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COVER STORY: Celebrating the Decennial Anniversary of NNIT in China, A Dialogue with Sune Andersen, General Manager of NNIT (Tianjin) Technology Co. Ltd.
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Celebrating the Decennial Anniversary

of NNIT in China

A Dialogue with Sune Andersen,

General Manager of NNIT (Tianjin) Technology Co. Ltd.

Leading the Global IT Powerhouse in China

By Josh Cooper

co04This month of September is the decennial anniversary of a truly remarkable multinational IT presence in Tianjin. NNIT began operating in the Chinese market back in 2006 with a small team of IT experts whose job was to provide simple solutions to Danish companies. Just ten years later NNIT's Tianjin centre is now the most important division of the company's rapidly expanding global network outside the firm's home country headquarters. Priding itself on world class levels of service, the organisation's Tianjin branch is continually going from strength to strength under the leadership of General Manager Sune Andersen, who kindly agreed to speak to the Business Tianjin team and offered us an insight into what happens at one of the city's leading IT companies.

Please could you introduce yourself to our readers and give us a brief insight into the services that NNIT provides?

I am originally from Denmark. My family and I have been in Tianjin for two years now. I have now been involved in the IT industry for twenty two years. I have worked for NNIT throughout my career, but during this time I have had many different roles and have built up experience in a wide variety of areas within this field.

Tell us a bit about the company's worldwide operations and the corporate structure that underpins NNIT's strong global market share.

NNIT was founded in Denmark in 1994. Since then we have expanded into a big global company operating in Denmark, the United States, Switzerland, China, Philippines and the Czech Republic. Globally we employ about 2,500 people. Here at NNIT Tianjin we now have 750 working for us, so a large proportion of our worldwide workforce is based at this one delivery centre. In order to continue keeping up with demand for our service we currently need to hire another ten people per month, so we are growing quickly.

co05NNIT's Tianjin branch is now the group's largest base of operations outside Denmark. How has your team managed to achieve this level of success?

Throughout this time we have transplanted the company's core values from Denmark to our centre here in China. Our mission is to ensure that customers get the best available quality of deliverance that is highly tailored to their needs. We always do what we can to be open and honest and to assist the customer in any way we can. In practice this translates into superlative standards of service, which in turn creates more demand from both existing and new customers.

NNIT Tianjin is about to celebrate its decennial anniversary. Give us an idea of what your company has accomplished in the ten years that it has operated in this city.

When we established NNIT in 2006 we started out with just six people. At the time it was only a sourcing centre, completely focused on helping Danish clients. Initially the team was performing fairly straightforward tasks in helping a relatively small segment of the international business community. That continued for a few years, during which time the company saw very rapid growth and took on all of the responsibilities towards international customers. Eventually it was decided that NNIT Tianjin should start finding its own customers in China. Right now that is our major focus and so far we are doing very well. Last year we grew our revenue by about 280%, with growth this year on track to hit 100%. Of course going forward we expect that rate of growth to slow down as the size of our market share increases, but we are still expecting to achieve at least 50% revenue growth next year.

co01Why did NNIT choose to establish itself here in Tianjin, as opposed to elsewhere in China? What unique selling points does this city have?

At the start it was largely to do with our parent company, Novo Nordisk, and a number of organisation's associates being based here. At that time it was a logical decision for NNIT to base itself in this area, but that does not mean we had to stay in Tianjin for all these years. Of course we could have relocated to a city like Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen, where the IT sector is larger. However for us that would also mean higher operating costs. Our management team's job is to keep NNIT's outlay as low as possible whilst building a team or people who have a high level of skill and loyalty. Tianjin has proven to be a very attractive location in this regard. On top of that there are some excellent opportunities for partnerships. For example we work very closely with Nankai University and other leading academic institutions in the area.

co06Do you see your industry becoming more competitive as more and more domestic firms are coming into the market?

