Over the past five years, the business model of China’s clothing industry has been unraveling. For decades, China’s vast apparel industry competed mainly on price. But with labor, land and raw materials costs rising, environmental regulations tightening and competition becoming ever fiercer, even many of China’s best-known brands have struggled. There has been one exception: HLA. The Jiangsu Province-based menswear label has grown stronger even as competitors shuttered hundreds of outlets. In this interview, Li Lode, Professor of Operations Management at CKGSB and Professor Emeritus at Yale University, explains how HLA’s success has been made possible by smart strategic decisions.
Becoming a movie star isn’t attractive anymore. For many young netizens in China, online stardom is the ultimate dream, not only because online celebrities now earn even more than A-list movie stars, but also they are able to influence hundreds and thousands of people just by go livestreaming, sharing beauty tips and fashion trends and posting their own selfies. Consumer brands and clients are chasing after these online celebrities. Reports say the online celebrity economy by some calculations is worth more than the country’s domestic film industry. How to become an online star? How do they make money? What’s behind the rise of “wanghong culture”?
Few in the expat business community can rival Patrick Horgan’s depth and range of experience in the Chinese market. Since first coming to China as a volunteer in 1989, Horgan’s career has spanned business, diplomacy and cultural relations. Since 2011, he has been Regional Director of Northeast Asia for Rolls-Royce. As he tells CKGSB Knowledge, he believes China’s development ambitions make this an exciting time to be at the British manufacturing giant. China now has about 2,800 aircraft while in the US the number is 7,000 and there is a massive opportunity for international air framers and engine providers.
Few people have had the opportunity to watch the rise of video games as an economic and cultural force as closely as Jordan Mechner, who began making video games while in high school in the 1970s. He had his first hit, Karateka, in 1984 while he was still in college, and later went on to create the Prince of Persia franchise, which to date has sold over 20 million copies. In a wide-ranging interview over Skype from his office in Montpellier, France, Mechner, who is also a successful screenwriter and graphic novelist, talked about the evolution of game design and where games might head next.
Forget e-commerce. In today’s China, the smartest businesses are moving the digital revolution into the offline world as the boundaries between online and offline become increasingly blurred. The integration of information technology into our daily lives is allowing companies to apply advanced big data techniques to transform a range of industries previously considered relatively impervious to digital disruption. For businesses across nearly every sector, the key to future success now lies in three areas: data, smart systems and the sharing economy.
In the early seventies, mechanical pinball games still dominated the arcades, as they had since the Great Depression. Then in 1972, Allan Alcorn, a 24-year-old designer in Sunnyvale, CA, developed a two-dimensional electronic table tennis game and installed it in a local bar. Pong was an unexpected hit at Andy Capp’s Tavern, and soon became so popular that it spawned an entirely new entertainment medium, the videogame. As Devin Griffith put it in his 2013 history of the videogame, Virtual Ascendance, “[t]hree vertical lines and a bouncing square of light. That’s all it took to change the world.” Flash forward 45 years and annual videogame revenue now exceeds $100 billion.
Chinese parents today are willing to spend more than their parents’ generation were to make their children smile. Retail sales of toys and games in China leaped over 250% between 2011 and 2016, making the toy market very appealing. Today, playtime in China is more about learning than fun and games—Chinese parents think play should be constructive, making educational toys more popular than traditional ones. Meanwhile, seizing kids’ playtime is also a key to winning the toy market, and that’s why toy brands are attempting to combine their products with a learning center.
China’s once-mighty industrial heartland in the Northeast, or Dongbei, has fallen on hard times in recent years. Could the key to its revival lie in the American Rust Belt experience? As happened in the US Rust Belt, firms in Dongbei, almost all state-owned, started to struggle in the 1980s. They have been in decline ever since, leaving local governments with a cluster of problems, including heavy industry pollution and high debt levels, which would be instantly recognizable to policymakers in Gary, Indiana, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Now that its counterparts in the West have now largely transcended the phase, what can Dongbei learn from the American rust belt’s experience?
We all know that air pollution is bad for our health. But what is often overlooked is that high pollution levels also cause significant harm to our economic well being. Brian Viard, Associate Professor of Strategy and Economics at CKGSB, has been researching the economic effects of pollution for much of the past few years. His team has found persuasive evidence that the costs of air pollution are greater and more wide-ranging than most people realize. In this interview with CKGSB Knowledge, he explains how tackling the pollution crisis could actually make the Chinese economy more productive.
China’s financial sector used to be famous for its poor service and imperviousness to innovation. Even today, when customers go to make a transaction at one of the country’s big state-run banks, they often take a bag of snacks with them—they know they’re in for a long wait. But things are changing fast in the Middle Kingdom. A new generation of digital finance firms is taking the country—and the global markets—by storm in everything from digital payments and micro-lending to insurance and wealth management. How will China’s lumbering state-run banks react? Will tightening regulation nip this revolution in the bud?