Business development in China
TenCate Geosynthetics and TenCate Grass have had a presence in China through sales offices for a number of years. However, in order to explore and exploit the potential for protective fabrics and composite materials, Raoul Starmans was appointed business development manager, Greater China on 1 June 2012.
Raoul Starmans’ mission is twofold: to establish what we as TenCate can do in China and in which areas the opportunities can be found. To determine with which existing or potential customers we can develop a relationship. The first, strategic aspect underpins the initiatives in the second, sales aspect. This means in essence identifying opportunities and markets. It will involve visiting customers, building a relationship and pursuing that path in order to put TenCate materials on the market there. 'Once we established a good relationship, we can look at the local organization and the people that you need. After the organization has been set up, I can “give up” this task and continue to work on business development. This can eventually lead to our producing these materials in China.' Even though TenCate is not able to compete on price, due to the import tariffs operating in China, it can, nevertheless, do so on quality and service.
Quality requirements vary from industry to industry. For aerospace the bar is as high as in other parts of the world since aircraft must also have FAA certification. When it comes to protective fabrics and geosynthetics the bar is lower. ‘There is usually less money available for purchasing protective clothing. However, standards do exist and are often based on ISO or US standardization.’ There are still only a few Chinese producers who are able to blend fibres into a material. When it comes to geosynthetics, raw materials of a lower quality are frequently used and the difference in quality means that TenCate products are generally more expensive than those made by local competitors. The real volume of sales is to be found in the middle and lower segments. Although adapting quality standards to meet the local situation is not a real option for TenCate, producing the materials locally is, since there is a demand for TenCate materials. ‘People are prepared to import our materials for six months, but after that they want us to produce locally.’
Geosynthetics of TenCate are being applied at a
coal-processing plant in Hetaoyu (Gansu, China)
It is well known that doing business in China requires a different attitude and approach from those taken in Europe or the US. Chinese business people frequently don’t speak English, or not very well. Raoul Starmans, however, doesn’t see this as an insurmountable problem. He has lived in China since 2005 and has a Chinese wife and thus has a great affinity with the country and speaks the language. ‘In my opinion language is a barrier that means that it takes a long time to build a relationship. Because we can communicate locally with the customer, things move faster. You establish a relationship by having as much detailed knowledge as possible and through cooperation.’ There are also customers who approach TenCate because they already know the products.
TenCate may become the key supplier for the private jets of a leading Chinese aircraft manufacturer
The business development manager is also holding talks with a leading aircraft manufacturer. TenCate may become the key supplier for this company’s private jets. A manufacturer of business jets is receiving technical support from TenCate Advanced Composites USA. ‘This enables them to learn how to make panels from composite materials. Without our help they wouldn’t be able to do so. That is our added value: we supply not only the materials but also provide technical know-how and experience. It is also the only way to become a key supplier.’