I boarded a plane bound for Shanghai on August 20. My 10 day trip would take me from Shanghai to Hong Kong (for Natural Products Expo Asia) and then to Beijing. Little did I know how much I'd learn.
Though my "10 Business Insights from 10 Days in China" article appears in full in the 2011 Global issue of NBJ, I thought I would tease to some of the "ah-ha" moments I had during my trip.
Think of China's consumer opportunity as part of your current business development strategy, not just of your opportunities to squeeze more savings out of your supply chain.
China ain't cheap anymore. It's getting more expensive to lure the Chinese from their rural homes to urban centers. They've experienced the capitalistic system and its not always so friendly to the working man. The workers understand their role and are asking for better treatment. So if you're going over to China to open a manufacturing plant or secure a supply partnership, also think about how you can sell your products to the rapidly growing Chinese middle class. This is where the long term opportunities exist, not soley in low cost supply.
Being first in China often means finishing last.
I repeat a saying around the office: "The pioneers were also the arrow-catchers." This is true in China. In my conversations with Chinese executives at Natural Products Expo Asia in Hong Kong and during the Market QuickStart meetings in Shanghai and Beijing, I found they were very happy to operate their businesses in the slipstream of others. If you're too successful in China as a first mover, you can bring unwanted attention from groups that may want to make an example of you. China is a rapidly changing country, and the move towards capitalism has created some growing pains in the way the business culture is evolving.
If you'd like to read more about NBJ's adventures in the Chinese nutrition industry, pre-order the global issue of NBJ due out this winter by emailing Chris Lasonde at [email protected]