As China’s tech majors are quickly pivoting from consumer-facing services to a business-to-business approach, the country’s startups are expanding to more niche verticals. Among them is Shanghai-based marketer Kehu that stands out by providing comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) solutions for the vast packaged goods market.

The backstory: Founded in 2016, Kehu, which translates as “customer lake,” provides B2B brands with one-stop digital marketing solutions using unique QR codes, WeChat mini programs, and big data analytics. The company helps brands manage their B2B customers when launching promotions, increasing retention, and deepening market penetration.

  • A core team of expat entrepreneurs Thomas Morisset and Toni Hilti, and Chinese partners Chris Ge and Vince Yang, set up the firm.
  • The company recently rebranded from Madeforgoods to Kehu to make the brand more easy to remember, a representative told TechNode. “Ke” means “customer” and represents the millions of B2B customers that brands serve in China. “Hu” means “lake”. Together, “Kehu” expresses the convergence of B2B customers in a single place. 

Unique selling point: The B2B CRM market in China is enormous, but the company is focused squarely on solutions for packaged goods, providing industry-specific data and insights.

  • Starting from alcoholic beverages brands, the company has gradually expanded to many other industries, such as the automotive aftermarket, professional food solutions, and industrial and building materials. These sectors that have similar demands for managing customers, company co-founder and chief executive Thomas Morisset, told TechNode.
  • Kehu connects brands with their end-users, who are usually bakers, chefs, bar operators, furnishing workers, and auto mechanics. By doing so, the brands gain insights such as market share and customer profiles, which helps in creating more effective marketing strategies.
  • By scanning unique QR codes on product items, end-users are taken to the company’s WeChat mini program, where they could check product catalogs, training courses, after-sales services, and market surveys. 
  • To incentivize engagement, the platform encourages users to gain credits by scanning the QR codes on packaged products. The credits are traded for all kinds of gifts on e-commerce platforms.
  • Companies adopting Kehu’s solutions would see an average 30% sales jump, according to the CEO.

“Through on WeChat mini program, we are expanding to a lot of new functions, such as customer services, a hotline, anti-fake measures, training, and promotions.”

—Kehu Chief Executive Thomas Morisset 

The investors: The company kicked off with millions of yuan in angel funding from its founding team.

  • In February 2019, Kehu closed a $3 million Pre-Series A from Chinese venture capital Fengqiao Capital and investment institution French Partner. 
  • The company has raised over $5 million to date.
  • Kehu Chief Executive Thomas Morisset told TechNode the business is generating “good money” so far.

Present condition: Kehu has helped various brands to keep up with customer data accrued in all channels and connect them to retail point of sale terminals and their consumers. 

  • Kehu works with more than 60 brands, including liquor brands like Pernod Ricard, Remey Cointreau, auto parts maker Hella and Wolf, food ingredient makers Cargill, Lesaffre, and industrial goods makers such as ThermoFisher Scientific and Saint-Gobain.
  • The team has over 60 staff, of which 70% are in research and development and maintenance—the rest work on marketing and operations. 
  • The company business is growing fast, posting multifold growth rates annually, according to Morisset.
  • At its rebranding event in November, Morisset has announced three new features for 2020— the “360 Customer Club,” “Mini Contracts,” and “Verified by Kehu.”
  • The “360 Customer Club” enables full lifecycle customer engagement and education, including registration, incentivization, training, and service. “Mini Contracts” provide brands with a more flexible incentive program to further deepen the relationship between brands and large customers. “Verified by Kehu” gives brands verified, high-quality customer data.

The landscape: The gross merchandising volume for B2B in China’s fast-moving consumer goods sector was RMB 150.7 billion in 2017 and is expected to hit reach RMB 391.6 billion in 2020, according to data from iResearch.

  • Each of Kehu’s four core sectors is comprised of diversified sub-markets, according to Vince Yang, business director at the firm. For example, the alcohol market is divided into white wine, red wine, spirits, beer, and each vertical market consists of lots of players.

Prospects: The Shanghai-based company is currently targeting global brands operating in China. But it is also looking to opportunities to expand globally in the future. 

  • China has become a pioneer for developing and applying the latest digital technologies. Global brands want to replicate successful models in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or the European market, according to Yang.
  • The company has established a strategic cooperation agreement with blockchain technology application group VeChain to apply blockchain technology in supply chain management to provide better product services and anti-counterfeiting tracing.

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com. More by Emma Lee

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