Business / Companies

Haier's micro team comes up with hot-selling self-cleaning washing machine

By Fan Feifei and Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-03 07:57

Beijing housewife Yang Jun knows a good washing machine when she sees one. She was surprised then when she noticed her Haier model became dirty inside after repeated use.

After chatting to her friends, Yang wondered why the household appliances group could not make a small self-cleaning machine for children's clothes and underwear.

So, she posted her comments on the company's interactive platform for customers.

"To my surprise, Haier launched a mini version of a self-cleaning washing machine," she recalled. "That was really creative of them."

Behind the scenes, this project was all part of the group's new technological policy involving small "micro ecosystem" teams.

In 2013, a design contest was launched online for a "self-cleaning washing machine".

More than 9.9 million people posted comments, while 150,000 Internet users suggested ideas to solve the problem. In the end, 10 proposals were put forward, including one from Sun Chuanbin and his six-strong "maker team".

Haier eventually picked his blueprint and agreed to mass produce his startup's self-cleaning washing machine. "During the whole process, we all participated to produce the right product," Sun, who was a former Haier employee, said.

But his team of "makers", a term used to describe entrepreneurial inventors, went even further. After the research and design phase, they immersed themselves in the production process as well as sales and marketing.

Rolled out last year, the washing machines cost between 3,999 yuan ($629) to 6,999 yuan each depending on size. In just six months, Haier sold 200,000 self-cleaning models, generating 700 million yuan in revenue.

This year, sales are predicted to top 1 million with 3 billion yuan in revenue. The product has also helped increase Haier's market share in high-end washing machines from 25.3 percent to 52.6 percent.

For Sun and his team, sales success has translated into major financial rewards. He now earns up to 50 percent more than when he was employed full time by Haier as a planning director, although he declined to disclose his monthly salary.

Just like his fellow team members, he receives a percentage of every washing machine sold. That means, no sales, no salaries, apart from a flat-rate of 2,000 yuan a month from Haier.

"The biggest change is taking responsibility for the whole team," Sun said. "I need to consider many aspects, including mechanics, procedure, development direction and resource allocation."

Staying in touch with customers is also crucial. "You have to establish relationships with them and interact on the consumer platform," he said. If Sun's team stops making money for Haier, it will be dissolved as only success is rewarded.

At first, he had to pay his team out of his own pocket. "We were all under pressure at the beginning. It was very stressful," he said. "But it's different now."

As for the future, Sun's group plans to expand into other areas of home appliances, without disclosing details, as well as launching an aftersales app for major Haier products.

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