Award winner takes the city to new heights
Having lived in China for 10 years, Iranian-American Daryoush Ziai really is a China hand. Chinese-style decorations on his desk include bamboo-carving art, duplicates of terra-cotta warriors and chinaware. Bamboo bonsai are planted inside the building, while the meeting rooms are adorned in traditional Chinese style.
Last month, Ziai won the Magnolia Silver Award for his contributions to the elevator industry in Shanghai. He said the medal was a recognition not only for himself, but also for the leap in development of Jiading-based company Schindler (China) Elevator Co.
When free from work, he takes delight in walking in Fuxing Park or along Zizhong Road in downtown Shanghai with his wife and children.
“I like the Chinese culture and the Chinese people, who are like ancient Chinese copper coins, round outside and square inside. The round shape stands for inclusion, while the square one symbolizes a steady inner world,” said Ziai, the company’s CEO.
China wasn’t a strange country to him, as he had been told a lot of stories about it by his father who was sent to Beijing from Iran as chief foreign trade officer, devoting himself to friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries. He was a member of the government delegations that helped establish diplomatic relations in 1971.
“I was just 7 and Chinese culture grasped my mind since then,” said Ziai.
He remembered his father saying that there weren’t a lot of people near Tian’anmen Square in Beijing in 1971 and, compared with a myriad of cars causing traffic jams today, riding a bicycle was the main way of daily travel. The stories formed his first impressions of the country — Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.
“My dad told me that although most Beijing locals lived a plain life, wearing clothes in simple colors such as blue or gray, their inner world was, in contrast, colorful and powerful,” said Ziai.
He made up his mind to visit China one day in the future.
His first visit to Shanghai was in 2010, 40 years after his father’s trip. He was amazed at the changes in this mysterious Eastern country with its neat roads, high-rises and crowds of people.
Schindler Group, a Swiss company with a 140-year history, launched its largest research center in Jiading in 2016 and, after that, two more factories moved from Suzhou in neighboring Jiangsu Province to the district, both of which have been running on solar power since last year. The company’s goal is to provide high-technology and high-quality elevators for companies and consumers.
“The annual production of elevators keeps increasing. We were also involved in the recent key project in Shanghai to install elevators in old residential houses, aiming to provide a more convenient way of life for residents,” said Ziai.
As technology advanced, the company met some obstacles. So he had to study to make sure his expertise is up to date.
As a new CEO in a foreign country, managing the company was not that easy at first.
“On one hand, I had to adapt to the company’s culture and vision, and on the other, my people needed to accept the ways of the new leader, which was me, dealing with matters,” he said. “Fortunately, everything was smooth. I summed up three secrets — to set a target for the company, unite everyone together and support what the team needs.”
Under his leadership, Schindler China has achieved a total industrial output value of 11.2 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion) and paid 340 million yuan in tax last year.
However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, elevators became one of the key confined spaces that made cross-infection easy.
Aware of this, Ziai quickly responded to the situation, launching ultra-ultraviolet handrail sterilizing equipment. To avoid having to touch elevator buttons, the company promoted cellphone scan and voice control services, so people could take a lift without any contact.
“We were challenged by the novel coronavirus, but we always had safety and quality as priorities. Also, we tried to protect the health of our staff, while making sure the products could be used safely with no future worries,” he said. “Our solutions expressed the outstanding and innovative spirit of Schindler in China.”
He credited the success of the company to his employees who had figured out solutions to cope with the pandemic.
The company donated 5 million yuan to the Jiading Red Cross for COVID-19 prevention and raised 1.4 million yuan from colleagues for Wuhan, the former epicenter of the outbreak. It also provided personal protective suits and shared prevention experience with colleagues working in other countries.
“It is our duty to give a helping hand to pull through the hardship together,” Ziai said.
Elevators manufactured by Schindler are installed in buildings all over Shanghai, including Shanghai World Expo venues in the Pudong New Area, Shanghai Magnolia Plaza in Hongkou District near the North Bund, the Bund Finance Center in Huangpu District and Shanghai Metro stations.
“As traditional buildings are transforming to intelligent and smart ones, elevators, the core transportation inside a structure, are moving forward to promote creative solutions, so that people can have a safer and quicker experience,” Ziai said during an interview at the World Elevator and Escalator Expo 2020 in Shanghai in August.
“I believe China will continue to work as the engine of global development, and such development of innovation and technology will continue to benefit not only China itself but also the whole world,” he said. “I will try my best to lead the company, making more breakthroughs in the industry.”