STEP­PING OUT IN CHINA

With in­put from some key mar­ket play­ers, Jan Bier­man walks you through the steps re­quired to suc­ceed in the China mar­ket.

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Jan Bier­man walks you through the steps re­quired to suc­ceed in the China mar­ket.

“It’s a dan­ger­ous busi­ness, Frodo, go­ing out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no know­ing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

The ac­tion of putting one foot in front of the other and de­ter­min­ing whether your busi­ness is a goer in China is sev­eral times more nu­anced and com­plex that you may first think. Dis­cov­er­ing this will take you right out of your com­fort zone.

Suc­cess­ful mar­ket en­try will mean that you will need to get com­fort­able with be­ing un­com­fort­able. When you know how to han­dle dis­com­fort, you'll be bet­ter equipped to eval­u­ate your choices and em­brace the op­por­tu­nity.

While it is true that China rep­re­sents a huge po­ten­tial mar­ket for New Zealand goods and ser­vices, its sheer size, scale, reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment, het­ero­ge­neous na­ture and rapid evo­lu­tion pre­sents dis­tinct chal­lenges for new play­ers. It can be ex­tremely baf­fling to know where these op­por­tu­ni­ties lie and how to ac­cess them.

Jus­sara Bier­man of global brand­ing agency Rare HQ knows this all too well. “We have seen too many businesses fall on their faces in China be­cause they have over-rated the street-cred of ‘Brand NZ', trusted dis­trib­u­tors, taken a one-size ap­proach, or had a DIY at­ti­tude. China re­quires a dis­crete mind­set, com­mit­ment, and in­sight.” “Suc­cess de­pends upon pre­vi­ous prepa­ra­tion, and with­out such prepa­ra­tion there is sure to be fail­ure.” – Con­fu­cius

Tim Zhou, a New Zealand alumni and owner of Res­o­nance Trad­ing, a Shang­hai-based food and bev­er­age im­porter and gift­ing agency, likens do­ing busi­ness in China to an “ex­treme over­tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence”. “Look what's on the road,” he says. “You will see lux­ury cars worth over one mil­lion Ren­minbi (RMB or CNY) as an in­di­ca­tor of China's grow­ing econ­omy and wealth.

“Then take a note of the driv­ing be­hav­ior, with mo­torists mak­ing use of ev­ery bit of the road in their rush to get ahead. At first, this ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment can be scary; but tenac­ity and a will­ing­ness to do com­pre­hen­sive due dili­gence, readi­ness to lo­calise and take the lead, and the spirit to con­tin­u­ously thrust yourself for­ward can lead to suc­cess in China.”

Suc­cess can be elu­sive if you don't learn to em­brace a China mind­set.

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