CHANGSHA, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Desperate for new ways to beat cabin fever amid the COVID-19 quarantine, a decades-old fishing net producer based in central China offers "healthy" solutions for entertainment.
Soccer nets, tennis nets, volleyball nets, lacrosse nets, baseball hoops, softball batting cages, swings and trampolines fill up its fourth-floor exhibition hall.
These portable and innovative sporting nets and stadium facilities were designed and manufactured by Hunan Xinhai Co. Ltd., a company traditionally known as a reliable net supplier for fishermen in the nearby Dongting Lake, China's second-largest freshwater lake.
"Who would have thought that one day we would start making 'toys?'" Liu Fangjun, the company's chairman, said jokingly.
Born and raised in a traditional fishing town along Dongting Lake, 67-year-old Liu is an aspiring fisherman-turned-entrepreneur whose fishing net career started in 1977 from a shabby mill in the town. Through years of painstaking trial-and-error attempts, his company managed to survive and earned a good name.
FROM LAKE TO SEA
The greatest challenge came when fishermen gave up nets and boats on the Yangtze River due to a 10-year fishing moratorium starting from Jan. 1 this year on key areas of the country's longest river, including Dongting Lake and Poyang Lake, to protect biodiversity.
Sensitive to such an unprecedented country-wide green push, the Xinhai company managed to not only stay alive but also keep ahead in the business thanks to timely industrial transformation.
Beyond the vast lake, Liu's sight stretched further into the boundless oceans, where he saw demands for high-strength and anti-fatigue marine fishing nets of lightweight material.
"It is not easy to stick to your old trade and do it to the fullest like a craftsman," said Liu Yang, Liu Fangjun's son and general manager of the company.
FROM FISHING TO SPORTING
Xinhai ushered in its second transformation with a cognitive change.
"Fishing nets are in essence 'nets and twine,' which are by no means limited to fishing," Liu Yang said. "Nets, twine and thread are found everywhere, from cardiac stents and mask stitches to marine cables and optical fibers."
After rebranding itself as far more than a fishing net producer, Xinhai diversified its products to include nets and twine for agriculture, industrial production, daily use and sports.
Liu Yang told Xinhua that when Xinhai founded its wholly-owned subsidiary and brand Xinghai Sports in 2017, they targeted mainly the production of competitive sports nets, which turned out to have a small scale of consumers. "Through multiple trials, we decided to create leisure sports products that entertain people."
Boasting more than 20 patents and an expected sales revenue surpassing 100 million yuan (14.09 million U.S. dollars) this year, Xinhai continues to invest heavily in R&D and is taking on more social responsibility by employing an increasingly large number of lakeside residents and impoverished households.
"The ecological reform of the Dongting Lake has driven our company to transform and propelled our development," Liu Fangjun said.
"In the past, we used to live on the lake. Now it's time for all of us to protect it," he said. Enditem