Web design company Lemon has transformed itself to emerge as the central component of Communication Central, a marketing and technology group of companies. Communication Central was created to bring together a number of newly acquired companies and better market and support software developed in-house by Lemon, said Neil Runcieman, the group's chief executive. 'We decided to separate out the various software businesses and productise them properly,' he said. The group's proprietary software products now come under the Communication Central Software, or CCS, banner. The applications on offer include Content Central, a content management application; Customer Central, a Chinese-language customer relationship management tool; and Presentation Central, a multimedia presentation application, that Mr Runcieman said had better multimedia capabilities than Microsoft's PowerPoint. As well as being marketed to customers, the CCS applications will be used by the other companies in the Communication Central group to meet their clients' needs. The rest of the group is made up of Lemon; online advertising company AdXplorer Integrated; Shanghai-based Wise Horse, a direct marketing company; and Media3Way, which specialises in video and webcast technologies. Most of the companies were acquired by Lemon to provide expertise the company did not already have. For instance, AdXplorer was acquired because 'Lemon isn't an advertising company and never has been', Mr Runcieman said. He said the creation of Communication Central was more than just a rebranding exercise of companies acquired by Lemon. 'We now have a scalable model, where you can add new brands and new companies.' But for now Mr Runcieman said the group was concentrating on the technology side of the business, rather than its agency business. He said it saw potential to develop salesforce management software based on its customer management software. He also said it wanted to do more in terms of advertising management and was looking at database management. Established United States software companies that wanted to expand into China had approached the company. Communication Central has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, with Shanghai and Beijing sites expected to open by the end of the year. Mr Runcieman said it was focusing on expanding into China and hoped to be able to offer its software through its own branch offices in all the leading cities by the middle of 2006. This would be supplemented by software distribution licences that extended to second-tier cities. These are meant to be in place by the middle of next year. To support these sales, the company was now hiring channel managers and salespeople, Mr Runcieman said. Although CCS was a new business, Mr Runcieman said it was seeing good results. 'We are starting to gain awareness,' he said. With most of the software's development having been done in China, Mr Runcieman hoped the company would have an advantage over larger overseas software companies when it came to the mainland. He said: 'Our products genuinely offer world-class performance but are developed in China for the China market and are supported in China.' He also believes that, with the software having been developed in China, the company can be more flexible in its pricing than overseas companies. 'Our prices are priced for China. We're scaled for China and the Americans are not,' he said. As new offices open to market the company's software, Lemon and the group's agency services will also expand across the mainland. Mr Runcieman said he thought the company would eventually have about 150 people in China, with about 40 to 100 of them on the agency services side. Over the next year the Hong Kong office would also expand, increasing in numbers by 10 per cent to 20 per cent.