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Elite Expat Profiling in Xiamen

Updated: 21 Jan 2008
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He is a British but never works in other countries except in China, he have been staying in China for 18 years.He is the CEO of Swire Group in Xiamen. Straight after graduating from Cambridge in 1988, he moved to China.Now he can spesk fluent Chinese and is versed in Chinese culture.

 

Q: We've heard that you have been working in China for quite a long time.
A: That's true. Straight after graduating from Cambridge in 1988, I moved to Hong Kong. Since then, I have worked in Beijing, Nanjing, Xi'an and Xiamen. I have been in this part of the world for over 18 years.

 

Q: The cities you just mentioned have all been capitals except for Xiamen. They are big historic places. Was that your personal choice?
A: Yes and no. I'm an employee of Swire Group. Swire Coca-Cola Beverages Xiamen is owned and managed by the Swire Group. The Swire Group sends me to go to work in different places. Fortunately, the move to Xiamen was very much in line with my personal preferences. I had visited Xiamen a number of times before I was posted here. It had always struck me as a beautiful and clean place which I was very interested in living in. For the sake of my three kids, we wanted to move to a place where the environment is better. Xiamen is very attractive in this respect.

 

Q: What has Xiamen offered to Swire Coca-Cola?
A: The first thing that stands out is the quality of the people. We have a very high quality and stable management team here. People who already have a successful career tend to want to stay here, which is quite different from a lot of other cities. This is great for the company, because we can have confidence in investing in our people, who can then grow with the company over the long term.
Secondly, Swire Coca-Cola has received tremendous support from the local government. As one of the earliest Special Economic Zones, Xiamen Government has many years of experience in dealing with foreign investors. They understand our requirements and are very responsive to our requests.

 

Q: What are the new challenges working in Xiamen?
A: Basically, the work is similar. The biggest difference is that Xiamen is not a provincial capital and it only accounts for about one third of our business in the province. The majority of business is outside the city, which means it's more important for me to travel around the province than it used to be. The market for us in Xiamen is well developed, and we can see a lot of opportunities. However, we can see even bigger opportunities in the rest of Fujian Province, where the per-capita consumption is lower. There are many opportunities to grow the business faster.
The constant is change

 

Q: From your extensive experience of the Chinese market, what are your views on doing business in China?
A: Recently, I saw an interesting statistic which shows that the majority of Chinese believe that tomorrow will be better than the present; while in Europe the majority of people don't have that faith. In a society where you are surrounded by positive people who believe they can manage today to create a better future, you tend to be more positive as well. One of the biggest challenges in management anywhere is to change the management. There is a huge challenge in many countries to try to convince people to change. In China, people embrace change and live with change every day. If you leave the city and come back after one year, it looks like a completely different city. In business, if you ask people to try a new way of doing things, Chinese people are very receptive to those concepts, since it's totally natural and normal for them.
Personally, this has pros and cons. If I went back to live in Europe, I would probably feel bored, because China is a very exciting place. It is the right place for me, also because of my family. My wife is Chinese and our three children live here but attend Xiamen International School, which I think is a perfect compromise. The children are exposed to two languages and both cultures. I can also speak reasonably good Chinese, although I can't read or write.

 

Q: There are those who say that too much cola intake is not good for your health. What is Coca-Cola’s response to that?
A: Personally, I think it’s wrong to say that any specific food or drink is unhealthy. The key to health is a balanced lifestyle with plenty of physical exercise every day and a balanced diet. This means that education is important. We are very proud of a new initiative that we work on with the government here, which is involved in educating students. The program is called “Happy Hour,” and it encourages students to take more exercise and to have a balanced lifestyle.
Our company has always and will always respond to consumer demands. We have adapted our product and business strategies over the past decades. In China, localized products such as juices and bottled teas have also grown in popularity. We no longer consider ourselves a carbonated soft drink company only, but a beverage company in a broad sense.
Embracing competition

 

Q: China’s beverage industry is increasingly competitive. With their strong rivalry with Pepsi, how does Coca-Cola see the competition?
A: Overall in China, Coca-Cola is staying on top of the beverage industry. I would like to quote an ex-CEO of Coca-Cola, Roberto Guizuetor. He once said: “If Pepsi didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it.” What he meant is that it is crucial to have competition. Competition is very positive and we see it in two ways. Firstly, strong competition forces you and your people to be more and more responsive to your customers’ needs. If we didn’t have a competitor who has been pushing us to do things better, then we wouldn’t be as good as we are today. The second advantage of having a strong and lively competitor is that the two of you together can grow the market faster. In Fujian, we are the market leader in both carbonated drinks and juice drinks. We have a much wider portfolio than Pepsi. We have seen many opportunities and we believe in more fantastic growth with competition.

 

SOURCE: Foreigner in China

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