It takes a long time to build business relationships with the Chinese, however once established, that relationship can reap many benefits.
That’s the view of Ian Hickling, President of Lenstec, a Barbadian medical device manufacturing company, which focuses specially on intraocular lenses - medical devices that are implanted inside the eye to replace the eye’s natural lens when it is removed during cataract surgery. They also are used for a type of vision correction surgery called refractive lens exchange. Lenstec was founded in 1995 and is based at the Airport Commercial Centre in Christ Church. It employees 236 people, of which 234 are locals. It operates 24 hours a day, five days a week, manufacturing for the world market. Hickling, who is from New Zealand, but based in Barbados, said his company has been working with the Chinese since 2008 and so far the relationship has been going great.
“China is one of our biggest customers. They’re probably about 40 per cent of our total company sales. Last year they took 325 000 lenses, each lens is for one patient. So you can see the benefits of working with them. I would say that the Chinese Market is extremely important to us,” Hickling said.
He said that Lenstec’s involvement with China also does well for the local economy: “The benefits of working with the Chinese is that they pay good money. I go to China at least once a year to attend ophthalmology conferences over there. The Chinese distributors bring ophthalmologists here for training every year so that benefits the tourism aspect of it. So it does help the local economy having the Chinese come here.”
The Lenstec president said he expects the relationship to get even stronger. “We foresee a long and bright future with them. We have eight different products that are regulated and approved by the Chinese. We anticipate that the sales will continue to grow over the years and it being a long term relationship,” he added. Hickling also said he would not hesitate to encourage other local companies to look for opportunities in China. However, he stressed that they must be willing to put in the work and also to invest: China is a very sophisticated market. They’re a very modern country so you have to have a very sophisticated product.
“Then you have to have a good partner in China that you can work with. It takes a long time to build that kind of relationship but once you’ve done it, it’s good. I think the Chinese rely very much on relationships and you have to invest in that relationship. It’s a very long term thing. You have to be prepared to get on a plane to get there and go after what you want,” Hickling stressed.