Network-gear firm TP-Link thinks big in US market

Updated: 2013-04-05 11:53

By Wang Jun in Los Angeles (China Daily)

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 Network-gear firm TP-Link thinks big in US market

Lewis Wu (left) inspects TP-Link's warehouse with warehouse manager Roger Hu in the City of Industry, California. Wang Jun / China Daily

The US arm of Chinese networking-gear maker TP-Link Technologies Co plans to expand by focusing on small and medium-size business customers while enlarging its retail footprint.

"My top priorities for now are sales-channel and network building, B2B business development as well as team-building," said Lewis Wu, US country manager of TP-Link, based in the Los Angeles suburb of City of Industry, California.

The goal for TP-Link's business-to-business operations is $1 million a month, he said, mainly among small and medium-size enterprises, or SMEs.

Trying to serve larger business customers would mean competing with networking giants like Cisco Systems Inc, which is not the focus of the company, Wu explained.

Shenzhen-based TP-Link Technologies was the world's leading maker of products used in wireless local-area networking, or WLAN, with 37 percent of the global market in last year's third quarter, according to US-based industry researcher International Data Corp.

For all of 2012, the company had $1.4 billion in revenue, 46 percent of which was from sales overseas.

In the first six months after it entered the United States in 2009, TP-Link tested its new market extensively. This included an initial showing at the prestigious International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The US unit now takes part in over 20 trade shows a year, said Wu, who was sent to run the business during the spring of 2010.

Wu and his team figured that just lowering prices wouldn't be enough to attract customers. Instead, the company would have to offer cutting-edge products. "It has to be marketing-driven," the executive said.

So far, TP-Link USA has managed to get its products shelved at regional retail chain Fry's and signed a partnership deal with Inc.

Bigger plans include getting Wal-Mart stores to sell TP-Link gear. From May, its products will be available at 790 Wal-Mart stores.

Asked about that, Wu said: "You have to be prepared for the right time, but not force it."

To work with major online and big-box retailers, he said, the company has to be flexible in adjusting its marketing on a case-by-case basis.

Most TP-Link managers are in their 30s or even younger, said Wu, who is 26.

He joined the company in 2009, right out of college. Wu said the timing was right, because TP-Link's recent international expansion created opportunities.

Brothers Zhao Jianjun and Zhao Jiaxing founded the company in 1996 with a network card they had developed. They named it TP-Link, for "twisted-pair link", a kind of electromagnetic cabling.

Within nine years, TP-Link had become the industry leader in China for home and small-office networking gear. With domestic success achieved, it looked abroad for further growth.

Soon after entering the US market, TP-Link got a No 1 ranking in the fourth quarter of 2010 for wireless and broadband networking equipment, according to customer surveys by global market research firm In-Stat.

The company continually brings new products to its home market, which accounts for more than half of its annual sales.

Some foreign markets are similar to China, where performance-to-price ratio is highly important, Wu said.

"For example, in Latin America we can apply our China business model on a large scale."

(China Daily 04/05/2013 page10)