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Hoffman International Aids in China’s Road Rescue

Wed April 26, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

It’s a world away from an equipment-crowded showroom in Piscataway, NJ, to the high country of China’s Yunnan Province. But for Musya Tumanyan of Hoffman International Inc., traveling from the first locale to the second to sell roadbuilding equipment was a fascinating and productive adventure.

Tumanyan was born in Russia. She graduated from a Russian university, and emigrated to America 23 years ago. In the United States, she studied international marketing and trade at the Latin American Institute, New York (a part of the University of Texas).

She then spent eight years with a trading company in New York. She joined Hoffman International Inc. in 1988, specializing in overseas sales of heavy road construction, lifting and material-handling equipment.

Interculturalism Essential

“The fact that I speak fluent Russian is often helpful in my work, but language is only one element in the total experience needed for international sales,” Tumanyan said. “You can market without language knowledge, as I did in China. Translators can manage that, as they did there. But you must have an intercultural understanding. This means genuine respect for customs not your own. It means a willingness to try new things, even exotic foods such as fried bumblebees, gracefully and without fuss. It means doing everything possible to make your potential buyers comfortable in explaining their needs to you, and in being assured that you understand those needs, and that you have the means to fulfill them. You must be willing to do what is asked. If that calls for a trip deep into the center of China, that’s what you do.”

Tumanyan’s China trip took place after the fourth and final Chinese trade delegation visited the Piscataway, NJ, showrooms of Hoffman International. The four delegations, consisting of high-ranking executives of the Transportation Department for Yunnan Province, visited between April 1998 and February 1999. “With each group of visitors in search of equipment, we worked to learn the issues that concerned them, so we could address them.

“Each delegation was impressed, and said to the next, ’You must include Hoffman in your itinerary,’ or words to that effect. By the time we met the fourth group, they told us to prepare an initial proposal for road repair equipment. By then, we had the input needed to make recommendations.”

Long Trip, Longer


Making sure the proposed equipment was right for the job included witnessing how the gear would be used.

The first leg of Tumanyan’s solo adventure was a 14-hour flight to Beijing and an overnight stay at the International Hotel. Since train travel to Yunnan would have taken a week , a three-hour flight southwest to the province near the Laotian border was the only practical way to finish the trip.

“I was amazed by the universality of the bicycle,” Tumanyan said, “by the vastness, the sheer size, the numbers of people. There are 75 million in Yunnan Province alone, five million in the city of Kunming. I was also impressed with the fact that, more than 30 years after his visit, President Nixon is still revered for having established U.S.-Chinese trade relations.”

Because oil is scarce and costly in China, the highway infrastructure is primarily concrete. It is drastically in need of repair if the province is to ship more of its main crop, fresh produce, to market. The budget for infrastructure repairs in Yunnan Province is $20 billion.

“Much of Yunnan Province is 1,894 meters, or nearly 6,000 feet, above sea level. This elevation makes it hard to use tractors for agriculture,” Tumanyan said. “Also, by tradition, everything is done by hand, as it always has been. If you visit a factory, you see hundreds, even thousands, of people doing by hand what a dozen or two workers operating machines do in the West. It was a revelation.”

The Chinese highway administrators and local officials were quite excited when Tumanyan arrived to see several job sites and to help the Chinese officials determine how well the proposed equipment would work on the job.

“There are over 130 Chinese dialects, and I must have heard quite a few of them,” she said. “Finally, when local people exchanged opinions in their language, my hosts said to the local officials, ’You must speak in Mandarin. Otherwise, you will have to hire another translator.’ ”

During her visit, Tumanyan was so welcomed that she received the ultimate compliment. “I was privileged to be invited to peoples’ homes for meals and social visits.”

The road-building and repair equipment called for in the contract include:

• a Bartmill 1.5-meter (60 in.) drum crawler milling machine capable of traversing hefty slopes and rough terrain;

• an 89-centimeter (35 in.) drum milling machine specially modified with a conveyor for slope and grade control;

• two large crawlers, and two medium crawlers with 7-meter (23 ft.) conveyor belts;

• a LeeBoy asphalt maintainer with a 60-centimeter (24 in.) drum, 2.3-metric-ton (2.5 ton) hopper, and able to perform multiple functions.

All the units were selected for reliability. The order was valued at more than $1 million.

“For four days during the trip, and afterwards by telex and fax, we had incredible negotiations, tough, and contract language, tougher. There were times when we exchanged whole messages over the meaning of only one word. But eventually, the trust and good feeling we had worked hard to establish on both sides came through, and we did the deal.”

As a final step before emerging from the deep woods of negotiation, the Chinese insisted that the equipment be delivered through the mainland port of Behei. Tumanyan said, “We had to go through several freight forwarders to find one who had even heard of it. But, like every other part of the trip, this turned out well, too.”

Hoffman International Inc., with 30 year’s export sales experience, is affiliated with Hoffman Equipment, an 80-year-old heavy equipment dealer and distributor, of Piscataway, NJ. With domestic and international operations, Hoffman exceeded $25 million in revenues for 1999.

For more information, contact Hoffman at 732/752-3600.

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