When pavilion becomes celebrity

Hot spot: Crowds packing the Malaysia pavilion, which was a huge attraction at the CAExpo in Nanning, China.

CLAD in striking red with eye-catching images of the Petronas Twin Towers, the Malaysia pavilion at the recent 15th China-Asean Expo (CAExpo) was a compulsory stop for most visitors.

Labelled the “celebrity pavilion”, it housed more than 170 exhibitors and was the biggest among those put up by the Asean countries.

Mirroring Malaysia’s ethnic and cultural richness, the pavilion showcased diverse goods and services, such as fashion, beauty products, perfume, legal consulting, logistics, education, craft and arts, and holiday packages.

Naturally, the food and beverage (F&B) sector had the strongest presence and was one of the main reasons the pavilion drew so many visitors to the point that people could hardly move in the jam-packed space.

Held annually in Nanning of China’s southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the CAExpo and China-Asean Business and Investment Summit are events designed to boost trade between China and Asean.

They are also opportunities for officials to meet and exchange ideas on improving trade relations.

This year’s expo was from Sept 12 to 15 and it attracted 112 buying missions. Over 11,000 trade purchasers dropped by the 6,600 booths featuring 2,780 exhibitors.

The expo was opened to the public on the last day, when more than 62,700 people showed up.

Malaysian companies recorded nearly RM640mil in sales, a 58% jump compared to RM405.5mil last year. The happiest among them were probably those in the health and wellness category, which contributed sales amounting to RM372.21mil.

F&B came in second with RM218.91mil, followed by the lifestyle segment (RM43.6mil) and services (RM4.94mil).

Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) director of China and Northeast Asia Ong Yew Chee said the expo was a useful platform for Malaysian companies to promote and market their products and services.

“The positive sales was testimony to the high potential and acceptance of Malaysian products in the Chinese market,” he said.

He singled out energy bars; health supplements; skincare and personal care products; and cooking sauces and pastes as products that are likely to do well in China.

This year, more than half the Malaysian exhibitors were newcomers.

For Teoh Siew Chu, retirement may be the end of a career but it was also the beginning of a new chapter.

At 63, she is living her life to the fullest and fills it with colours by running a workshop to promote the art of handmade batik.

The ex-headmistress of a Chinese primary school developed an interest in batik when the government vigorously promoted it in 2005.

“I went all the way to Kelantan to learn the skill, and the more I learned, the more I love batik. I want to introduce this unique art of Malaysia to the Chinese,” she said, adding that her sales at the expo was poor as many potential customers complained of the high prices.

“But these are handmade on high quality silk. Some took me months to finish,” she explained. She wished she had brought the cheaper cotton batik pieces.

Teoh spent RM50,000 to open the workshop after retiring in 2011.

Another exhibitor, Tang Han Tiong, came up with products that would elicit a smile. Among the items he showcased at the expo were musang king-scented shower cream and shower gel in engine oil containers.

“We hope our customers will have a fun time using our products,” he said.

The idea of making body shower that smells of durian came to him after hearing complaints from tourists that they could not bring the King of Fruits back home.

To him, this novelty product is less about generating income for his company and more about lighting up people’s daily lives.

Matrade trade counsel for Guangzhou Zaimah Osman said although Malaysia wanted to introduce more products, there was still much focus on durians, bird’s nest and coffee.

“These are our icons and the Chinese will come straight to us if they want these items,” she said.

During the expo, 10 memorandum of understanding totalling RM137mil were signed by Malaysian companies and Chinese importers in the fields of F&B, logistics and e-commerce.

Over 1,000 business-matching sessions were organised for Malaysian companies.

Malaysia has won four awards at the expo, namely the Best Industry Organiser, Best Promotion on Investment Cooperation, Best City of Charm Pavilion and Outstanding Organiser.

This year marked the 15th anniversary of Asean-China relations. Side events at the expo to commemorate this included trade and investments conferences, high-level forums, an essay competition, cultural exchange activities and performances.

Topics related to the expo on its official Weibo and WeChat accounts were viewed some 55 million times.

At least 530 economic cooperation projects in the fields of digital economy, new energy, logistics and manufacturing were signed at the event.

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