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In the industry- C2W brings you the stories of the men and women that have helped to make the Chinese motorcycle industry the biggest in the world


By Chen Long in Chongqing

 

Xiang Min, like many ambitious Chinese men and women, had the entrepreneurial skills to see that her career would be more than run-of-the-mill 9-5 slogs that most of peers may have found themselves in. Although the last ten years have been up and down and filled with problems, Min has made the best of bad situations to turn them into opportunities. In this piece we will take a look at the day to day work of somebody embedded deep within the Chinese motorcycle industry.

Xiang Min, more commonly known as Minnie, has been an exporter for Chinese motorcycles for more than a decade. Her first foray into the business began at Kington Motors, one of China’s largest bus producers for the last 60 years, which ventured into motorcycle production under the brand Chongqing Kington Liyang Motorcycle Co. The manufacturer currently produces quarter of a million bikes each year and churns out 3 times that many engine units.

Minnie tells us how she got started in the factory and what she did in the early days. “Before the markets were flooded with Chinese bikes, back when many manufacturers in China were unknown in the outside world, getting orders from abroad was a tricky business as many importers were wary about dealing with Chinese motorcycles. Orders at first came in small, perhaps just one container every few months going out to South America or Africa. Over time more dealers saw that the bikes were ok and started to place larger orders. Work became busier with orders for more bikes coming in each month and because I spoke English well it was my job to speak with the customers and have the bikes produced to their specification. Once the bikes had come off the production line I would inspect the batch and make sure that they were all built to the right specs before arranging the shipping to wherever they would be heading.”

5 years after starting at Kington Minnie’s long-time friend and colleague, Ruby Zhang, invested in a factory and began to produce bikes for foreign markets. Minnie was instantly on board and set to work drumming up new customers for the factory, albeit with a much better product to sell. No longer stuck with a line-up of famer cycles and Glones, Minnie now had some high quality leisure machines to offer. “Leaving Kington to work with Ruby [at Fuego Power] made a big difference to my career. Before I was limited by the products the company had on offer but after the move to Fuego I was able to target new markets; customers with more money who dealt with leisure riders meaning I could sell cruisers and sports bikes. While I still do a good trade in off-road bikes which ship to some of the more mountainous regions of the planet, I don’t have to rely on farmers to make a living anymore.”

Towards the end of the last decade as the global financial crisis did its damage to businesses worldwide, the motorcycle industry took a hit and Minnie felt the pinch along with it. “That time was tough for everyone. For me personally I was receiving smaller orders from regular customers who explained that their businesses were taking a hit and sales had dropped. Obviously it wasn’t just the motorcycle industry being affected but because much more of my sales were based on leisure products for higher income end users there were times when cash was in short supply at home and I had to budget hard . Things have improved since then and as the demand for quality Chinese bikes has increased I’ve been kept fairly busy with orders.”

We asked Minnie if she would remain in the industry or consider something else now that she is 40 years old. “I like the motorcycle industry. I’m not just involved in the sales side of things, I do lots of work with the R&D department when they are designing and testing new models and I’ve been involved with lots of other companies through my connections which have allowed me to learn so much about motorcycles. When I first started out I was clueless!”

I still visit the factory often to see how the orders are coming along and to see what’s new in the development workshop. I now deal in other branches of the motorcycle industry such as parts and accessories. I set up my own company to trade motorcycle parts since I was getting asked so often for this part and that and nobody seemed to have a well-established supply chain. Probably half of my income is now coming from selling spares and accessories.”

Xiang Min has done well for herself in the industry while at the same time managing to attend to family life. Working every day of the week and all hours, she never seems bother that days off come few and far between. The hard work has paid off and she is now a well-respected part of the Chinese motorcycle industry.

 


April 29, 2016
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