Well, first of all we need to consider the three main areas of the market that our services are aimed at. The first is sourcing to Denmark. In that sense local companies are not a competitor to us and we are in prime position in that segment. Then there are two aspects of the local market that we are focused on. One of them is helping with everyday IT operations, ensuring that their systems run smoothly, updating applications and so on. In that area local firms are very competitive. They can enter the market offering lower prices, which forces us to compete based on the quality of our services and intrinsic advantages we have as a Western company. And lastly there is the consideration that we have grown out of a pharmaceutical company. That means we have highly specialised knowledge, skills and experience which makes us extremely valuable within this sector against domestic companies.

What is NNIT's strategy to stay ahead of both the domestic and international competition?

Obviously we need to pay people according to the value they bring, but as I mentioned earlier, the most important thing for us to do is to cultivate a corporate culture that will allow us to attract and keep the best people. We need to create a working environment that people want to stay as a part of. I really believe that our management style and the way we treat our staff members gives us a really big competitive edge in this market.

co02Based on your experience as a business leader here, what would you say are the unique challenges of operating in the Chinese market?

There is no doubt that there are still big differences between operating in Europe and here in China. It is a huge market with a lot of great opportunities to offer. However, in order take full advantage of these opportunities there are some significant challenges to overcome. The language barrier is the most obvious one, which can lengthen the process of building relationships. This is something we have to pay a lot of attention to when we are hiring new people. Our HR department puts a lot of emphasis on communication skills when they are screening potential candidates and we have English language programs in place which new employees can enter immediately upon signing their contract.

Then there are differences in culture and corporate behaviour. Of course the Chinese focus on price just like everyone else does, but building a very high level of trust is extremely important as well. Even larger companies need to start by doing smaller jobs in order to gradually build up the trust with local customers, rather than trying to get big contracts straight away.

co07What are your thoughts about the wider technology sector in China? Do you think this country can become a global leader in software development and other areas going forward?

It is hard to say whether or not China will become the world's leading IT hub in future. What we can say though is that the technology sector is performing very well at the moment and it seems to have a bright future. It is growing at a rapid pace due to strong demand from Chinese consumers and as a result the talent pool is becoming both more specialised and more capable of developing new projects to a fuller extent. If you look at big Chinese companies like Ali Baba you can see how they are utilising technology just as well as Western firms. Many of them are starting one popular website or app and growing into a huge company with a range of great products within a short period of time.

Can you tell us about some exciting new developments that your company is going through at the moment?

In Europe NNIT has recently won some really big contracts and as a result we are currently working on really big projects right now. We are expanding at a good pace there. We have about ninety open positions that we would like to fill within the next three months. In China we are also making a lot of headway with new customers, particularly in pharmaceuticals and life sciences sector, so a large portion of these new positions will be here at NNIT Tianjin.

co08Which aspects of IT services do you expect NNIT Tianjin to be focusing on in future?

NNIT will always try to be an all-inclusive service provider. Of course we are only 2,500 people at the moment, so there are certain areas where we don't have enough collective knowledge yet to be able to offer services to our clients. But when it comes to all aspects of daily IT operations - servers, networks, databases and so on - we are about to offer the highest levels of service available in the market today. We are able to provide application maintenance in life science companies which use specialised software, as well as implementation projects with things like SAP and the Microsoft and Oracle suites. Moreover, we specialise in helping pharmaceutical companies and other firms to utilise IT systems properly in accordance with international legislative considerations. These are some of the areas of specialist expertise that differentiate us from our competitors and we will be building upon these in future.

What are your own personal and professional goals for the near future?

I very much enjoy what I am doing here in NNIT Tianjin. I have done two years here so far and I am still contracted to do at least one more. Time will tell what happens thereafter. In the meantime I am completely focused on promoting NNIT's growth within the Chinese market. This means that we need to constantly adapt to this environment and give our Chinese management team in particular the tools and skills they need to drive the company forward.

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