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Haier taking on America

Updated: 2012-08-03 11:38
By Ariel Tung in New York ( China Daily)

Haier taking on America

A shop assistant adjusts a Haier air conditioner in a store in Queens, New York. [Photo/China Daily] 

The president of Haier America explains what it takes for a Chinese company to crack an overseas market

It's been 10 years since Haier America bought the wonderful former head office of Greenwich Bank.

But there's been no fanfare within the imposing 1920s, six-story limestone and sandstone building at the intersection of Broadway and West 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan in New York.

Instead, Haier quietly celebrated by acknowledging the series of milestones the company has hit since first entering the United States 13 years ago.

Haier taking on America

Haier taking on America


Haier taking on America

Haier taking on America
It was in 1999 that Haier Group - a company based in Qingdao, a coastal city in East China's Shandong province - first arrived in the US with a clear objective in mind.

Unlike many of its Chinese counterparts which aim to export massive volumes of goods to the US and elsewhere, Haier was here to create a brand, which the company hoped would appeal around the world.

The company may be a household brand in China, well-known and respected as one of the world's leading manufacturers of refrigerators, air conditioners and other appliances - but its name was virtually unknown when it first broke into the US.

But today, its products can be widely found on the shelves of major US retailers such as Wal-mart, Target and Home Depot.

And by partnering with the National Basketball Association, it has gained considerable leverage through advertisements and other endorsements with one of the highest profile sports in the US.

Haier's CEO Zhang Ruimin has always emphasized that for its international business to succeed, it needed to create a localized brand name.

"We had to make Americans feel that Haier is a localized US brand instead of an imported Chinese brand," Zhang said.

The company's commitment to establishing a US bridgehead for expansion into the country was firmly underlined from the start with the decision to build a factory in Camden, South Carolina - it marked Haier out as the first Chinese company to actually invest in the bricks and mortar of a manufacturing plant in the US.

The Haier Industrial Park broke ground a month after Haier set up its US office in March 1999.

The $40 million facility on 110 acres land was opened in March 2000, and soon began producing its first refrigerators.

"The factory was meant to communicate our commitment to the American marketplace," Shariff Kan, president of Haier America, told China Daily.

To fully integrate into American society, he said, the company realized from day one that it was vital local people were running the business.

Today, the Haier park employs 250 workers, and its headquarters in New York - which also functions as a sales and marketing office - has another 220 staff.

Kan, who was named one of the "50 Most Outstanding Asian American Businessmen" in 2002, has been key to Haier's success, and has been with the company since it began in 1999.

Haier taking on America

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