One of few Chinese brands to have established a credible presence internationally, Haier is looking to Japan to accelerate its growth in Asia.
The company already has a relatively strong presence in the market, but plans to build on this by establishing its Asian headquarters in Osaka, along with research and development centres in Tokyo and Kyoto, and in particular by taking control of Aqua, the washing machine and refrigerator business.
Haier has been in operation in Japan for the past decade. So far, its success there has been largely down to its competitiveness on price. However, the acquisition of Aqua opens up opportunities in the higher end of the market.
According to a statement, Haier intends to maintain Aqua’s brand DNA, which includes “unique technology, function and concept”. The range of more than 60 models will target middle to high-income Japanese families who put emphasis on their quality of life. Haier has defined the brand concept under the line ‘Life is precious’.
Aqua is the company’s second property in Japan, along with its overarching brand. The brand is expected to generate sales of US$445 million in 2012—the bulk of Haier’s overall target of US$636 million in the country.
The figures are ambitious in a market that already has a range of well-established, globally renowned domestic brands. Haier’s point of difference with Aqua is as yet unclear, but Pratik Thakar, chief strategist at McCann Worldgroup in China, who has worked directly with Haier’s premium Casarte brand, said the goal is realistic.
According to Thakar, Haier’s biggest asset has been its investment in design in recent years. He describes its collaboration with international designers as a “huge leap” by a previously mass-market-oriented manufacturing company.
He added that the company can potentially incorporate the product and design capabilities established with Casarte into Aqua, a brand that is already regarded as trustworthy in Japan.
Elsewhere, Haier is taking an increasingly collaborative approach to diversify its business. Last year, the company entered into a joint-venture agreement with Israel’s Strauss Water to offer high-end water purifiers in China.