Getting to the factory was a mission. It is located in Baoan district, one of the electronics hubs in the enormous city of Shenzhen. The trip required us to take a shuttle from the hotel to the train station, a long train ride and and then a taxi. I was expecting a journey through a bleak industrial wasteland. Instead Shenzhen presented itself as a prosperous, modern and enormous city of high rise apartments and office buildings. It was hard to figure out where all the factories were.
During my time on Alibaba I’d been communicating with Cassie Hu, and she was there to greet us when our taxi arrived. I’ve been to a few of these small Chinese businesses now and they seem to follow a similar layout. There’s a big office where the boss works and greets visitors with a little tea ceremony. Next door there’s a sales office where a small team receive orders and arrange logistics and looks after operations. Then there’s another larger room for the factory itself, usually made up of several different assembly lines for production, testing, packaging and so on. We met Frank, the boss. We gave a presentation about Below7, our values and and what the business is trying to achieve. We then ran an interview with one of the workers who assembles Below7 luggage scales. It went really well and the worker Mrs Tang, was fascinated to learn what the scales are used for and who the end customer is. Then it was off to a traditional Chinese lunch together in a local restaurant.
This first Below7 factory visit for me highlighted the importance of personal relationships, even in the age of Alibaba and streamlined supplier communications. This shared personal understanding is critical in creating a durable partnership. It’s also great to make new friends.