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Interview of Yoann VINCENT - Director of ICAPE Russia

First of all, welcome to the booth of ICAPE. ICAPE is a French company founded more than 20 years ago which specializes in supplying printed circuit boards. This is our historical core business but next to PCB manufacturing we also launched dozens of different family products.

The products we manufacture are also our custom-made prosthetics. That means we get the technical documentation from our customers and we prepare technical parts based on it. It could be a keypad product and cable assembly but also plastic, metal, and other. Our clients work with us precisely to find the right factory in China, because all our manufacturing is from China. Regarding China, as you know there are tens of thousands of different factories for PCB alone, for example. So, depending on the complexity of the project, our first mission is to find the right partner from our list of accredited plants to perform quality projects from the beginning to the end. It's very important. Next, we have a team of two hundred engineers in China on-site at factories and control labs. They come in addition to services in the field of manufacturing. It is precisely the double quality control that is very important to us. Our global turnover is about 150 million euros. 25 to 30% of this turnover is made in the automotive industry. That's why we must observe very carefully quality control and organization. We're the only ones in the market that have such a structure, such an investment in the maintenance of this quality in China.

May ICAPE customers not know exactly where is placed their order in China?

Yoann VINCENT: They know it very well because we send all the certificates from the factory. And of course, the name of the factory is here. We make no secrets of the fact that we often invite our clients on audits when they need to do them with our partners. But even if they choose to go directly with the factory, we're still going to have an economic benefit because we're all over the world working with large organizations and there are over 1700 different companies. Every month we're somewhere to process orders of 25 to 50 million PCBs. So we have special terms from plants to support our customers.

Why is it unprofitable for the customer to contact the manufacturer directly?

The customer will be getting higher prices than ours. Because of markup. We have a policy with grades that doesn't allow more than 15%. It means that we're working with a very low price specifically dedicated to the loyalty of our customers. We are interested in the overall development of our customers, which is why we work specifically to support them and make them work with us for a long time.

Recently, ICAPE presented a virtual booth. Is this a tribute to the trend for online solutions?

Of course, Covid helped to speed up the process. But we've had plans for a long time. Going more and more to online services began with a virtual space where customers from all over the world could talk to their managers, find out about new products and services directly online. Secondly, as you can't go to China right now, to fly and so on, we've launched services such as online audit. Our engineers go to the factory with a camera from their helmet that shows everything. They're in communication with the customer on his desk who can just give the command. If he wants to see how the material comes in this factory, he looks at all the documents he's interested in and so on. We try very hard to support our clients no matter the circumstances we meet.

How promising is this project for the Russian market?

When we launched, I and my management team, the head of ICAPE around the world said that the idea was not for Russia. But we tried it anyway and we were very surprised. In Russia, it is in the top 3 in quantity visitors, so that means that even in the USA there were fewer. In Europe, except in France and Germany, all other countries have fewer visitors than in Russia. So I’m sure the market is slowly going towards it and it’s a good thing.

Who are the ICAPE customers?

We work with a variety of clients. Mainly from the automotive industry but we also have customers from medical equipments industry or telecommunication systems. Clients are different. In Russia, the company is young. We have started to develop the sales only five years ago, even if the company has been opened since late 2013. Now it is successfully working with more than two hundred customers on the Russian market. So this is a huge success for us. Thank you to all our customers who have trusted us from day one and those who are now joining us. I can tell that everyone who try to work with us will stay. We hope that more companies will want to cooperate with us. We're not magicians. We all have our limits and we don't take on everything. But among the ten, seven products that we advertise, our opportunities are very huge. To control exactly the process for each type of product we have a large staff of engineers in this field again, specifically in China to set up these processes. Because I remind you that is custom-made, there's standard products. This means we're working from scratch and have close communication with the customer to make their ideas and developments a reality. It's clear that there are some very complex projects, but experience shows that our factories and engineers can perform even complex tasks. When there's an automotive project going on, we make sure that the client and I sign an annual forecast based on projections and the timeline they want. It's our job to adjust and organize in China and Russia a buffer storage facility. Such solutions are ready to serve these projects where there is a lot of responsibility in terms of timing and quality. We have very serious quality control in China, as I said. Our partners in the auto industry have an incoming inspection that doesn't allow any deflect to pass.

Does the state import substitution program interfere with the development of business in Russia?

If you take the example of the PCB, it's clear that there are factories in Russia that are being built for printing circuit boards. That may cover some needs, but they still cannot cover all the needs for the entire market. Firstly, because the market is growing, not only worldwide but also in Russia as well. Limited production capacity will always be a chance for us. But the technological investment in China over the past 20 years has been so high that it will take a long time to reach that level. It's going to take a long time. I hope that we will be faster in Russia. When they want to, they really can. But I can see that the prospects for the development of cooperation with China for Russian companies will increase in the next time. I reckon 5 years would be minimum. Next, let's see how the market is evolving and how it will be possible to build factories to produce complex printed circuit boards of large volumes as well as different types of technical parts. I think it's an interesting question for the development of Russia, to maintain Russian businesses. There's also a place for us.

What about ICAPE plans to attract domestic manufacturers to fulfill international orders?

We are working on a few proposals that we receive from our competitors or partners. It is difficult for us because quality comes first for us. They were talking about, for example, placing some Western orders in Russia. But we need to make sure that these plants in Russia will comply with all our requirements, build a team that will oversee that. It's a really interesting issue that's on the table. But it's not an issue that can be solved in one day because there are so many nuances that we need to address with partners and within our group.

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