The founder of one of Australia’s largest wine retailers says no matter how big your business is, keeping an eye on local is the key to success.
Since launching Just Wines in 2014 from a lounge in the furniture warehouse he was working in, Nitesh Bhatia has grown the business to selling almost 2 million bottles of wine a year.
Nitesh said the key to their growth was completely unexpected.
“We had never intended to think small,” he said.
“We were always focused on building a scalable operation with a customer reach that spanned all of Australia and New Zealand and a supplier network in wine regions from the same expanse.”
Now four years after Just Wine’s launch, the 28-year-old said the lesson was most clear in Western Australia.
“We learned that Western Australian wine consumers are a fiercely loyal bunch,” he said.
“Even without marketing to them, WA residents will go straight to the local product.
“There is a psychological pull for people in general to ‘look after our own’ and most of us realise that when we spend our money on our neighbours, we help to strengthen our local economy, keep local businesses afloat, create jobs, enrich the local experience for residents and potentially attract visitors.
“When you consider too that the WA winemaking industry is typified by small family owned and operated businesses that have established niche markets in Australia and overseas, it’s probably no wonder there is an inclination to investing in local vino.”
Just Wines isn’t alone in taking advantage of this local loyalty, with the 2015 Westpac Australia Day Report finding 68 per cent of Australians want more opportunities to buy from local businesses.
Nitesh said providing these opportunities is an easy way for startups to speed their growth.
“In our experience, to maximise your potential, startups with national or global aspirations need to remember that you can’t be so focused on widespread reach that you lose sight of local consumer preferences,” he said.
“The benefits of a local focus mean we can achieve deep market perception in WA, and it allows us to better understand how to meet customer needs in this region.”
But, with Just Wines now a market leader across both Australia and New Zealand, Nitesh said suffering from tunnel vision is just as dangerous.
“Despite our discovery of the benefits of marketing WA wines to WA customers, Just Wines is still a national company with a commitment to selling the largest range of Australian and New Zealand wines and our headquarters in Sydney,” he said.
“For a startup, committing to limiting ourselves to suppliers and services in one region is not straightforward.
“We need to take into consideration cost, logistics efficiency and doing justice to all of our suppliers.
“Of course, with a national approach, the benefits are obvious – greater reach, wider appeal and more partnerships, among many others.
“With that in mind, we chose to honour the local, while serving the national.”