Tianjin-based Chinese business conglomerate Tianshi Group (also known as Tiens Group) operates in 190 countries and has business interests in areas as diverse as biotech, education, retail, tourism, finance, international trade and e-business. The direct selling company, whose mainstay is traditional Chinese health products, has been selling nutritional supplements and healthcare equipment such as calcium and zinc supplements, massagers and diagnostic instruments used for acupressure therapy in India since 2002, and is now eyeing the beauty products market here.
It recently launched a range of cosmetics under the Time Passage brand name, which includes products such as a skincare serum named EGF (Epidermal Group Factor). This puts it in direct competition with other direct selling cosmetics brands such as Sweden-based Oriflame, US-based Amway and Avon, marketed by India’s largest consumer goods company Hindustan Unilever Ltd. Unfazed by the competition, Tianshi hopes to introduce its Indian customers to its home care and personal care products as well in the near future.
The company is also undeterred by recent reports questioning the quality of Chinese products and claims the combination of Chinese traditional medicine and modern biotechnology in its products, backed by international manufacturing standards, gives it a unique advantage. “We will provide only high-quality products to India to safeguard our brand,” says Ellen Hou, senior marketing manager, Tianshi South Asia.
In an interview, Hou talks about the company’s India plans. Edited excerpts:
What are your expansion plans for India? Are you planning to enter any new segments?
There are 34 products available in the India market, which are mainly food supplements and healthcare instruments. With the improvement in living standards, there is a high demand for personal care, home care and cosmetics.
The launching of EGF (cosmetics range) is only the beginning. In the near future, we will introduce more cosmetics and home care products, personal care products that are suitable to the Indian market.
What kind of investments have you made so far in India? What do you have lined up for the future?
So far, the company has set up nine offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ranchi and Guwahati.
In future, we plan to invest in manufacturing equipment to ensure the quality and supply of the products (Hou did not share the financials).
The market in India is very competitive. What will your strategy be to gain market share in the home and personal care space?
We will only introduce unique and good-quality products to the India market, just like the newly launched EGF. And we have our own distributors. They are the salespersons and consumers as well. So we are confident that we will get our market share in India.
We don’t take any company as our competitor because India is a huge market and the demand is very high. Each company will get its share in the market. We only compete with ourselves to become better and better.
How do you plan to position and establish your brands here, given the apprehension among Indian consumers about the quality of Chinese products?
Tianshi Group has its own research and development centres in Beijing and Tianjin in China. The company has the most advanced manufacturing equipment imported from Germany, France and Japan to ensure high technology and quality of products. Tianshi Group has got the ISO 9001:2000 certificate for quality control, GMP (good manufacturing practice) certificate for drugs and healthcare products, HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) certificate for food safety control. We will provide only high-quality products to India to safeguard our brand.
Do you think policies and laws here are favourable for a company such as yours to do business?
The policies in India are equal to (the same for) all companies which are doing business in the country. We have to study the policies and laws very well, so that we abide by all the rules and regulations of the country.
What are the challenges and opportunities in the market here?
Despite the global economic recession, the bilateral trade between India and China is doing exceedingly well, achieving an all-impressive figure of $50 billion (around Rs2.42 trillion) last year, which is ahead of the Indo-US figure of $40 billion. The Indian beauty (products) market is doing extremely well, registering four times the growth of the global beauty market. Due to the increase in disposable income of the Indian middle class, the market has reached a whopping $6 billion and is contributing immensely to the growth of the global beauty market of $270 billion.
Talking about challenges, as a foreign company we have to study the Indian investment environment, laws, culture and market very well to make sure we are on the right track.
Do you plan to start company-owned manufacturing operations?
Currently, we have a few local manufacturers in India. Till date, 12 products (food supplements) such as Gymnema, Ganoderma and OPC Plus have been manufactured in India. In future, the company will invest in manufacturing equipment to ensure the quality and quantity of the products.
Where does India figure in your global scheme of things?
Considering the strategic importance, the company takes India as (one of) the top 10 countries in the global market. From this year onwards, Tianshi Group will provide all resources and support to India as a good example for the global market.