​Magnolia Silver Award recipient applauds China's business environment

(en.sh-italent.com)Updated : 2023-12-21


Anu Rathninde, Asia-Pacific president of Johnson Controls. [Photo/export.shobserver.com]

Anu Rathninde, Asia-Pacific president of Johnson Controls, was recently honored with the prestigious 2023 Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award by the Shanghai municipal government.

He received recognition for his contributions as a member of the International Business Leaders' Advisory Council for the Mayor of Shanghai to help the city optimize its business environment.

In the past 26 years, Rathninde has not only benefited from Shanghai's urban development but has also witnessed the continuous deepening of China's reform and opening-up process.

Over the past three decades, Johnson Controls, a Fortune Global 500 company, has solidified its position in China with 8,300 employees, 10 manufacturing plants, and three research and development centers.

As the Asia-Pacific president of Johnson Controls, Rathninde is dedicated to promoting the development of the local green industrial chain and expanding the global influence of "Made in China".

"In recent years, Johnson Controls has experienced the optimization of China's business system in terms of marketization, rule of law, and internationalization," he said. Thanks to China's highly open business environment, Johnson Controls' operations in China are steadily growing. The company achieved record sales in the Chinese market during the third and fourth quarters of the 2022 fiscal year.

Bonding with Shanghai's development

Born in Sri Lanka, Rathninde has studied and worked in various countries, including Singapore and the United States. He first crossed paths with China 26 years ago when he was working as an engineer in Singapore and came to China for work-related reasons. He resided in China for a period of time.

In his memory, China in the 1990s was experiencing rapid development. Although it was not as prosperous as it is now, it had a unique charm. "China's rich culture, delicious cuisine, and the human touch of my neighborhood all delighted me. I firmly believe that China is an important starting point for my journey."

In 2016, Rathninde visited Shanghai for the first time and took a liking to the city, particularly through his involvement with the China International Import Expo (CIIE) held in Shanghai every year. "I believe it is an excellent opportunity for the company to participate in the Chinese market, smart city development, and local green transformation. That's one of the main reasons why we have never missed the CIIE."

Over the past five years, the CIIE has brought Johnson Controls over a hundred potential customers. From 2018 to 2022, the company participated in the CIIE every year and signed deals there. Some equipment orders for the first domestically-built large cruise ship, the Adora Magic City, were signed at the CIIE. In June of this year, the Adora Magic City was successfully launched and is scheduled for delivery before the end of the year. Johnson Controls provided the ship's heating, ventilation, communication, and fire protection systems.

Additionally, the Mayor's Consultation Meeting, held annually, is a significant event for Rathninde. "For many years, we have actively participated in Shanghai's urban development. I am active in every consultation meeting, leading teams to discuss topics, inviting the company's global chairman to attend, and engaging in in-depth exchanges with Shanghai government leaders and other entrepreneurs, providing suggestions for Shanghai's green development."

With his diverse educational and professional background, Rathninde has a unique perspective on Shanghai as a city. Both Singapore and Shanghai are economically developed and highly internationalized regions in Asia. Although they differ in history, culture, and political systems, they have demonstrated excellent adaptability and resilience in dealing with various economic risks and challenges.

In his view, when it comes to building a world-class city, Singapore may serve as a benchmark for Shanghai because both governments attach great importance to developing high-tech industries, promoting digitization, intelligence, and sustainable development.

Singapore is the world's fourth-largest exporter of high-tech products, with major industry clusters including aerospace, semiconductors, chemicals, and biomedicine.

Shanghai's scientific and technological innovation capabilities are also robust. In the past year, it added 155 "little giant" technology companies (novel and elite small and medium-sized enterprises that specialize in a niche market, boast cutting-edge technologies, and show great potential), and nurtured over 2,600 such enterprises in total. The city recognized 9,956 new high-tech enterprises within the year and the number of high-tech enterprises in the city has surpassed 22,000.

Singapore focuses on technological innovation and application, realizing smart city development through intelligent transportation, governance, and buildings. Shanghai is also steadily advancing the construction of smart city infrastructure. "Shanghai won the World Smart City Award in 2020, and Singapore has won in the past," said Rathninde.

After closely observing the development trajectories of Shanghai and Singapore, Rathninde believes that Johnson Controls can provide customized smart city solutions for both cities based on their different needs through energy-saving transformations and digital integration.

Regarding the Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award he received, Rathninde praised Shanghai's support for multinational companies. "Our Asia-Pacific headquarters are located in Shanghai and has received strong support from the Shanghai government. The government's policy guidance and support measures have provided us with policy dividends for development, encouraging innovation and growth."

He said that Shanghai has upgraded its business environment policy documents to version 6.0, effectively reducing operating costs for enterprises. It has provided robust support for multinational companies in terms of economic policies, laws and regulations, and market supervision, enabling them to plan for healthy business growth and enhance market competitiveness in a fair competition environment.

Deeply tied to China

"China is one of the most important markets for Johnson Controls. Over the past nearly 30 years in the Chinese market, Johnson Controls has witnessed China's achievements in modernization and its growing global influence." Rathninde repeatedly emphasized the openness of the Chinese market during an interview.

Since joining Johnson Controls, Rathninde has reorganized the leadership team in the Asia-Pacific region, led the core team, and continued to promote the influence of high-performance culture in China and the entire Asia-Pacific region. "The Asia-Pacific region achieved remarkable sales performance in the 2022 fiscal year, especially the outstanding performance in the Chinese market in the third and fourth quarters, setting a new record for quarterly sales performance in China."

Rathninde believes that China's local research and production capabilities are well-developed, and Johnson Controls, with its stable industrial chain in China, can not only respond quickly to local customer demands but also actively participate in the green innovation and reform of China's manufacturing industry.

Johnson Controls currently has multiple manufacturing bases in Guangzhou, Wuxi, and other Chinese cities. The Wuxi manufacturing base, which integrates manufacturing and innovation, has become one of Johnson Controls' largest research and development centers in the world for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as industrial refrigeration solutions.

"Johnson Controls China has achieved 100 percent localization in the production of HVAC and refrigeration products, with over 96 percent of local engineering and research and development capabilities. Seventy percent of the products produced at local factories are sold domestically, and they have begun to supply globally," said Lang Zhiwen, a spokesperson for the company, adding that the York YMS magnetic levitation variable frequency two-stage centrifugal chiller and the York YDXM-C direct evaporative full variable frequency air handling unit showcased at this year's China International Import Expo were completely developed and manufactured in China.

In response to the growing low-carbon demands of China's new energy industry, Johnson Controls is leveraging its technological advantages to provide comprehensive energy solutions for lithium battery factories. These solutions ensure that the production environment meets stringent process requirements and increase the capacity of lithium battery production. Johnson Controls has gained recognition from more than 30 new energy customers in the lithium battery industry and has helped them obtain certification for over 10 national-level green factories.