The first encounter between Su Lei from Sichuan Province and Mindray was not in China but the distant British Isles. Mr. Su, the former nuclear power equipment engineer, pursued further study in the UK in 2001 and then moved to the University of Surrey for the MSc and PhD in medical engineering, studying human dynamics, specifically on prosthesis installation via titanium to give amputees better mobility. In 2007, after making the dissertation proposal and building data models, Mr. Su was waiting for cases to apply his research and collect data. If it went well, he would be Dr. Su in 2019, and then he could choose to gain experience in UK academia or R&D-based companies or return to China to work as a university professor. But Mr. Su, a PhD candidate, met Mindray in July when looking for a job.
At that time, Mindray's office in the UK, which was Mindray’s first overseas office, had just opened. Though he knew almost nothing about China's medical industry, Mr. Su decided to suspend his PhD studies and join Mindray after several rounds of communication. "The interviews widened my horizons and I came to get a sense of how my major could be applied to the commercial field. Curiosity over career planning drove me to make that decision.", recalled Mr. Su. An engineer turned medical device salesman, Mr. Su wanted to challenge himself to see if he could make Mindray a well-known name in the UK market.
In the beginning, things went really slowly. Six months later, Mr. Su began to make attempts at direct sales. "(Direct sales) requires not only selling products, but also gaining customers' trust in Mindray products. For them, the introduction to new products involves clinical risk. " recalled Mr. Su. He was faced with the situation that in the UK, a long-standing capitalist country with a high-end market for medical devices, customers had zero awareness of Mindray and Chinese products, so Mindray had no prior presence and product trust. The Mindray UK team is expanding its market by selectively adopting direct sales and channel sales according to market segmentation and customer characteristics.
Mindray enjoyed a turnaround in 2008. After merging with the life information monitoring business of Datascope in the U.S., Mindray gained access to the high-end market. From Mr. Su's point of view, the key to expanding Mindray's market is getting direct product feedback from high-end customers and understanding their real needs. In 2009, Mindray bid for a project to supply CCU devices in Northern Ireland. The client requested that all the devices in the Department of Cardiology be connected up, requiring that patients be free to move around in the ward, while at the same time proposing 32 technical requirements. It was the first time Mindray was involved in such a challenging project, so Mr. Su had no idea whether Mindray products could meet the technical requirements. So he summoned colleagues from Front End Department, Marketing Department, and R&D Department in the Shenzhen headquarters, and worked on product development according to the customer's needs. Their hard work paid off, and they finally won the bid.
The National Health Service (NHS), which provides free medical services for all Britons, is a source of pride for the UK and has absolute dominance over product procurement and technology introduction in the UK medical industry. Given that collective procurement at a national level covers the vast majority of medical device purchases, Mr. Su believes that medical device companies are required to either be highly specialized or have a large market to be successful. So Mindray adopted the Focus strategy. Customer Focus means determining which customers can be the focus of contact over a period of time and generate benefits by classifying UK hospitals according to customer relationship, procurement cycles, technical requirements, etc. Product Focus means researching, developing, and improving products and bringing high-end products into the hospitals to ensure stable business growth by treating monitoring as the seed business and using monitoring device sales to open up the customer base and fully understand customer needs.
From selling individual devices in the beginning, to system products for clinical departments, and to whole hospital solutions now, Mindray UK has emerged as an important medical device supplier to the UK medical monitoring market, a long way from its origin as a small company with zero awareness. Mr. Su said that he didn't expect Mindray would become a game-changer in the UK medical market when he first joined the company nearly 15 years ago. He gradually gained a perception of its important role as his experience accumulated and knowledge of the market deepened.
Though he hasn't completed his PhD research, Mr. Su has made constant progress in his career from Account Manager to Managing Director of Mindray's UK branch, along with the breakthroughs made in Mindray. Mr. Su says that firstly, the medical industry has strict regulations to deal with, and secondly, he needs to be responsible for his team, so he devotes far more time to his work than his family. Mr. Su and his family live in London, but he needs to travels frequently to client locations and to continental Europe. As a result, he can only return home twice a year, leaving all the household chores to his wife.
Mr. Su's son knows his father's work is hospital-related, and that he is very busy and often away from home. Due to the lockdown during COVID-19, his son had to stay at home for online classes. Mr. Su says it's quite challenging for a four-year-old child to get up early in the morning and attend classes on the computer, but what makes his son happy is that his dad can finally stay home with him. Mr. Su also cherishes the time spent with his son, but when everything begins to get back to normal, he'll again be the Managing Director traveling between end customers across the U.K. and Europe.