From civil ser­vant to top busi­ness guru

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By WANG QIAN in Ji­ax­i­ang, Shan­dong wangqian2@chi­

Each ski glove needs to go through more than 20 pro­duc­tion pro­cesses, in­clud­ing sew­ing, em­broi­dery and fab­ric mend­ing, most of which have to be done by hand.”


When Chen Jian­hua left his job as a civil ser­vant 15 years ago to start a glove-mak­ing busi­ness, he never thought he would be­come the largest sports glove man­u­fac­turer and ex­porter in Ji­ax­i­ang county, one of the world’s ma­jor sports glove pro­duc­tion ar­eas.

Hi s Sh an - dong- based Jin­ing Zhongx­ing Gloves Group, which owns five sub­sidiary com­pa­nies and a tech­nol­ogy ser­vice center, now pro­duces 10 mil­lion pairs of sport gloves an­nu­ally.

About 80 per­cent of Chen’s gloves are ex­ported to more than 30 coun­tries and re­gions, in­clud­ing the United States, Italy, Canada and Switzer­land. The com­pany’s ex­ports were worth $10 mil­lion last year.

“I re­ally en­joy run­ning the glove busi­ness,” Chen says. “Like the girl who put on the red shoes in the fairy tale and couldn’t stop danc­ing, you can’t stop. You want to pur­sue one goal af­ter another.” This was how Chen ex­plained his ex­pan­sion of the busi­ness over the past 10 years.

The road to suc­cess, how­ever, has been far from smooth.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Shan­dong In­dus­trial Univer­sity in 1989, Chen worked for a lo­cal gov­ern­ment depart­ment for sev­eral years un­der the in­flu­ence of the Chi­nese tra­di­tion that “of­fi­cial­dom is the nat­u­ral out­let for good schol­ars”.

Frus­trated by the slim prospects for pro­mo­tion, he quit the sta­ble job in 1988 and took charge of the pre­vi­ously State-owned Jin­ing Zhongx­ing Gar­ments Co, which was on the verge of bank­ruptcy be­cause of poor man­age­ment.

“When I came to the workshop, I was shocked to see that all the ma­chines had been stopped and the work­ers were play­ing cards all day,” Chen says. “The com­pany left me a debt of 200,000 yuan ($33,000) and a batch of un­sold clothes and gloves.”

Chen urged the work­ers and his fam­ily to try ev­ery means to sell the stock. They held sales pro­mo­tions at lo­cal tem­ple fairs and even set up street stalls.

While his com­peti­tors stayed in Ji­ax­i­ang county wait­ing for or­ders to come in, Chen went out and chased them. He at­tended the China im­port-ex­port fair in Guangzhou in 1999 with a large bag of gloves. With no money for a booth, he had to show the prod­ucts near an el­e­va­tor in the ex­hi­bi­tion hall. Even­tu­ally he caught the at­ten­tion of a US dealer, whom Chen calls Kenkye.

“Won over by our rel­a­tively at­trac­tive prices, Kenkye placed an or­der for 40,000 pairs of ski gloves,” Chen says. “When we de­liv­ered the goods to him sev­eral months later, he gave us a bonus of $8,000 for ful­fill­ing the or­der on time with high-qual­ity prod­ucts.”

The suc­cess of the first over­seas or­der en­cour­aged Chen to de­velop his sports glove man­u­fac­tur­ing, so he trans­formed the fac­tory to suit those prod­ucts.

With th­ese ef­forts, Chen cleared all the debts and earned a profit of 700,000 yuan by the end of the fol­low­ing year.

Ac­cord­ing to the trend for re­form­ing State-owned en­ter­prises in China, the garment com­pany was turned into the pri­vately owned Zhongx­ing Gloves Group, with Chen tak­ing over as its pres­i­dent in 2003.

To­day, the group has es­tab­lished long-term part­ner­ships with many world-renowned sports brands, such as Richlu of Canada and Gor­dini and Kombi of the United States.

Chen at­tributes the group’s rapid ex­pan­sion to es­tab­lish­ing a strict qual­ity con­trol sys­tem and cul­ti­vat­ing a large num­ber of skilled work­ers.

“The glove-mak­ing in­dus­try is a typ­i­cal la­bor-in­ten­sive sec­tor and re­quires lots of ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers,” Chen says.

“Each ski glove needs to go through more than 20 pro­duc­tion pro­cesses, in­clud­ing sew­ing, em­broi­dery and fab­ric mend­ing, most of which have to be done by hand.”

To meet the grow­ing de­mand for or­ders and over­come a la­bor short­age, Chen started to de­velop fam­ily work­shops in neigh­bor­ing vil­lages in 2008. He was the first glove maker in the area to do this.

In ad­di­tion to the 1,000 em­ploy­ees work­ing in his fac­to­ries, Chen now has 40 fam­ily work­shops where more than 1,200 vil­lagers do stitch­ing, sew­ing and mend­ing.

Zhang Yanxia, who is re­spon­si­ble for one workshop, hired more than 50 mid­dleaged women from her vil­lage to work in her two-story house in Tuanli town, which is about half an hour’s drive from one of Chen’s fac­to­ries.

“A worker who is highly pro­fi­cient with sew­ing ma­chines can earn 2,000 to 3,000 yuan a month, much higher than farm­ers,” says the 28-year-old, who makes a net profit of more than 100,000 yuan an­nu­ally.

Ac­cord­ing to Shan­dong Pro­vin­cial Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, a farmer’s an­nual per capita net in­come in the prov­ince was only 9,446 yuan last year.

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