Liam Casey, "Mr. China," and electronics manufacturing

BBC Radio aired a fascinating program about my friend Liam Casey, aka "Mr. China," whose company PCH International is reinventing the electronics industry by converting the supply chain into a flexible supply web of "just in time" manufacturing and shipping. Voted Ireland's Ernst & Young 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year, Liam is based in Shenzhen. And he doesn't speak Chinese. From BBC Radio presenter Peter Day's text about the program:
At the centre of (PCH International) is a comprehensive database of some 900 Chinese companies with world class facilities in and around the Pearl River Delta...

Take an idea to PCH, and his people will help you design the product, simplify it to make it manufacturable, find the Chinese firms to make it for you, and fulfil the orders and get them dispatched.

What role for the Western business in all this ? Well, Liam Casey will do the donkey work in the middle... and your Western company will work at either end of what he calls the “smiley curve”… providing the big idea at the beginning, and the astute marketing at the end.

This is getting very close to a very important new business model that I’m calling Capitalism without Capital.
"The Remarkable Mr China" (BBC Radio 4) Program podcast (Peter Day's World of Business)


  1. It also gets very close to removing the need for Western input at all. Time to brush up on your Mandarin.

    “Yes, Mistress. How may I be of service?”

    “是,女主人。 我怎么可以提供服务?”

  2. This is actually an extension of a business model that began in the Semiconductor industry called a “fabless” business model – semiconductor designers would write the logic for a chip, and then have someone else manufacture it. It revolutionised the semiconductor industry, allowing semiconductor companies to (for example) have nine highly skilled employees come up with a design and bring it to market in (for example) 9 months, while keeping prices competitive.

    It turned the semiconductor industry from three vertical silos manufacturing VLSI (that’d be Intel, AMD, and TI) and a bunch of outlying horizontal ecosystems manufacturing discrete semiconductor items (diodes, transistors) to literally hundreds of designers in a horizontal ecosystem with original equipment manufacturers and value-added service providers (logic optimisation companies, logic verification companies, physical model test and verification companies, even companies that help you pick which foundry should manufacture your design).

    VLSI Semiconductor design went from being the exclusive province of those with – or who could raise – sufficient capital to manufacture their own silicon, to needing only a few million dollars in capital to bring a startup with a few employees to have a marketed and successful product.

    Obviously, the model works at more than just the semiconductor market level.

  3. Sorry ’bout the lack of pinyin.


    wǒ zìjǐ huānyīng wǒmen xīnde huá bàtóu!

  4. I know of a company that was able to bring its product to market and compete successfully (first mover) by using PCH. Funny to see the BBC story etc.

  5. I see some warning flags here. To do responsible buying in China, you have to qualify the factories, which means visits, inspections, and detailed contracts. Has he done this for 900 factories? What happens when one of them saves money by using lead paint?

  6. Isn’t this exactly what Li&Fung ( does? I know they’re primarily apparel, but also manage all toys for Disney, auto part peripherals for AutoZone, merch and displays for Sephora and other cosmetics companies. This seems like more of a Me-Too business model than something shining and unique. Good on him for making a buck, though.

  7. I’m familiar with PCH and have heard good things but them are other similar services. However you get your product built, you still can’t supplement good, detailed due diligence within your own organization. We’ve found has some good information to help provide additional insight in the areas of outsourcing/offshoring products and global enterprises.

  8. “And he doesn’t speak Chinese.”

    is this supposed to be impressive or something? seems rude to me.

  9. #12

    Not rude I think. Managing to set up a business in the PRC that works that well without understanding the language *is* an achievement. I *do* speak the language and wouldn’t attempt it. Doing business in China is culturally very different to an anglophone environment.

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