In the 1980s Chinese electricians grew up extolling the virtues of Matsushita Konosuke, after the founder of Panasonic responded to Deng Xiaoping’s request for help in modernising China’s electronics sector. Technicians were soon learning how Panasonic made rice cookers, electric fans and transistor radios.
But Jiang Bin went a step further by copying Matsushita’s business philosophies – and the GoerTek chairman is now one of China’s 10 richest men.
Jiang was born in 1965 in Shandong’s Weifang city. While studying at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he skipped lectures preferring to spend his time in the library reading everything he could find.
After graduation in 1987 Jiang spent nine years working at a joint venture between Weifang’s city government and a Japanese electronic firm. Not content with “carrying the suitcase of his boss” at a state firm, Jiang quit and started his own plant making microphones. It was soon profitable but was disbanded as Jiang couldn’t convince his business partners to expand more aggressively.
In 2001 Jiang started another joint venture manufacturing microphones, this time with a partner from Hong Kong. The start-up only had a few dozen employees, including his wife, and they worked under huge “Learn from Matsushita” banners. Jiang focused on luring multinational clients including Panasonic itself, and grew the venture into one of China’s largest microphone makers.
With the backing of the Shandong government, Jiang restructured his Hong Kong joint venture into GoerTek in 2007. Jiang narrowed down his business to specialise in Bluetooth microphones, as well as miniatures for smartphones. “China’s Bluetooth King”, Jiang now competes with the likes of Korea’s BSE and Japan’s Hosiden.
GoerTek went public in Shenzhen in 2008 and its business has grown quickly with the popularity of smartphones. Over the past five years its market cap has increased nearly 500 times, making GoerTek one of the best-performing A-share stocks. Its current valuation is Rmb51 billion ($8.41 billion) and Jiang and his family holds an 80% effective stake. Hurun valued the family’s net worth at $6.1 billion, making him the 10th richest man in China last year.
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Panasonic itself has been an important client for GoerTek. The Japanese giant once accounted for one third of GoerTek’s revenue. Jiang said GoerTek scored 101 out of 102 when Panasonic was inspecting GoerTek for environmental certification. “Panasonic said we’ve done better than some of their branches,” he said.
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