Wu Rongshan: Promoting Chinese tea culture


Wu Rongshan: Promoting Chinese tea culture
Well packaged clovershrug (Dahongpao)

In recent years, the development of the Fujian Sanhe Tea Industry Co Ltd led by Wu Rongshan has provided a precious example for how traditional industries can cope with crisis. After the international financial crisis in 2008, Sanhe Tea used the crisis to find opportunity, expanding and developing to cover the entire country while growing overseas markets in hopes of forging a global tea brand.

Q: Did the international financial crisis in 2008 have any impact on China’s tea industry?

A: The financial crisis had some effects on individual consumption as well as on the tea industry. However, because it is considered a daily necessity, tea consumption was not cut substantially. So the impact on us was not as severe overall, the industry still grew relatively quickly and our brand building efforts continued to move forward.

Q: What unique model do you have in your business management practice?

A: Following the financial crisis, we witnessed a tough situation where many young people were looking for work or to start a career. At that time we pushed forward a “1+5” entrepreneurship program together with the Youth League Committee of Fujian Province, aiming to relieve social employment pressure. The program set up realistic ways for national agricultural enterprises to attract talent and integrate industrial supply chains.

The “1+5” entrepreneurship program is based on a model that employs a five-college-student venture team to franchise one tea store. The Youth League Committee selects and organizes the college students to operate tea stores sponsored by Sanhe. The company provides storefronts, funds, professional training, a complete series of products and brand promotion as well.

With an investment of 30 million yuan($ 4.7 million), this program has created 100 tea franchise stores and helped 500 college students in 100 venture teams realize their entrepreneurial dreams. Thanks to their business savvy, these 100 venture teams were able to help solve the marketing problems for 6,000 - 7,000 tea growers.

Because of the financial crisis, the start of this program not only provided valuable help for students, but also promoted the agricultural economy and the whole tea industry in Fujian province.

At the same time, Sanhe also gained surprising benefits from the program. Our operations have expanded and our brand awareness has spread.

Q: What is the key point for the development of tea industry?

A: The crucial point is to "improve product quality and promote tea using technology". In order to accomplish this we have created headquarters which focuses on tea cultivation management, raw materials intake, selection processing, packaging and product delivery. In order to guarantee the superior quality of our products, Sanhe established the Anxi Oolong Tea Ecology Tea Garden in Anxi Yunzhong Mountain, which has obtained a National Ministry of Agriculture Organic Foods Certificate and has also been included in the United Nations South-South Cooperation Demonstration as an example project.

Since the founding of our company, Sanhe has invested a lot of energy and physical resources in raising our management level and product quality, obtaining a series of international certificates along the way. In the past two years, we have learned important lessons about production from French vineyards. Their system emphasizes setup and exploration, maintaining records, checking news, tracing water flow, responsible investigation, and recalling products. We have introduced all these techniques to guarantee and promote our product quality.

Wu Rongshan: Promoting Chinese tea culture
Workers are picking out first-class tea leaves.

Q: What’s the international strategy of your business?

A: Sanhe focuses on promoting Chinese tea culture and invests heavily in international strategy implementation based on our leading position and core competencies. We participate in international exhibitions and plan to set up franchise stores in Europe and North America.

In the 2010 World Tea Expo in America, Anxi Oolong Tea of Sanhe gained consistent high praise from around the world. It also attracted many overseas businessmen to exchange thoughts on cooperating with Sanhe. The trip to America was a vital step for Sanhe in its expansion into America and Canada.

The Ninth China-Europe Forum sponsored by the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and the United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was held in France in 2011. As the only specified presenter of tea culture in attendance, Sanhe took advantage of this two-day forum to spread our Chinese tea culture and promote Anxi Oolong Tea to the whole of Europe.

In November 2011, a grand opening ceremony and news conference was held to celebrate our first Anxi Oolong Tea store in Canada. Our branch is located at 2445 Yonge St. in Toronto and will bring a new tea experience to this tea-loving country. Next, we will develop franchise stores successively in Vancouver, San Francisco, and Houston in North America as well as France in Europe.

(The interview is included in the book,Hearing What Chinese Entrepreneurs Say about Post-Crisis Economy, written by Zhang Yiwen, deputy director of the Business Brand Institute at the Communication University of China.)

Related readings:
Wu Rongshan: Promoting Chinese tea culture An eminent Chinese business leader
Wu Rongshan: Promoting Chinese tea culture Yan Jiehe talks about enterprise development


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