Wine import and distribution company ASC Fine Wines, which was founded in Beijing on hopes that the Chinese would soon have a taste for expensive wines from abroad, is thriving as the country’s emerging economy boosts sales of luxury goods.
FT: How often does a hangover give rise to a great business idea? For Don St Pierre Sr, it was one of the factors behind the success of ASC Fine Wines, a wine import and distribution business he founded with his son in Beijing in 1996.
The fortified rice wine traditionally poured at Chinese business banquets is associated with lethal after-effects that hamper productivity. When Mr St Pierre Sr was formulating his plan for the business in the 1990s, he gambled that a profitable slice of the Chinese population would soon be wealthy enough to choose an alternative – by buying high-quality wines from abroad.
His instincts were right. Today ASC earns $95m in annual revenues, employs 500 and is thriving amid a buoyant Chinese market for fine wine. Its story illustrates some valuable lessons for foreign entrepreneurs operating in Asia’s most vibrant economy.
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