The winning combination of a great brand name, solid business guidance and a rise in discretionary spending among Chinese consumers is helping ProSlide Technology to make a big splash in China.
At the beginning of May, the Ottawa-based waterslide manufacturer opened a new office in Shanghai to serve as an operations hub for the firm’s targeted growth in the Asia Pacific region.
“Consumer spending in China is growing at an incredible rate,” says Dave Rozon, ProSlide’s Chief Operating Officer, explaining that some reports predict that between now and 2025, 350 million people will move from lower income brackets into the ranks of the middle class. The growth of discretionary spending – estimated to increase at a 7.6 per cent annual rate for the next 15 years – is fuelling consumer interest in retail, entertainment and amusement sector offerings.
While China is a huge market, tapping its opportunities is also a “massive undertaking,” says Rozon. “It’s important to understand what are you trying to accomplish by going over there.”
Before opening its Shanghai office, the company leveraged its award-winning reputation as an industry leader in North America to help build a solid customer base in Asia, Rozon explains. ProSlide established this reputation by becoming a “famous brand,” as it is called in China, in part by snapping up over 65 awards from industry bodies such as the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and the World Waterpark Association in 29 years.
Being recognized for the highest standards in quality and innovation – is a valuable asset, says Ruth McMahon, ProSlide’s director of marketing and communications.
ProSlide’s Chinese customers want the same – if not even higher – standards, adds Rozon. “They demand innovation beyond what we’ve seen elsewhere. It’s not just about bringing products into the country – it’s about bringing expertise to build better and greater thrills for consumers.”
ProSlide’s presence in the Asia Pacific region has risen over the years with projects in Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea and China, says McMahon. “It started in the early 1990s, accelerated around 2006 and 2008, and has been going gang-busters ever since.”
ProSlide’s Shanghai presence
Opening a regional office in Shanghai was a logical step because “working remotely became increasingly difficult given the volume of projects in the region,” says Rozon. “We had people on planes all the time and it made sense to give them a home-base in China.”
Rather than go it alone, ProSlide tapped support from the Canada China Business Council (CCBC), which operates incubation centres for Canadian companies in Beijing and Shanghai.
Beyond providing office space within its Shanghai incubation centre, where a ProSlide staff member worked for six months, CCBC provided other support including helping ProSlide register its China-based operation, says CCBC executive director Sarah Kutulakos.
Rozon gives the CCBC the “highest marks for collaboration, expertise and information.” Without this support, setting up an office in Shanghai would have been “ten times as challenging,” he says. “[CCBC] helped by shedding light on processes, presenting options for setting up the company structure and finding partners on the financial and the HR side.”
For ProSlide, establishing an office in Shanghai has made a big difference, says Rozon. “We’ve noticed how much better the communications flow. We have local people working in the offices and all of a sudden, transactions are becoming a lot easier.”
Advice from ProSlide’s COO, Dave Rozon
Make China part of your growth strategy. Chinese urbanization and discretionary spending are increasing and driving a tremendous appetite for shopping malls, amusement parks and movie theatres. Take a look at what your brand can offer Chinese consumers.
Offer higher standards. Chinese customers demand North American standards – if not better. They are also looking for expertise, innovation and ideation.
Decide if you need to be “on the ground.” The type of product or service and the extent of your customer base will determine whether you need an office in China. For ProSlide, an expanding demand for engineering, customer services and project management ultimately made a local base a necessity.
It’s riskier to try it alone. Working in China may appear daunting but there is a lot of help and information available through CCBC or Export Development Canada (EDC). With the right support, “it’s not so cumbersome and it is achievable.”