As noted in this article, winning a spot in China’s economy requires a true committment, and if you can manage to circumvent the largest pitfalls, you might do very well. In that spirit, we’ve put together a few lessons you’ll want to consider before making the leap into China.
1. Secure a joint venture (JV) partner in China. Going it alone is a surefire way to find yourself up against serious barriers to entry. Having a JV partner will help you access the Internet Content Provider license you’ll probably need to reach those millions of consumers. A JV partner can also lower resistance when it comes to securing the very specific licenses your particular type of business may require.
2. Be realistic about your JV partner in China. Partnerships work out in the long term provided you both have mutually beneficial objectives at heart. Are you simply using a JV to access the market, and are they simply using you to access technology and learn transferrable skills? Best relationships will lend themselves to real partnerships, not relationships of convenience.
3. Determine how “cloneable” your business model is in China. With relatively little IP protection, what about your model requires your participation? What would stop Chinese competitors from duplicating your business in China? How will you differentiate yourself when the “copy-to-China” competitors move in?
4. Be agile. Slow moving organizations who treat China as one uniform market will find themselves in trouble. Big cities can mean big differences in culture, and you need to be adaptable to those conditions. Additionally, if your business can’t maneuver with the speed of start-up competitors in the space, you could be in trouble before you get established.
5. Compete for China’s talent. Many businesses expanding into China mistakenly believe they will have a surplus of affordable, skilled employees to choose from. This isn’t accurate, especially in areas of highly sought-after skill sets. Be prepared to hire as you would in any market where top talent is in demand.
6. Build strong government relationships. It’s far easier to work within the expectations of government in China than it is to clash. Google learned this lesson the hard way. Be proactive about monitoring content online related to your business. If you want to make sure you’re not blocked, you have to monitor what’s posted.
7. Be in China. Build an in-country team who can help you understand the cultural differences from city to city and help you localize your business appropriately. This shows local government you have a vested interest and it will also strengthen your company’s position within China.
Photo attribution: Stuck In Customs