According to the World Bank, China has a population of 1.4 billion with a GDP figure standing at just around US$11 trillion. Naturally, China is a nation ripe full of opportunity for Western startups. However, for many Australian companies, breaking into the Chinese market is always a task that belongs in the ‘too hard’ basket. This does not necessarily have to be the case. Josh Steimle, digital marketer and co-founder of the multi-million dollar business MWI, has been very successful in expanding his company out of the US to its first Asian branch in Hong Kong. As of a few weeks ago, he has moved to Shenzhen to open up another branch of MWI. While Hong Kong is a very mature and Westernised city with large corporate offices, Shenzhen, which is just an hour and a half away, is a place where multi-billion dollar tech companies are being built from ground up. This has earned Shenzhen the nickname, ‘Silicon Valley of China’.
I had a very in-depth conversation with Josh, not only on China but also on Digital Marketing, a field in which he is a pioneering leader and influencer. To listen to our discussion, please click on the podcast link below.
In this week’s post, I have offered some of Josh’s insights on doing business in Asia.
The Asian Opportunity
Josh remarks that when he first arrived in Hong Kong, he realised very quickly that a lot of the companies that were thriving in the US did not even exist in Asia. Thus, it was a simple matter of taking a very successful idea from the West and supplanting that into Asia. Josh says, “Whereas, in the US, I have a market of 300 million people, here in Asia I have a market of 4 billion people”. This easily highlights the enormity of the opportunity for Western entrepreneurs thinking of Asia. Not only are there large opportunities for the likes of Uber and AirBnb, but there are also smaller ones that even smaller startups can benefit from.
While some Western businesses tend to think that it is hard to set up a business in China, this is in fact not the case. In Hong Kong, with its sophisticated financial system and widespread use of the English language, a business can be started within a day. While it might seem a bit more daunting in places like Shenzhen, where very few people speak English, outsourcing the paperwork to a reputable agent is the best way of taking the hassle out of the process.
In addition to building his marketing business in Hong Kong, Josh was also very active within the startup space as the Director of Startup Grind Hong Kong. This enabled him to reach out and network with the business community in the city and find the best people to help him navigate the process of growing his business on foreign soil.
Affordability of Talent
Josh remarks that in a place like Shenzhen, some types of workers such as a very experienced assistant with knowledge of both Mandarin and English could be hired for much less in places than in more expensive places such as Hong Kong. However, the high demand for top marketing and tech talent means that these jobs attract the same kinds of salaries as anywhere else.
The power of Wechat
In Mainland China, many Western sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google are blocked by the Great Firewall. This means that almost every Chinese citizen with internet access uses the instant messaging app WeChat instead of other forms of social media. WeChat is used in China for everything, from advertising, purchases to even paying salaries to employees. Thus any business looking to be successful needs to master this platform.
While tackling the beast that is the Chinese economy might seem overwhelming at first, making relationships with knowledgeable locals and expats and adapting to local trends makes the process much easier than anticipated.
Next week, in Part 2 of the article, I shall cover some of Josh’s advice on being a thought leader in your field and how to leverage your influence in making your business more successful!