Getting one step ahead
Setting up a business on the mainland isn't a walk in the park.
Requirements for business registration vary from industry to industry, and foreigners often find it difficult - if not impossible - to navigate the labyrinth of rules and regulations.
One way to get a foot in the door is to seek support from serviced offices, especially for companies that are already employing the services of a business centre in Hong Kong.
'We provide cost-effective and time-saving business solutions to our clients to expand their businesses internationally,' says Taine Moufarrige, executive director of Servcorp.
Servcorp serviced office clients can sign up to a virtual office in any of the company's seven locations on the mainland.
'Our clients can enter the China market just by taking a premium address and a phone number with a professional receptionist handling their calls in their company names. They can double their business footprint instantly to test the market potential,' Moufarrige says.
The company offers a free trial period to test the waters and a package that includes assistance by a business associate in business registration. This helps avoid a Catch-22 situation, Moufarrige says.
'It's because you need to rent a physical office before you can get a business registration; but at the same time, you have to present your business registration to sign a lease agreement.'
Clients can pay as little as 5,000 yuan (HK$6,125) per month to rent an office at a premium address such as Guangzhou IFC, and become part of Servcorp's global interconnected network of 120 locations.
The company's on-site preferred registration partner can take care of the full registration process and back-office functions.
Jumpstart Business Centre, which opened an office in Shanghai earlier this year and another last month, says the take-up rate has been quite fast and that most of its client companies are either from Hong Kong, or already have an office there.
Clients either opt for having a representative office or a wholly owned foreign enterprise.
'The real challenge is time. It takes between six and 12 months to set up a company, and, depending on the industry, additional steps may be required,' says Jumpstart director Chapman Leung.
'[Meanwhile,] you need an office with at least a 12-month lease to complete the registration.'
In addition to obtaining the business licence, a company seeking to establish itself also needs to register with various government agencies, such as the tax, statistics and fiscal bureaus before it can start business.