China-based ZeniPower expands its presence into the world marketplace.
The staff at Hearing Products Report recently spoke with Frank Wang, general manager of Zhuhai, China-based battery manufacturer, ZeniPower.
HPR: Tell us about the origins of ZeniPower. Who is the companys founder?
Frank Wang: In 1988, ZeniPower Batteries was founded in Zhuhai, China, by Ms Xia Lixuan, who had worked as a battery engineer since 1966. The company was a joint venture with FUJI Battery, Hong Kong Ltd, a branch of the Japanese battery manufacturer. It focused on alkaline button cell batteries and zinc air hearing aid batteries. The company became privately owned in 1995, and began using its current name.
HPR: When did ZeniPower introduce its first hearing aid battery? How did the companys focus develop?
Wang: Hearing aids have been developed in China since the 1950s, when they were mostly pocket type. BTE types emerged in the 1980s. We were working with the Chinese hearing aid manufacturers to develop the 675 battery at that time. Our first hearing aid battery, A675, was introduced into the market in 1988. Actually, we are one of the earliest zinc air hearing aid battery manufacturers in the world. Our 17-year focus gives us a profound perception of how to make an excellent hearing aid battery.
Our air cathode is a very sophisticated technology, based on studies on the fuel cell cathode by our founder, Xia Lixuan, in the mid-1960s. She continued her studies for another 20 years, and finally used that knowledgeand the assembly know-how of the alkaline button cellon zinc air hearing aid batteries. Two years later, we began focusing, solely, on the zinc air button cell.
HPR: What are the companys primary hearing aid battery lines?
Wang: We manufacture five major sizes of hearing aid batteries. A675 was our first product, starting in 1988, and then A13, which came out in 1990. With the development of ITC and CIC hearing aids, we then developed A312 and A10, in 1992 and 1993, respectively.
Our latest model is the A675P Implant Power battery for cochlear implants, which can deliver a 40 mA output drain to meet even the most demanding power needs for the implant processor.
In 2003, we enhanced the performance of our batteries through advanced cathode technology, which provides higher voltage and longer lasting time above 1.1 volts to satisfy the power needs of digital hearing aids.
We have tested our competitors batteries, and we believe that our batteries are within the top two or three products in this industry, andfrom a value point of viewwe have the worlds best valued batteries.
HPR: How do these batteries benefit both hearing aid consumers and dispensers?
Wang: As we feel we have one of the top performing products at a competitive price, our customers tell us they love our batteries after they have tried them. In China, we have more than a 70% share of the market, and are well known in the hearing aid industry. In the United States, we are a relative newcomer, having just entered that market in 2003.
End users of hearing aids will find that our batteries perform the same or even better than the brands they are currently using, and that they save money.
Dispensers will save on cost by distributing our product, and will attract more end users to their practice by offering more competitively priced, quality batteries. We also offer private label batteries to promote the dispensers practice.
HPR: What is the companys marketing strategy for appealing to hearing aid dispensers and others who sell the product?
Wang: We emphasize the high performance of our batteries, which is the key to our success. We are a top battery manufacturer with the experience, consistent quality, and higher performance that are necessary in todays digital world.
Based on that, we have extremely competitive pricing. We never cut corners on materials; we use the most advanced and expensive battery materials from the United States, Europe, and Japan, just as the leading companies do. We pursue lower cost through high efficiency, automatic production, highly skilled workers, and low overhead.
HPR: Where does the company have locations in terms of manufacturing and sales?
Wang: We have concentrated our manufacturing factory and sales office in Zhuhai, China, which is 30 miles from Hong Kong. We have distributors in more than 30 countries, with three in the United States, and we have a number of direct customers.
HPR: What are the challenges of the international marketplace?
Wang: There are so many challenges. One is to build a distribution network, which is slow and costly. Marketing activities are the same. While we have 17 years of experience, and our batteries have consistently been quality products, our presence has been known primarily in China and the rest of Asia. Our image was not known outside of Asia, so we still have a long way to go promoting our company in the international marketplace.
In 2003, we started participating in the American Academy of Audiologys annual meeting, in the United States, and the Union der Hörgeräte-Akustiker Kongress (UHA Congress), in Germany, and found that we were very popular. Recently, we have grown very quickly through our international sales.
The main challenge is to convince the customers that batteries Made in China can be as good or even better than the competitors. The fact is that China makes so many of the high-tech products behind the big name companies.
While the audiologists and hearing aid users may be conservative, the manufacturers are not. As a matter of fact, four of the top brands in the hearing aid industry have big factories in China, and most of their hearing aids are made there. More than 40% of todays hearing aids are made in China.
HPR: How is the company building hearing health care awareness among professionals in the medical and hearing communities?
Wang: We have pursued that in many ways, such as participation in exhibitions and conventions, hearing industry magazine advertising, Internet advertising, direct mailing to audiologists, and visiting customers. We are also willing to attempt new ways to build our image in this industry.
HPR: Do you expect ZeniPower to continue the innovation process?
Wang: Of course. The driving factor behind our entrance into the hearing care industry was innovation-oriented, as we brought a unique air cathode technology into the arena. We patented that in many different countries. The demand for more hearing aids power never stops. Digital circuits are more power hungry than analog aids. For example, the A675 was started at 2 mA output, and now our cochlear implant batteries can deliver up to 40 mA output. A10 for CIC aids was originally designed at 0.3 mA, and now our battery can deliver 4 mA. All of these innovations have enabled us to supply an excellent variety of batteries to drive todays most sophisticated and advanced digital hearing aids.
HPR: How does the process work?
Wang: We continue investing in research and development, and we have a very highly efficient engineering team. Our three main engineers have more than 90 years combined experience in this field, and we also have brilliant hard-working younger engineers to support them. We study the customers needs, as well as our competitors products, and set goals every year for ongoing innovations.
HPR: What is in the global future for ZeniPower batteries?
Wang: Currently, on a production scale, we are in the middle of this industry. Our target is to be among the top three hearing aid battery manufacturers in a short period of time, and to move forward from there.
In terms of quality, we are already in the top three, and we will continue our R&D efforts in trying to be the lead in this industry.
HPR: Is there a philosophy behind ZeniPowers presence in the marketplace?
Wang: Quality. Honesty. Affordability. The pursuit of excellence is in all we do. Every member of our team remains unified in achieving these goals. We never stop striving for better quality and lower cost, and we care about our customers. ZeniPower shares an unwavering commitment to hearing aid users, hearing care professionals, employees, and owners alike.