Born in 1964, Qian Jinbo moved to Wuhan at the age of 18, to become a carpenter. He quickly changed direction and moved into leather sales. Through this line of work he acquired the capital and contacts to start out on his own – setting up a shoe factory in Wenzhou in 1995, which he called Red Dragonfly.
Prepared for disaster
Qian always wanted to do something big. After setting up his first factory, he worked with a local TV station to create a show called “Journey of Red Dragonfly”, giving him an opportunity to speak about his dreams of owning a major brand. And he had early success. By the end of 1995, his factory made Rmb30 million worth of shoes, bringing in a profit of Rmb1.68 million.
He was first tested in 1998 when floods washed through southern China. In the resulting downturn, demand fell. He set up a team of sales personnel to sell the unwanted shoes in three new provinces. In Hubei, a salesman quickly put together new points of sale, and unsold inventory was snapped up within a couple of months. And thus a new franchising model was born. By relying on his proprietary channels his output value surpassed Rmb100 million in 1998.
One foot forward
Now a successful businessman, Qian has cultivated an image as the leading thinker in the Chinese footwear industry. He has set up a shoe research institute and a footwear museum. He has even published a dictionary of Chinese footwear culture. Some say that this commitment was formed following a rebuke from an Italian shoe designer in the mid-1990s. The Italian liked Qian’s shoes, but discredited their Chinese origins. Qian bristled, and resolved to take his industry’s image upmarket.
Last year, Red Dragonfly appeared at the Milan International Shoe Fair, as well as major international shows in Germany and the US.Qian sees it as a first step on the path to becoming a global brand.
“The birth of a luxury brand, in addition to excellent quality and strong brand spirit, needs a long history, and this is something Red Dragonfly does not have,” he said. “But this doesn’t mean it cannot become strong in the future. When Red Dragonfly is a hundred years old… will you still find the idea that Red Dragonfly has become China’s Louis Vuitton naïve?”
Ranked 432 in 2009 Hurun Rich List with net worth of Rmb2.5 billion.
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