29 January 2006

Chinese Expansion Brings Cultural Understanding to TTPCom.

TTPCom is a Cambridgeshire based supplier of wireless intellectual property (IP) to semiconductor and handset manufacturers. As the mobile phone business in China grew, so did enquiries from China. The company has had a presence in China for a number of years, but when they wanted to set up their own operation, some specialist advice was needed.

China today is an important market place for TTPCom. The country accounts for some 35% of the company’s income, with the Asia/Pacific region as a whole making up around 70%.

Some sort of presence in China was important, but for twelve years the company had been content to work through partners and agents. While TTPCom was growing, however, expansion was relatively slow and it was this, according to Sales and Marketing Director Richard Fry, that encouraged them to set up their own China operation.

“Our partnerships had only been used for specific products; we had no permanent base in China. We wanted to set up local offices in the country, where we could support our own business objectives.”

Despite the company’s years of working with China based partners, full time offices were a completely different proposition, so TTPCom called in China Business Solutions to help with issues such as Chinese investment regulations, what type of organisation structure would work best etc.

It was to be the start of a fruitful relationship. “Ting Zang, China Business Solutions’ founder, is ideally suited for this sort of work,” explained Mr Fry. “She has been educated and brought up in both China and the UK and, as well as being extremely well connected, has an excellent understanding of the cultural nuances of both countries.”

TTPCom called on both elements of China Business Solutions’s expertise over the next few years.

“Shortly after we opened the offices, we decided it would be a good idea to run training courses on how to relate to the Chinese, both as staff and customers. It was always our intention that most of the employees in China should be local, but a whole range of UK based staff, including support engineers, members of the sales team, HR and accounts would all need to understand and interact with the Chinese way of doing things.”

“In the end, over fifty of our UK employees went on culture and business practice workshops run by Ting Zhang and they proved invaluable. Subtle things, such as knowing that the Chinese will never disagree to your face so as to save you embarrassment, proved of huge benefit when it came to understanding the negotiating process.”

But Ting’s knowledge of Chinese culture also proved useful in more critical situations.

“We’d got into one of those classic business positions where a series of misunderstanding had led to an impasse. The local team had taken it as far as they could and when the matter was escalated to me I called Ting for advice. She suggested I should fly out in person and solve the problem face-to-face. Before I left, I called Ting again and she guided me through how I should handle the meeting. Oddly enough, her advice included taking a gift but once again she was spot on and the issue was successfully resolved.”

Over the years, TTPCom has used China Business Solutions regularly, calling the company up both when they need advice and as a sounding board.

This was particularly true when TTPCom wanted some information about government policy towards mobile communications.

“China is a managed economy and although we’re very well connected with the handset manufacturers, our understanding of government attitudes was lacking. Ting managed to source four contacts, who double up as top academics and government advisers, to run seminars for our sales team and account handlers on the finer points of the interaction between the government managed network operators and the manufacturers.”

Four years on from TTPCom’s initial decision to set up in China, the company is  well established. They have sixty staff spread across offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen and, as was their intention, all bar six or seven are local hires.

“We have an ongoing commitment to China,” says Mr Fry. “We’ve developed good relationships with some of the biggest handset and manufacturing companies such as ZTE and TCL. We have a good support structure which helps to maintain the software and a powerful team of sales staff to develop new services like MP3 and video to support the specific needs of the China market.”