|Plastic has been one of Hong Kong's leading industries for more than half a century, with seemingly every Hong Kong household producing simple plastic flowers in the 1960s.
Not content with manufacturing, local people also made the most of the handy material during tough times such as the water shortages of the 1970s, when most families had several buckets to hold water.
This long-standing commitment to plastics led to the establishment of Dd Industries Ltd, one of Hong Kong's leading plastics manufacturers that began operations in 1983.
General manager Ms Jennifer Tsang recalls that the company learned from its initial mistakes, improved its products and eventually moved from "close-door order-taking" to participating in the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's (TDC) trade fairs and advertising in TDC product magazines.
"The aim to build the company's image and the effort has paid off with more and more support coming from overseas buyers," she explains. "Business has developed dramatically and impressively."
Finding customers is no longer an exercise of finding a needle in the sea
Ms Tsang admits finding customers was a "big headache" in the beginning, when there was no email communication. "We had to send out single faxes and advertisements to potential customers," Ms Tsang recalls. "It was like finding a needle in the sea - one or two replies would get us really excited!"
Dd Plastic started participating in TDC's international trade fairs to keep abreast of current trends. "We participated in one fair in Germany and discovered that most exhibitors were only displaying stainless steel products," Ms Tsang explains.
"We realised that people in Europe seldom used plastic products, which triggered the thought of improving and turning our plastic products into delicate glass-like items."
Magazines and exhibitions help build the company's image
Dd Plastic has been participating in the TDC's Hong Kong Houseware Fair and Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair for the past 10 years, and advertised regularly in its product magazines - including Hong Kong Enterprise, Hong Kong Household and Hong Kong Gifts & Premiums.
The combination of magazines and exhibitions isn't just a tool for obtaining orders, it is also a platform to promote the company's images, establish its reputation and broaden its client network.
" We have gained a lot of customers from TDC's Hong Kong Houseware Fair and Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair," Ms Tsang states.
This year, Dd Plastic participated in the TDC's Hong Kong Houseware Fair, and Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair in April and May, and obtained enquiries from about 2,000 buyers via the customised tdctrade.com sourcing service that lets buyers make enquiries before, during and after the event.
Ms Tsang is totally overwhelmed by the results, which saw the company receive more than 400 buyers' names and enquiries - a 30% increase of the previous event.
But this level of success takes lots of hard work and a willingness to persevere in the face of obstacles such as the copycats that emerged at the end of the 1990s and severely affected Dd Plastic's business.
"Many friends advised me to give up and stop investing in this sunset business," Ms Tsang recalls.
Instead, she reformed Dd Plastic's mainland factory, transforming it into a sophisticated manufacturing unit that complies with international standards such as ISO.
The ultimate goal to utilise R&D to develop high-end, trendy products lines with a focus on colours and innovative designs saw the company launch crossover gift and premium items made of paper and plastic.
The effort has paid off, as Dd Plastic has gained orders from Wal-Mart. "Initially, it was a trial order - the money we got wasn't even enough for the insurance," Ms Tsang admits. "But the order wasn't simply about money - it proved that we were qualified to meet very high standards!"
Online business matching is the trend
Today, however, quality has to go hand in hand with business promotion and promoting products online has become a major new direction for companies all over the world.
Ms Tsang implemented several reforms to keep up with the online sourcing business trend, including designing a company Web page that costs HK$10,000. "However, updating it became more and more tiresome," she admits.
Later, she discovered that Dd Plastic's Web page on tdctrade.com was extremely comprehensive. "We can post 100 products photos inside the Showroom, which can be updated or changed anytime." Ms Tsang explains. "All our colleagues find it very effective and convenient - so much so that we simply use tdctrade.com as our company's main Web page!"
Dd Plastic is "very satisfied" with the tdctrade.com sourcing service, which recently brought the company a large order from a US buyer.
"This helped the buyer overcome the problem of finding a quality manufacturer to replace a non-performing supplier on the mainland," Ms Tsang says. "We have now cooperated with each other for nine months, and the US buyer has become a steady customer - all thanks to tdctrade.com sourcing!"