“Getting to know you – getting to know all about you,” trilled Julie Andrews in the King and I. Yet this might be a catchy motto for Scottish firms who want to break into China.
One such firm is Rainbow Technology Systems, based at Hillington Park, who have invested a great deal of time and effort in taking their unique printed circuit board (PCB) imaging system and products to mainland China.
Chris O’Brien, sales and marketing manager, has recently been to Hong Kong with
members of his team and he reckons regular contact gives a first-hand impression of his changing market.
“Our reason for going to Hong Kong is actually to link up with our distributor before heading in to meet with potential customers in China. It tends to be convenient for flights and as our distributor is based out of Hong Kong it works well.”
The team of Jonathan Kennett, the chief executive officer; John Cunningham, the chief chemist; Robert Gibson, chief mechanical designer; and Loretta Campbell, accounts and sales manager, along with Chris O’Brien, run the company in Scotland, part of the Teknek group. But with Glasgow Airport on their doorstep, the best way to keep a weather eye on the shifting market place is to jump on a plane and head east.
“The potential for business in Hong Kong for us is actually now very low. In years gone by there was a large PCB manufacturing base there, but it has almost all moved into mainland China. Our main potential customer base of PCB manufacturers in China tends to be around the Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou areas, as well as Shanghai and Suzhou further north. Our distributor has offices in all of the areas of interest.”
Mr O’Brien’s most recent trip was to meet with potential customers in the Shenzhen area and agree technical and commercial terms for the first sale of the Rainbow Process Line system into Asia. The process line is a self-contained clean environment where copper panels are processed automatically through the stages of coating, imaging, developing and rinsing.
“This was a very successful meeting and we expect to receive an order in the coming days.”
How have Rainbow Technology Systems managed to stay ahead in this competitive field?
“There are really two sides to this: aligning our products to a market requirement, opening and then getting the word out and setting up sales and distribution channels. For the former, we took our central idea and moulded it to fit a segment of the PCB manufacturing market, packaging the equipment and process in a way that will appeal to the end users.
For the latter, we have attended a lot of industry conferences and trade shows, and established relationships with industry organisations and institutes that have led to introductions to recognised distribution partners,” he said.
Rainbow’s target is the high volume PCB manufacturer based in China, so exporting is essential - almost 100% of the business is outside of Scotland.
“Most of this market is based in Asia, the key countries being China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Selling into Asia obviously brings a number of challenges: not least the distance, time difference and languages.”
The solution is to find a reliable distribution partners who can link Rainbow Technology to the end-user companies.
“Once our brand has been established and the equipment proven, there is potentially a huge market in Asia that we can sell to. We also have plans to develop new product lines that will allow us to cover other market segments as we continue to grow the company,” said Mr O’Brien.
There are also additional products on the horizon to open the door to the lower volume, high value PCB manufacture in the UK and Europe. Rainbow Technology has benefited from help and guidance throughout from Scottish Enterprise. This included an International Strategy Development Workshop which was a key milestone on the journey.
“We really took time to look at the possibilities ahead of us and focus on what we could do to get to market with the biggest impact in the shortest term. We have also been very careful to pull in additional resource as it has been required, adding the required skills to our team in a timely manner,” he said.
Mr O’Brien is clear that to be successful in exporting it is crucial to establish good distribution channels with companies who are on the ground, know the territory and speak the language. Spending time to find the right partners and establish a good working relationship is time well spent.
In short, ‘Getting to know you,’ is a motto to remember.