Rewards of the journey

Updated: 2012-04-27 08:49

By Hu Haiyan and Ma Wei (China Daily European Edition)

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Rewards of the journey
Yin Mingshan, president of the Chongqing Lifan Group. Photo provided to China Daily 

Shifting gears to conform to market realities pays off for entrepreneur

Editor's note: This is the first of a monthly series on Chinese private entrepreneurs.

Related readings:
Rewards of the journey The private connection

Amid the bevy of dazzling cars and models at the Beijing Auto Show, it was the somber Lifan 720 sedan that was the center of attention. Sporting a dull black-gray finish, the mid-sized sedan was not exactly a stunner in terms of looks, but seems to have more than compensated for it with its top-dollar performance and affordable price tag. To understand the pedigree of the Lifan 720 sedan, one really does not have to travel too much. After all, when it comes to pricing and affordability, there are very few companies in China that can match Chongqing Lifan Group, an automobile company that is also the market leader for motorcycles.

But the real question that most of the visitors were posing seemed to be, "What is Lifan doing amid the BMWs, Aston Martins, Audis and Ferraris?" Yin Mingshan, the president of Chongqing Lifan Group, answers that it is part of the company's transition from the low-end market to the mid- and high-end market.

"Till now, most of our vehicles were sold in the low-end market and mostly in second- or third-tier cities. The Lifan 720 is our first attempt to break these shackles and move into the high-end market," he says.

Looking at the quiet and unassuming 74-year-old president, it is hard to see someone you would associate with aggressive expansion and adrenaline in a fiercely competitive Chinese marketplace.

Such skepticism is not new to Yin. Similar doubts were expressed when, at a time that most of his peers were preparing to retire, the then 54-year old Yin decided to seek his fortunes in the automobile industry.

In 1992, with nine employees, Yin started the Lifan Group in Chongqing, Southwest China, with a registered capital of 200,000 yuan (about $36,000 at the time). Nearly 20 years later, Lifan has become one of the largest motorcycle and automobile producers in China. The group's listed unit Lifan Industry (Group) Co Ltd reported revenue of 8.63 billion yuan ($1.37 billion, 1.04 billion euros) last year and a profit of 390 million yuan, a year-on-year increase of 2.19 percent.

Such impressive statistics should have kept most entrepreneurs happy. But Yin is preparing for even bigger things.

"I want Lifan to be the best automobile and motorcycle company in the world. To achieve this, it is important for us to expand our presence in the global markets and also make mid- and high-end vehicles," says Yin, dressed immaculately in a crisp Chinese suit at the well-stocked coffee bar of the Chongqing JW Marriott Hotel.

At the same time, Yin admits that the transformation is not going to be an easy task. "It calls for unimaginable efforts from me and the company to achieve these goals," he says.

But that does not mean that he is not confident of success. After all, his record is testimony to the success of several years of grit and perseverance.

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