For our sister show, InPrint, last year I spoke with Bangkok based business Bodhi Tree which is run by Cholakarn Visutipitakul. The business is an innovative and specialised company that can provide digital wallcoverings for consumers and commercial customers. We talked about how the business began, what the creative possibilities are and what future potential is.
Tell me about the background story of Bodhi Tree?
The company has been going for 6 years.
My background is that I am ex-advertising agency. My role was customer service, understanding the brief liaising with designers and understanding how to get the campaign to connect with customers.
During that time we had been wanting to redecorate our homes and found the available designs a little boring and discovered that the traditional techniques were limiting the design.
We researched the market and discovered there was new technology and we began to gather lots of new information. When we finished a feasibility study we found that people liked something different and liked the idea of wallpaper that was personalised as opposed to old-fashioned designs.
What technology did you look at to do the printing?
We found the HP machine. The first generation of latex machines could do the job. So we worked with HP on the project and working together learned how to make it work.
The major opportunity for us was HP. The machine was capable of printing nice and attractive designs which could sell anywhere, and we trusted HP that they would help us with this. At the beginning, there were a lot of problems initially as it was the first generation but the opportunity in the market was certainly there so it was worth persisting and of course, the technology improved.
The technology can print wallpaper very well. The key issue is the design and educating the market as the consumer still doesn’t know what is possible with custom print wallpaper and the interior designer and consumers who are our target groups.
Right now we have a lot of hotel customers and restaurants around the world who really like the potential of regularly changing designs and frequently updating the interior to look fresh and current.
Who tends to buy your products?
Our customer’s interior designers tend to make the purchase, and also the project owner of the house or home. But we also communicate to end users and commercial properties.
For us, the commercial owner is the true high volume, but we cannot rely only on this business because it can take a year or two to get the project and it takes time.
For the retail customer, the homeowner will make a much faster decision. We need to develop solutions for this customer as the potential is great and our website has been an invaluable tool for us to reach customers around the world.
How long did it take you to learn to use the machine?
It didn’t take long as we had the production team to help to teach us to work it so not that difficult. What is more challenging somehow is selling. Now we have a good customer base but it took time. Right now, our customers are 50% export and 50% domestic. We have developed a really good niche market of Thai Restaurants, Thai Spa and Thai Temples all around the world. Because people like Thai food and culture, our customers believe that they like something to help the customer experience. Our Thai wallpaper itself helps to increase the value of their restaurant and a nice design for Thai characters and it is easy to install. They can change the wallpaper easily and the wallpaper can be removed.
The Thai restaurant owner can use us as a designer as well and we deliver the wallpaper and it is easy to put up and easy to remove.
The wallpaper width is not standardised. We print to fit a wall whatever the size will be. But if you want a standard size, the maximum is 130 mm but we can make the design to fit the space which makes it look fantastic.
How does it work for your home if you decide you want to personalise your walls?
We have a collection of designs. However, most of our customers have their own ideas and we need to work together and this will be the theme of the home or the hotel and they will need to send us the artwork and then collaborate with the designer and the customer to ensure we do the right thing.
For an individual customer, our role is as a facilitator to help their dream come true. This is a trend and everyone has their own ideas and our role is to help make this work.
We will show them we have a standard collection that they can vary. For example, Polka dot in pink could work we can do it and then adapt our own designs to some extent to inspire them with what is possible. So we really help them to decide.
How do you manage to get the export business?
We have developed a really effective network of customers based upon segments that we know will be interested in our products. 50% comes from restaurants, spa's, and temples. So through our online marketing and our SEO, we attract inquiries through our website. For the hotel market, we have developed good relationships with interior designers in Thailand with a speciality for hotels. They are expanding and continuing to grow internationally.
The key issue is to make sure we are inspiring customers by showcasing them the work and this is something they can see and inspires them. Once they see the nice work, they will want to know more about the possibilities.
What new ideas are you developing?
We are planning something else beyond wallpaper. We focused on wallpaper for the first few years to develop the business but now we will enhance our custom print options to extend to window blinds for the exterior of buildings. We also plan to develop more solutions for interior design firms so we can help them to decorate new surfaces including curtains, furniture, bathroom walls and so on.
For more information on Bodhi Tree, check out their website http://www.bodhitree.co.th/