Entrepreneurs watch their dreams fly

Updated: 2014-03-18 07:36

By Zhu Lixin in Huaibei, Anhui (China Daily USA)

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For almost a decade, they were just three young talents chasing their vague dreams in Beijing. Now they are renowned entrepreneurs running their own company in their hometown.

The business that Yao Xuefeng, Men Zhenyu and Zhao Yi are engaged in belongs to an emerging industry on which they are very bullish.

"We believe that the unmanned aircraft industry will have a prosperous future, while our real dream has just set off," says Yao Xuefeng, executive general manager of Huaibei Tianlu Aero Science and Technology Co Ltd.

Entrepreneurs watch their dreams fly

Technicians work on a unmanned aircraft at the plant of Huaibei Tianlu Aero Science and Technology Co Ltd. Provided to China Daily

In 2002, Yao quit his administrative position in a State-owned company in Huaibei, his hometown and a city in northern Anhui province, and went to Beijing seeking better opportunity for personal development.

"The city was not so overcrowded as it is today," the 38-year-old man says.

He soon found a new job in marketing, which he thought he was good at. Five years later, he became a professional manager in a private firm in the capital.

Meeting by chance 12 years ago, he and his partners - all with similar life and marketing experience - soon became good friends. Zhao was running a wealth management company while Men was already the leader of an unmanned aircraft research and development team in a Beijing-based company.

To become an expert of unmanned aircraft, Men, who majored in law in college, had to study aerodynamics, material mechanics and some other subjects from scratch by himself. He believed that his painstaking work would finally get repaid in the future.

"I've been nuts about invention since my childhood and especially crazy about airplanes," Men says.

"Life in Beijing was not easy, and it could be extremely hard for those who want to start their own businesses," says Yao, who thought Men's budding industry had promise.

Nowadays more Chinese college graduates choose to leave large cities for smaller ones due to the skyrocketing real estate prices and tough household registration regulations.

"Some people around us feel confused about our returning from Beijing to Huaibei, an economically lagging fourth-tier city in their eyes. But we had no other choice," Men says. "The capital city has its unsurpassable strengths in talents of science and technology, but we didn't have the money to make the company survive and thrive there."

The three decided to make the dream come true in their hometown.

"We received a warmhearted welcome and firm support from the local government," says Zhao Yi, who is now the company's deputy general manager in charge of finance affairs.

The local government offered the new company a 2,800-square-meter factory free for its R&D center, manufacturing workshop and office use - plus simplified registration procedures and help to get crucial bank loans.

The company was formally founded on Dec 12, 2012, and Men was able to attract 15 of his former team members to his new company with share-incentive options. Now the company enjoys a highly qualified staff of 38 employees.

On Dec 27 last year, the company's first unmanned aircraft for civil uses was purchased by a Beijing-based company.

The aircraft weighs 38 kilograms and is both 3 meters long and wide. Fully fueled with 14 liters of gasoline, it can keep flying for five hours at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour and at a height of 2,000 meters.

"It's not the final success for which we have longed for years. We've just got the dream a pair of wings," Yao says.

He says that the company is now one of the three top Chinese private firms engaged in R&D and manufacturing of civil unmanned aircraft, which have a broad scope of applications including surveying and mapping, agriculture, transportation and disaster response.

A new factory, which covers an area of 36,000 square meters with a total investment of 150 million yuan ($24.69 million), will soon be completed and put into use in 2014.

The company plans to invest 1.5 to 2 billion yuan through cooperation with the local government to build a general aviation airport in Huaibei city. An aviation club and a general aviation service firm are also in planning stages.

"As aviation authorities are expected to loosen their grip on low-altitude airspaces as early as this March, we feel more confident about the future development of our company," Yao says.


(China Daily USA 03/18/2014 page8)