Doing Business in China — Podcast #27 with Alexis Roig
In itnig’s Podcast #27 Bernat Farrero, CEO at itnig, Jordi Romero, CEO at Factorial and César Migueláñez, Product Director at Factorial speak with Alexis Roig entrepreneur in China about how he got started and the challenges and opportunities he faces on a day to day basis.
Summing up 9 years of living in China in terms of bureaucracy, local partners, recruitment of talented team members, cultural differences and the effects of pollution.
Before moving to Shanghai I was living in France. Little decisions bring you to new places. To me, European culture felt pretty similar once you learn the language. So, after a time in France I was looking for something new, a cultural challenge. And in that sense China, Shanghai really seemed like a personal and professional challenge with huge opportunities for business and technology.
I moved to Shanghai initially working for a French company — and I arrived there without knowing anything. If you have something entrepreneurial in you, China is contagious. It has another rhythm, everybody has another company, side projects. In the first year I started with my own personal project while working at the company.
What kind of projects did you start?
We started out with Food & Beverage products that were innovative at that time. Later I dedicated myself to education, developing collaboration between Europe and China and now lately consulting projects in technological diplomacy. International relation paired with science, innovation and technology.
In general, Chinese don’t cook at home, most people eat out. So we launched a restaurant with mediterranean/ catalan cuisine. Far away from technology, this was a very interesting project.
How do you create business in China?
If you are thinking more about the bureaucratic aspect it’s not easy: As foreigner there is a format to follow, a lot of regulation and norms for taxes and recruitment. These rules for foreigners differ from rules applied to Chinese businesses.
And it’s not just bureaucracy — you need a new approach to everything.
Chinese internet is another world.
You’ll have to think of other ways of doing business — Amazon Web Services, Google Apps, GitHub …. you won’t be able to do business as usual and have to find new ways. When you want to start in China, you’ll need maximum humility and you should look at it as if it were your very first project.
What is the work culture like?
For me as entrepreneur this is probably the hardest challenge. Talent lack, no team work, not much creativity — based in education system. You listen to the teacher but you never question his wisdom. No creativity, no critical thinking, no group work. This education system helps to keep up the system but it also means that China is lacking talent working in new areas of science and technology.
People are only children — this also has an implication on their behavior. In a family there might be six people who are looking after one child, all frustration, aspiration and expectations are focussed on one child. This child receives a look of pressure on what to do in life, whom to marry, where to work, if to buy a house or not…This also affects the way you look at work.
You ask somebody for an opinion — but it’s hard to get an answer.
This is generalizing of course, stereotypes. Now the trend is to bring back Chinese population who left to study abroad, start business or work in laboratory. They know how to move in the Chinese society and have seen the ‘world outside’.
How do you sell in China?
In terms of Internet, the Chinese internet user is very accustomed to buy online. 8 years ago when I arrived to Shanghai, I was surprised! In the subway in the morning everybody around me was buying online through their mobile. At the same time in Europe, we had Amazon but it wasn’t the same thing. I still use my desktop to shop, compare prices and find information about the product looking to buy. And when arriving at the office, the reception was swamped with parcels.
Most Chinese people’s first contact with internet is through the phone. Like in other areas of development, the first product introduced to the market was a phone not a desktop pc.
30 years ago China was a miserable place but now people are dressed with international brand, big cars, use the latest smartphone. The boom of consumer society, deleting the story of the country, religion is the money, the big aspiration is making money, paying a good education for children and finding a high paying job. What’s left of communism is probably only the leading party’s name.
If you are interested in hearing more about starting a business in China, watch the whole podcast on Youtube or listen to it on iTunes.
Listen to our podcast to learn more about Alexis’ adventures in developing businesses in China. Learn more in this Podcast in Spanish on our Youtube channel, listen to it on iTunes or enjoy it through iVoox and subscribe to our newsletter to stay always up to date.