The Business Year

João Ferreira

PORTUGAL - Industry

João Ferreira

Country Manager, Haier

Bio

João Paulo Ferreira is 55 years old, was born in Mozambique, and is married and father of two children and lives in Cascais.
He graduated from studies in sports and executive studies. He has 32 years of market experience, starting at Sanyo as a salesman, and leaving the company as Sales Manager after 10 years. He then worked in Panasonic for eight years, as Commercial Director and General Manager and LG for six years, and then as CE Business Unit Director. He is now at Haier group for 11 years as Country Manager. He has a love for motorcycles and football.

Haier is the largest home appliances group in the world. Could you give us an introduction to the company’s global trajectory? Haier group has held the number one position in […]
Haier is the largest home appliances group in the world. Could you give us an introduction to the company’s global trajectory?

Haier group has held the number one position in the global market for home appliances for 14 consecutive years. This is thanks to the company’s size and international presence. Haier is the market leader in China, second in the US, and number one and two in India and all of Asia. The company exploded in Europe around 10 years ago. Business development in Europe was tough in the beginning, being a Chinese group. In Europe, there is skepticism around Chinese companies. However, Haier showed consumers that they are the biggest company, reliable with excellent product offerings. Acquisitions have been a core strategy for business development. In the US, Haier bought the home appliances vertical from General Electric. In Europe. Haier Group acquired the Candy Hoover Group. That purchase was strategic because the Group is the leader in connectivity technology in the European market. That makes Haier the strongest brand for connectivity in the continent. Through partnerships, Haier enables control and monitoring over the energy consumption of home appliances on a smartphone app. It is one of the pillars that the company exports these days.

What role does Haier seek to have in terms of sustainability?

Haier plays a major role in sustainability, because if home appliances are more efficient, they reduce energy use, and we can contribute to making homes more energy efficient. We need to know how consumers use the products to help them use technology differently. The idea is to teach people to improve their habits and promote an efficient use of home appliances because wastefulness is linked to incorrect use. Partners also play a key role in pedagogy and R&D. We need to learn, together with other companies, how to optimize processes. Finally, sustainability is a priority for Haier in terms of materials and manufacturing. State policies for recycling during production and after-sales are key in the pursuit of sustainability.

What is Haier’s unique approach to the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things allows for AI applications. Products recognize consumer habits and can either fine tune routines or inform users with a message. They will send you a message such as: “don’t do it like that, do it like this.” In the future, for example, you will be able to take a picture of a dress that needs washing. People do not know how to use the washing machine properly and mix fabrics. With a photo, the app can tell them the best program for each item. Different pictures can be saved with the program on your phone for future use. These small features are not regularly used at the moment but will be ubiquitous for future generations.

Haier is making substantial investments in Europe, such as the opening of a production plant in Romania. What do you think the role of Europe will be within the company’s international strategy?

Europe is a key strategic region for business development at Haier. European markets are nuanced and can be challenging for outsiders. Haier’s multi-brand strategy is, therefore, a key asset. Haier’s three brands complement each other. Europe will be the core focus for business development over the next decade. In terms of growth rates, it can reach first or second position for Haier within a few years. We started in eighth place three years ago, and currently we are in fourth. In Portugal, the situation is similar. As Candy Hoover, we already enjoy solid participation in the market. We have a good share in all categories that we play in. With Haier, we are competitive in the premium market segment. There is an appreciation for quality in Portugal, especially in terms of things that are related, for example, to food. That’s where home appliances can be potent.

What are the key targets within Haier’s business development plans?

Our ambition is to grow market share across all categories, with the most important at the moment being built-in. We want to be present in new constructions; we want to be a part of the new investments in Portugal. Many houses built and sold are investors homes. This is one of the pillars. And the other is Hoover. We are transforming the product through consumer input – connecting with the consumers to understand their needs and their appraisal of products. This is the basis on which to design the next generation of Hoover products.

Specifically, regarding strengthening the built-in segment, how significant are partnerships with real estate developers?

Very important. We work with the distribution and retailers. We have a part of the business that focuses on these strategic alliances. All the brands that have built-in are developed through these channels. I think it is one of the channels we must invest in and care about its growth. We work with distribution and retailers, having part of the business dedicated to such strategic alliances.

You can also help them source many components amid supply shortages. How are you helping your partners navigate these challenges?

We are close to the clients. At Haier, it is easy to reach the right person to talk to. Customers and investors do not want to talk only with a salesperson. They want somebody that can make an executive decision swiftly. We have a lean structure to cater to this kind of business. In Portugal, we have one person from senior management for built-in, one for Candy Hoover, and another for Haier. There are two or three people behind them, and nothing more. We have 22 people in this company generating about EUR50 million. It is a matter of having strong after-sales support and providing good value accompaniment to clients. The other issue is stock. We are one of the few appliance companies to have warehouses in Portugal. For built-in, they need to have stock available as and when they need it.

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