Enhancing final farewell

Updated: 2012-12-28 07:30

By Xu Wei (China Daily)

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Tony Liu said the overwhelming reliance on funeral products to generate profit has caused public dissent. "The products look very delicate, but commercial products will only become meaningful if they are accompanied by comparable personal services," he said.

At its Chongqing funeral homes, Sino-Life has raised the cost of some services - ranging from the basics to additional items that yield much greater profits, including embalming and funeral direction - to more than two and a half times the price it charged when it entered the mainland market.

Enhancing final farewell

Funeral products on display at the Wuhan expo. Provided to China Daily

The company also profits from providing packed lunches, mahjong tables and even accommodation at funerals.

Tony Liu insists the company can offer good value and still make a profit.

"I believe it is the difference between a grocery store and a supermarket. We need to give people good choices, and they will make a decision based on their financial capability and personal preference," he said.

His business on the mainland now accounts for more than 70 percent of the company's total annual turnover.

Meanwhile, Huaien has an annual turnover of more than 60 million yuan from its business in Hunan.

As the Taiwan service model has expanded and become more popular, indigenous providers have begun to adopt it in recent years.

Tianquanjiajing Funeral Service Co in Beijing started a funeral and embalming service in April in cooperation with a funeral home in Zhejiang province and the 301 Hospital in the capital.

"In the beginning, we could only undertake two or three embalming procedures per month, but now the number has risen to 20 to 30," said Yuan Tianlun, a manager at the company.

Wilson Tong, a fairs director in Hong Kong who works at the Asia Funeral and Cemetery Expo and Conference, said any decision about whether the prices charged by funeral homes are reasonable should be based on the service provided.

"It is like going to a cinema and watching a movie. If the film has been exquisitely made and nicely directed, people won't complain about the ticket price. But if it's unprofessional, the price is still high and people have no other alternative, they won't like it," he said.

Shortage of talent

As funeral homes gradually realize the need for change, they find themselves constrained by one crucial factor: A shortage of talent.

Although the Taiwan model attracted great interest from operators visiting the Wuhan expo, many insiders believe it will take a long time for the overall industry to reach a similar level.

"First, we do not have the people capable of providing such services and we don't know where to find them," said Zhu Quanliang, Party secretary at a funeral home in Wuhan's Caidian district.