Fifteen Weeks, Episode 12
EPISODE TWELVE – SUPPLE MUSCLES AND EASY JOINTS
After breakfast I was collected by a new supplier and taken by taxi to their very impressive new factory and offices about fifty minutes away. It is good to see happy workers in pleasant surroundings and good working conditions. They even have an independent consultant who advises on product improvement from the first part of the manufacturing process right up to the last part of quality control before dispatch. My job should really be executed by a younger person but I do enjoy meeting the people and seeing the production processes and how every factory has its different ways. After my time there was up, as I was leaving through the main door, it was strange to see six or seven of the factory workers eating lunch on the steps outside the reception area at the main entrance. Strange for me, maybe it was, but as I discovered later, quite normal in Thailand.
LUNCH AT THE FACTORY
This Country seems to have so many positives that it is easy not to notice that there are many poor people living in the cities and the rural areas. As I mentioned earlier in my diary nothing seems to have been painted for decades and so many buildings look like they are about to fall down. Unlike Cape Town there seem to be few power supply problems other than remote areas and as far as I know, no extreme social unrest of consequence and therefore very little crime in comparison to many places in the world. There is generally a good work ethic and I haven’t as yet experienced bad attitude; but its early days.
It is hot and humid but the heat keeps your muscles supple and eases any possible joint problems for the elderly. I must say my sinuses improved dramatically within a few days of arriving in Phuket and I feel very well. But too long in Bangkok’s polluted atmosphere will change that. The food is wonderful and Thais generally believe their food is the best in the world. I can’t disagree. I have no inclination to stoke up on empty carbs so that helps a lot.
I found out why I haven’t seen a Siamese cat. They are very expensive and the preserve of the rich, apparently. But I am curious about the term ‘Siamese twins’ and how it originated. I haven’t yet found out but I discovered this little anecdote somewhere which reminds me that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.
“If you are having a bad day just relax and remember there are always going to be some people who are worse off than you. Imagine, for a minute, that you are a Siamese twin and your brother is gay but you are not. Then imagine that he has invited his boyfriend over, to spend the night at your place and then, horror of horrors, you suddenly realise that you only have one arsehole between the two of you.”
You should feel a lot better now unless it’s true! A quiet afternoon is spent catching up on emails followed by a stroll, dinner and bed.
We all need more business
Despite no meetings till this evening today will be a busy day. I need to talk with Paul on Skype. What a wonderful tool that is. When Paul sorts his headset out we’ll be able to hear each other as well. At the moment it sounds like he is working in a giant tin drum. I need to follow up on all my meetings with emails and phone calls. I was so glad I got a Thai SIM card as I was getting quite a few local calls and messages. A call from Phuket told me that it’s been raining a lot on the island and business was quiet down there; unlike Bangkok where there had been little rain and a cauldron of activity. I promised to get some photos printed off from digital images so I took a walk and managed to find a little but very busy photo shop. One 6cm by 4cm print cost me five baht. I don’t know how they make a living at that rate.
My tummy is a bit uneasy so I will only have some carrot juice for the morning and see what happens. In her usual way nature sorts me out and by mid-afternoon I am as fit as a fiddle again.
I always thought that the sidewalks were walkways for pedestrians. Apparently not so in this City where anything goes. It’s no wonder that they are in such disrepair when they are used by street vendors both for trade and for parking when unloading in the morning and loading at night. In addition motorcyclists, who can’t find a way through traffic on the road, weave in and out of the lamp posts. Pedestrians are really second class citizens here. And then of course there is the proverbial elephant who gave me such a start the other day. All we need now is for the cars and buses to move across to the sidewalk and there will be plenty of room in the road for us foot-sloggers.
The paranoia in the jewellery industry never ceases to amaze me. On the one hand I am continually reminded, as if I needed to be, that business is very bad for most people. Not surprising is it when oil is $140 a barrel and the world is in recession. For us in the jewellery business, the price of gold and other metals is up and down like a barmaid’s knickers and we are all looking for different ways and different products. Everybody needs more business and they know that it’s not possible to get the same amount as we were getting from each customer two years ago. Therefore growing our customer base is the only way; and growing your customer base requires you to reach more potential customers and show them what you have to offer, tell them about your business and engage them so they may buy from you, in addition or in place of other suppliers. That is not rocket science, as they say, it is common sense.
But many people in the jewellery industry are more concerned about their products being copied and reproduced elsewhere than they are about building their businesses. As a result they keep producing new designs and improve their production methods but don’t tell enough people!! Consequently they can never expand their customer base to any significant degree. I am totally bemused by this approach and sometimes wonder if I am missing something very obvious. For me, it is important to let as many people as possible know what you have to offer in order to give them the opportunity to buy from you.
Part of our mission in Thailand was to help buyers find and buy the jewellery they want easier and faster than ever before. The only way to do that is to show them what we have to sell.
As far as copying is concerned there is absolutely nothing we or anyone else can do if someone wants to copy. Japan has done it very successfully over the years as have many others. Once your products are sold and on display out of your control you are powerless unless you have patents or copyrights on every nut and bolt.
Copying and faking international brand products may be illegal but it has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry whether we like it or not. It may be of concern to the likes of Puma, Gucci, DKNY and the rest but it won’t put them out of business or stop them from engaging in marketing campaigns to increase their sales. That may be heavy stuff for my diary but I needed to say it.
A glass or two of chardonnay and a light meal with my business meeting this evening went down well and the discussion was very productive.
TO BE CONTINUED