ip-label in China: 9 years already!
In spring 2005, the French TV channel M6 broadcast a special report on China, portrayed as a possible Eldorado for French enterprises. As the time, ip-label’s total workforce consisted of only 30 people, and experience in conducting business internationally was limited to a few customers in Belgium and Spain. A novel idea took shape in our minds: what if ip-label opened a location in China?
Christophe Depeux, co-founder, rose to the challenge. In November 2005, he took part in the mission ‘1000 SMEs in China’ which was initiated by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, then French Prime Minister, for whom the Middle Kingdom holds no secrets…. and for whom gaining a foothold there represents a real development opportunity for French businesses. Convinced of the need to set up shop in China, Christophe Depeux, after further preparatory visits in 2006, moved to Shanghai in August 2007 with his wife and two sons aged 11 months and 3 years, and their 3 suitcases. Then began the ip-label odyssey: everything was possible, but nothing was simple… This slogan fit like a glove especially for a small French software vendor making its way in a country of 1.3 billion people.
First the company ip-label had to be created there (a wofe = a company formed with 100% foreign capital). A dozen permits had to be secured before the company could officially exist! This made it possible to obtain a resident visa for the whole family, a more comfortable arrangement than a temporary visa. Next to recruit the first staff member with a technical profile for pre-sales and support: XIAO Liang was our first recruit. He had the huge advantage of speaking French, having done his engineering degree in France. He enabled Christophe to quickly bridge the formidable cultural divide between East and West. Then to deploy a measurement network in 12 major Chinese cities, to cover 2/3 of the internet in China. The first customer signed on after only 3 months: the company Les 3 Suisses, which had a presence in China back then.
Lastly, always and ever a priority: cultivating one’s guanxi (personal connections). Everything imaginable to network with as many as possible of the 30,000 French expats to identify opportunities: at the kid’s school, animating an IT/telecoms working group at the French Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai, contacting European customers located in China, etc.
In 2010, Arthur Hamon stepped in to replace Christophe. Arthur took over management of the Shanghai subsidiary, to continue the company’s development efforts not only in China but also throughout Asia. At the end of his time as an expat in 2014, he became head of the France Sales Department at headquarters in Paris, and was in turn replaced in Shanghai by Yé Yang. Having completed at ip-label in Paris the internship required by his engineering school, Yé agreed to take over management of the Chinese subsidiary. This was a unique opportunity to localize the management and the team there with a staff member who knows ip-label inside out. Maxime Geoffroy also took part in the adventure for 18 months to handle international customers before moving to Stockholm, where he works in sales management.
9 years after opening the ip-label Asia-Pacific subsidiary, annual growth of 20% to 25% is constant and regular. At present China is neck and neck with the Benelux and the Iberica/South America area for third place in terms of revenues for ip-label, after France and Scandinavia. Around fifty or so European customers, as well as Americans and more and more Chinese customers, not to mention Taiwanese, Singaporean, and Japanese customers, too, now make up the subsidiary’s business portfolio.
In competition with local and American players, Yé Yang and his team successfully retain 95% of customers from one year to the next thanks to their total commitment. Now Yé Yang is at the head of a fantastic 100% Chinese team which in the coming days will welcome a new Russian collaborator: Marina. As the Chinese saying goes: ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ Continuing its investment in China and developing business in Asia is clearly at the heart of the ip-label group’s strategy. We firmly intend to continue planting ‘trees’ for growth.
ip-label China team.