BIZCHINA / Zhang Ruimin

Zhang Ruimin

Updated: 2006-03-14 13:47

Chairman and CEO of Haier Group
Age: 57
Birthday: Jan 5, 1949
Birthplace: Laizhou, Shandong
Company: Haier
Head office: Qingdao
Industry: electronics appliance

Zhang Ruimin has been a famous figure in China for years for his role in building Haier into China's largest electronics appliance maker.

In 1984 when Zhang Ruimin was appointed director of Qingdao Refrigerator Factory, it was then a small ailing collective factory with a debt of 1.47 million yuan (US$182.759). Zhang took a sledgehammer to smash some defective refrigerators in front of a group of workers to drive home the importance of quality.

The factory has since grown to become what is now known as the Haier Group, China's top home appliance brand name. Haier has witnessed significant success and gained worldwide recognition over the past 20 years and in 2004 global sales were 101.6 billion yuan (US$12.63 billion). In 2005, Haier was ranked 89th of the 2005 World's 500 Most Influential Brands by the World Brand Lab and first among China's Top 10 Global Brands on the Financial Times.

To improve Haier management efficiency, Zhang combined Chinese traditional culture and western industrial experiences, and established the OEC and the Market-chain management systems. Zhang's management system has been widely acknowledged by domestic and overseas management professionals.

Haier's experience has been introduced in 16 case studies in business merger, financial management and corporate culture by 7 foreign educational institutes, including Harvard University, University of Southern California, Lausanne Management College, the European Business College and Kobe University. Haier has been recommended to the EU Case Studies by Lausanne Management College for Haier Market-chain Management.

In 1997, Zhang Ruimin was presented with the 1997 Entrepreneur Award by Asia Weekly. On September 6, 2002, Zhang was honored with a Global Business Leader and an Outstanding Donator UWI Award. Zhang was ranked first of the 25 Most Powerful Business Leaders Inside China on the Chinese Edition of Fortune April 2005. Zhang was awarded as one of the 50 most respected business leaders in the world by Financial Times in November 2005, with Microsoft CEO Bill Gates topping the list. Zhang was the only Chinese entrepreneur on the list.

Zhang Ruimin is keen and skillful on studies and widely believed to a intellectual businessman. One of his philosophical concepts in business practice is "Tread on eggs always, run scared always". Haier corporate culture based upon Zhang's philosophy has played a significant role in increasing 30,000 employee enthusiasm and innovation.

In 2004, Haier trademark was valued at 61.6 billion yuan (US$7.66 billion), the highest in China. In November, 2004, Haier was placed on the list of The World's Most Respected Companies at an global business survey jointly conducted by Finance Times and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Zhang Ruimin and his colleagues dedicate their wisdom and energy to turning a collective run small factory into a global recognizable transnational company and to accelerating China's economy.

Zhang's ambition is to achieve global recognition for the Haier brand. Hoping to win a stronger niche in the U.S. market, Haier tried to take over U.S. appliance maker Maytag Corp in May last year, but dropped its more than US$1 billion bid in July after U.S. major electronic appliance maker Whirlpool made a bigger offer. But Haier, under Mr. Zhang's leadership, is expected to shop for other acquisition opportunities.

"The globalisation of Chinese companies is an unavoidable trend, we must develop our domestic advantage into an international one," Mr Zhang told a conference. "If we cannot win in our own market, we will not succeed internationally."

One of China's most politically influential businessmen, Mr. Zhang became an alternate member of the 16th Communist Party of China Central Committee in 2002. He has an MBA from a top IT University, the China Science and Technology University.

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