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Keeping guitar market on a string

By Ouyang Shijia in Beijing and Yang Jun in Guiyang ( China Daily )

Updated: 2018-04-09

Zunyi Shenqu's brand-building proves music to Zheng'an's ears

New York City's Times Square is home to one of the most happening public-space advertising hot spots. That's where Zheng'an International Guitar Industry Park, from Southwest China's Guizhou province, displayed its advertisement on a giant electronic billboard for a week in January. The ad highlighted the park's strong determination to expand its business overseas.

Zunyi Shenqu Instrument Manufacturing Co Ltd is among a growing number of companies based in Zheng'an county that helped create one of the largest guitar-making hubs in western China. It is now seeking to gain momentum in its global expansion.

 Keeping guitar market on a string

Clients from Brazil try out Zunyi Shenqu's products at its factory in Zheng'an county of Guizhou province in October 2017. Provided to China Daily

Currently, the industry park is home to 19 guitar manufacturers and 10 enterprises that support the guitar-making industry.

Last year, 5.01 million guitars were produced in the park, generating an economic output of 5 billion yuan ($792 million), according to official data. The park exported 2.25 million guitars in 2017, accounting for more than one-third of China's total guitar exports.

Today, Zheng'an-made guitars cover around 30 percent of the US market, 40 percent of the Brazil market and 20 percent of the Asian market, said the local government.

Betting big on a further boom in the guitar market worldwide, Zunyi Shenqu and other manufacturers are now gearing up to build a world-class brand for the park and gain the top spot in the global market. They aim to produce 10 million guitars and create an economic output of 10 billion yuan in the next few years.

After years of development, Zunyi Shenqu, a supplier of six of top ten global guitar brands, has now made a name and money for itself.

Zheng Chuanjiu, a former farmer and general manager of Zunyi Shenqu, claimed the company produced over 600,000 guitars last year and the revenue rose to more than 200 million yuan.

Of the total output, over 90 percent were made for overseas markets, including the United States, Brazil and Africa. The figure is expected to surge to around 700,000 this year and the revenue is estimated to exceed 400 million yuan.

"In fact, we can't really produce enough guitars to meet the huge demand," Zheng said. "Recently, we added a new production line and hired 300 new employees."

Based in Zheng'an, one of the poorest regions in Southwest China, Zunyi's factory employs nearly 900 workers, and most of them were poor neighborhood farmers not so long ago.

"At first, people could hardly believe that those professional-grade brands were made by a group of farmers in such a mountainous rural area," Zheng said. "Actually, the labor-intensive guitar manufacturing needs hardy, spirited workers."

Zheng himself is perhaps the best example of unvarnished genius that abounds in the area. He has no idea how to play a guitar; but he is familiar with 186 procedures involved in the production of a guitar.

Keeping guitar market on a string

Back in 1995, Zheng, a junior high school graduate, left his hometown Zheng'an and went to Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, to work alongside his brother at a local guitar factory.

The two brothers gradually learnt the skills to produce guitars. Their exquisite craftsmanship earned them promotions to managerial positions.

In 2007, the brothers founded their own factory; and in 2008, they received an order for 2,000 guitars from Tagima, the top brand in Brazil, via an international guitar exhibition held in Shanghai. Since then, their guitar business kept growing and became a runaway success.

Zheng said the key to their success was the spirit of workmanship, saying their production lives up to a high standard. And any defective goods are destroyed, and never allowed to enter even the discount-price sales stream.

Now he wants to take further steps to improve the quality, working toward meeting the highest international standards.

"To become an increasingly influential player globally, we aim to pursue high-quality development in the future," Zheng said. "We will gradually cut the low-priced guitars and attach greater focus to middle- to high-end guitars so as to better tap into the global market."

According to him, the low-end products are set to account for less than 20 percent of the total output this year, compared to 30 percent last year.

The original equipment manufacturer or OEM business has kept growing at a high rate. Zheng is determined to build an own brand called Benssica and develop original high value-added products.

In recent years, China has been stepping up efforts in the manufacturing sector to boost productivity and economic growth. Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Chinese tech heavyweight Xiaomi Corp, recently said that while quality represents hard power, product design and user experiences generate soft power - and both are key to success in manufacturing.

To cope with potential challenges, Zheng plans to organize a team of 20 senior specialists to build the company's own brand. The company will also recruit skilled college graduates to use big data to improve the operating efficiently of the systems, in terms of the supply chain, pricing and the clients' demand.

"I believe one day we will build a national guitar brand that is able to rival the top international brands," Zheng said.

Contact the writers at ouyangshijia@chinadaily.com.cn

Keeping guitar market on a string

(China Daily 04/09/2018 page14)

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