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Optimal Electronics Corp., a provider of smart software solutions for electronics assembly, recently rebranded globally as Optel Software, as it starts its venture in China. In a recent interview with SMT007 Magazine, Dr. Ranko Vujosevic, CEO and CTO, updates on the latest developments from the company and discusses their plans in China and Asia this year.
Stephen Las Marias: Dr. Vujosevic, from the last time we spoke, you mentioned a lot of plans in China. How has it been so far?
Dr. Ranko Vujosevic: When we met in August 2017, we were exploring our entrance into the China market to start selling our software solutions that we had been developing for 19 years. I came to Shenzhen to meet potential partners, specifically WKK. We talked about it and they took me to their plant in Dongguan. They showed interest in partnering with us, but they have some preconditions: hire the right people; translate our software into Chinese; and establish a local presence.
They were reasonable requirements, of course, and we were planning to do all those things anyway. So, we jumped on that opportunity, and we first hired a person who has been in the industry for over 15 years to become our China Sales Manager in December of last year. Then we started the registration of our company in China. As soon as we hired him, we had a lucky break which happens when you are in the right place at the right time. On a hint from a WKK salesman, we learned that a Shenzhen company was looking for a complete MES solution and we were able to close a large deal with that customer that has 26 assembly lines within a few weeks. That was very surprising to me because in the U.S., to close a six-figure deal, it takes six months to a year, sometimes up to two years. We were able to close our first deal in China within two to three weeks.
Then we started preparing for our installation, while at the same time developing the business. We proceeded with the company registration and hired an application engineer with 20 years of experience in industry. We needed somebody to train customers and provide support locally.
At the same time, we hired a marketing company from Houston to do a complete rebranding of our software.
We wanted to have a fresh international start. We already had a good reputation—people know us in the United States, but here, nobody knew us. So, we started with our new logo, brochure in English and Chinese, trade show banner in Chinese, and web site redesign. We attended NEPCON Shanghai in April 2018 as part of the WKK booth and we showcased our new marketing materials there.
We met all the main requirements that WKK wanted us to do and in February of 2018 we signed our formal representative agreement with WKK. We work very closely with WKK and I am extremely happy with our relationships and initial results. WKK is a major factor in our sales efforts, but we are also closing sales on our own.
Las Marias: What was your experience dealing with your first China customer?
Vujosevic: After we hired our China Sales and China Application Managers, I sat down with them and we established our 3 main objectives for success in China: work hard to implement the best and the most complete solution possible, make sure our customers are better businesses after we are done with our project, and deal with customers and partners in the most honest way possible. Our first customer turned out to be an unbelievable positive experience. I did not know what to expect when we started the project, but what we discovered is a group of good and smart people, very hard working, and very open to any suggestions that can make their company better. We worked hard and we worked together to put in place a complex system that improved every operation in their plant. We developed a number of innovative solutions and actually are working now on applying for a patent together with our customer. The way they took care of us during implementation was outstanding and we are very grateful to them for that. Out staff on the other hand worked extremely hard to justify customer’s confidence in us. There is no week when our first customer does not host our prospects and showcases our solutions. That is a significant component in our customer base growth and helping us close sales.
Las Marias: How has the situation been evolving in China?
Vujosevic: The fact that we are able to close deals much faster than in the U.S. is big for us. Because, we can plan our growth better. It is very difficult to sell something new in the United States now. China is the place where people want to try new things. China, and some other countries in South East Asia, are investing in AI and smart factory solutions. I am very excited about how things are developing in China. In my opinion, this is the place to be now for companies like ours. We are able to close large deals much faster than we could have ever done in USA, some of them with large international corporations with plants in many countries.
Las Marias: Are you limiting your presence in Asia to China only at this point?
Vujosevic: Not at all. We are also partnering with SIP Technology, a manufacturer’s representative from Penang, Malaysia, with presence in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and most of South East Asia. With their help, we just closed a large deal to help a company in Vietnam establish a smart factory for manufacturing of smart phones. SIP technology will deliver machines and hardware and Optel Software will deliver smart factory solutions. We will build a plant from “scratch” to be a smart factory. I am very exciting about that project. We are now working on closing a number of large projects in Vietnam and plan to open a branch office in Hanoi in early Fall of this year.
Las Marias: From Optimal Electronics, you rebranded to Optel Software. What’s the rationale behind this?
Vujosevic: Our software’s been called Optel for a long time, but Optimal Electronics
Corporation was a little bit confusing for people. Some people are thinking we are doing PCB assembly, while some people are thinking bareboard manufacturing—we want to just let people know right away that we are a software company. So, we rebranded ourselves as Optel Software in China and the U.S., so everything now is branded as Optel Software, including our brochures and marketing materials.
Las Marias: While you were on your mission last year, what challenges did you encounter?
Vujosevic: Finding the right people. Even now, where we are growing, finding the right people is the most important thing. It is easy to find a customer and promise solutions, but if we fail because we did not hire the right people and we did not deliver on our promises, we will be out of business very quickly. Sales are going so well for us now that my main focus is to build up our organization in Asia and hire right people. We are hiring three more people in August for our Shenzhen office.
We are not going to oversell and underdeliver; whatever we can sell, we are going to implement successfully, and that will allow us to grow. We cannot have a single, unhappy customer and that is not easy to do. That is the biggest challenge for us. Chinese companies had not been treated well by our competition and there are a lot of unhappy Chinese customers with failed MES projects. We will not leave such customers behind us and we are now trying to educate them that there is a better alternative, there is a company that will work together with them to make them a better business.
To read the full article, which appeared in the August 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.