After a three-year hiatus, Multibase Inc. returned to Chinaplas this year, signaling the company's renewed focus on the Asian market.
Multibase, a thermoplastics compounder based in St.-Laurent-du-Pont, France, has had a limited presence in the area since it was purchased by Dow Corning Corp. of Midland, Mich., in 2002.
``We were relatively low-profile in the market,'' said Krishna Joshi, Asia-area director for Multibase. ``There was some reorganization in the company and we were really trying to figure out how Multibase should grow in Asia.''
Joshi moved from the United States to India eight months ago to help head up the company's efforts in the region. Multibase maintained a strong presence in India, so China was the firm's logical next step.
``Right now we are in the hiring process out here,'' he said. ``The end goal is to have a significant presence on the ground.''
Currently the company has five employees based in Shanghai and Guangzhou and it is hiring more. In the future, Joshi said, it's possible the company will consider building a manufacturing plant in the country.
Dow Corning has a number of offices in China, which makes establishing a distribution network an easier process, according to Joshi.
Dow Corning typically specializes in silicone, but in 2002 the company developed a thermoplastic silicone line and was looking at a way to get the product to market.
``They developed the product, but Dow Corning is not into compounding,'' Joshi said. ``The company had to take the product into the market and produce it on a large scale - that is one of the reasons they acquired Multibase.''
Multibase, which has retained its original name for the sake of recognition, specializes in thermoplastics and elastomers, serving the automotive, packaging, appliance and construction industries. Dow Corning's silicone and thermoplastic products became part of Multibase's line.
Joshi expects the integrated silicone products to drive growth throughout the world. The firm's TPSiV-brand of thermoplastic silicone vulcanizate is being marketed for its silky feel. Its siloxane masterbatches are a 50-50 mix of silicone and plastic.
``The silicone goes in as a processing aid,'' Joshi said. ``It adds scratch resistance and lowers the coefficient of friction.''
The mixture can be made with a number of different plastics, he said, ranging from polyamide to polypropylene.
In China, Multibase expects to serve a number of pre-existing customers that also have established branches in Asia, and to expand its reach into China's domestic market.
``The approvals and development phases are usually done in Europe,'' Joshi said. ``Then the manufacturing is done over here.''
Some domestic Chinese automotive manufacturers already have expressed an interest in Multibase products, Joshi said, but the company is unwilling to limit its China market to any one particular industry.
``A guy making an automotive part generally relies on tried and tested parts; people in the nonautomotive industry are more willing to experiment,'' Joshi said.
In China, it's best to leave all your options open, he said.
``One thing I've learned in the last eight months - it's very dangerous to bracket the China market and say I'm going to focus on this industry or that industry,'' Joshi said. ``It's very difficult to see the China market as black and white.''