"Riopele's European DNA is an asset in the approach to the Asian markets”

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She started in the Quality Management Department and was part of the first team that was involved with the quality certification program. Then she took up management duties over “Customer Service” for about 20 years. Today, she is one of the professionals from the sales team with the most experience at Riopele, regularly working on markets like China, South Korea and Hong Kong. On all of them, Fátima Ferreira considers that Riopele's European DNA is a considerable asset.

Do you still remember your first day at Riopele? What was that day like?

I already have a long history with this company. I started as a trainee in March 1994 and so the memories of the first few days are no longer very clear. I remember that I started off with a visit to the factory and I was fascinated by the organisation and size of this company. The availability and support of those responsible for the areas I visited are a very positive aspect that I remember. These initial impacts were undoubtedly decisive in terms of why I have stayed with Riopele until today.

In your opinion, how has the company evolved in recent years?

It has evolved immensely, I’d like to highlight the investments made in all the production areas mainly during the last 10 years, enabling us to be up there with the best of them today and to meet the needs of all the markets that have products of excellence. This evolution has expanded to all areas of the company and I would also like to highlight the recent commitment to digital tools and the “revolution” in the sustainability area.

Do you think that the company’s evolution has been noticed abroad?

Without a shadow of a doubt. The recognition of this evolution has arrived through our clients, the national and international projects in which we are taking part and in which we have been distinguished with merit.

How important is the Chinese market for Riopele?

The economic power of China and its size are relevant for this market to continue to be an attractive place to carry out business. However, it is worth stressing that the Zero Covid Policy implemented by the Chinese government had and still has very negative consequences in terms of the final results. The last three years thus do not reflect the budgetary aims defined for this market.

China is known internationally as “The World's Factory”. What competitive arguments does Riopele have to compete on this market?

One of the arguments that sets us apart from our rivals is the fact that we are a vertical company which allows us to reach more speedily, as well as to present differentiated products, with a high qualitative level. Also, the compliance with the specific requirements of the market and the flexibility of the processes from development until the final product are relevant. Service is still a competitive factor that Riopele offers its customers.

Besides the size of the population, the main Chinese cities are thousands of kilometres from each other. How can a market of this scale be approached?

The language barrier and the size of the population are the main factors for the approach to this market to be carried out through an agent who has been working with us for a decade. We contact customers directly at the fairs we take part in, as well as at visits we usually make twice a year. Unfortunately, in light of the impact that the pandemic still has on this market, the visits to fairs and customers have been suspended since March 2020. Even so, this has not prevented us from attempting to approach the market. Every day we work to meet customers’ needs in a relationship involving great complementarity with R&D.

Are the professionals from the sector in China sensitive to the topic of sustainability?

In China this is not a decisive competitive argument for the time being. The theme has started to be looked at, but the fact of the matter is that orders for sustainable products are negligible at present. The signs we have been seeking, namely from Riopele’s participation in fairs in China, is that the interest has been increasing.

You also deal with other Asian markets like South Korea and Hong Kong...

On all Asian markets, Riopele's European DNA is an asset in the approach to the Asian markets. I don’t think there were any major differences from a business perspective between China and Hong Kong. South Korea has great potential though. We have a very close relationship with our South Korean partners. I would even say one involving great openness and commitment. It is a stable relationship which we self-evidently wish to strengthen.