Privately-owned companies are playing a pivotal role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and consumer electronics firm Anker is a growing presence in markets along the routes.
Founded in 2011 by Chinese millennial Yang Meng, Anker began selling mobile chargers and other accessories to international customers by opening stores on eBay and Amazon — and over time the business thrived. Now its products are used by 24 million overseas customers, and it has major markets in North America and Europe.
So what triggered Anker’s expansion into the “Silk Road Economic Belt?” What difficulties has Anker encountered in those countries? And how has Anker added value to the Belt and Road Initiative?
Anker’s founder Yang Meng shared his perspectives in an exclusive interview with CGTN.
Belt and Road countries approached Anker
Photo provided by Anker
Businesses in the Belt and Road countries took the initiative to contact Anker, trying to get the company’s products into their domestic markets.
Customers along the routes have similar product demands to those from the US and Europe, so Anker decided to take up the “ideal opportunity” and entered Belt and Road markets in 2015.
“Anker’s mission is to inspire wonder with intelligent Chinese creation. We aspire to refine Chinese design and quality, and then take it to every corner of the globe,” Yang told CGTN.
A bumpy road to promising end
Saudi Arabia is one of Anker’s major target markets. But when the Middle Eastern country’s government established a regulation requiring workers in the mobile accessory retail business to be Saudi nationals, Anker’s sales dropped rapidly.
To mitigate the issue, Anker shifted its strategy by choosing to work with local partners and made a quick comeback.
Anker has also witnessed an improvement in foreign countries’ opinions towards Chinese enterprises.
“They are treating Chinese businesses better, and visa processes are also becoming more standardized,” Yang explained. “This provides a base for strong development.”
“There are turbulences, but the general trend is great.”
Scaling up business in the Belt and Road countries
In addition to offices that have opened in North America, Europe and the Middle East, Anker has established businesses in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Anker has seen tremendous growth in the Belt and Road countries, with a dedicated team for each region. The team size has increased fourfold over the past two years.
“Previously it was around 10 people, this year we will ramp it up to 50 people,” said Yang. “This is how much we are willing to invest in this area.”
Adding value to the Belt and Road Initiative
In an attempt to shake off the copycat stigma that many Chinese companies have, Anker has been striving to provide a high-end product experience and long-term hassle-free warranty to its customers.
Anker’s research & development staff account for more than 50 percent of its total employees, and the company owns a total of 205 patents.
The firm has also been laying the foundations for long-term growth in Belt and Road countries by working with local partners and talents.
“When we come to a market, we are not thinking of selling first,” said Yang. “We are first thinking of partnership. So we always start with local partners and very soon (are engaged) with the local community. Our partners actually have a great impression of us.”