Published: 12:16, September 13, 2022 | Updated: 12:19, September 13, 2022
China brands step up Europe push
By Wang Mingjie in Berlin

Berlin event sees high-profile participation from consumer electronics and appliance makers

A visitor takes a photo of a product of the Chinese tech company Xiaomi Corp at the German tech fair IFA 2022 in Berlin on Sept 2. The event, which ran from Sept 2 to 6, attracted 1,100 exhibitors from 46 countries and regions. (REN PENGFEI / XINHUA)

Agigantic billboard for Chinese brand Haier greeted visitors as they arrived at IFA Berlin, Europe’s largest trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances, and also heralded the significant presence of Chinese exhibitors.

Despite pandemic-related travel restrictions, nearly 220 Chinese companies showcased their latest products and cutting-edge technology at IFA 2022, which ended on Sept 6.

In addition to Haier, other well-known Chinese brands at the five-day event included TCL and Huawei, with Alibaba becoming an exhibitor for the first time this year.

IFA chief David Ruetz said: “Due to the ongoing novel coronavirus restrictions, the presence of Chinese exhibitors this year is understandably not as strong as in previous years. Nevertheless, we are able to welcome a large number of Chinese exhibitors at IFA. There are 175 Chinese exhibitors at IFA Global Markets alone.”

Ruetz said face-to-face meetings — covering everyone from the trade side to media and consumers — are hard to beat, and they are essential for promoting exchanges between Chinese and European companies.

“Trade shows, such as IFA in Berlin, can form a bridge between the companies and the new market to gather the necessary market information and evaluate the interest of potential customers,” he said.

In recent years, some Chinese technology companies have encountered headwinds caused by sanctions imposed by the US, with these effects compounded by COVID-19. Given this backdrop, experts say there is added motivation for Chinese companies to raise their profiles in Europe.

Jeffrey Towson, a visiting business professor at the China Europe International Business School, said: “Trade shows are great for educating about new products, networking and raising brand awareness. They are part of the playbook for leading tech companies. Chinese companies should absolutely be there.”

Towson, who also hosts the Tech Strategy Podcast, said the biggest advantages that Chinese companies have over US and Japanese rivals in international markets are that they move fast and on a big scale.

“They iterate their products faster and they sell more aggressively,” he said. “The speed and hyper-competitiveness of their home market help them in international markets.”

George Yip, emeritus professor at Imperial College London and visiting professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said: “Emerging Chinese tech companies need to reassure European customers that they can be dependable and trustworthy suppliers … Given the difficulty of current COVID-19 barriers for travel to China, Chinese companies need to find creative ways, such as virtual reality tours, to provide reassurance.”

The presence in Berlin of Haier was huge, with multiple halls displaying products ranging from washing machines and air conditioners to refrigerators and microwave ovens.

Yannick Fierling, chief executive of Haier Europe, said on Sept 2 that Haier currently has a “presence in over 160 markets” globally.

Huawei, meanwhile, unveiled a range of devices for the European markets, including two phones, the standard Nova 10 and the Nova 10 Pro, and the MatePad Pro tablet.

Honor, another Chinese smartphone maker, has created a buzz with the launch of its midrange premium handset, the Honor 70, as well as its first tablet, the Honor Pad 8, and the Honor MagicBook 14 laptop.

Dreame, a consumer product company that focuses on smart home cleaning appliances, unveiled a type of robot vacuum cleaner and mop, the L10s Plus, with self-cleaning and auto-emptying features.

Chen Yanshou, the company’s EU managing director, said: “Dreame takes the trade show as a valuable chance to learn customers’ voices, connect with industry insiders, and find more business partners in Germany and across Europe.”

Jiang Yang, sales director of Shenzhen Yolanda Technology, which produces smart health products, said: “Despite the travel restraints, we are still keen to come out, as we need to stay connected and relevant with the industry, and with our clients in Europe.”