Hans Tung knows how to spot a unicorn. During his career, he has invested in 11 startups that have gone on to attain billion-dollar valuations, including Airbnb, Bytedance, Slack, Wish and Xiaomi. Tung is also one of the few venture capitalists that feels equally at home on both sides of the Pacific. A native of Taiwan, he moved to California aged 13 and began his career in Silicon Valley, before becoming one of the first VCs at a US firm to move to China full-time in 2005. Since moving back to the US in 2013, he has continued to invest in both markets.
Economic changes taking place in China are rippling across the world, causing rapid upheaval in global supply chains. Manufacturers are moving to lower-wage economies, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is creating a new web of trade flows and the rise of cross-border e-commerce is accelerating demand for goods from across the world. And then, of course, there is a possible global trade war to factor into the equation. Dealing with all this uncertainty requires ice-cool pragmatism, as FedEx’s China head, Eddy Chan, has learned.
For a company whose software speaks to more than half a billion people, iFlytek tends to keep its voice low. Founded by a group of researchers in 1999 and headquartered in the relatively sleepy eastern city of Hefei, the company was ranked as the 6th smartest firm in the world in 2017—just one place below Google—by MIT Technology Review. Over the past two decades, iFlytek developed software that can understand several Chinese dialects fluently—a feat Apple’s Siri still struggles with. It can transcribe it into text, and translate it into English instantly. In this interview, Jiang Tao, Senior Vice President of iFlytek, who joined in the firm at the very beginning, explains how the company reached this point and how it keeps hold of its world-class researchers.
China is now home to many of the world’s largest and most dynamic private companies. But apart from a few exceptions such as Alibaba’s Jack Ma, little is known outside China about the intrepid entrepreneurs who built these business empires, often against astonishing odds. Professor Peter Cappelli at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and author of Fortune Makers: The Leaders Creating China’s Great Global Companies, is trying to change that.
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.
What makes Chinese consumers tick? That’s the question Chris Reitermann, CEO of Ogilvy China, has been puzzling over for the last two decades. Reitermann began his career at advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather in the 1990s, moving to Beijing in 2000 to set up the digital agency OgilvyInteractive. Since then, he has risen to head up the company’s entire operations in China. In this interview, he discusses the dramatic changes that have taken place in Chinese advertising during his time here, why China has much to learn from India on running a great campaign, and what the industry may look like by 2027.
Companies are dying fast these days. In the 1950s, the average age of a company on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was 60 years, now it is less than 20. But International Business Machines (IBM), known as “Big Blue”, seems to be an exception. Over the past few decades, it has managed to keep up as others were dying and has successfully transformed itself. Now it has become a provider of cognitive solutions and cloud services. How has such a giant company managed to transform? Gill Zhou, chief marketing officer of IBM China, offers an answer in this interview with CKGSB Knowledge.
Drone maker DJI made drones, once a high-end toy for rich niche hobbyists, into a mainstream consumer product. Begun 10 years ago in a college dorm room, the company now controls 70% of the consumer drone market. Xu Huabin, Vice President of the Shenzhen-based tech firm, explains how the company’s product-driven philosophy helped the firm grow from a maker of model planes to become the world’s largest commercial unmanned aircraft manufacturer. He also discusses DJI’s future plans for diversification and industrialization—to go beyond only making drones with cameras to developing drones with industry-tailored features for diverse customers including engineers and farmers.
While e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba continue to rise, many physical-store retailers are dying off. MINISO is a rare exception, however. Founded in 2013 by Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guofu and Japanese designer Miyake Junya, MINISO has exploded into an emerging business empire with 1,800 stores in 40 countries, delivering an eclectic collection of affordable, curated goods, challenging the physical retail naysayers. What is the key to MINISO’s success? Through careful consideration of the customer and a unique aesthetic, it manages to do what online stores cannot: Deliver an experience.
A common challenge faced by Western tech giants like WeWork and Airbnb: in China there are locally made equivalents already. Yet China is a market hard to ignore. Six years after its founding, WeWork entered the Chinese market and is trying to adapt. Localization happens in every detail, from office design to the hiring of team members. but how will the company win the already very fierce competition among the co-working spaces in China? With a more global network, or a more experienced team in the shared-office? How will it deal with the Chinese government?