VTech Holdings, this year's overall winner of the Award for Industry: Export Marketing, hopes its success will spur on other local firms to expand their activities abroad. Company founder and chairman Allan Wong Chi-yun said it was time more Hong Kong companies produced and marketed their own products. 'Manufacturers need to become involved in brand strategy and marketing, not just research and development,' he said. 'At the moment, many companies are not used to doing this kind of work. Many Hong Kong manufacturers are very down to earth so do not have much idea of marketing. 'In these fields money is spent but the result not readily seen. Compared to the technological part of the business, it involves fundamental conceptual differences.' However, he hopes VTech's success will result in other companies making the conceptual leap required - and by doing so move from being companies producing products specified by the customer, to companies with names and a range of products recognised around the world. VTech, an electronic learning products and telecommunications company, is, says Mr Wong, Hong Kong's most internationally famous home-grown brand. It has more than $370 million in annual revenue and offices in 13 countries. A former electronics engineer, Mr Wong set up the company in 1976 in a 200-square-metre office in To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, with a staff of 40. Today it has more than 17,000 employees in 13 countries and its manufacturing area totals more than 200,000 square metres. VTech is the biggest electronic educational toy manufacturer in the United States with more than 60 per cent market share. It also has an over 60 per cent average share of the market in Europe. In 1990, surveys showed the company only had a 30 per cent brand recognition rate in the US. The level is now 80 per cent. Mr Wong said the main reason for the success of its marketing campaign was the company's focus on product development and technology. 'The number one criteria for a good export marketing campaign is good products. 'Once you have the right product, the marketing strategy and campaign will become much more effective. No company is big enough to produce inferior products.' Last year, US$30 million was spent by VTech on research and development - and the figure is expected to rise. More than 800 specialist staff are employed in the function. The group has developed advanced technology in designing satellite receivers and cordless telephones. This year, the group's telecommunication products recorded the greatest growth in sales among all product groups, notching an 11 per cent increase. Net profits for 1996/7 rose 34.2 per cent to US$43.6 million, an increase of US$11.1 million over the previous year. In this year's Awards for Industry, the firm also won an accolade for technological achievement and a Certificate of Merit for Consumer Products.