IT trav­els in China

But won’t be im­ported

Finweek English Edition - - Property Compass - FRIK ELS

WHEN Miles Kubheka, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at nVi­sionIT, was asked to travel to China with the Depart­ment of Trade & In­dus­try to ex­plore South African ex­port­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the com­pany, he was rightly scep­ti­cal. “You want me to sell rice to the Chi­nese?”

nVi­sionIT is a Microsoft custom de­vel­oper and in­te­gra­tor, with 50 staff and a turnover of R30m. The IT com­pany was the only one in the 100-strong del­e­ga­tion in a range of in­dus­tries in the DTI trade visit at the time of the Bei­jing Olympics. It was un­der­taken to co­in­cide with the 10-year an­niver­sary of the SA-China bi-lat­eral trade pact.

Says Kubheka: “It’s very dif­fi­cult to sell in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy – par­tic­u­larly nVi­sionIT’s brand of IT – to the Chi­nese. For starters, they don’t re­spect in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights at all: pack­aged prod­ucts are a waste of time. You’ll be ripped off. But I de­cided to stay open-minded and went on the trip. Even if I didn’t sell any­thing at least I could learn from China.”

Kubheka was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with the speed at which things hap­pen in China, which he dis­cov­ered by ac­ci­dent. First, a bro­ken lap­top in Hong Kong forced him to pro­cure the ser­vices of a “down­town” out­fit to fix things. He risked void­ing his war­ranty. Go­ing the of­fi­cial route would have cost him two weeks and as SA’s only IT rep­re­sen­ta­tive, ap­pear­ing without a com­puter would hardly be aus­pi­cious. How­ever, an overnight over­haul in one of Hong Kong’s thou­sands of techie shops fixed the prob­lem. (The lap­top is still work­ing; no word about its war­ranty.)

Then at the end of one trade show – the del­e­ga­tion ex­hib­ited in Hong Kong, Shang­hai and Bei­jing over a two-week pe­riod – all of the nVi­sionIT stand’s ma­te­rial was trashed, in­clud­ing ban­ners and brochures. “In the end I had reprinted ev­ery­thing and got it back the same day be­fore 5pm. In SA it was a three­week process to get the stuff made, with nu­mer­ous mis­takes. It was also a third of the cost. In fact, next time I’d have ev­ery­thing made over there and not have to lug all the ma­te­rial from SA,” says Kubheka.

The ex­hi­bi­tions them­selves proved in­sight­ful. “You get three types of peo­ple at­tend­ing. The first I’d like to call the gran­nies. All they do is pick up brochures and fly­ers. I can only imag­ine those old ladies then go and re­cy­cle them for profit. When you run out of pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial on the first day you learn to spot them quickly. Apart from the gran­nies the place crawls with im­port/ ex­port agen­cies. The Chi­nese sell to you, not you to them.”

The SA del­e­gate who had by far the most suc­cess was an African cu­rio seller – bead­work and ban­gles. The only oth­ers who made head­way with SA ex­port con­tracts were the min­er­als and re­sources com­pa­nies, says Kubheka. “To sell soft­ware into China you have to be very niche – per­haps high-end min­ing soft­ware will find buy­ers.

“While trawl­ing the web looking for so­lu­tions to a faulty piece of equip­ment I bought (many oth­ers in the del­e­ga­tion also found iPhones bought there wouldn’t last more than three days) I stum­bled upon a web as­sis­tant. It starts out as a bot (au­to­mated web robot), but your prob­lem can then be es­ca­lated and a hu­man can then op­er­ate as your web as­sis­tant.”

Kubheka says nVi­sionIT has al­ready started to de­velop sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy for the SA mar­ket. “It wasn’t all one-way busi­ness.”

Sell­ing rice to the Chi­nese. Miles Kubheka

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.