Hard times call for innovative entrepreneurship

Updated: 2012-06-12 09:40

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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Hard times call for innovative entrepreneurship

An Ecovacs cleaning robot made by TEK Electrical (Suzhou) Co Ltd. The company started out as a manufacturer of household cleaning appliances for overseas brands. [Photo/China Daily] 

Editor's Note: China Daily business reporter Zheng Yangpeng recently took a tour to find out how once export-oriented companies are coping with the consequences of the global economic crisis and, if possible, using them to change themselves into more competitive businesses. He visited Suzhou in Jiangsu, a province in the Yangtze River Delta, and Guangzhou and Dongguan, two cities in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province. The following is what he found out.

Investors know that Warren Buffett once said: "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked."

All Chinese learn in school that Confucius said: "Only when the cold season comes, then we know the pine tree and the cypress are the last to lose their leaves."

So in today's business world, with its rapidly changing tides and seasons, how can managers learn to swim while still putting their swimming costumes on? Or, how can companies transform themselves from ordinary ones, like trees that become dry and bald in the winter, into ones that can continue to grow in bad times, like evergreens?

More than three years after the outbreak of the global financial crisis, fresh answers are now being given by some Chinese companies as to how to transform themselves from manufacturers of cheap goods into ones providing more value-added goods and services.

Among those more successful companies, no one is counting on more overseas orders for low-skilled processing operations.

No one is trying to produce more by hiring more cheap labor, especially when labor is no longer cheap, or by working long hours.

Everyone is competing by beefing up their tech teams, and through serious research and development and design management.

And everyone is trying to generate more value for customers. They may be leading the way among the post-crisis generation of Chinese entrepreneurship.

Emphasis on tech

TEK Electrical (Suzhou) Co Ltd now has its new products showcased on overseas websites about consumer gadgets. But in 1998, when it just started, it was a simple manufacturer of household cleaning appliances for overseas brands.

There's nothing extraordinary about that, as original equipment manufacturing was the game at that time in China, when coastal cities were competing for opportunities to make products or components for international companies under the latter's brand names.

But TEK Chairman Qian Dongqi did not believe in fate. He wanted to chase a lofty goal, even if it meant, he said, that he had to travel on a rocky path. He dreamed about creating his own brand, and he wanted to do so through innovation.

After "many failures", Qian began to market his intelligent cleaning robots in 2006. Ecovacs is said to be a "well-established" brand of cleaning robots in the US and European markets.

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