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In this third installment of Creative Leadership Under Crisis, we invited and talked with Mr.WANG Yanhui, General Manager of Range Hood Products at Fotile. Fotile is a leading Chinese manufacturer of high-end kitchen appliances. Over the 18 years of working at Fotile, he has led and promoted the development and launch of many industry-leading products, including the iconic "Wind Cube" and "Cloud Cube" series.

In 2018, Fotile entered a new stage of growth with its sales revenue exceeding RMB 10 billion. For more than 20 years, its product development focus on the high-end kitchen appliance market has remained unchanged. As the leader of range hood business at Fotile, WANG Yanhui shared with us how Fotile managed to capture consumers’ changing needs during the pandemic and made corresponding adjustments to its business and strategy.

1. Design for High-Quality Home Kitchens

Q: How has the pandemic impacted Fotile and the kitchen appliance industry?

Our industry is special. People developed a greater passion for cooking during the pandemic. The sales of countertop steamers and cooking devices have skyrocketed. We can foresee that people will have had a deeper experience in the kitchen after the pandemic. As a result, they’ll have higher expectations of the quality of the kitchen, and more urgent demands for upgrading their kitchen appliances, which means a strong opportunity for Fotile.

In addition, we’ve also seen some short-term opportunities. For example, unlike in the past when disinfection cabinets didn’t gain much popularity in the market, now with the increasing awareness of health and safety, people are paying more attention to health and safety issues in the kitchen.

Q: How will these trends exert an impact on Fotile’s long-term strategy?

The pandemic has made us believe more firmly in our initial strategy, which is to invest in product innovation. The premium kitchen appliance market in China is very sizable and is currently dominated by German brands. Fotile still needs to up our game in that segment. Fotile’s corporate mission is “For the Happiness of Hundreds of Millions of Families,” and product innovation and constant breakthrough is how we realize that mission. We are confident that the functionality of our product is world-leading. But we need to continue working on the product finishing and craft details.

Consumers’ need for a quality kitchen will become the price premium for innovative products.

2. Top-down Online Marketing

Q: How did you respond to the decline in offline sales during COVID-19?

Typically we host two offline product launch events every year. We moved them online this year. For example, the launch of the latest Z-series integrated cooking system was broadcasted as livestreamed events in collaboration with our top three channel partners: Suning, Gome, and Five Star.

We planned 700 livestreaming sessions for this month of April.

Fotile’s livestream poster for its new product launch

Before, online marketing efforts like these were driven by the business units and channels like the Tmall and JD teams. Now we are managing it from the top. Through the two high-level launch events, we can learn a lot about livestreaming and summarize a set of guidelines for implementation, from lighting, background, product and brand features, and promotions. In this way, we can ensure that our brand shows up in a consistent way, no matter if it’s our store or our subsidiary company doing the livestreaming.

Mr. Wang speaking at one of the new product launch events

3. Focus on Inner Strength and Avoid Mistakes

Q: What do you think are the key success factors for a company in this uncertain time?

I feel grateful that even in such difficult times, Fotile persists in putting its employees first and treating people with generosity. This is based on the Confucius-inspired corporate culture and values that our chairman MAO Zhongqun has been leading and building.

At this moment, companies need to stabilize and try not to make mistakes, that’s where the opportunities lie.

When the external environment is unstable, an organization needs to maintain the health of internal factors. For example, for an individual, you and your family’s health is the priority, followed by cash flow. It is the same for a company. We put a lot more emphasis on managing costs, optimizing internal operations, and investing in infrastructure, in order to ensure the basic business models are healthy and resilient to risks. And the extreme external conditions are also causing our teams to feel a sense of urgency and become more willing to change some old and redundant processes in order to improve overall efficiency.

Interview time: April 21, 2020