It wasn’t an accident that Hiroshi Takabateke came to Suzhou and wrote a new chapter in his career.
Cybrid Technologies Inc, where Takabateke now works, is located in Suzhou Wujiang Economic and Technological Development Zone, about a half-hour drive from downtown Suzhou.
Takabateke got to know Cybrid’s cofounder Wu Xiaoping when they were in the same Japanese company, when he was in charge of product research and development and Wu was with the business development department.
Takabateke is in his early 60s. He’s of rather small stature and talks in a low voice but with determination.
“I was already inspired by Chinese people’s entrepreneurship and determination when I first visited the country in 1997 when I was doing market research for insulation materials for my former employer,” he told Shanghai Daily. “I already thought about the possibility of working in China but I didn’t expect it would really came true.”
When Wu decided to come back to China and start his own company in Suzhou in 2008, he approached Takabateke and invited him to lead the product research and development team.
Takabateke graduated from the applied physics department at Fukui University and undertook research and development jobs for composite materials in a number of Japanese companies. He has rich knowledge and expertise with various kinds of composite material development and testing procedures.
Having accepted his old Chinese friend’s invitation, Takabateke finally arrived in Suzhou in July 2010.
Cybrid technology was producing photovoltaic panels and had just set up its first production line, and Takabateke started by leading the team to develop new adhesive materials to be used in the panels. He provided valuable know-how in terms of quality control and pointed out the key steps in the manufacturing process so the newly developed materials could quickly be put into mass production
and delivered to clients.
“Chinese people are very dedicated to their target and they’d do everything to achieve that,” Takabateke said, adding that he was very impressed by the devotion of Chinese employees.
Takabateke demands strict qualitycontrol measures in every area, a result of years of working in Japanese companies.
“Although we have different working habits in the first place, things are moving toward a better direction and we now are very pleased with our research and testing procedures,” he said.
During his four-year stay in Suzhou, the city has undergone a lot of changes and has grown increasingly friendly and accessible for Japanese expats. But Takabateke said his life here remains simple and stable, and it required very little effort for him to adapt to the new living environment.
Incentive measures The first thing Takabateke did after arriving in Suzhou was to get a Chinese driver’s license. “It allowed better commuting and I can get to more places more conveniently and connect with the local community,” he said.
Takabateke said getting used to life in Suzhou is fairly easy since the city has undertaken a series of favorable measures for foreign investors and successfully attracted a number of Japanese companies from myriad industries.
That has brought a number of Japanese restaurants into the region.
“I have a handful of Japanese restaurants to choose from when I want to eat outside and I can also easily buy food material to cook at home from various department stores and supermarkets here,” he said.
Suzhou has a whole set of incentive measures and working schemes to encourage overseas talents to come to China and for Suzhou companies to carry out academic or professional exchange programs in order to boost research capabilities and the level of academic research. The “Sea-Gull Plan,” first unveiled by the Suzhou government in 2011, specifies the key industries the government will provide incentives for and the amount of subsidy for each category.
The higher salary the expats earn, the higher subsidy the companies will receive; thus employers have a greater incentive to introduce overseas professionals to the city.
Japanese companies such as Sony set up their manufacturing business in Suzhou as early as 1994, which attracted a number of spare parts manufacturers to also locate production sites in the city in order to serve clients.
Takabateke also cited favorable tax treatment for foreign businesses, saying that made it natural for Japanese companies to settle in Suzhou.
Takabateke said it’s also his pleasure to tell Japanese friends about the beautiful scenery in Suzhou during his vacation time back in Japan. “It’s definitely a suitable place for Japanese to live and it takes only a short period of time to get used to the living environment here.”
A number of Japanese department stores such as Aeon and Izumiya opened new stores in the Suzhou High Tech Park, giving a wider choice of Japanese products for expats working and living in the city.
“I’m not worried about having to find a place to buy daily necessities or food materials,” Takebateke said.
Cybrid had a bright start but hit a rough spot due to excessive production capacity of photovoltaic panels in the domestic market. The company went into a relatively sluggish period.
Takabateke led his team to develop a low-cost composite material for photovoltaic panels that will soon be put into production.
“We’re well aware that we cannot rely on only one kind of material to support our income,” he said. “The best way to solve this problem is to diversify our products.”
Recently he took on a new role of heading the new product development department at Cybrid. The company is working on macromolecule materials for electronics, automobiles and pharmaceuticals.
“We cannot loosen the quality-control measures no matter what kind of products we’re manufacturing, even for one second. Quality is our fundamental principle,” he said.
Cybrid is gradually shifting toward becoming a comprehensive manufacturing company and Takabateke said he’s confident the change will be completed, given his years of experience in the industry.
His devotion and contribution also impressed the Suzhou government’s working group of introducing overseas professionals. Takabateke recently received the trophy for “Top 10 Suzhou Expats in 2013” from the local Human Resources and Social Security Bureau.
“There’s nothing to brag about,” he said when asked about how he felt about the award.
“I was merely doing my part for China’s photovoltaic industry with my knowledge and experience.”