BIZINSIGHT

Chi­nese drum pro­ducer makes beats around the world

Global Times US Edition - - BIZCOMMENT -

On the wall of Liu Ming’s of­fice hangs a map thickly dot­ted with small flags to show the drum maker’s sales net­work across the world.

As the founder of Jin­bao, a Tian­jin-based mu­si­cal in­stru­ment en­ter­prise with over 1,800 work­ers, Liu has sold his prod­ucts to more than 90 coun­tries and re­gions.

“But we had a tough time at first,” said 74-year-old Liu.

China’s pri­vate busi­nesses have wit­nessed boom­ing growth thanks to the coun­try’s re­form and open­ing-up process of the past four decades. Liu’s busi­ness started in 1984 when he rented sev­eral shabby houses and hired a dozen work­ers to cast molds.

Once on his way to de­liver screws to a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment fac­tory in Beijing, he hap­pened to see the work­ers were study­ing an im­ported snare drum. At that time, few Chi­nese com­pa­nies were able to man­u­fac­ture snare drums.

“Can I try?” Liu asked the fac­tory owner. The fac­tory owner al­lowed Liu to bring the drum home. Thanks to his background in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, the fac­tory ap­proved of Liu’s de­sign, and he ob­tained his first or­der just a week later.

Drums pro­duced by Jin­bao made their pub­lic de­but at a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment ex­hi­bi­tion in Tian­jin the same year, but they were ig­nored by ex­hibitors and vis­i­tors. Liu was torn with anx­i­ety.

He jumped on a drum and shouted, “I can’t be­lieve no one is pay­ing at­ten­tion to such good drums.”

To his sur­prise, his dra­matic dis­play drew a crowd of mer­chants.

Sticks and stones

How­ever, he suf­fered a set­back on his first overseas en­deavor to sell drums. In 1997, he and his col­leagues brought a set of drums to a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment ex­hi­bi­tion in Ger­many.

Not be­ing able to speak any for­eign lan­guages, they took a dic­tio­nary and com­mu­ni­cated with for­eign ex­hibitors through body lan­guage. At the ex­hi­bi­tion, Liu no­ticed a huge gap be­tween their prod­ucts and the oth­ers on dis­play.

He at­tempted to sell a drum kit for about $100-200 to a cus­tomer, but the cus­tomer re­jected him, in­stead propos­ing that he would help Liu throw the kit into a trash­can for free.

“So right then and there, I made up my mind to es­tab­lish a strong brand with stan­dards and high­qual­ity drums,” Liu said. He started a drive to re­build his com­pany by in­tro­duc­ing more ad­vanced pro­duc­tion lines and im­prov­ing man­age­ment.

To­day, an elec­tronic screen in Jin­bao’s work­shop dis­plays real­time data for each pro­duc­tion line. Ma­chines are run­ning at high speed with just a few em­ploy­ees mon­i­tor­ing the op­er­a­tions.

“We have 12 work­ers and over 60 ma­chines in our work­shop,” said Wu Dingjun, who works in one of the four Jin­bao plants where they can pro­duce more than 1,000 drum sets each day.

Now Jin­bao has turned into a com­pany with as­sets of more than 600 mil­lion yuan ($88 mil­lion). It has over 400 prod­uct lines, in­clud­ing drums and wind in­stru­ments, with 60 per­cent sold to overseas mar­kets.

Each year, Jin­bao in­vests over 10 mil­lion yuan on re­search and devel­op­ment and has been awarded more than 400 patents.

“Now, so many for­eign mer­chants want to talk to us when we ap­pear at in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tions, they have to make ap­point­ments in ad­vance,” Liu said.

Vi­brant force

Pri­vate busi­nesses have emerged as a vi­brant force in China’s na­tional eco­nomic and so­cial devel­op­ment, cur­rently pro­vid­ing more than 60 per­cent of China’s GDP, 60 per­cent of fixed-as­set in­vest­ment, 75 per­cent of tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion and 90 per­cent of new ur­ban jobs.

Jin Jiguang, pres­i­dent of the Per­cus­sion In­sti­tute af­fil­i­ated with the Chi­nese Mu­si­cians’ As­so­ci­a­tion, said a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese mu­si­cal in­stru­ment com­pa­nies have de­vel­oped aware­ness of the need to seek in­no­va­tion and make cut­tingedge de­signs so as to bet­ter meet in­ter­na­tional de­mands.

China’s big mar­ket po­ten­tial for mu­si­cal in­stru­ments has also sup­ported the in­dus­try’s devel­op­ment. The coun­try has be­come the world’s sec­ond-largest mu­si­cal in­stru­ment mar­ket.

Last year, the value of the mar­ket reached 44.8 bil­lion yuan, ac­count­ing for about one-third of the world’s to­tal and com­ing in sec­ond only af­ter the US, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased at the Mu­sic China 2018 Expo in East China’s Shang­hai from Oc­to­ber 10 to 13.

There are both op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges. “We will keep learn­ing and im­prov­ing our­selves. In­no­va­tion is al­ways key to en­hanc­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness of our prod­ucts,” Liu said. Xin­hua

The strug­gles of a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment maker in Tian­jin to gain recog­ni­tion for his prod­ucts on the global stage il­lus­trate China’s jour­ney dur­ing the past four decades of re­form and open­ing-up. Now, pri­vate en­ter­prises are an es­sen­tial en­gine of pros­perit

Top: Work­ers fine tune drums at a com­mer­cial event in Xiangyang, Cen­tral China’s Hubei Prov­ince on Novem­ber 24, 2018. Be­low: A hun­dred drums are set up for a com­mer­cial event in Xiangyang on Novem­ber 24.

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