Seamanship competitive advantage in Asia
A week’s drilling in seamanship and product knowledge is going to help Volvo Penta’s sales staff in China and Japan to take advantage of the growing interest in leisure boats.
“Plenty of other people, from our traditional markets, for example, could also benefit from this kind of course,” says the person who took the initiative, Anders Hård.
The boat is rocking. It is hot and somewhat stuffy in the small cabin in which six people are squashed into an area of a couple of square metres. Through the windows, it is possible to make out the islands in the northern Gothenburg archipelago, outside the Volvo Penta test facility on Krossholmen.
Frank Yang, who normally works as Parts Sales & Marketing Manager in Shanghai, looks up from the nautical chart and sees red and green navigation marks, waves breaking over rocks in the water and a fast motorboat approaching from behind. He makes a decision and issues an order in English, “Can you see that mark up ahead? Stay starboard of it. Starboard. Right!”. Shugo Kikuchi from Volvo Penta in Koto-ku in Japan makes sure that he understands the mark Frank is referring to and adjusts course.
After five days filled with theory lessons and practical training in everything from life-saving to driving in the dark, the time has come for the course participants to take their examination. Anders Hård, Product Manager, EVC Accessories, is hoping that this training will help the sales staff – and Volvo Penta – to start capturing a growth market at an early stage.
“In China, we and our competitors are on the same level when it comes to these skills. However, we are the only ones in the industry with our own test centres where we test and develop our unique products. By bringing people here, we can enhance our skills and expertise and this will hopefully lead to an increase in sales and make us a more attractive business partner.”
Frank Yang explains that there was previously no demand whatsoever for leisure boats in China. In recent years, however, it has become fashionable for company executives, for example, to take their business partners for boat trips. A handful of exclusive yacht clubs have built their own marinas and also sell boats. At the same time, real estate developers are attempting to attract house buyers by offering luxury accommodation by the sea, including a mooring.
“This course is fantastic. Before I came here, I had no practical experience of boats. If a customer asked me how one of our products worked, I was forced to look up the information on the web and study it. I can now jump on board and give a demonstration,” says Frank Yang.