While on a trip around Europe, Dean Ramler realised that the styles of furniture on the continent was something that would be well received by Australian consumers.
Returning to his native Melbourne, Ramler teamed up with tech entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan to launch Milan Direct.
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The business sells European designs, made in China, via the web. It has grown to become Australia’s largest online-only furniture retailer, in less than five years.
In this time, Milan Direct has sold $25 million in furniture and expanded to the UK, despite initial reservations from observers about whether the public would pay for such large products that they’d not seen in a showroom.
There have been significant challenges in the Chinese operation, however, as Ramler explains: “Many cultural differences had to be overcome, and we spent many, many months on the factory floors in China teaching our
manufacturing partners the quality aspects of manufacturing.”
“It is tough doing business in China, but a challenge that we have relished. For starters, in China, yes does not mean yes.”
“To save face, your China partners will always nod and say yes to everything even if they mean ‘no’.”
“Also our first container of chairs arrived and they did not come in boxes. We spent so long discussing quality of product and we assumed that the supplier would pack each chair into a box. Very wrong!”
“We learnt that you have to spell everything out and be 100% detail orientated or you will end up with a few big surprises.”