Friday, 16 Dec 2011
Full steam ahead in Asia
Paul Hussey, CEO from UK company Strix, shares his secrets and insights for business success in Asia
Strix, a domestic electrical component company which designs and produces the core technical safety control and filtration systems within kettles, enjoys a long history of success in Asia. With major electrical appliance brands as its clients, 93% of Strix fitted kettles are produced in Asia, to be used both domestically in Asia markets or exported all over the world.
Having worked closely with UK Trade & Investment in China and Korea over the years, and helping to host delegations of UK companies keen to explore the opportunities in China, Strix is now supporting UK Trade & Investment’s new campaign to encourage more UK businesses to explore and capitalise on the opportunities across the Asian markets.
Here, Paul Hussey shares his observations and tips for successfully doing business in Asia to inspire more companies to follow in its footsteps.
Strix in Asia:
Strix products are used in all markets across Asia
Strix has been in Asia for 20 years
Strix has 630 employees working in Asia
93% of Strix fitted kettles are produced in Asia
Strix is three times winner of the Queens Award for Export
We are a UK company, based in the Isle of Man and we have around 95 people based between our site there and other UK locations, where we have manufacturing and testing operations. In the UK we mainly employ R&D design engineers, as well as our UK Finance and UK based Sales Teams.
On the other side of the world, we have 30 year heritage of doing business across Asia, having first set foot there in the early 1980s selling to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong via local agents.
We have now firmly established our presence in Asia, with the opening of a sizeable manufacturing plant in Guangzhou, China in the mid nineties, and we have offices and a showroom in Hong Kong as well as representatives in all the other Asian markets.
We took our operations to the East mainly because our main customers moved their manufacturing base from the UK to China so we followed suit. This helped to increase our competitiveness - minimising the supply chain, enhancing distribution and flexibility, reducing lead times and ensuring that our R&D was focused on the needs of the local market.
Today around 80 per cent of our staff are based in China, so that our engineering staff can work in close collaboration with our local customers.
We also put a great amount of emphasis on supporting our brand throughout Asia – our core marketing activity around this is mainly focused on business to business. We work closely with our clients to ensure that through their marketing and packaging of products with our technology inside, we get our message across about safety and innovation.
To deliver this we run various marketing campaigns and we have developed a ‘Strix Inside’ logo for our clients. We want customers buying kettles to see the Strix Inside logo on the packaging and feel confident they are buying a product that focuses on safety and innovation.
We pride ourselves on our world leading innovation and safety, having more than 475 patents registered worldwide, so want our brand to become synonymous with these attributes – qualities that we know resonate with consumers across Asia.
Recently we have been raising the profile of our brand throughout the Asian markets, by taking part in a major design exhibition in Korea with a presentation to highlight our innovation and energy saving credentials.
We have further co-marketing activity planned over the coming months to help raise awareness of Strix to enhance our reputation helping to attract more brand partners and drive kettle sales upwards.
Paul’s top ten tips to success in Asia:
1. UK businesses coming to China shouldn’t do so just to take advantage of lower wage rates – which are now rising fast. They should be focusing on doing business locally and growing with their local customers.
2. Get the right support and advice through organisations such as UKTI – local knowledge and insight can really help navigate the different business and cultural landscapes of each market.
3. Building and establishing relationships is key – working with UKTI adds weight to this and helps to open doors
4. A key challenge is protecting your Intellectual Properties - UK companies need to dedicate time and resources not only to the registration of patents but also to enforcing them as we found in China.
5. China is a fragmented market with very distinct regions – each region is like a different country so you need to tailor your approach for each one. Be flexible and if possible have a local market manager on the ground who really understands how to do business in each region.
6. Innovation is a key driver across Asia – so make sure that your business focuses on this to meet the demands of consumers in the region
7. Understand the consumer and cultural differences of each market and tailor your approach accordingly. For example, we have to take into consideration how consumers in each market use our products and adapt accordingly.
8. Respect the cultural and business traditions in each country – be understanding and accommodating in the way they do business – seek advice from local experts.
9. It takes time to gain the confidence and trust of people you want to do business with. Also it is difficult for some cultures in Asia to say ‘no’ even if they mean it. This is why it is helpful to work with a local representative.
10. Be patient with negotiations – don’t push too hard for decisions or expect quick wins, you definitely need to take a long-term perspective
Paul will be speaking at the ‘Explore Asia – a world of opportunities for UK companies’ event on 9 February 2012 in London hosted by UK Trade & Investment in partnership with RBS. Find more information about this at www.businessinasia.co.uk.
For more information on Strix visit their website at www.strix.com.