Qiaqia Food, officially listed on 2 March 2011, is the first company in the nuts and roasted seeds industry to be listed in China. This achievement is an honor not only for the company’s Managing Director Chen Xianbao (APEX-C MBA 2009), but also for NUS Business School as we share the pride of our alumnus…
Why did you choose the nuts and roasted seeds industry to begin your business venture in?
I specialize in food fermentation and am familiar with the food industry. I started with beverages, but they sold best only in summer, turnover during autumn and winter was poor. I decided to look for a substitute food product. As nuts and roasted seeds were well-liked in the Anhui province, I ended up choosing them for my business. I did not expect them to become so popular throughout the whole of China!
During the start-up phase of the business – the most difficult phase in any business – how did you ensure its growth?
When we first started the business, competition was mainly regional and not fierce yet. Our initial goals were to build our brand and be a market leader in China. Still, it was very tough. Innovation became our most important key to success.
These were some of the ways we innovated. First, we boiled instead of fried. Hence, our food was not only not “heaty”, but also tastier as the flavors penetrated the food. Second, we used paper for our packaging material. Third, we enclosed cards with cultural themes, including the “Twelve Beauties of Nanking”. Fourth, we had a comprehensive supply chain incentive scheme to motivate the workers along the delivery chain, including even the workers who replenished goods on the shelves. These four innovations helped Qiaqia make an explosive entry into the market. This turned Qiaqia into a favourite marketing case study for business schools across China in 2000.
Share with us your experience in building an enterprise.
There are six things I would like to highlight.
First, after Deng Xiaoping’s southern tour which led to the development of the socialist market economy, a huge market opened up and entrepreneurs were given tremendous opportunities to build enterprises to create wealth. The 30 years after China’s economic reform was a period when China’s GDP experienced the fastest growth, and also a period when China’s manufacturers were among the major contributors to that growth. I was fortunate to have experienced those good times, participated in the creation of much wealth, contributed to the Gross Domestic Product and enjoyed a share of it.
Second, integrity is very important when building a business. After a survey with Qiaqia, KPMG commented that they had visited hundreds of private enterprises in China, but had not seen one that strongly emphasized integrity as Qiaqia did.
Third, we believe in being customer-centered. Qiaqia’s greatest asset is not its brand or its production line, but its large pool of supportive customers. I always tell my staff that satisfying our customers and meeting their demands is our top priority, our most fundamental task. Our customers are the focus of our corporate efforts.
Fourth, brand-building is important. There are many companies in the nuts and roasted seeds business in China; Qiaqia stands out because of its strong emphasis on building the “Qiaqia” brand from the beginning.
The fifth highlight is learning and innovation. Anhui merchants have this couplet, considered by Premier Zhu Rongji as a “Number One Couplet”: 读书好, 营商好, 效好便好. 创业难, 守业难, 知难不难. (It is good to study; it is good to do business; it is even better to be efficient. It is difficult to build an enterprise; it is difficult to maintain an enterprise; ift is not difficult to know that it is difficult). I would like to add: 持 续 改 进 (Continuous improvement). One of the most important responsibilities of a business leader is in leading innovation. Maintaining status quo, you get 60 marks; innovation gets you 90 marks; leading a team to innovate and achieve outstanding results gets you 120 marks! To encourage innovation, we have established innovation indicators for our departments; at the end of the year, bonuses and other awards are given after assessment against the indicators.
Finally, we give top priority to developing talents. In any enterprise, innovation, learning and brand-building are the activities of its people.
Briefly outline your company’s current status and future development goals.
I entered the world of business in 1995. In the first year, our revenue was 2.36 million yuan. Last year, our turnover exceeded 2 billion yuan and market value was 7 billion yuan. Our goal is to exceed 10 billion yuan in revenue by the end of our twelfth 5-year plan. Qiaqia’s current core business is in nuts and roasted seeds. We plan to expand into other foods and snacks.
What are Qiaqia’s core business values?
The growth of an enterprise depends largely on its core values. These values are like the enterprise’s DNA; they play a decisive role in how big the enterprise can grow and how far it can go. With our own values, we set the development goals of our company and establish its system. Our corporate vision is to “Create a World-renowned Brand, Build a World-Class Enterprise”.
Since we first build the enterprise, our focus has been to meet customers’ needs and demands, and to become a world-class enterprise. Our values are “Unity, Dedication and Innovation”. We always maintain that we have benefited from society, and it is our duty to repay society. We actively participate in and support various social welfare activities. Our greatest social responsibility is to contribute to the prosperity of China. Our other responsibility is to look into the well-being of our families and loved ones. These may sound shallow, but our management plays an important role in meeting these very obligations.
Earlier, you mentioned integrity. How do you maintain integrity in China’s business environment?
There are different levels of integrity. One is in abiding by the law. Another is in being responsible and to fulfill our duties. We will benefit from looking after the benefits of others. Integrity is not only a responsibility; it is also a form of investment, one with a high rate of return. When we maintain integrity, doors to opportunities in the market will open naturally. It is not easy to maintain integrity, but it is worth every effort because it brings the best returns.
Read about the ceremony cum Business Ethics Forum held in celebration of Qiaqia Food’s listing.