Rid­ing wave of pol­icy sup­port

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Business - By ZHUANG QIANGE in Bei­jing and ZHANG XIAOMIN in Dalian, Liaoning zhuangqiange@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

LEISURE

One may have a thou­sand rea­sons to love the ocean, but for Stephane Gon­netand, 39, a French en­tre­pre­neur in Dalian, the love for the ocean comes from the joy of sail­ing in his yacht dur­ing the tides.

When he moved to Dalian in 2004, his am­bi­tion was trig­gered as he wit­nessed the de­vel­op­ment of China. The then 26-year-old en­gi­neer made up his mind to start his own yacht-build­ing busi­ness in the north­east­ern port city of China.

“Dalian at­tracts me with var­i­ous liv­able con­di­tions: com­fort­able cli­mate, friendly lo­cals, beau­ti­ful ocean,” Gon­netand said. “But what made me choose this city to start my busi­ness is that it is the best place to ful­fill my en­tre­pre­neur­ial dream.”

In 2006, when Gon­netand was 28, he opened his startup ODC Marine with com­pa­triot Gil­das Olivier, who was then 26. “ODC” sounds like “Odyssey”, in­di­cat­ing their re­solve to achieve suc­cess with­out fear­ing any chal­lenge they may face in the long course of de­vel­op­ment.

In­deed, it took them some time to win the trust from the sup­plier, and more to gain the mar­ket share as most cus­tomers con­sid­ered them too young to han­dle their busi­ness. But for­tu­nately, good op­por­tu­ni­ties came their way, giv­ing them many ad­van­tages.

“Dalian is a city whose ship­build­ing his­tory dates back to more than 100 years ago,” said Gon­netand. “The tech­ni­cians and work­ers here are very pro­fes­sional and skilled, which was a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor that bol­stered us to start our busi­ness.”

Xavier de Mont­gros joined their busi­ness in 2009. From a small of­fice with only four work­ing staff in 2006, to the sole dealer of Beneteau in North­east China in 2010, Gon­netand has con­quered many chal­lenges dur­ing the pe­riod to shore up the com­pany’s po­si­tion in the mar­ket.

“We have been wel­comed and well treated since we started our busi­ness,” Gon­netand said. “China is be­com­ing more and more friendly to for­eign­ers set­ting up star­tups in the coun­try. Be­sides, Le Havre and Dalian are sis­ter cities. The bond be­tween the two cities is a strong back­ing for French en­trepreneurs like me.”

In 2009, ODC Marine suc­ceeded in wheel­ing out the first 100 per­cent lithium-pow­ered pas­sen­ger boat. In the same year, the com­pany of­fered a clean-up boat to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment of the har­bor.

So far, the com­pany has de­liv­ered 45 alu­minum-al­loy ves­sels to cus­tomers abroad and 14 Beneteau leisure yachts to Chi­nese cus­tomers, among which the big­gest deal was worth more than 8 mil­lion yuan ($1.2 mil­lion). The boats are en­joy­ing good rep­u­ta­tion in its ma­jor mar­ket Europe.

With the busi­ness grow­ing, the com­pany is plan­ning to ex­pand the ship­yard to boost its pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity.

On fu­ture prospects, Beneteau’s of­fi­cial dealer for North­east China con­sid­ers yachts a de­vel­op­ing but promis­ing mar­ket in China.

“Yacht sail­ing is a very pop­u­lar sport in our coun­try (France),” Gon­netand said. “It stresses the co­or­di­na­tion of the team and strength­ens our bod­ies. It is a hot sport among French youth and I hope it will gain pop­u­lar­ity among Chi­nese youth too.”

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