for small businesses. I’ll also never forget their kindness when I had an unexpected health scare last year.
Any particular challenges you’ve faced doing business in HK?
I have felt incredibly supported by the many networks in place for businesswomen in HK. People here are so good about referring you and sharing your information; I go out of my way to do the same for others. What advice would you give other women keen to embark on a business of some kind? Be clear in your mind whether you have a hobby or a viable business. Lots of talented people get bombarded with well-meaning friends telling them they should sell their wares or services. Very often this kills the joy of the hobby as the person feels pressured and the pressure doesn’t suit them. Or they don’t do their research and test the waters before their passion project becomes a money pit! I would say exercise caution, do your research, trial your products or services, get unbiased opinions and make sure it brings you joy, because then you will work hard.
What are you excited about for 2023 and beyond?
I feel this is the year that will define the future of Hong Kong. The dust is settling, the exodus has happened, now what does HK want to be? I’m waiting and watching, praying for life to be breathed back into the city I love so much.
Personally, it’s a very happy time, as we have two new babies born in the family in the past few weeks! It has reminded me of the importance of being present for those who mean so much, and getting joy out of simple beautiful moments.
We hope you enjoyed our International Women’s Day story. Read more in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.