Here we present an exclusive interview with Pudu Robotics.
Founded in 2016, Shenzhen Pudu Robotics (Chinese: 普渡科技) is a national high-tech enterprise that develops, designs, produces, and sells commercial service robots. After seven years of development, Pudu Robotics has established hundreds of service outlets, with business in more than 60 countries and regions worldwide and a cumulative shipment of over 56,000 units. Since officially embarking on a large-scale international expansion in 2020 with rapid growth in shipments, its proportion of overseas sales has increased from 8% in 2019 to over 80% in the current stage, solidifying its position as a global leader in commercial service robots.
The following is part of the conversation between EqualOcean and Pudu Robotics.
I. [Current Status of Development] Could you introduce the progress and future plans of your business? What competitive advantages does your company have to ensure a leading position in the domestic industry?
Currently, PUDU’s main business is robot sales and localized services, accounting for over 70% of the overall business and growing at a rate of over 5 times annually. The company mainly focuses on expanding application scenarios and business models.
Pudu Robotics is very optimistic about the commercial service robot market. As a pioneer in the industry, we always consider core technology and innovation capabilities as important driving forces for the company's development, continuously increasing investment in an in-depth exploration of various markets and technology research and development and maintaining a leading position in the product dimension.
Based on the trend of "Chinese Smart Manufacturing (Chinese: 中国智造)" gradually going global in the intelligent ecological environment, PUDU will continue to deepen its roots in the catering industry, further explore the local market, strengthen channel penetration in the local market, and increase investment in products, personnel, technology, and brand exposure. PUDU will continuously optimize existing product features and improve the complete product matrix from the front hall to the back kitchen, aiming to help more restaurants reduce costs and increase efficiency, facilitate the digital transformation of catering enterprises in the future, and provide better dining experiences for customers. At the same time, PUDU also sees great potential in the cleaning market and will seek product breakthroughs while consolidating its advantage in the delivery market.
Pudu Robotics has accumulated a large number of self-developed technologies that are leading the industry, such as PUDU VSLAM, PUDU IoT, etc., based on its technological capabilities and innovation. The company has advanced research and development capabilities and a large amount of usage data. With a forward-looking technological layout in multiple domains, Pudu Robotics leads product innovation. Pudu Robotics currently has over 700 global authorized patents, which gives it a significant advantage among commercial service robot companies in China. In 2022, it was recognized as a "Shenzhen Intellectual Property Advantage Unit (Chinese: 深圳市知识产权优势单位)" and a "Guangdong Intellectual Property Demonstration Enterprise (Chinese: 广东省知识产权示范企业)," and won the 9th Guangdong Patent Excellence Award (Chinese: 广东专利优秀奖). Furthermore, Pudu Robotics develops service robots applicable to different industries and fields, such as catering, hotels, retail, cleaning, medical, etc., to provide diversified and personalized solutions. PUDU’s products have been highly recognized by many top customers in key scenarios at home and abroad, and the company has a wide customer base and market influence. PUDU also provides timely high-quality, comprehensive after-sales service and technical support to achieve win-win cooperation.
II. [Product R&D] How does your company stay updated on the latest trends and developments in the field of robotics and incorporate them into the latest products?
To understand the latest products, technologies, and trends in the field of robotics and explore new business opportunities, Pudu Robotics actively participates in industry conferences and exhibitions in domestic and international markets, establishing contacts with industry professionals and leaders to exchange experiences and insights. In addition, through monitoring industry reports and analysis, PUDU gains insights into the market size, market dynamics, application trends, and future development directions. Furthermore, through internal research and development efforts, continuous innovation, and product improvements, PUDU aims to meet customer needs and lead the future development of the robotics field. Customer information and feedback are also important sources of information, and through regular communication with customers, PUDU understands their actual needs and pain points in usage scenarios, enabling more accurate and timely adjustments to product designs and providing customized solutions for customers.
III. [International Expansion] Does your company have plans for global expansion, or already have a global presence? Which overseas markets are you planning to enter in the future?
Pudu Robotics, since its establishment in 2016, has been actively expanding its global presence. Currently, the company has established a robust development layout in six major regions, namely North America, Europe, East Asia, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Latin America. Pudu Robotics' robots have been successfully sold in over 60 countries and regions worldwide, covering more than 600 cities. These robots have found widespread adoption in various industries, such as restaurants, cafes, hospitals, hotels, and supermarkets. The cumulative global sales volume has already exceeded an impressive 56,000 units, with renowned customers including Panasonic, Haidilao(Chinese: 海底捞), Carrefour, Marriott, Coca-Cola, and Pizza Hut.
The emerging field of commercial service robots presents significant opportunities for growth, particularly in areas such as cleaning, elderly care, retail, healthcare, education, and other labor-intensive industries. Additionally, industries that are undergoing intelligent transformation due to labor shortages also offer immense potential. Pudu Robotics is poised to capitalize on these opportunities and continue to provide innovative solutions to meet the evolving demands of the global market.
IV. [Market Selection] What factors do you consider when selecting overseas markets? How is the demand for robots and consumer behavior in those markets?
Various factors influence the success of the robot market, particularly when selecting overseas markets. Economic conditions, such as market size, consumption capacity, trade policies, and institutional environment, play a critical role. Developed countries and emerging markets with higher income levels and consumption capacity tend to exhibit greater potential demand for robots. Moreover, differences in laws, regulations, and standards for robots across different countries can impact research and development, production, sales, and utilization of robots. The technological level is also a crucial consideration, as markets with advanced robot technology may present more opportunities for technological development.
