Hong Kong best place to do business, City’super Group President says
The South China Morning Post posed five key questions to all interviewees in the Moving Forward series, seeking their insight on the city’s future. Here, president of high-end supermarket chain City’super Thomas Woo Ka-wah notes that rules and regulations in Hong Kong that give freedom for entrepreneurs to operate
Do you think Hong Kong is still an ideal place to do business?
Absolutely. Hong Kong is the No 1 location to do business. It is a well-regulated city with rules and order and at the same time it gives a lot of freedom to entrepreneurs. They can run various types of businesses based on innovative ideas or with new operating models.
It is very relaxed. You can import almost any type of food or drink to Hong Kong. That has made the city the ideal place to run lifestyle stores for food and beverages. Our stores in mainland China can offer about 60 per cent of what we can offer in Hong Kong because there are more restrictions. In addition, the tax rate of the city is so low it is easy to do business.
How is your company coping with the economic downturn in Hong Kong and the mainland?
Unlike fashion or jewellery, which is more volatile because sales volumes will change with the economic cycle, our business in food and beverage is more stable. When the market and economy is good, people don’t eat much more than normal. Likewise, when the economy turns down, people still need to eat. Our business hasn’t really been hit hard by the economic slowdown. Still, we will slow our expansion plans and be more careful about spending during a downturn.
What do you think the government should do to help your business to do better?
I do not think the government needs to offer any help to any industry. The government needs to ensure the city is safe and ordered so businessmen can conduct business. Market forces will allow the business to run.
What is your advice to young people to achieve a successful career?
Young people need to learn. Even after leaving school, they should continue to learn new skills and knowledge throughout their careers. They should learn how to use new technology and, if possible, they should go overseas to study or to work so as to learn about different cultures. Our world keeps moving and changing, so that if you stop learning, you would become out-of-date very soon.
For those young people who have the entrepreneurial spirit, they should consider setting up their own businesses. When Seibu left Hong Kong, we managed to start up City’super when most people believed there would be no chance for a third supermarket chain alongside Wellcome and Park’n Shop. This shows Hong Kong is a good place for start-ups.
Four our own people, we offer a relocation programme to allow our staff in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taiwan to move to stores in other cities and work there for six months and for them to learn from the different cultures. We also work with Japan’s Hankyu Group in Osaka in an alliance so that the staff of the two companies can learn from each others in terms of new products or services. We also encourage the employees to keep studying and learn new things to always improve their knowledge.
If you had one sentence to say how Kong Kong could move forward, what would it be?
Think positively and act positively. You can face the future in a positive way or a negative way. Everything is like a half glass of water - it is up to you to think if it is half-full or half-empty. If young people think they could never buy a flat in their life, they think negatively. But if they think they will work hard and they can buy a flat one day, it is positive thinking. The decline of mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong is not the end of the world and we can seek ways to attract the tourists. You can still win on a rainy day.