The Euro-Ukrainian way: business planning for construction product/technology to be purchased from China

We continue our series of conversations with globe-trotting Oleksandr PietushkovChief International Officer at Ukrainian Union of Building Materials’ Manufacturers, to regularly take the pulse of Ukraine after The Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement. This time we travel south-east to China.

How did you find out about the ES Build Expo in Shanghai in the first place? Why was the Ukrainian Union of Manufacturers of Building Materials and Products attracted to it? It is quite far from Ukraine.

Well, we monitor the exhibitions in China from time to time: the technology develops there very rapidly and the cost of these new technologies is often much lower compared to, say, Europe. Besides, green construction, energy-efficiency and sustainability — which this exhibition was about — have become not only trends but also the reality that bites. We have to re-think the way we use energy and resources in construction and production of building materials in Ukraine.

Oleksandr Pietushkov, Chief International Officer at Ukrainian Union of Building Materials’ Manufacturers, (2nd from right) with Ukrainian construction material manufacturers in Shanghai, July 2015
Oleksandr Pietushkov, Chief International Officer at Ukrainian Union of Building Materials’ Manufacturers, (2nd from right) with Ukrainian construction material manufacturers in Shanghai, July 2015
Is it a typical situation in your line of work as the Chief International Officer to visit concrete products manufacturers in China like Xuelong plant in Shijiazhuang, Hebei? Or is it a sign of growing interest among Ukrainian companies to partner with Chinese colleagues in the construction material sector? What are the benefits of such partnerships for both parties?

Yes, it’s quite common for us to assist Ukrainian companies with establishing economic ties with Chinese companies. We work on different levels: help with business communication and try to provide some essential business planning on the product or technology to be purchased from China. Mostly we do this when we are dealing with acquiring of new technology or production line because the amount of investments is quite high so you need to think and plan thoroughly. And this is the case when expert advice is welcome! And as for benefits, there used to be a time when you considered German or Italian equipment as the only one reliable, though quite costly.  Not anymore — the Chinese have achieved a lot in production culture — and big European players are aware of that now. And at the same time the price for the production line can be 2-3 times cheaper than the one you might get from Germany, for instance. We also need to consider that in construction sector, technology is pretty simple. No doubt Ukrainian manufacturers should take a closer look at what China has to offer.

Was it a challenge to arrange such a visit to Xuelong plant remotely from Ukraine? Apparently the Chinese side was quite forthcoming!

It wasn’t a tough task. Our Chinese partners helped to arrange some travel issues and the potential partners from Xuelong Enterprise were really forthcoming: we felt very welcomed there! Besides China has been transforming stunningly fast. My last visit to this region was several years ago and this time I was pleasantly surprised by how tourist-friendly big Chinese cities have become. Although language still remains a big issue…

How did you find the issue of language? Is it imperative for Ukrainians to travel to China with their own Mandarin speaker as part of the delegation?

From my own experience, I would strongly advise to travel with your trusted interpreter (or have one in China) who knows about your business area and can do some basic business analysis in China. It’s not even a question of trust rather a question of professionalism and mentality. Sometimes you need to ask a Chinese person one question three times in a row but formulate it each time differently to get an answer! So it goes without saying that some communication difficulties and operational misunderstanding occur. But once you get used to it you will work out a system to do business with the Chinese smoothly.

Concrete products manufacturing line in Shandong province, China
Concrete products manufacturing line in Shandong province, China
Tell us more about the line in Shandong province and your overall impressions from the business visit?

Visiting an operating factory was an obligatory condition that we expressed to our Chinese partners. We wanted to see the production line in action. So they showed us the factory in Shandong province.

Concrete products manufacturing line in Shandong province, China.
Concrete products manufacturing line in Shandong province, China. “It is a rather new one and doesn’t run to full capacity yet,” shares Oleksandr Pietushkov, Chief International Officer at Ukrainian Union of Building Materials’ Manufacturers.

It is a rather new one and doesn’t run to full capacity yet. It was less than we expected. That underlined that you need to prepare your visits to China in an even more detailed way: studying technology, pictures, exchanging drawings and layouts. Because it’s still a long way to reach there, you’d better be well prepared to spend your time there in the most effective way.

How soon do you plan to be back in China with more business partnerships growing between the Middle Kingdom and Ukraine?

Actually we visit China quite often (exhibitions, company visits etc.) and this time around we also invited our Chinese could-be partners to visit Ukraine to see the production themselves and to develop an on-site-based offer for the production line. There’s a lot of work ahead…

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