10 April 2008
Resilient Rattan(HKTDC Houseware, Vol 02,2008)
The humble but ubiquitous rubbish bin is usually tucked away in a corner somewhere. Intent on changing its position in a room, Sky Industrial Co offers a variety of rattan-clad containers that are both resilient and attractive.
Starting out in 2002, primarily as a buying office for major clients, Sky Industrial now has its own factory for OEM and ODM lines. Production also includes items for kitchen, bathroom and household use.
One of the firm's earliest products was a stainless steel rubbish bin. "Although orders were brisk, the metal household products sector is a highly competitive area," claims General Manager Boris Cheung. "In one area of the Chinese mainland, for example, there might be more than 50 factories."
The company soon decided there was little point in focusing on all-metal products, and started to look for ways to differentiate itself. "It made sense to see how we could improve or modify some of our existing lines, and so we determined to bring out a more attractive rubbish bin," he says.
"We came to the conclusion that rattan offered several advantages, being a relatively inexpensive natural product with worldwide appeal," adds Mr Cheung. "We took one of our regular metal rubbish bins and modified it with a rattan exterior. That model remains highly popular today."
Indeed, it can be taken as a sign of success that the firm's original rattan-clad rubbish bin is now widely copied. "The quality is not the same though," assures Mr Cheung. "We did a lot of R&D to come up with the best rubbish bin at its price in the market. We are at the high-end of the market, working with buyers who want consistent quality in a reliable product."
With that success under its belt, Sky Industrial expanded its range of wholly-rattan or rattan-incorporating products. The list is long, and includes magazine racks, chairs, folding chairs, chests and cabinets. "We also offer storage containers, racks and shelving, all incorporating rattan," says Mr Cheung, adding that all items are created by an in-house design team.
"While we do have our own factory, we tend to limit our manufacturing involvement to metalwork," he advises. "For example, we make the stainless steel inner bin, while the rattan cladding is done on a partnership basis with other highly reliable factories. We find this convenient, and it also frees us to input technical know-how and marketing skills."
Referring to the firm's remaining interests in metalware, Mr Cheung describes a stainless steel bathroom set that includes the usual toiletry holders plus a toilet brush and laundry basket. In the general household range is a stainless steel rubbish bin in several versions, while stainless steel kitchenware items include a bread bin, various storage boxes, food canisters, cans, containers, cookware and cutlery. As tableware, the firm offers cups, kettles and teapots.
"Our target is to offer almost everything for the home and to provide a full range of household goods for customers - a sort of one-stop shop," says Mr Cheung. "We make everything as attractive as we can so that people take pride in their purchases. Some items have a lacquer finish for a glossy appearance, and we also incorporate wood trim and wood tops."
Sky Industrial also offers certain rattan-look items that are really made from plastic. "Whereas it is sometimes difficult to keep rattan clean, plastic keeps its colour and does not darken with age," Mr Cheung says, adding that, perhaps surprisingly, the plastic product costs more than its rattan equivalent.
"Both are hand-made products, but to work in plastic rattan requires more skill and certainly more strength. It takes considerable power to tighten and make neat end-products, for example, and so labour costs are higher," he explains.
"Our major export markets are in Europe, with some business also in the US," says Mr Cheung. "We also have a thriving local business, not to a lot of shops, but certainly selling well in terms of quantity."
Declaring that the future for Sky Industrial is in rattan, Mr Cheung reveals that the firm will concentrate on rattan furniture. "At present we offer a settee and two chairs plus a low table as a set. The frames are aluminium to keep everything light and easily transportable," he says, adding that the furniture line will be on show at the Hong Kong Houseware Fair in April.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON