Biotech and Pharma

Sigma Pharmaceuticals CEO says mobile tech was key to breaking into China's market

Eustance Huang, Special to CNBC
Sigma Pharmaceuticals' China strategy

China is the world's second-largest pharmaceutical market, so it is inevitable that companies are clamoring at its door, but appealing to Chinese consumers isn't easy.

For Sigma Pharmaceuticals, an Australian pharmacy wholesaler and distributor, the secret to that market may be unexpected: mobile technology.

Speaking to CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Tuesday, Sigma CEO Mark Hooper said mobile is "the way of the world in China these days, using social networks and platforms to do everything in your life including payment."

In a market notoriously difficult for foreign entrance, Sigma recognized the importance of understanding the Chinese consumer's needs. In attempting to establish a foothold in the Chinese pharmaceutical market, it tapped the expertise of cross-border eCommerce solutions provider Azoya.

"Azoya was the perfect solution for us and I guess more critically, they had the experience in terms of the marketing support for that market," Hooper said, emphasizing the importance of access to local know-how.

The company's efforts may be paying off as it recently reported revenue figures from its Chinese Amcal pharmacy website that exceeded expectations. The company has since announced plans to expand into Hong Kong, with the possibility of additional expansion into Asia.

"We've already got the commerce platform that leverages into Chinese consumers and we feel like the next logical step is then to tap into the Hong Kong market," Hooper said.

Due to regulatory restrictions, the company has only been able to sell the Chinese consumer over-the-counter drugs. This is a change from the company's Australia business model, in which sales are driven by large-scale distribution to hospitals as well as the sale of prescription drugs for the treatment of diseases such as Hepatitis-C.

"It's very much a sort of just a toe in the water for us in terms of the e-Commerce presence we've got because one of the challenges is the challenging regulatory front in China," Hooper said.

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