Mandarin was launched in 2001 as a specialist office supplies company, selling environmentally responsible products and services to a diverse range of UK and European clients. The environmental factor is important, not simply because it was key to our corporate vision, but also because, at that time, the commercial world was just beginning to wake up to the necessity, and soon after the advantage, of an ecological portfolio and infrastructure. Put simply, it was a good thing to be green and to be seen to be green. These were Everett Rogers’ early adopters (Diffusion of Innovations 1962); they became our target clients and remain so to this day. Our suppliers were mostly from Europe and the Far East and we were soon, as a result, spending much time visiting Trade Fairs and shows in Paris and Tokyo, in Hanover and Hong Kong. Over the next few years it became clear that our core product base was under increasing threat as ever more suppliers positioned themselves under the environmental umbrella. Products were subtracted from and added to our range until, in 2006, a new lighting technology began to emerge. To be brutally frank, for the next two years the technology was simply not ready despite the claims and counter claims of the various interested parties. We watched, we researched, we probably took too many long haul flights for our low carbon footprint comfort, and we waited. We considered whether anyone would listen to a company that had never sold a light bulb in its life. We spoke to suppliers, we began to understand the vocabulary, we hired people who understood the science, we learned about key products, we spoke to the relevant Government departments, we insured ourselves to the hilt (!), and eventually, at least a year later, we wondered who we might sell to.
It was a bright early August morning in 2009 when we received our first large order. It was from the LSE in London. They had trialled a few MR16s for a few months and, true to their environmental profile, decided to place an order for a couple of hundred lights. For them – we do not kid ourselves – this was a low hanging fruit initiative. If it all went horribly wrong, they could reverse out of their decision in a couple of days. If it all went right, that decision would be vindicated. Since that day we have supplied them with over 3000 LED lights, from spotlights to floodlights, from panels to tubes. In August 2017 we revisited the first installation; over 80% of the MR16s were still in place, still burning, still saving money. That’s eight years. Eight years. Since that first installation we have sold almost 30,000 lights. That may be all you need to know.
How we are different.
Three ways. Firstly, we respect our clients. That may sound odd but, after meeting hundreds of industry professionals over the last ten years, it really is rarer than you might think. There seems to be an astonishing arrogance endemic in certain quarters and at various levels of the supply chain in today’s market. As importers, although we are product led and believe we offer some of the most technically advanced products in the world, we are undoubtedly client driven. Unlike those manufacturers who have machines to fill, metals to extrude and components to press, our partners are independent product creators who are far more flexible in responding to a client’s wishes, both in terms of design and timeframe. We know that our clients are not only our lifeblood but that of our partners also. Clients are the whole point of our being here. Without them, without you,we are precisely nothing.
Secondly, we respect our partners. Despite being in the LED lighting market for, then, eight years, we had never found a manufacturer who provided very high quality architectural products at an acceptable price. There were a few out there but either they had no interest in selling to us or they were far too expensive or, in most cases, their products were nothing like as good as they claimed. We found the manufacturer LEDLUKS in the afternoon of the final day of Frankfurt Light and Build having met with more than 30 potential partners on the previous two days. We spent 20 minutes with them and almost immediately realised we wished to enter into a commercial alliance with them. Fortunately for us we found that, although represented in 20 countries already, they had no presence in the UK and would be delighted to work with us to open up the UK market. Their products are truly excellent, as you may already have learned in the relevant section; fine engineering, micro-detailed assembly, world class componentry and well thought out features. We are delighted and honoured to be offering their products to the UK market. The fact of their being European manufacturers has positive benefits for schedules, daytime contact and cost.
Thirdly, we respect our planet. No one , whether they had heard of us or not, can deny that we were one of the very first third party suppliers to offer reliable LED products to the UK market. From 2010 to 2012, during which time we sold over £1.5 million of LED lights, we used to remark in our monthly meetings that the thundering hooves of the competition would surely be heard soon. How could they not enter this emerging market, one of which’s key USPs was a very significant reduction in energy requirement and so, by natural extension, carbon emissions? Added to this was the very high recycle percentage of LED lights compared with, for instance, traditional fluorescent tubes and surely the market was irresistible to any responsible manufacturer or influencer. And there’s the rub; so many were not responsible, or at least not responsible enough to derail potentially the built-in redundancy strategy of their existing technologies. Four years after a hugely successful installation of 400 edge lit panels (we were the first to offer these by a couple of years, by the way) at a major University sourced from a primary supplier to, among others, SONY, SAMSUNG, PANASONIC and APPLE which reduced the energy required to light the building by over 50% for improved light levels, we asked the (Highly Learned) consultants who had roundly slammed the University’s decision to install these “sub-standard and untested” luminaires sourced from a company they had never heard of to comment on their earlier position. They declined to comment. Actually that is not true. They shouted their advice down the ‘phone that we go forth and multiply (shortened version).