Tsinghua EMBA and St. Gallen Alumni Mingle in Hong Kong
July 12, 2012
On May 7, 2012, the Tsinghua EMBA Hong Kong & Macau Alumni met for the first time with the University St. Gallen HSG Alumni Chapter of Hong Kong. The solid alumni base of the University of St Gallen – a leading business school in Europe located in Switzerland – together with the members of the Tsinghua EMBA Alumni promised to create theideal environment to discuss challenges and opportunities of engaging into business across regions.
The panel discussion embarked the audience on a lively and engaged debate about the complementing characteristics of Chinese and European/Swiss Entrepreneurs. In the distinguished and generous environment of the Hong Kong Country Club, the panel received the full attention of the 30 people strong audience. The panel was moderated by Max Burger, St.Gallen alumni, a leading venture capitalist from the first hour who has been personally engaged for years in Sino-European business creation. Max moderated an exclusive group of 4 experts with rare insight into the subject: Alex Tunik, the chair of the St Gallen alumni, Stefan D Habluetzel, St. Gallen alumni, Patrick Yip, Tsinghua EMBA alumni, Dr. KK Chan, Tsinghua EMBA alumni.
The panel first put its attention on the alleged contrast between the tremendous achievements of the Chinese society within the past 30 years with unprecedented success in realizing large and complex projects and the difficulties foreign companies can experience when doing business in China.
A topic of particular interest for the St. Gallen participants was how they are able to add value in China. Patrick Yip identified two main areas: One is to bring the system and structure to China for which Western companies are admired and the other is to help Chinese companies to reach out to the world. Especially the St. Gallen alumni in Hong Kong are in an excellent position to add value in both areas.
The panelist further shared with the audience their approach on finding partners and building networks of trust in China. This was regarded of particular importance since the legal system is of different nature compared to the West. Dr. KK Chan stressed the importance of a sound due diligence process. KK’s main interest is to gather alternative views on the partner to understand how trustworthy the partner acted in the past and if the provided information is correct. Alex on the other hand pointed out that working with a local manager that can be fully trusted was the only way for him to do successful business in China.
Patrick Yip emphasized the long time it takes to select and fully understand the partners with whom to embark on a business venture. Patrick himself knew his partners for more than 6 years before launching their company. Stefan’s business with thousands of vendors in China is of different nature. He can afford a certain number of failed partnerships. Proper due diligence to limit the risk is therefore a reasonable approach for him.
Finally the panel turned towards the question of the role of Hong Kong and the Chinese education system. There was agreement that Hong Kong played an instrumental role in the past years as a gate between China and the world. Hong Kong is still appreciated for the knowledge it can bring to China but its role is clearly diminishing. Chinese companies more and more bypass Hong Kong when investing in the rest of the world. The common view was that Hong Kong will reinvent itself in the future to keep its significance.
Related to the Chinese education system, the Tsinghua panelists concluded that creative thinking has to be valued more. As Dr. Chan put it: “As long as students are rewarded more for a standard answer than for a creative answer, China will have a disadvantage in its ability to innovate.”
Following the agile debate, the participants turned towards the succulent buffet presented by the Hong Kong Country Club. The discussions continued throughout the evening and the excellent Bordeaux wine sponsored by the Moderator Max Burger created the right atmosphere to initiate new contacts, find new friends and to free the minds to think of business creation across regions.