Belgian firm encouraged by China's eco-consciousness

Updated: 2012-09-21 07:52

By Fu Jing in Brussels (China Daily)

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David Laurier, CEO of the environmental analysis and integrated solution provider AppliTek in Belgium, is confident that his company can sustain its success in China even though it is a latecomer.

Belgian firm encouraged by China's eco-consciousness

His logic is simple: The Chinese government is committed to having a healthy environment for its people, and that provides great market potential for his products.

"I am not afraid of the market. It has great potential," Laurier said.

AppliTek, which has a two-story office building and factory in Nazareth, Belgium, has offered analytical technologies to nearly 120 countries. About 20 percent of its business comes from China, after only a few years on the Chinese market.

Laurier said there are several things in his office, about a half-hour drive from Brussels, that give him inspiration.

From the window behind him, a broken roof can be seen, which he compares to Europe in debt crisis and recession. The window to his right looks out on a lake filled with clean water.

"They're contrasting views," he said.

Laurier usually closes the curtains behind him, he said, but leaves those on his right open because the clean lake water reminds him of what his business is about.

There are also two portraits of Chinese women in the office that he bought in Beijing.

"These two ladies are my favorite portraits. One is the tough lady with a stick, who punishes me when business is bad," he said.

"The other one is the business lady, and when business is good, the money can go in her suitcase."

Laurier is upbeat about the Chinese market potential. In Europe, he said, the common perception of the Chinese is that they produce inexpensive goods but pollute the water, soil and air.

"But if these Europeans were to go there as often as we do in our business, they would see that China is making huge efforts to control pollution," he said. "I am amazed at just how serious the Chinese government is about providing healthy conditions for its people and a sound environment."

Laurier said he was impressed that the Environmental Monitoring Center in Beijing can monitor nearly all of the major rivers and cities, but in Europe, there is no such integrated system.

But China is in a stage of rapid industrialization and urbanization, he said, and has been faced with mounting environmental pressures.

AppliTek's sales volume dropped slightly compared with last year, Laurier said, but more projects were clinched. In the past, the company would typically have one big project and five or six small ones going on. Now it has about 20 or 30 small projects.

"I prefer the second model. It puts less stress on our company," he said. Big projects can pose organizational problems for his medium-sized company, he said, and its real strength lies in small and medium-sized projects.

In his travels to 60 or 70 countries each year, he said he saw that ecology and economy have to go hand in hand. "China's economy could not be sustained without enough environmental protection policies and measures being put in place," he said.

So AppliTek is eager to achieve more in China.

Laurier is going to create a China taskforce in the company that can offer strategic solutions for building an environmentally friendly and resource-saving country.

Meanwhile, the company intends to set up a service center in Shanghai by the end of this year together with a regional distributor. It currently has one distributor in Shanghai and one in Beijing.

"We don't want to become a big fish in a niche market, we want to be a small fish in a very big market."

So far, the analytical equipment has sold well in China, but it has been more difficult to land buyers for the integrated solutions because of the higher prices and a lack of a business network.

AppliTek was set up by Laurier's parents in 1985 and his father is still the president of the board.

Laurier said his parents taught him to work hard, respect other people, and to respond quickly and flexibly to the market.

"It takes us nine to 12 months to develop a product, and this is really competitive advantage of our company," Laurier said. "Big companies need three or four years to develop a product. By the time they are ready, we've already been in the market for three years."