How the pandemic helped Eva Bao turn her family’s Asia market business into an online victory – The Irish Times

For some fortunate business owners, the pandemic has opened up unprecedented opportunities for growth, and Eva Bao, COO of the Asia market, was ready to exploit this potential. Image Businesswoman of the Year 2022 began a project six years ago to develop an online shopping platform for her family’s business, as well as Drury Street and Ballymount stores. By the time we were staying at home and searching hard for inspiration and access to ingredients for a home cooking marathon, she had implemented an e-commerce system that has since grown from an initial offering of 350 items to over 4,000 products that can be delivered anywhere in Ireland.

“Overnight, the online business was like triple growth,” she says. “I know more people are going back to stores now, but the reality of the internet is still not quite what it used to be, and I want to keep increasing that.” The next step, as Bao sees it, is to work towards same-day delivery. The company’s wholesale customers are served by their fleet of 20 trucks. “We have a distribution system for restaurants and fast food, for online orders we use a courier company. But I want to look at that and hope to get same-day delivery in time. I think expectations are higher now. I am aiming for that at the moment.”

Ambition, backed by hard work, is in the DNA of an educated businesswoman at Alexandra College and Trinity College. Her mother and father, Helen and Howard Bow, came to Ireland from the United Kingdom and opened the first Asian market on Drury Street 41 years ago. “My mum and dad worked seven days a week, so when I was little I was with them all the time in the store. My mum is the MD, and she’s still very active and I like to get some energy from her. My dad is my only source of products, he loves to travel “.

After earning a Masters in Information and Communications Technology at Trinity College and a Masters in Information Technology Management and Organizational Change at Lancaster University, Bao headed to the bright lights of Hong Kong, where she worked for international financial institutions. But the only child’s ties to the home were strong, and she returned to Dublin 11 years ago.

She now lives in Terenure with her husband Tom, the product designer who invented the children’s Turbospoke bike exhaust system sold worldwide, and their children George (five) and Camilla (17 months). The couple now works together in the Asia market. “His brother still does Turbospoke and Tom moved in with me five years ago. At the time I was doing operations and business development, so now he’s in operations and I’m doing more business planning.”

In addition to wholesale and retail Asian food businesses, the Pau family also owns Duck, a food outlet on Fade Street in Dublin 2, specializing in Hong Kong-style roast duck, pork and chicken, and Eva plans to expand further in this area. “I definitely want to try to grow more food brands. I would like to do something new related to food.”

She has an idea of ​​what she would like to offer the Irish market, but is reluctant to reveal details other than saying, “When I was traveling in Asia, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is going to work.'” The extensive Ballymount Store, in an industrial area off the M50, is also intended for further development. “Ballymount still has a lot of potential to grow. I want to bring it closer to a destination store. So when people go there, they can shop, and then get something to eat and relax.”

It is also working on Asia Market Express, which will increase the company’s reach beyond stores and online stores. “I want to work with our Chinese restaurants, we have the Asia market aisle for our food, and in the fast food you can find a commodity counter in the Asia market.” With wholesale accounts making up 75 percent of its business, there is great potential for growth here. “I’m working on it right now,” she says.

There’s a cookbook in the mix, too. “I want to release a cookbook for the Asia market, not just Chinese cooking but a melting pot of Japanese and Korean, and some Malaysians as well.” She’s an accomplished chef and has a large library of cookbooks, and hopes to get some of her own recipes, as well as guest chef recipes in the book. “We have a lot of friends in the Asia market, so I think it would be great to include some of their recipes as well.”

However, not everything is flourishing. There are difficulties to overcome in a post-pandemic environment as well, including persistent supply issues as factories in Asia struggle to meet rising demand for their products, as well as the fallout from Britain’s exit from the European Union. “Brexit has really affected our stores as we used to bring in a lot of retail lines from the UK. Not many suppliers were ready for the paperwork, even though they had been on the train for years. We can remove 30/40 lines overnight We used to get 12 or 13 pallets of stuff from the UK, and that stopped literally overnight.”

Naively, I would have assumed that the vast array of fresh Asian produce, especially vegetables, fruits and herbs, arrived on Drury Street and Ballymount fresh from Thailand, China or Vietnam. But basically it is sourced through distribution in centers in the continent of Europe, and for them the Asian market has had to look to fill in the gaps in their supply chain. They also stock Asian vegetables grown for them by a Chinese woman and her Irish husband in Rush, north of Co Dublin.

Despite her accomplishments, winning PwC’s Business Woman of the Year title earlier this year came as a surprise to Pau. “I applied for the management category and didn’t get the award, so I was thinking, OK, I can let my hair go now. I thought the overall winner would be chosen from the winners in each category. I was actually thinking I must have done really poorly. I wasn’t even second place.” But as the ceremony drew to a close and the evening’s main award citation was recited, she heard familiar excerpts from her career being referred to, and was called to the podium. “I was completely confused,” she says.

In addition to enjoying cooking Asian food at home, Bao loves to go out to eat, and Italian and Vietnamese foods are her favorites. But if it’s a family occasion, it’s usually dim. “In South Asia like us we go to Dim Sum a lot. If I was gathering the family it would be at Good World Restaurant. I think it’s just comfort food for me. And it’s a really cozy environment. I like the old fashioned decor too, and I feel really cozy. I think That I’ve been going there for so long that I just instantly relax when I go there.”

Shopping with Eva Bao: what’s in her basket

CJ Haechandle Korean Soybean Paste: I use a lot of miso in the marinades, with a little soy or mirin, and it creates a great umami flavor. You can also make soup from it. I think it’s healthy for us as a family with children. I always have it in my fridge.

Jimmy satay sauce: This kind of satay sauce Hong Kong style. I guess it’s not as peanut-like satay that we’re used to, which would be from Singapore. It has a bit of shrimp paste, and it adds a lot of deep flavour.

Fortune Chili Flavored Oil With Crispy Shrimp: Everyone goes to Lao Gan Ma chilli crisp, it’s one of the best sellers, online too. Everyone goes for it. I loved this. It’s fine to add pasta or rice on top of it, but I sometimes like to add it when making a sauce and put it in a stir fry as well.

Hainanese Chicken Rice Paste: You can add it to the water when boiling rice or stir it when it is cooked and it adds great flavor.

ChanChan Black Garlic Balsamic Vinegar Infused with Black Garlic: This one is made by [Chinese/Irish TV chef] Kwanji-chan. I used this recently and it was amazing. I added a spoonful to a salad and it gave it a lot of flavor.

Pixole Pancake Mix: This is a Korean pancake mix to make like a seafood pancake. I like this. You can make it yourself with rice flour but I think this flour gives it a more chewy texture and is easier to fry.

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