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Gerrit Smit

Managing Director At Yili Innovation Center Europe B.V.

Gerrit Smit is Managing Director of the Yili Innovation Center in Europe. As its name suggests, this is the European R&D centre of the Chinese dairy company Yili. According to Gerrit, it has the feel of a start-up: plenty of room for entrepreneurship without a fixed trajectory...

Gerrit Smit is Managing Director of the Yili Innovation Center in Europe. As its name suggests, this is the European R&D centre of the Chinese dairy company Yili. According to Gerrit, it has the feel of a start-up: plenty of room for entrepreneurship without a fixed trajectory...

"At Yili Innovation Center Europe, we explore opportunities and develop new ideas for Chinese dairy. The company is growing fast and is constantly on the lookout for better partnerships with companies and institutes in the dairy industry," says Gerrit. According to him, the choice for an innovation centre in the Netherlands is a logical step. "There is an enormous amount of dairy expertise in Europe, especially in the Netherlands. Yili understands that cooperating with Europe only works if you can connect people on the ground, at their own location. The primary role of our innovation centre is therefore to build bridges between the activities of our headquarters in China and here."

NOMILK2DAY AS INTERMEDIARY

Gerrit actually ended up with Yili via Nomilk2day, when the Yili Innovation Center was still in its infancy. His appointment was followed by various application rounds to recruit additional personnel. "During the start-up phase, you need senior staff with experience in a multinational company. People like this are not easy to find. This means you have to entice them from their current situation and enthuse them about a new setting. Nomilk2day fulfilled this role perfectly and helped with a critical attitude in the recruitment and selection process. It is also in the candidates' interest to have Nomilk2day in the middle as a sparring partner. When people are approached for a job, they like to know where they stand and how the process is going to unfold. It is good to have the option to discuss these things with Nomilk2day beforehand. It enables people to negotiate and ask critical questions, without affecting their position as a candidate."

A VARIED JOB WITH ROOM FOR INDIVIDUAL INPUT

According to Gerrit, working at the Yili Innovation Center is extremely varied. "You are expected to make connections with various parties in Europe and collaborate with your Chinese colleagues. You play a bridging role within the dairy sector and are involved in internal communication, marketing, and building a European network. There are many aspects to deal with and there is no fixed trajectory. All this requires an innovative way of thinking and acting, showing initiative and ensuring that things get off the ground." To work successfully at Yili, Gerrit tells us, it is extremely important to be able to translate, as it were, to the Chinese setting. Communicative skills, a desire to travel, and taking an interest in other cultures are indispensable. "The parent company has a Chinese working culture, which is very different from the European culture. You have to find the right balance; build a method of working that works both on the Chinese and the Dutch side. This variety and the room for personal input make working at Yili Innovation Center so special!"

AMBITIOUS PLANS

The Yili Innovation Center in Europe has ambitious plans for the future. "We want to grow and increase our share of the Chinese market. The Chinese dairy industry is very different from the dairy industry as we know it, and dairy consumption is much lower as well. This requires innovations that are in line with the Chinese market, in addition to the right marketing. There are still plenty of challenges at Yili!"

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