For the record: Grace Gao

hans-gronhi-grace-gowThis month I had the opportunity to talk with Grace Gao, general manager of Hans Gronhi Canada. I wanted to find out how the recent Print World show fared for the company, and learn about the challenges for a foreign business entering the Canadian marketplace. Read on!

It’s interesting to see companies from Asia playing a growing part in the Canadian printing industry. In fact, this year’s Print World show featured a Chinese Pavilion for the first time ever. What did you think of the show this year?

We are very happy with this trade show. We had very good feedback from visitors to our booth. We had about 400 people who registered through our website that wanted to come see our equipment. By the end of the show, we had a very good amount of potential customers that we are now following up with.

Many people were impressed with how big Hans Gronhi has gotten in a hurry. Some people didn’t know what to expect before the show, but they came and saw our big booth and large presses. Those who hadn’t heard of Hans Gronhi before know about us now, and that’s what is important.

We invested a lot of money in the show, and we had a very big booth. There are big costs associated with this, too. We shipped three containers of machinery over, and flew six technicians in from China.

What struggles have you encountered as a foreign company entering the Canadian market?

It can be a big challenge, but we have a good team that has helped us get into the mainstream printing industry in Canada. A big concern, especially for trade shows, is getting visas for people to come into the country. We spend a lot of time on that, but it is important to get the technicians.

It is a challenge, but we manage it very well. We know what we have, and we know the market standards, and we merge the two together. We know what we have to do.

Some consumers have the opinion that products built in China are not of the same quality as European or North American products. How do you respond to that? Have you been accepted well here?

We are integrating well into Canada – we already have a dealer in B.C., a dealer in Montreal, and one in Ontario.

In terms of quality, every one of our machines is certified according to Canadian regulations. People can see the quality of our machines as well at trade shows, like Print World. They are strong and they run flawlessly.

Most of the things we do in life rely on Chinese products. Take a look around your house and look at the things you use on a daily basis – you’ll probably find that a lot of them are made in China. Chinese products are well accepted into North American households, and now we’re working on getting them accepted into working environments.

What is the niche area of the market that your company has come to Canada to fill that wasn’t previously being met?

Our niche is helping local printers invest in affordable equipment that is high quality and comes with reliable service. We are confident with our machines and we have an emphasis on the affordability of our presses.

Digital technology is growing in the printing industry and has been overtaking the offset world. As a primarily offset-based manufacturer, how is this affecting your business? Do you have plans to branch into the digital side of the industry?

Yes, it is true that digital technology is taking away from the offset world. We feel that there’s no reason why they can’t work side-by-side though. What we’ve found, which has been surprising, is that a number of digital print shops are now looking into offset. There are ongoing costs related to copy, service and maintenance fees of digital equipment, and the equipment itself is very expensive. Recently, digital companies are sending out some of their print work, but now they’re looking to bring that back in. Digital and offset can go hand-in-hand. A good businessman can see where each piece of equipment fits in.

Looking at our future, our head office in China has recently passed along some interesting information. They are currently developing digital parts for printing and packaging machines. Very soon we are going to release a new product that will fit into the digital and packaging area!