Henrik Friis is a busy man. As the Managing Director of Dantherm Filtration Ltd in Bangkok, he is responsible for the production and sales of filters produced by almost 100 staff. Representative offices in Vietnam and Malaysia need to be taken care of too.
As of January 2010, he is also the Chairman of the Board at Dantherm Filtrations in China. And on top of that, Henrik Friis has an advisory role for Dantherm Filtration in Denmark preparing for a new sales office in India.
It’s a Friday noon. In a few weeks, the big news that Nederman is buying Dantherm Filtration will break. Although he surely must know of it, he doesn’t say a word.
Yesterday morning, Henrik Friis, landed in Hanoi to check up on the finishing of three huge filters in Hai Duong north of the capital. Later the same day he went down to HCMC/ Saigon to pay his representation office a visit. And to night it’s back to Bangkok again.
Back in the early 90’s
Lots of things has happened since the Danish machinist landed in Asia for the first time.
“It was in the early nineties. I was asked to stay for six weeks, but it developed into a 12 months stay. And after six months back in Denmark, I returned as a manager, Henrik Friis says. At that time Dantherm Filtration was still called Nordfab, a name occasionally used even to day.
“We had lots of orders, lots of things to do. Everything was quite fantastic,” Henrik recalls.
Then in a split second, his world turned upside down, and it took almost three years before things were back to somehow normal.
“I was working with a project in The Philippines. I went on the roof of a factory, when a power cable literarily fell down on the top of my head. What I am telling you now is actually what other people have since told me, because I can’t remember anything,” Henrik Friis says while he starts to role up his left sleeve.
Swift action saved his life
A big part of Henriks body was covered with third-degree burns. The costumer in the Philippines was also the chairman of the local hospital. At that time the filtration company was named DISA and owned by Maersk. So a private jet was ordered almost right away, and a few hours later the Dane was airlifted to a hospital in Singapore. Without that swift reaction from the costumer and Maersk, Henrik Friis would not have been in HCMC this afternoon for sure.
“It took a year before I was fit to work again. And actually three years before I was back to normal,” he says. The scars are mostly covered by his shirt or jeans.
“What you can see, my face, neck and hands, are free of scars. But the rest is a mess,” Henrik Friis smiles.
In 1999 before Dantherm purchased DISA / Nordfab, Henrik Friis took over the responsibilities for the Bangkok offices.
“At that time we were only four people. And in 2002 I became responsible for the entire Far East. Since then there has been lots of ups and downs.”
The representative office where we are sitting now doing this interview was opened in 2006.
The office has three people employed. And after the stand-still during the peak of the financial crisis, the salespeople in HCMC are now doing fine.
“We got several huge orders from a factory serving the upcoming wind turbine industry in the Northern part of Vietnam. Before that we have also delivered filters to Scandinavian companies like Aalborg Boilers, Jotun, Hempel, and a range of local costumer including at least one steel plant.”
Dantherm Filtration cleans the air for particles. It can be almost what ever from the production of furniture, to asphalt and welding.
“The Vietnamese rice industri is a huge potential for us. The rice mills could become an important market for us. Its not realy up an running, but we will do what we can to make sure its happening in the future,” Henrik Friis says.
“People both inside and outside the factories will increasingly demand a cleaner environment, it just a matter of time,” he says.
“We started in the wood production. Our first filters were installed to make it possible for the machines to work. The next step was to improve the environment for the workers. We handled that too. And the next will be to take care of the surrounding society.”
“People who live nearby production facilities will demand a clean environment, as in the case with the Map Ta Put Industrial Estate at the Eastern Seaboard in Thailand,” says Henrik Friis.
“All over Asia, politicians and the authorities will be forced to handle the pollution in cooperation with the polluting industries; it’s only a matter of time”.
And Dantherm Filtration Ltd will get its share of that positive development, he says confidently.
“At the moment Vietnam is running very well for us. This little representation office takes care of more than 20% of our Bangkok turnover,” Henrik Friis explains.
The Vietnamese share of the Bangkok business is that big, because the turnover in Thailand it self plunged with almost 30 % in 2007 and 2008 due to the political situation.
In 2008 Malaysia followed. And next there will be a representative office in Indonesia as well.
“We have an agents in Indonesia already. But there is a huge huge potential in Indonesia,” Henrik Friis says.
“The country was hardly hit by the crisis. They have it all. Gold, coal, oil, wood, what ever – they have it, and they will need more and more filtration”, says Henrik Friis.
India on its way
Henrik Friis is also strategic advisor to the new Indian project opening soon.
“It’s taken care of from Denmark, I am just giving strategic advice,” he says modestly.
“In India we will sell products from our China factory. Normally the Indians are not so happy with Chinese products, but we will try to convince them about the fact that Dantherm Filtration products has the same quality whereever they are produced. If it carries the Dantherm Filtration name on it, it has the very same high quality all over the world.”
“I am already on the road a huge part of my time. My calendar is normally full three to four months ahead. Meeting with our staff like the one you see here to day in HCMC is foremost important. The same with follow ups to agents and their costumers or potential costumers. Our costumers demand to negotiate with the head. I simply have to be there when things are rounded up, and the ink goes to the paper”, explains “the machinist” Henrik Friis.