Doing Business with China. Ojo Akin-Longe.
When I first had to make a purchase from China, I was filled with trepidation. Will it work well? Will it last? Will it be of right standard and quality? Will they deliver; and all what not. From the start, I noted that they were very responsive. I sent mails and right next day I got a response. I ask the most basic questions and somehow they really do make effort to explain. They advised they provided information and views that were coherent and helpful. When I made up my mind to progress payment, I noted too that they acknowledged receipt the very next day. For shipment, they came with options and prices that reflected what kind of service you wanted.
Prices were very moderate, far less than what you got for same products in most of Europe and America, sometimes, a fraction. Well then, I thought may be something was wrong, just may be. I asked questions about quality control about what international standards the equipment conformed with and they are quite a lot – ISO, FSC and what have you. Then there was the issue of what components that makes the machines, quite often they were either USA, Japan, Germany and all such advanced countries. I still worried but I thought let’s see, so I progressed.
We received items way back a few years ago and they were cool. We have used and used and used! They are still alive and kicking. Producing top class quality products and rugged. Support hasn’t been too easy but they are working and they are improving. Software support is cool and still they are responsive. I like their marketing drive; they always let you know that they are there.
I am not a China zealot or marketer, just plain facts. Besides, I believe that for emerging markets like ours, we have a lot to gain from doing business with China. I’d tell you why
· Prices are very competitive. You need it.
· Cottage industries abound.
· They are quite amenable to making products that fit your capacity from very small capacity machines to the big ones.
· They are continuously improving, lots of partnership with component manufacturers in Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and US.
· They communicate, they talk to you and they are willing.
· You could easily search for products and get so many responses on options.
There are loopholes. Like everywhere else in the world, wrong business people with false claim. Sometimes getting the quality support may be difficult. You may need to check out the software and be sure that you can read and understand necessary support system. Language is still a barrier. You need to ask and ask and ask. Keep many spares and ask for a thoroughly exhaustive part list.
I have had to ask myself, why China is so different, like why are things cheap and yet good. Now, manufacturing is a great deal of product assembly. So component parts come from all over the place and assembled while the manufacturer provides the interfaces. China has got a large pool of labour and with all respect, they come cheaper compared to their counterparts in advanced countries. China has a huge deposit of natural resources, like steel and several others. China is an emerging market and expensive rules and controls do not yet exist for production which invariably increases cost of production. And there are so many more reasons. I kind of convinced myself that China has become a market of serious consideration in a number of business areas that I will have to check before buying things. Thus far, it has gone well for me.
Generally I’d suggest a few steers when doing business with China.
i. Compare technical specifications with what you consider as the standard of same products.
ii. Be exhaustive in your inquiries.
iii. Ask to know what international standard specification the product conforms to.
iv. Get an Inspection agent to check things out for you – SGS; and many others, may be even an acquaintance who does business in China and lives there as well. You may also use my contact who lives in China, comes cheaper but reliable – Emmanuel (I’d readily provide contact if you ask).
v. If possible, ask to be sent product sample. You may have to pay but do it.
vi. Use very reliable shipping agency.
vii. Ask as many questions as possible on operational system and be sure to get manuals in your language of choice.
viii. If there is a Chinese trade mission in your country, you may consider joining.
ix. Check out sites like www.alibaba.com and check the rating of the seller.
x. Ask for references.
xi. Negotiate conditions of payment, especially if they have to come and install.
xii. Look in the website of the company you are proposing to do business with.
xiii. Show integrity.
xiv. If you can visit China!!!
What’s been your experience of China? What does doing business in China mean to you? Are there useful resources and links you know about? What’s view of China business offerings? What questions do you have? What solutions can you proffer? Let’s talk China business!!!