Heft at Berlin consumer electronics fair attests to importance of market

IFA Berlin is Europe's largest trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances. (WANG MINGJIE / CHINA DAILY)

A gigantic billboard for Chinese brand Haier greets visitors as they arrive at IFA Berlin, Europe's largest trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances, and also heralds the significant presence of Chinese exhibitors.

Despite pandemic-related travel restrictions, nearly 220 Chinese companies are showcasing their latest products and cutting-edge technology at IFA 2022, which ends on Tuesday.

In addition to Haier, other well-known Chinese brands include TCL and Huawei, with Alibaba becoming an exhibitor for the first time this year.

IFA chief David Ruetz said: "Due to the ongoing novel coronavirus restrictions, the presence of Chinese exhibitors this year is understandably not as strong as in previous years. Nevertheless, we are able to welcome a large number of Chinese exhibitors at IFA. There are 175 Chinese exhibitors at IFA Global Markets alone."

Ruetz said face-to-face meetings-covering everyone from the trade side to media and consumers-are hard to beat, and they are essential for promoting exchanges between Chinese and European companies.

"Trade shows, such as IFA in Berlin, can form a bridge between the companies and the new market to gather the necessary market information and evaluate the interest of potential customers," he said.

In recent years, some Chinese technology companies have encountered headwinds caused by sanctions imposed by the US, with these effects compounded by COVID-19. Given this backdrop, experts say there is added motivation for Chinese companies to raise their profiles in Europe.

Jeffrey Towson, a visiting business professor at the China Europe International Business School, said: "Trade shows are great for educating about new products, networking and raising brand awareness. They are part of the playbook for leading tech companies. Chinese companies should absolutely be there."

Towson, who also hosts the Tech Strategy Podcast, said the biggest advantages that Chinese companies have over US and Japanese rivals in international markets are that they move fast and on a big scale.

"They iterate their products faster and they sell more aggressively," he said. "The speed and hyper-competitiveness of their home market help them in international markets."

George Yip, emeritus professor at Imperial College London and visiting professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said: "Emerging Chinese tech companies need to reassure European customers that they can be dependable and trustworthy suppliers. … Given the difficulty of current COVID-19 barriers for travel to China, Chinese companies need to find creative ways, such as virtual reality tours, to provide reassurance."

Wide range of products

The presence in Berlin of Haier is huge, with multiple halls displaying products ranging from washing machines and air conditioners to refrigerators and microwave ovens.

Yannick Fierling, chief executive of Haier Europe, said on Friday that Haier is "the biggest home appliance company in the world with a presence in over 160 markets".

Huawei unveiled a range of devices for the European markets, including two phones, the standard Nova 10 and the Nova 10 Pro, along with the MateBook X Pro laptop, the MatePad Pro tablet and a medically certified Huawei Watch D.

Honor, another Chinese smartphone maker, has created a buzz with the launch of its midrange premium handset, the Honor 70, as well as its first tablet, the Honor Pad 8, and the Honor MagicBook 14 laptop.

Dreame, a consumer product company that focuses on smart home cleaning appliances, unveiled a type of robot vacuum cleaner and mop, the L10s Plus, with self-cleaning and auto-emptying features.

Chen Yanshou, the company's EU managing director, said: "Dreame takes the trade show as a valuable chance to learn customers' voices, connect with industry insiders, and find more business partners in Germany and across Europe."

Jiang Yang, sales director of Shenzhen Yolanda Technology, which produces smart health products, said: "Despite the travel restraints, we are still keen to come out, as we need to stay connected and relevant with the industry, and with our clients in Europe."