Companies from South Savonia reaching for new opportunities in China

One of my latest projects is soon, sadly, getting to its end. I’ve been assigned as China Specialist for regional development project for South Savonia. The aim of the project has been to identify opportunities and potential co-operation partners in China for local companies as well as establish collaborations.The project is managed by Mikkeli Region Business Development Centre Miset Ltd. (Miksei Ltd.) and especially by energetic and highly competent Ms. Anitta Sihvonen – the heart and soul of the project. The project was based on the friendship city agreement between South Savo and Shaoxing, which was signed early 2014. My own role was to coach the local companies regarding to the Chinese business culture and environment, identify suitable partners and check their backgrounds, set up meetings in China and support in negotiations.

The first patch of companies carried out a trip to China to meet with their potential partners and study the market. This time we had two companies, Mosaiikkimiljöö and Ykköspalkinto, with an interest of importing and a nuclear industry expert, Platom, with an interest of exporting. In addition, we paid a visit to Shaoxing to further strengthen the ties.

South Savo meets Shaoxing. Representatives of city government of Shaoxing and Juha Putkonen (Platom), Anitta Sihvonen (Miksei Ltd.), me Johanna Heikkinen (Fortune Falls) and Jari Matiskainen (Ykköspalkinto).

First, we visited a couple of showrooms and factories that were preliminary identified as suitable partners for Mosaiikkimiljöö. The visits took us to Guangzhou, next to Pearl River Delta. The biggest surprise for Mosaiikkimiljöö was how big and busy city Guangzhou is! The variety of mosaic suppliers in China is extensive. Therefore the background research had to be done carefully. Dealing directly with manufacturers provide certain advantages: 1. You can negotiate the prices directly with them. No middlemen involved. 2. They know immediately what they have in stock, what they are capable of producing and what the production time is. However, you’d better check if they have an export licence. If not, they need to use an agent.

Gifts from Mikkeli were received with a great interest.
Gifts from Mikkeli were received with a great interest. Jukka and Sirpa Hämäläinen on the left.

After Guangzhou I met the representative of Platom in Beijing. Platom is operating in the field of nuclear energy and government level connections to them are critical in China. With the help of Finpro we managed to arrange very fruitful meetings with organizations such as China Nuclear Energy Association and China National Nuclear Corporation. This was a concrete evidence on how so called Team Finland network can support companies in entering new markets. Juha Putkonen from Platom was very grateful for Mikkeli’s China project. According to his words, China project has provided Platom efficient, concrete and very effective support to their export activities.

Platom expertise evaluated by the China National Nuclear Corporation.
Platom expertise evaluated by the China National Nuclear Corporation.

After Beijing we continued the tour to Shaoxing to meet with the local officers in order to strengthen the ties between South Savonia and Shaoxing. We enjoyed a lovely dinner with the Shaoxing officers accompanied by local delicacy, huang jiu, the yellow wine. Taste somehow reminds me of dry portwine or sherry. The next day Platom visited Haiyan Nuclear Power City facilitated by Shaoxing officers and  we stopped by at Zhuji, the most famous pearl city, close to Shaoxing with Ykköspalkinto. However, the main destination for us was Ningbo where we had a couple of potential partners to meet. We visited 2 factories and one agent in Hangzhou that all supply trophies and awards. In general, I prefer to deal directly with manufacturers. However, agents do have more extensive selection of products as they represent several factories. In some cases they can buy very cheap and the prices are competitive. In general though, the prices are more expensive than buying directly from the factory. Buyer needs to decide which criteria counts the most.

Jari Matiskainen from Ykköspalkinto posing with Chinese trophy agents.
Jari Matiskainen from Ykköspalkinto posing with Chinese trophy agents.

Jari Matiskainen from Ykköspalkinto was thankful for having a person in the project who knows the Chinese business culture and can communicate in Chinese. He could finally make his long-term wish to come true and visit the potential partners in China. The obectives of the trip were met and negotiations will continue with the Chinese suppliers.

Overall, Mikkeli project is a good example on how regional co-operation may concretely support local companies in their internationalization aims. This type of regional program can also utilize the other Team Finland organizations for enabling government level meetings. The visit to China was an eye-opening experience to the companies. Like one said, “the friends don’t believe in Finland that Chinese drive better cars than we do and that they have so many luxus brand shops.” Yes, the world is out there, just need to go and explore it! 🙂

Read also the press release (in Finnish): Eteläsavolaiset yritykset hakivat kumppaneita Kiinasta – tavoitteena pitkäaikainen yhteistyö. Published 21.9.2015 at

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