Here we present an exclusive interview with TI5 ROBOT.
Focusing on customized services, TI5 ROBOT is a high-tech company that strives to provide customers with all-encompassing, efficient, and reliable robot hardware and control technology solutions. The confidence to tailor personalized solutions lies in the formidable hardware research and development capabilities of TI5 ROBOT itself. By enhancing product performance while simultaneously reducing hardware costs, the company enables the practical utilization of humanoid robots.
The following is part of the conversation between EqualOcean and TI5 ROBOT.
1. [Current Development Status] As a leader in domestic collaborative robots, TI5 ROBOT is committed to ushering in a new era of automation and intelligence. Could you please introduce the progress of your current business projects? What competitive advantages does your company have to ensure its leading position in the domestic industry?
I prefer to define our robots as intelligent robots, just like smartphones and smart cars. We aim to create robots that can accommodate various algorithms, including collaborative robots. Our company mainly focuses on the market of artificial labor substitution in non-industrial settings. This market is more complex in terms of the operating environment, higher in technical requirements, and requires faster delivery, but is also more price-sensitive compared to the industrial market. Based on these characteristics, we pioneered the concept of modular building blocks, where core components are modularized and standardized, allowing for rapid hardware solutions to be built according to different customer needs. Our business has been established for over a year, with accumulated customers exceeding 200 and over 30 channels. Some of our customers have completed prototype testing and started bulk purchases this year. In the market, some manufacturers need to make robot modules, but we are the first to complete the entire hardware construction solely based on our own modules, giving us a certain first-mover advantage. In the future, with the accumulation of our customer base and the increase of solution offerings, our synergetic effect will become more evident.
2. [Product R&D] How does your company stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the field of robotics, and how do you incorporate this knowledge into your latest products?
Once we confirm our company's direction, we start our research and development from scratch, without any reference points to follow. During the R&D process, we can only rely on accessing foreign websites to view the latest technologies and research papers in the field of robotics. From there, we search for applicable technologies. Sometimes, a certain technology may only have a final demonstration video, and we need to guess its technical path and continuously test and eliminate incorrect paths. Currently, we have a diverse range of clients, many of whom have cutting-edge applications, such as Midea (Chinese: 美的) and the power grid (Chinese: 电网). They provide industry-leading requirements, which we use to improve our products.
3. [Global Expansion] Does your company have plans for global expansion or already have a global presence? Which overseas markets do you plan to enter in the future?
We had plans for global expansion from the very beginning of our company's establishment, but due to various reasons, I had to abandon the plans at that time. However, this year the timing may be ripe, and we plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign overseas in June, which will be the starting point for our overseas business. We will focus on promoting our lightweight collaborative robotic arm overseas, which is extremely lightweight and unique in the industry. We plan to start in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and then expand to the European and American markets, as there is a vibrant entrepreneurial atmosphere in Southeast Asia with larger demand.
4. [Market Selection] What factors do you consider when selecting overseas markets? What are the robotics demand and consumer behavior in those markets?
When selecting overseas markets, we first consider the land area and population density, as countries with sparse populations tend to have stronger demands for automation. Secondly, we consider the country's policies and entrepreneurial enthusiasm, as we are part of the supply chain and need a supportive downstream supply chain locally. Lastly, we consider the standard of living and income level of the people, which indirectly reflects the local consumer purchasing power. Robotics fundamentally replaces human labor, and labor substitution is most relevant in countries where labor is expensive or scarce. Therefore, the country's national conditions are more important than consumer behavior.
5. [Challenges in Going Global] Have you encountered any challenges in the process of going global, or do you anticipate any challenges? How has your company addressed them?
All robotics companies face similar challenges when going global. For integrators, this challenge is called deployment, and for hardware companies, it's called education. Our offline support will become very weak overseas, and it's almost impossible for us to solve problems on-site when users encounter issues. Therefore, the biggest challenge we face is remote online education. Our idea is to create a series of educational videos, from unboxing to becoming proficient in using and programming the purchased hardware. Users can simply follow the videos step-by-step to gain basic mastery of the hardware.
6. [Competition Landscape] What advantages do Chinese robot manufacturers have compared to foreign companies?
I believe China's biggest advantage comes from its massive foundation in manufacturing and processing industries. In China, you can complete production, processing, and assembly at a lower cost compared to foreign countries, which is not available in any other country in the world. This means that with the same product quality, we can have a very high price competitiveness. This is crucial because there is no clear leader in the field of intelligent robots currently, so foreign brand advantages are not significant, especially in non-industrial scenarios.
7. [Factors Driving Overseas Expansion] What do you think are the driving factors for robot companies to expand overseas?
In China, the biggest problem in the robot industry, and the entire industrial sector, is that we cannot transfer the cost of technology to the end users. This means that no matter how good your product is, no matter how much investment you put in, users are not willing to pay for the technology you have invested in. In the eyes of users, your competitors may be products that source parts externally and assemble them, with little or no investment in research and development costs. It makes sense that their prices are extremely low. However, overseas markets, especially developed countries or developing countries with a preference for European and American ideologies, may consider it natural for you to spread the R&D costs of better products, and I believe this is the main reason why robot companies expand overseas.
8. [Resource Support] Does your company have sufficient funding and resources to support overseas market expansion plans? Do you need to find partners or financing support?
Finding partners and financing support is essential. Firstly, in China, our company itself focuses on channels, and currently, we have more than 30 channels domestically, with more than 10 channels placing frequent orders. Overseas, channels and partners are even more important, as we cannot establish branch offices abroad in the short term, and we still adopt a channel sales model for establishing local service points. In order to meet our needs in R&D, production, promotion, and sales, we need to invest a significant amount of funds in the early stage, and our returns may not be realized quickly. Therefore, we will heavily rely on financing in the short term, whether we expand overseas business or not.
9. [Trends in Overseas Expansion] What do you think the trends in overseas expansion in the robot industry will be in the next 3-5 years?
In the future of the robot industry, I believe there will be a polarization, where companies with stronger technology will choose to expand overseas, as I mentioned before. On the other hand, companies with average technology may not choose to expand overseas.
About the Interviewee:
Li Yongchao is the Founder of TI5 ROBOT. He is a serial entrepreneur with 10 years of marketing and sales experience, having previously established Na Zi Electromechanical.