NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Many Chi­nese cit­i­zens who have worked or stud­ied abroad have been re­turn­ing in droves to ful­fill their en­tre­pre­neur­ial am­bi­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By YU RAN in Shang­hai

yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Though they were once ea­ger to leave China in search of greener pas­tures, many Chi­nese now see their home coun­try as a land of op­por­tu­ni­ties fol­low­ing the cen­tral govern­ment’s push to­ward in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship.

Ni Hualiang, who was born in Shang­hai and im­mi­grated to Canada in 2008, is one of these re­turnees. The 40-year-old re­turned to his home city in 2015 to start his own com­pany OYMo­tion Tech­nolo­gies af­ter quit­ting his well-pay­ing job as a tech­ni­cian in the semi­con­duc­tor in­dus­try in Toronto.

Ni said that he had been ea­ger to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties of set­ting up his own com­pany for sev­eral years. In 2011, he quit his job as a tech­ni­cian in an­other com­pany and opened a med­i­cal elec­tron­ics com­pany with friends in Sil­i­con Val­ley. How­ever, the busi­ness shut­tered af­ter just a year due to fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

“I have to ad­mit that my first try at run­ning a busi­ness was a fail­ure as my busi­ness part­ners and I just didn’t think through and an­tic­i­pate all the prob­lems we could have faced,” said Ni.

But Ni was hardly dis­cour­aged by the fail­ure. In­stead, he con­tin­ued seek­ing out op­por­tu­ni­ties and had in 2013 made a con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment into the re­search and de­sign of a ges­ture recog­ni­tion prod­uct so that he could test the wa­ters of the mar­ket in Shang­hai.

Af­ter two years of con­stant shut­tling be­tween Canada and China to eval­u­ate the mar­ket de­mand and con­di­tions, Ni even­tu­ally quit his job to set up his own com­pany.

“I don’t think em­i­grat­ing to Canada in­flu­enced me to be an en­tre­pre­neur. I be­lieve I would have stepped into the busi­ness world even ear­lier and be more suc­cess­ful if I didn’t go abroad,” said Ni.

OYMo­tion Tech­nolo­gies, which fo­cuses on the re­search and de­sign of tech­nolo­gies re­lated to hu­man­com­puter in­ter­ac­tion, such as the ap­pli­ca­tion of ges­ture recog­ni­tion and vir­tual re­al­ity, has showed prom­ise since its in­cep­tion. It re­ceived a firstround in­vest­ment of 5 mil­lion yuan ($720,000) in Septem­ber 2015. Ni said that he is cur­rently pre­par­ing for the com­pany’s sec­ond fund­ing round.

“China is a huge mar­ket for in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies like vir­tual re­al­ity, aug­mented re­al­ity and smart home sys­tems. These tech­nolo­gies are cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped at a fast pace in the coun­try,” ex­plained Ni of his de­ci­sion to set up a com­pany in Shang­hai.

“Al­though we’ve faced prob­lems like in­creas­ing ma­te­rial ex­penses and la­bor costs, the govern­ment has of­fered re­source and pol­icy sup­port that have helped us grow and ex­pand.”

In a bid to pro­mote en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion as a key com­po­nent of the na­tion’s eco­nomic tran­si­tion process, the govern­ment has made mar­ket en­try eas­ier for busi­nesses, re­duced red tape and rolled out tax breaks for star­tups.

As a re­sult, overseas re­turnees, as well as col­lege stu­dents and mi­grant work­ers, are emerg­ing as ma­jor forces in en­trepreneur­ship. Ac­cord­ing to data from the Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity, the num­ber of re­turnees to China in 2015 was 12.1 per­cent more than in 2014.

“The govern­ment has con­tin­u­ously im­proved mea­sures to per­suade overseas Chi­nese to re­turn home, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing bet­ter public ser­vices for global ex­perts to launch their com­pa­nies in a good busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment,” said Qi Xiaozhai, di­rec­tor of the Shang­hai Com­mer­cial Eco­nomic Re­search Cen­ter.

China cur­rently has 321 in­dus­trial parks that of­fer con­ducive en­vi­ron­ments for overseas re­turnees to start their own busi­nesses. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics, re­turnees par­tic­i­pated in 19,000 re­search and devel­op­ment projects in 2015.

Apart from Ni, an­other overseas re­turnee that has lever­aged the strong sup­port from the Chi­nese govern­ment is Zhang Wen, who ma­jored in IT and used to be a pri­vate equity lawyer in the United States. Upon his re­turn to China in 2011, the 43-year-old set up Sum­mit Cap­i­tal Equity In­vest­ment Fund Man­age­ment (Shang­hai) Co., Ltd.

His com­pany cur­rently man­ages eight to nine projects, with Cybe­spoke — a com­pany that uses 3D scan­ning tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate be­spoke cloth­ing and shoes for cus­tomers — be­ing one of those that he founded.

“This com­pany and its tech­nol­ogy rep­re­sents a break­through for the high-cost cus­tom­ized in­dus­try. At Cybe­spoke, we of­fer cus­tomers tailor­made cloth­ing that come with rea­son­able prices and ex­cep­tional ser­vices,” said Zhang.

Zhang added that the idea to start such a busi­ness be­gan af­ter he no­ticed that his fel­low lawyers had to spend thou­sands of dol­lars ev­ery year buy­ing tai­lor-made suits in Hong Kong. Zhang later chanced upon 3D scan­ning tech­nol­ogy which he was de­ter­mined to in­cor­po­rate into his plan. He soon im­ported the scan­ning hard­ware and had his team mod­ify the machines

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