Business / Economy

In China's largest trade fair, tech innovation brightens prospects

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-04-27 10:27

GUANGZHOU - In China's largest trade fair in the southern city of Guangzhou, a small electric kettle attracted the attention of many foreign buyers.

With a single tap on their smartphone, users can sit back and wait for the water to be heated to a desired temperature.

The smart kettle, made by Ningbo Smal Electrics Co is one of the innovative products at the fair that is revamping the notion of "Made in China" in many foreigners' mind.

The China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, is considered a barometer for China's foreign trade, which has been under significant pressure as global demand wanes. Facing economic uncertainties and rising competition from overseas manufacturers, Chinese exporters are seeing technological innovation as a silver lining.

"There's no way out if you are producing the same stuff," said Dong Yuejun, president of Smal. "For the products to sell, you have to be different."

Dong is reluctant to forecast how many orders they will receive at the fair, but she said she was "optimistic" about the prospects for profitability.

Since 2014, Smal has started the research into the technology of the Internet of Things, of which the Internet-connected electric kettle is one result.

Like Smal, a rising number of domestic and foreign exhibitors at the fair are innovating to battle a downturn in overseas sales.

Zhang Qingfu, vice-president for the overseas operation of Haier, one of China's major home appliance makers, said personalized customer demand is a key reason that drives enterprises to innovate.

"It's no longer the case that consumers purely buy a refrigerator just to store things," said Zhang.

To satisfy diversified demand, Haier has developed a platform to connect resources from more than 300,000 R&D centers around the world, in effect to "crowdsource" creative ideas that respond to customers needs.

Jayesh Daryanani, a buyer from Reunion Island, carefully examined the refrigerators at Haier's booth and was especially impressed with the frost-free feature.

"This technology is very advanced," said Daryanani, adding that technology was the main reason he bought Haier products, which approximately accounted for 10 percent of all home appliances sold on the Island.

He said buyers are always seeking a balance between price and quality. "It's not only the price we consider, quality also makes a difference," said Daryanani.

The transformation of Chinese products from "cheap goods" to higher-end commodities came at a time when innovation was given center stage in the country's development plan, which promotes innovative technology through a wide range of measures.

Thanks to the emergence of innovation-driven growth engines, China still has competitive advantages in foreign trade, said Vice Premier Wang Yang on Monday, adding that more needs to be done to make foreign trade "more stable and stronger."

Besides measures to increase the overseas presence of Chinese firms, the central government has vowed support for imports of advanced equipment and technology, according to a State Council statement released last Wednesday.

That will be good news for foreign exhibitors at the fair who are looking to introduce technology to the Chinese market.

Ecovitta, a Singapore-based company that has a manufacturing base in China, said the company is looking for Chinese partners who want to sell their product -- steam cleaning technology -- under their own brands.

Nasser Jafarzadeh, managing director of the firm, said the technology helps clean carpets, rugs and hardwood floors without harsh chemicals, and is more widely used in Western homes.

"As Chinese customers pursue higher-end products, steam is one of things they'll move into," said Jafarzadeh, who is expecting more customers to choose steam products over the dirty mop.

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