Founded by entrepreneur Charles Chan and his wife in 1995, Tunbow Group Ltd now ranks among the world’s top five original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for electric irons. Dubbed the “King of Irons”, the group achieved success with their breakthrough OEM business model and commitment to high-quality production. In recent years, Tunbow focussed on expanding its business network to emerging markets and has established production facilities in India to assemble and sell its products there.
Originally trained in procurement, Dr Chan joined the OEM industry as an “outsider”, enabling him to view the traditional manufacturing industry from a different perspective. “Traditional manufacturers were not concerned about design or quality,” said Dr Chan, “so I decided to invest in 3D design software and printers to produce more delicate designs, and this helped shorten the development period from 18 months to eight months.”
Although this new approach increased production costs and hence the product’s selling price, European customers were willing to pay a higher price because of their appreciation of an iron’s quality and effectiveness. This saw Tunbow export 70 per cent of its products to Europe.
Dr Chan later developed an electric iron coated in plastic with an in-house developed temperature control system. Tunbow sold more than 700,000 units in a year, cementing its market share in Europe and allowing the company to extend its product line to other small domestic appliances.
Tunbow has participated in the Spring and Autumn editions of the HKTDC’s Hong Kong Electronics Fair for many years. The fairs have helped the company reach global buyers and expand its operations overseas. Dr Chan has taken part in HKTDC missions to Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya to explore more business opportunities.
In 2010, Dr Chan took part in the HKTDC’s Lifestyle Expo in Mumbai, India, to promote Tunbow’s products to local buyers. In 2012 and 2014, he also joined HKTDC trade fairs in India to identify local business partners there. Today, Tunbow has an assembly plant in India and has successfully tapped into the local market.