Course aims to open doors to China

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am

China's population of more than 1.3 billion people and a robust economy, which is among the world's fastest-growing, have made the country an irresistible target for international companies keen on increasing their sales and profitability.

But how does a foreign company go about penetrating and profiting from mainland China's alluring and potentially lucrative market when its business practices and cultures are different in many ways from those prevailing in the world's major financial and business centres, including Hong Kong?

These vital issues are tackled and probable solutions are identified in a special two-day course that will be offered in June this year by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The university enjoys the distinction of having intimate insight into how business is conducted in China and it is well-positioned to share its wealth of knowledge to senior executives of companies with aspirations to set up operations and grow their business on the mainland.

'Since the university's executive educators have worked with numerous mainland Chinese companies in the past two decades, we have learnt a lot from them while showing them international success [corporate] models and innovations from different parts of the world,' said Wendy Lai Kwai-fong, executive programme manager at Chinese University's Asia-Pacific Institute of Business.

She said managers of major mainland Chinese companies who participated in Chinese University's customised executive education programmes had provided the university with valuable insights which could go a long way in facilitating the entry into China of foreign companies and enhancing their chance of success.

These insights include the fact that business practices and culture is not homogenous in the mainland and varies from one region to another. What this implied was that consumption patterns, preferences and behaviour, as well as business practices, would necessarily be different from one region to another, she said.

Ms Lai noted that while major firms had human resources development units dedicated to uplifting the professional development of their staff, these units were also handicapped in some ways. They were often focused internally and were not in the best position to arm their senior and middle-level managers with the appropriate knowledge and skills necessary for them to operate successfully in a new business environment, such as China's. 'What our course provides is a broad framework for senior executives to diagnose and understand challenges and problems in doing business in China,' said Ms Lai.

'One may be armed with theories. But the absence of practical management tools may render that senior executive ineffective in a new business environment. We instil in course participants the great value of developing strategic innovation and thinking as these will serve them very well in a new market that they are operating in,' she said.

Ms Lai said Chinese University's two-day course, entitled 'Driving the Ultimate Global Market: Strategy for China', was aimed at helping managers understand the uniqueness of China's corporate environments and markets, and formulate effective marketing strategies to achieve superior performance. The benefits that course participants stand to reap from the programme include knowledge relating to the competitive landscape in China and insights into effective strategies employed in prominent corporate cases in the mainland.

Participants will also be taught analytical frameworks and tools which can be deployed for the formulation and implementation of effective marketing strategies that will help their companies stay ahead of competitors.

Ms Lai said the course would, among other things, look into the prevailing corporate scenario in the mainland, including management practices and key characteristics of China's institutions, markets and traditional cultures as they influenced how firms operating in China were managed. Case studies detailing the success and failures in the mainland of multinational companies are to be presented and dissected, enabling participants to draw lessons from them.

Understanding market conditions in China, market segmentation and consumer behaviour, and adapting a company's marketing strategies to these phenomena, are a key aspect of the course. Discussions will also be conducted on strategic implications based on regional differences of consumer characteristics and behaviour.

Participants are to be taught how to chart the future of their companies' operations in China. Aside from tackling contemporary strategic marketing theories, they will also be taught how to deal with uncertainties and changes in China's market even as they also assisted in identifying opportunities amid adverse market conditions.