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From Value One, Winter 2013-2014 No. 43
Tianjin Rihua Steel Products Co., Ltd.
Boosting Our Presence with Local Procurement and a Wide Range of Partner Industries
A Service Center with Deep Chinese Roots
Tianjin Rihua Steel Products Co., Ltd. (TRS) is a service center that was established in 1995. It is located in Tianjin, in northern China. TRS was set up with the primary goal of expanding sales of electrogalvanized steel for floppy disk drives (FDDs), for which demand was flourishing in the 1990s. Demand for FDDs subsequently declined as changes took place in storage media in connection with the evolution of PCs. In the midst of that, TRS promoted sales to Korean manufacturers that used Chinese steel and local companies, also expanding to the automotive and elevator industries. As a result, almost half of the sixty companies TRS ships to are non-Japanese, and more than 95 percent of the products it handles are made in China. There are two representatives from Japan here, and we plan to more heavily promote local procurement under national staff leadership as a step toward the goal of fostering deeper local roots in our business.
No Tenshinhan in Tianjin!
Before I was posted here, the only things that came to mind at the mention of Tianjin were Tianjin-style sweet roasted chestnuts and the Tenshinhan omelet on rice with starchy sauce. However, after arriving here I found that Tenshinhan was a dish conceived in Japan, and that sweet chestnuts could not be found in Tianjin. Chestnuts picked in and around Hebei Province had been given that name because Tianjin was the cargo collection point for export shipments. So what is there in Tianjin?
The great powers turned Tientsin (today's Tianjin) into a free trade port under the 1860 Peking Convention, and nine countries—including Japan—established concessions there. The port town that was built around the nucleus of the concessions could be described in terms of the relationship between Tokyo (Beijing) and Yokohama (Tianjin). Along with the former residences of Pu Yi, the final Qing emperor, and Yuan Shikai, Western-style buildings of the time such as the Astor Hotel—located in the former British concession, and where Sun Yat-sen and Hirobumi Ito stayed—have been preserved, along with the way the streets appeared and are still in use today. The exotic ambience almost makes you forget you are in China.
Founded 150 years ago, the Astor Hotel reopened after refurbishing last year
Representatives' Health Comes First
Regarding Tianjin's weather, it is 35 degrees Celsius in summer, goes down to -15 degrees Celsius in winter, and spring and fall end in an instant, so going out inevitably becomes a bother. Nonetheless, people here love exercising outdoors to a surprising degree. I often go to the park with family on weekends, and it is full of people from early morning until late at night having fun practicing tai chi, dancing, doing chin-ups all out, engaging in ebullient conversation—that sounds like quarreling—and basketball, among other things. Moreover, exercise equipment is available all around the city and school facilities are also open to the public and easy to use.
At TRS as well, we borrow a gym for badminton every Tuesday as a company function. I am a member of the Japanese soccer team in Tianjin, and we have matches against Chinese teams every Sunday. Conditions are also horrible in Tianjin with regard to the PM2.5 level of pollution that people are talking about, which exceeds 400 µg per cubic meter at times, so we cough while running around. We tend to get out of shape because we commute by car, but we are applying ourselves to our jobs without getting ill, thanks to the exercises.
Older people doing tai chi in the park
Obtaining an Edge with Finely Tailored Services
Tianjin's regional GDP growth rate has exceeded 10 percent in recent years, and it was China's top city in 2012. Skyscrapers and tall apartment buildings are under construction just beyond the old city streets, giving one an immediate sense of its growth. The four years I have worked here have been no easy task, what with strikes against Japanese companies, the earthquake in northeastern Japan, and anti-Japanese demonstrations, and I have experienced many different things.
Competition has been heating up in the midst of the continuing surplus of steel due to excess production (next door Tangshan alone has a glut of forty steel manufacturers) as new service centers affiliated with manufacturers that are after more market share are established one after another. On top of that, the business environment has been tough as costs, including personnel expenses, have seen two-digit growth each year. Obtaining an edge with local procurement and Japanese companies' finely tailored services, we plan to succeed by developing a local customer base.
The Hai River flows through central Tianjin





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