Chinese Video Doorphone PlayersRecipes for Success

Chinese video doorphone manufacturers have the technology; now, they need to find a way to win in international markets. A&S looks at key Chinese doorphone players, unveiling their recipes for success.

While many Chinese video doorphone players have plentiful experience and expertise at home, they have a short history of selling overseas sales. Aurine, for example, has a sales staff of 350 employees working in 77 offices in all provinces of China, except Tibet.

In addition, Jiale has service centers in more than 30 major cities around China, WRT has 31 and Leelen has 32 branch offices and a service hotline.

Major players rely on their strong R&D power and design facilities. WRT with 800 employees (50 to 60 are R&D experts) has made electronics and software is primary focus. The company is cooperating with a well-known Japanese player on video doorphones that provide elevator controls.

Leelen has a major R&D center in Xiamen, and Aurine has five R&D departments (each with 10 to 12 technicians) working on its AH8000 doorphone. Meanwhile, Genway has 80 core R&D workers, and management intends to hire 10 more.

Chinese manufacturers have discovered, however, that the key to success at home  offering plenty of functions  is less important overseas. There, many businesses look first or only to product quality.

"We have chosen to focus on product quality rather than loading up our doorphones with excessive features," said Crystal Cen, Overseas Sales Manager at WRT.

WRT has made major efforts to enhance quality by improving the appearance and subjecting its products to a wide array of tests, including static, lightning, power surges, temperature (from -40 degrees to 55 degrees Celsius), aging for LCD and CRT displays, and vibration. In addition, the company is using environmentally friendly packaging to protect products during shipping.

"Indian customers seldom use the open door function," said Jessica Lin, International Business Department Manager at Leelen. "They prefer to open the door, themselves." That said, she noted that picture storage is very popular. In addition, the company decided not to embed telephones into its doorphones because most users find walking to the door to answer the phone too inconvenient.

"It is better not to update models too frequently," said Jeff Huang, General Manager of Genway, "because your staff will have a difficult time keeping up with all the new changes and this will result in decreased production efficiency."

Many manufacturers, in his view, just blindly follow the herd, providing a bunch of redundant functions that are not really key to serving their core customer base. "This causes problems when it comes to educating end users," said Huang. "It is important to do things well, even if they are easy. That understanding will be clearly visible in the product. There seems to be this view among some Chinese players that things have to be difficult or you are not doing your job."

He cited European and American players. "Some big players do not come out with new products very often, but every model is a classic once it is launched."

Market Strategies
Aurine looked to all global markets, particularly those with large populations, before narrowing its focus after analyzing the results. Aurine's biggest market is the Middle East. There, like China, residences are clustered in densely populated communities. Aurine has also relied on customization to adapt to specific user needs. In fact, most of the products that it exports have been extensively redeveloped.

"We do not want to engage in a price competition," stressed Lin Jinxiang, CEO at Jiale. "We are, therefore, not afraid that our products are more expensive than those of other players." He also reported that the company is cooperating with a Taiwanese player to raise the bar.

According to Lin, the company has chosen to focus on delivering top-quality technology and functions along with innovative design. "For overseas markets, we pick 10 of our 100 products to promote. We also prefer to stick with the same partners. If you keep changing, it has an impact on the stability of your operations. You have to be patient and allow market plans to unfold."

When asked about a few big players outside the doorphone industry that are eyeing the market, Lin stated that he was not worried. "These big players are different from doorphone players; most of them prefer to concentrate on home automation."

Chinese doorphones, said Lin, still lag their U.S. and European counterparts when it comes to technology while offering the same functions. "We are working with an Italian design company to improve the appearance of our products," said Lin.

Leelen differentiates itself mainly through technology. Elevator control functions and TCP/IP capabilities are key objectives. Leelen designs incorporate IP, and easy operation and installation with four modules combined in one, while its doorphones feature easy communication among many large buildings.

Its major focus on European and American markets means that Genway exports 45 percent of its products. According to Huang, Europe is worth exploring as the market is quite mature. "Europeans buy not only products but also service and design." The company's C5 system, he added, has been a major hit overseas. "The design is based on an optimized analog doorphone."

Genway production facilities meet high standards, such as TS16949 and QS9000. While its competitors are still developing core technology, Genway is already working on branding.

From Market-driven to Driving the Market
Previously, Chinese manufacturers mostly reacted to market trends to remain profitable. That has changed. Quite a few major players are now driving markets to suit their own advantages.

Aurine, for example, has chosen to develop mid to high-end markets. "We are not selling audio products overseas; instead, we are trying to lead local markets to the video stage," stressed Shelly Zhu, General Manager of Aurine.

Meanwhile, Genway has gone down the road of product innovation. Although Genway has a good relationship with experts from the Chinese Ministry of
Construction, it relies on its own R&D team for its designs.

"To guarantee product quality, we never use second-hand monitors. We do all our designs ourselves after considering market trends and the various cultures involved," said Huang. "Our design philosophy is simplicity, not simple."

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