“China is not a tactic or a sales market… it is a strategy in and of itself”: Lessons on exporting to China from Morgan Solar’s Mike Andrade

“China is not a tactic or a sales market… it is a strategy in and of itself”: Lessons on exporting to China from Morgan Solar’s Mike Andrade

Pallavi RoyPallavi Roy
Associate, Advanced Energy Centre

Pallavi is an Associate at the Advanced Energy Centre (AEC) at MaRS. She works on identifying opportunities and challenges for Canadian innovation in priority international markets. In her role, she also focuses on communicating thought leadership developed at the AEC to the energy community. Please click here for more information on Pallavi.
Roisin GrimesRoisin Grimes
Associate, Advanced Energy Centre

Roisin leads the Advanced Energy Centre’s (AEC) communications work, developing thought leadership and sector insights. In her role she works with the AEC’s partners and key industry players, to address the barriers to adopting innovation in the energy sector. Please click here for more information on Roisin.

This is the final interview to conclude MaRS’ series on China as an export market for Canadian cleantech companies. In these interviews, we talk to three Canadian entrepreneurs who have first-hand experience of doing business in China. From business etiquette to partnerships, their answers provide useful tips and insights for any Canadian company considering venturing into this market.

Mike Andrade is the CEO of Morgan Solar – the only company in the solar industry with dual-axis tracking and a concentrated solar platform that can be done with industry standard materials, processes and suppliers. This allows for an unparalleled combination of performance and cost.

Why did you enter the Chinese market and what is your current involvement there?

Our tracker platform is completely manufactured using outsourcing partners in China. Our panel platform will likely have significant manufacturing in China as well. We expect that China will ultimately be a large market for our products, in addition to being a source of partnerships for us. We are playing the long-game here, and it is better to figure out a way to benefit from China than to fight it.

What were your major challenges and considerations when entering this market?

China is the dominant market in all aspects of solar, and the government has a stated policy of being the leader in solar globally. So, you know that you are going into the big leagues where the biggest customers, biggest competitors and the biggest opportunities exist in conjunction with the biggest risks. You need to ready to play there.

Did anything surprise you about this market?

One thing I have learned after over 20 years of doing business there, is to always expect to be surprised in China. There is always some unexpected direction that business takes there. So, I guess, I am surprised when I am not surprised! While I won’t say that things have been easy, we have been pleased with how well received we are in China, given that they are the epicentre of solar technology. It is clear that they are looking for new technologies – we have gotten great validation that we have something really different and better.  I won’t say that this has all been surprising, but it is nice to see. 

What advice would you give other Canadian companies considering exporting/setting up operations in this market?

You need to understand what you are trying to accomplish and where you want to end up. China is not a tactic or a sales market, certainly in solar, it is a strategy in and of itself.

And finally, tell us one thing you love about China.

As a country, they have a sense of mission to reassert themselves as a world leader, particularly in the area of clean tech.

Please also read MaRS’ first article of this series, which provided a background on how policy impacts business opportunities for foreign cleantech companies in China. Additionally, the second article detailed pertinent questions that companies need to ask themselves before venturing there.

To learn more about the insights and support that MaRS Advanced Energy Centre can provide to cleantech companies exploring the Chinese market, please get in touch at advancedenergycentre@marsdd.com.

Categories Clean Technologies

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