Alen CEO: Air purifiers ready to serve a million Chinese

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Alen CEO: Air purifiers ready to serve a million Chinese

Warburg Lee
CEO, Alen Corporation

*** As published on ***

Waiting for the wind to blow isn’t the only answer for smog these days with more Chinese consumers turning to purifiers for clean air.

The high demand for air purifiers has created a competitive market, with as many as 300 brands now available in China. Into this battle for market share, a US-based company– the Alen Corporation -has made its debut.

Alen  designed its latest air purifier model to solve the problems associated with chronic air pollution in China. The company’s latest model, the Alen BreatheSmart F750 VOC, will be on sale this month.

“Alen air purifiers are designed specifically to solve the toughest Chinese air quality issues” said Warburg Lee, CEO of Alen Corporation, adding that the air pollution is “obvious” when you look outside but you can also feel it in your throat after only a few days of exposure.

China and India have the world's highest average exposure to PM 2.5, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, which is jointly compiled by Yale and Columbia universities.

PM2.5 - particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers - can go deep into the lungs and is extremely harmful to people's health, according to the environment watchdog.

New national standard

With rising awareness of healthy living, purchases of domestic appliances that can improve air quality has leveraged a large share of China's market.

But current standards on indoor air cleaners, enacted in 2008, don't take into consideration the need for consumers to filter PM2.5 or increased use by consumers, said Song Guangsheng, director of the National Indoor Environment and Indoor Environmental Product Quality Supervision Center.

The situation may soon change, however, because China is drafting new national standards for domestic air purifiers, industry experts said.

“We applaud a higher standard and consistent with our company values of integrity, we don’t want customers to be cheated with ineffective and poorly engineered air purifiers,” said Lee.

"In the US, air purifiers are generally used to address allergy, asthma, pet dander and odor issues. But to address chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde, a standard HEPA filter would not be enough because chemicals require different filtration technologies.”

Lee continued. Alen’s BreatheSmart F750 VOC and F700 are based on its bestselling BreatheSmart Series product line in the US. The F750 VOC product has been redesigned and further modified to tackle benzene and formaldehyde, which are primary concerns to Chinese consumers.  

“The unit is specifically designed for China because air pollution is far greater here. The sensitivity level has been adjusted to not only meet the current standard but to exceed the soon-to-be introduced air purifier standard.”

Lee added that the Alen BreatheSmart F750 VOC also includes SmartSensor technology.

“Our SmartSensor detects surrounding air quality and adjusts the fan speed accordingly in order optimize unit performance and save energy,” said Lee.

Bite of China’s market

Data from GfK, a market research and consultancy firm, shows that about 1.7 million air purifiers were sold in China in 2013, a 116 percent year-on-year increase.

“The competition is really fierce here in China. When I started the company 8 years ago, there were only about 10 competitors in the US. Now because air purifiers are popular in China, the market has 200 to 300 brands,” said Lee.

“We can’t be just one of them", he said, adding that a focus on their customers is what differentiates the Alen brand.

“We are committed to the Chinese customers.  We are creating a company that takes good care of clients and designs products to suit their individual needs. We want to serve our customers and help them live better and healthier for their lifetimes,” said Lee.

Lee founded Alen Corporation in 2006, and has been the CEO and owner since the start.

“Alen Corporation is unique as it’s a niche company and focused on air purifiers.  Many brands are in the home appliances market and thus do not know air purifiers as well as Alen. Our primary advantages are: we have an in-depth knowledge of the air purifier industry, we are intensely focused on taking care of our customers and we have a passion for helping our customers breathe, feel and live better and healthier,” he said.

Although operating in the US for eight years, the company committed itself to the Chinese market last year and plans to set up its Chinese headquarters in Beijing.

“It took less than three days for me to feel the impact of air pollution in Beijing. Now that I have experienced the effects of air pollution, I can relate with what the Chinese customers are experiencing,” said Lee, admitting that he would travel with an air purifier with him during his entire trip to China.

At present China accounts for less than 10 percent of the Alen’s total sales. But Lee is dedicated to changing that.

The Alen BreatheSmart F750 VOC will be available for purchase through Alen’s homepage, China’s e-commerce website, and retail agents.

“It’s going to be a revolutionary product for us and our customers. Our goal is to be as good as if not better than the leading products,” said Lee.

20 percent Chinese

“It’s very fulfilling for me to come back to my homeland and help Chinese customers,” said Lee, who is Chinese American.

Growing up in a Chinese family and educated in America, Lee sees himself “80 percent American and 20 percent Chinese.”

“Most Chinese parents want their kids to be more successful than they are. My parents were worried as they felt I should work in a big company and retire there,” said Lee, recalling the time when he started his first company.

“I am immersed in the American culture and there’s such an entrepreneurial spirit in the US that there’s a part of me always wanting to build something,” he added.

His childhood closely resembles a typical Chinese upbringing. He studied a musical instrument and focused on science and math. Lee is a university graduate with a masters in mechanical engineering and a MBA.

His entrepreneurial inspiration came to him when he was suffering from allergies. According to Lee, Austin, Texas, is the high-allergy capital in the US and where he first encountered flu-like symptoms from the air.

“The medicine made me sleepy. It has my body adjust to the environment, but why not adjust the environment to the body, which is why an air purifier makes more sense.”

He said he appreciates his mechanical background, but prefers to focus his efforts on learning and understanding customer’s needs.

“I consider an advantage to have some technical background because the marketing side helps me understand customer needs and the engineering side helps me figure out a solution to take care of the needs,” said Lee.

Taking advantage of his background and the experience of running the company for several years, Lee is steadfast in his commitment to customer service.

“Alen Corporation hopes to bring pure air and better lives to customers, employees and partners,” Lee concluded.  “China is the best place in the world to do just that.”

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