Premium items from China are extremely cheap and are flooding almost all the markets of the world, especially the Indian market. It may be a worrying factor for sectors of the Indian industry. Chinese-made corporate gift items range from `magic' cigarette lighters to sleek easy-to-operate cameras to fancy clip-on mini fans. Premium items from China are used for both the product promotion and distributive trade. At the moment, the Kolkata-based Zenith Finesse is a show stealer.
Mr. Prithimoy Chakraborty, popularly known as PMC, runs Zenith (he is a professional photographer-turned businessman). When talking about his Business Line in India, he said that his exclusive client list today includes companies like Hindustan Lever, ITC Ltd, GPI, Videocon, Usha Group, Duncans (mainly in the southern States), Gillette India and Seagrams.
Mr. Prithimoy Chakraborty is a kind of China expert, who speaks Chinese and supplies basic design inputs to his Chinese business associates for the special item, gives the sample with re-design ideas to his suppliers in China and imports the finished product on receipt of bulk orders from his clients. For instance, Zenith has already sold some three million pieces of the attractive and popular M-102 (35 mm focus-free) Chinese-made camera (with a steel grey body and priced at a ridiculously low - Rs eighty one per piece is considered to be a hit among many corporates.)
Mr. Prithimoy Chakraborty says: "I have the guts to emboss my company's name on every gift item, and thereby guarantee the quality." Probed a little further on the quality question, he bursts out: "Some of the weakest brands of our top corporates are promoted through these made in China gift items. How can anyone question their quality? We in this country for long have suffered from `if cheap, the quality has to be a poor' syndrome. Our mindset has to change."
The 35-mm camera, made by Charman of China, with a built-in flash is bought by Hindustan Lever at a price of Rs 200. Moreover, about five thousand pieces of BF-100 motorized auto flash cameras were sold by Zenith to a Bangalore-based company at Rs 450 per piece.
PMC also claims that premium items from China are imported on the basis of orders placed with Zenith, and the clients keep asking for more, every time a major product promo is launched. Many critics claim that cheap quality premium items from China are being dumped through this gift items route. To this PMC answers: "Polar International, importing fans from China, was now buying the same China-made fancy-looking clip-on mini fans from Zenith, priced at Rs 250 a piece, for distribution to trade as a gift item." He also adds that a top Japanese company will never use a China gift item as a vehicle to promote its branded film rolls unless assured of the vehicle's quality.
Mr. Prithimoy Chakraborty managed to turn Zenith Finesse from a mere Rs 5 lakh outfit in 1995 to a nearly Rs 20-crore company in 2000. He claims that his business secret is uncharacteristically simple: speak Chinese and think Chinese.