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[Herald Interview] Aionco Korea aims to become Korea’s Amazon for K-beauty

Aionco Korea, a South Korean business-to-business platform of K-beauty products for global e-commerce, was established in 2015. Within four years, the Korean platform that connects local cosmetics suppliers with foreign buyers all over the world has garnered over 500 vendors representing markets in 54 countries. Some of them include China’s Alibaba and individual sellers on marketplaces such as Lazada and Q10. 

“Our company allows retail buyers abroad to have an easy access to a wide range of K-beauty products via our website called AFS Mall. We manage them to order ‘little bit of everything’ on weekly or even daily basis, unlike in the past when buyers had to purchase in bulk and order on monthly basis,” Aionco Korea CEO Justin Jun said during an interview with The Korea Herald at its office in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul.

According to Jun, such a business model is possible since his company operates from product sourcing to storage and stock management at its fulfillment center, to be responsible until the products are delivered to the customer. 

Besides the company’s approximately 2,000-square-meter fulfilment center in Incheon, it operates fulfilment centers in China, Hong Kong and the US. 

Aionco Korea's fulfilment center in Incheon (Aionco Korea)
Aionco Korea's fulfilment center in Incheon (Aionco Korea)

After four rounds of investments from Mashup Angels, Hanwha Finance Group and local venture capitals, Aionco Korea has gathered a total of 10 billion won ($8.5 million) in capital. 

After graduating Peking University’s Law School in 2010, Jun established a small business with his Chinese friends, purchasing and delivering items on Taobao mall on behalf of South Korea customers. He was 28 years old. 

From left: Aionco Korea Director Nam Gun-woo, CEO Justin Jun and Chief Technology Officer Seo Mun-kyo pose inside the Seoul office. (Aionco Korea)
From left: Aionco Korea Director Nam Gun-woo, CEO Justin Jun and Chief Technology Officer Seo Mun-kyo pose inside the Seoul office. (Aionco Korea)

Jun said amid the rapidly expanding K-beauty market, his company is taking on the role of what traditional merchants have done in the past for business, but digitally. 

“Long before Aionco Korea was established, there were merchants who sold Korean cosmetics products offline in other countries, mostly in bulk. But with growing e-commerce industry, more clients demand purchasing many selections of different items. That’s why our main goal is to have as many options as possible so we can suggest valuable selection with competitive price to our buyers,” Jun added. 

Aionco Korea currently offers 20,000 K-beauty items, including those from major beauty manufacturer Amorepacific to small-sized indie brands that are mostly popular on social media sites like Instagram. 

“The number of suppliers is increasing each year while the beauty trend is quickly changing. That is why we decided to respond to the market environment with IT and professional personnel who can directly and efficiently manage overseas customers,” Jun said. 

Aionco Korea currently has 30 employees at its Seoul office, 10 in Beijing, five in Hong Kong and 12 in the US. 

For large-scale buyers like Alibaba who order at least 100 million won in products on a monthly basis, Aionco Korea dispatches a one-on-one account manager to cater to the client’s specific needs. Jun said his company’s ultimate goal is to lower the minimum quantity for a single order so that small and mid-sized buyers can also purchase a wider selection of K-beauty products. 

To satisfy both supplier and buyer needs, Aionco connects the two and manages the product logistics and fulfillment, while also offering consulting on branding and marketing strategy.

“More foreign buyers are becoming interested in a specific brand story of each product and what differentiates this product from others. For example, we offer ideas for what kind of brand story that a brand can bring to its end users,” Jun said. 

Also for suppliers, who sometimes find it difficult to seek foreign partners and lack in skills for global marketing, Aionco Korea connects them with online influencers by signing contracts with social media personalities, particularly following a boom of social media commerce in China.

“Our main goal is to constantly invest in our online B2B platform AFS Mall, to increase both suppliers and buyers registered on our database. We also aim to expand our warehouse management system by setting up more fulfilment centers globally,” said Jun. 

By Kim Da-sol (