Localization of products and strategies is also important for overseas markets, so sales and marketing strategies should be tailored to the cultural and language differences in each country or region. Finally, the demand for robots in overseas markets is also an important consideration, such as the existence of sufficient market size and potential demand, as well as the main application areas and industries of robots.
V. [Challenges in Going Global] What challenges have you encountered or can anticipate during the process of going global, and how has your company addressed them?
Not only Pudu Robotics, but also Chinese enterprises will face challenges in talent recruitment, cultural shock, compliance supervision, localized operations with globalized management, customer understanding, and product localization in the process of going overseas. For Chinese robotics companies entering overseas markets, establishing a solid local presence and localization efforts are key to building brand strength. Currently, the acceptance of robots in the restaurant industry is relatively high in China, but it may take some time for customers in some overseas markets to understand the products, their use cases, and their value. We also need time to understand customer needs, pain points, and how our products can meet customer expectations. Cultural differences in the restaurant industry can serve as a touchstone for expanding into international markets and an opportunity to create differentiated products that better cater to local market demands.
To address these challenges, Pudu Robotics has implemented proactive measures. This includes establishing local channels and partnerships with different agencies, providing cross-cultural training programs for employees, maintaining a dedicated compliance team to ensure adherence to local laws and regulations, adopting a "glocal" approach for localized operations with globalized management, conducting market research and gathering customer feedback for better customer understanding, and investing in product localization efforts to tailor products to local market demands. Pudu Robotics recognizes the importance of overcoming these challenges through close collaborations with local stakeholders and continuous improvement in global expansion strategies.
VI. [Competitive Landscape] What advantages do Chinese robotics manufacturers have compared to foreign companies?
Chinese robotics companies possess several key advantages compared to foreign companies. Firstly, they benefit from lower labor costs and extensive manufacturing bases, which allow them to maintain a cost-effective advantage in overseas markets. Secondly, with a sizable domestic market, advanced technology, and a well-established manufacturing sector, they are known for their rapid iteration and agility in developing and launching new products and technologies, keeping them ahead of the competition. Additionally, Chinese robotics companies have deep insights into the local market, consumer preferences, and business practices, allowing them to tailor their products and solutions accordingly. In addition to food delivery robots, companies like Pudu Robotics have also successfully developed other types of robotics services, including receptionist robots, dish-returning robots, disinfection robots, and cleaning robots, catering to a wide range of application needs. Furthermore, they benefit from strong government support through policies, incentives, and funding programs. Collectively, these advantages enable Chinese robotics companies to be competitive in the global robotics industry.
VII. [Driving Factors for Going Global] What do you think are the driving factors for robotics companies to go global?
There are several driving factors for robotics companies to go global. Firstly, the Chinese robotics market has reached a mature stage, characterized by intense competition. As a result, exploring overseas markets can provide ample opportunities for further growth and development. Secondly, the global aging population has emerged as a pressing issue, particularly in developed countries such as Europe, America, Japan, and South Korea, where labor costs are high and there is a growing demand for service robots. Moreover, Chinese robotics products offer superior cost-effectiveness compared to foreign counterparts due to advancements in technology. Expanding globally can bolster a company's competitiveness and sustainable growth in international markets, foster stronger connections with global supply chains and customers, unlock new business prospects, and enable successful international development.
VIII. [Resource Support] Does your company have sufficient funding and resources to expand into overseas markets? Do you need to seek partners or financing support?
PUDU has been steadfast in its commitment to becoming a global leader in the commercial service robot industry. Our unwavering efforts have resulted in remarkable success in recent years, as evidenced by our expanding presence in overseas markets and strong partnerships with local stakeholders. In 2020, we embarked on a large-scale overseas expansion strategy, which has yielded impressive results, with over 56,000 units shipped globally. Currently, our overseas sales account for over 80% of our business, a significant increase from the mere 8% in 2019, and the sales proportion surpassed 90% in 2022, further solidifying our operational indicators, including receivables. Moreover, our operating cash income in 2022 surged by nearly 40% compared to the previous year, with shipments exceeding 20,000 units.
Our relentless pursuit of new market opportunities and well-defined plans for expanding into overseas markets continue to drive our growth. Supported by our exceptional global team, we remain committed to delivering high-quality services and support to our valued customers.
Undoubtedly, securing funding and resources is pivotal to our ongoing overseas expansion. Therefore, we eagerly welcome collaborations with domestic and foreign companies and institutions, as we believe that joint efforts will be instrumental in furthering PUDU's global market development. Upholding the ethos of open cooperation, we are resolute in strengthening our partnerships with outstanding global allies, as we strive to provide even better products and services to our esteemed customers.
IX. [Trends in Overseas Expansion] Looking ahead to the next 3-5 years, what are the projected trends for overseas expansion within the robotics industry?
Chinese robotics companies are projected to accelerate their overseas expansion efforts in the coming years, driven by their significant advancements in the domestic market. These companies have gained considerable momentum in global markets by capitalizing on their technological innovation and cost competitiveness, buoyed by a robust domestic supply chain. Notably, the year 2016 marked a pivotal turning point, as Chinese robot brands swiftly penetrated overseas markets, leveraging the advantages of their upgraded intelligent products. Looking ahead, Chinese robotics firms are expected to place increased emphasis on catering to localized and customized demands, tailoring their offerings to align with the unique needs and cultural backgrounds of foreign markets. This customer-centric approach will enable them to better serve overseas customers with products and services that are tailored to their specific requirements, furthering their expansion into international markets.