BEIJING, Nov. 27 (Xinhua)-- In 2015, “Zhuhai -- World Capital for Your Toner & Ink Supplies” appeared on a huge billboard at New York’s Times Square, renowned as “the Crossroads of the World”. This was the first time for Chinese printing consumables industry to venture out of the country and project itself to the world as a competitive industry.
“Zhuhai has the highest concentration of printing consumables enterprises in the world. In addition, the city hosts global printing consumables expos every year. In the course of industrial development, Ninestar has played a leading role in breaking Japanese and American enterprises’ monopoly and achieving technical breakthroughs in key components and parts, with its products being sold globally,” said Wang Dongying, the 51-year-old board chairman of Ninestar Corporation.
In the year 2000, when Ninestar was formally founded, Zhuhai had already gathered 100 printing consumables enterprises. In comparison, the city now has more than 600 printing consumables enterprises of various sizes with more than 100,000 employees.
With strong research capacity and perseverance, Ninestar has been persistently pursuing technological innovation and has achieved a lot in developing new technologies in the field. So far, Ninestar has been granted more than 3,600 patents, of which more than 2,800 are inventions. In addition, more than 1,800 patents are being applied.
“Most enterprises back then were busy with profit making while Ninestar devoted itself to technological innovation,” said Wang Dongying, recalling how it was like when he had just founded the company. The company expanded from one with several staff members to with more than 17,000 employees. Relying on its patented technologies, Ninestar maintained rapid growth while its printing products covered all types of printers for clients all over the world. In Japan, Ninestar’s products have entered tens of thousands of large shopping centres. In Europe and America, Ninestar’s products could be seen anywhere at all large-scale chain stores of office stationery.
However, the sudden emergence of the Tariff Act Section 337 investigation cast a shadow on this enterprise that was trying to go global -- Epson's patent infringement lawsuit against 17 Chinese inkjets suppliers.
“Actually, patent wars are market wars. Foreign companies tried to deal a blow to Chinese printing consumables industry so it would be harder for us to go global,” said Wang Dongying. The question whether to fight the lawsuit or not haunted him at that time. “I remember clearly that I saw several high rises on my way to work that day. I thought to myself that if we fought this lawsuit, maybe it would cost two or three such buildings. Should we do it? The board discussed the matter for a month. After all, all the products we sold had been granted our own patents. So, in order to establish a good international image of a conscientious Chinese enterprise, we decided, as our final discussion, that we must fight it!” Thus, Ninestar was then the only Chinese enterprise who fought the lawsuit.
The conundrum Wang Dongying experienced was a common plight faced by many Chinese enterprises trying to go global. “If one enterprise is trying to go global, it has to treat patents seriously and establish its own patent system with its own core technologies. At the same time, the company has to have its own internal patent team, with either professional engineers or attorneys. Both are indispensable,” Wang added. Ninestar’s decision to fight the lawsuit created a good image for Chinese enterprises in their effort to go global and provided valuable lessons for Chinese dealing with foreign legal affairs.
A loss of millions of U.S. dollars did not incapacitate Ninestar. On the contrary, its active response to the lawsuit convinced the international market that Ninestar has a patent system of its own. At the same time, it helped the enterprise accumulate large amount of experience. Afterwards, Ninestar accelerated its expansion into the full industry chain overseas. Wang Dongying believes that a global vision is vital to the development of an enterprise to shake off any effect of regional economy. In 2015, Ninestar’s overseas merger and acquisitions started with the acquisition of the well-known American printing consumables company, Static Control Components (SCC). Moreover, in 2016, Ninestar acquired Lexmark International, Inc., a leading printing products and data solution supplier in the world, becoming a “new member of the club” that produces high-, medium- and low-end printers.
What truly worries Wang Dongying after the industry-shaking transaction is the cultural clash between China and America. “American workers are not very willing to see their company acquired by Chinese. They cannot accept it. This sentiment is especially strong among senior management. Thus, every month, our Chinese and American senior management teams visited each other and soon afterwards the two teams were related to each other. The first half of this year saw Lexmark printer sales grow by 19 percent compared with the same period in 2016. At the same time, turnover at Ninestar exceeded 11.1 billion yuan (about 1.68 billion U.S. dollars).”
Since 2000 Ninestar has grown from a printing product manufacturer to the first laser printer developer in China. Ninestar has been persisting on technological innovation, and introducing new products of its own patents and boosting its presence in the full industry chain market both domestic and overseas for the past 17 years. In this way, it has won recognition both in China and abroad and become an industry leader.
“We are still a medium-small enterprise. Honestly speaking, we are better than most enterprises. After all, we have consolidated our position in this small industry,” Wang said without hesitation.
“China’s economic development needs ‘well-known champions’ to gain reputation for the nation. However, at every stage of a product’s cycle, from materials to parts and finally to whole units, we also need many ‘unsung champions’. We need thousands of them. We need them to combine forces akin to rivers meeting the sea. This is essential for our nation to become really powerful,” he concluded. (Reporter: Yang Yifan)
Display of consumables products of Ninestar (Photo taken on November 10, 2017 by Li Jianshu)