Dyson looks east, opens technology lab in Shanghai

Dyson, known for its premium-priced hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and bladeless fans, has opened a new technology lab in Shanghai as its first research facility in China, as well as part of its US$3.2 billion global expansion plan.

China is, after Singapore and its headquarters in the UK, the third country to open the technology centre.

Working on wireless connection and localised customer demand in the smart home appliance sector, the local lab will have about 50 engineers within 12 months. Purification, intelligent machines and personal care devices will be core areas of focus.

Dyson entered China about four years ago and now has 460 stores in the country, with about half of its sales generated on e-commerce platforms. Battery-powered vacuums are its best-selling product in the country.

According to Financial Times, the company’s China sales more than tripled last year, propelling it into one of its top five markets.

"Chinese market is very important to Dyson," said Jim Rowan, chief operating officer of Dyson, speaking at the opening ceremony of the lab.

"China's digital and network development is leading the world, so we want to attract more local software engineers to join us. As we grow in China so must our ability to localise apps and software."

Growth in China has been fuelled by an "aspirational class that is willing to spend more", said Rowan.

The home appliances company’s main manufacturing bases are Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines.

Rowan said Dyson would consider moving manufacturing to China if local demand grew sufficiently large.

However, it has not all been smooth sailing for Dyson in China. Competition from local brands is stiff, with technology companies such as Xiaomi moving into home appliances.