Smith School Dean Howard Frank, Dingman Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Tien Wong and Smith School Fellow Wei-Wu He were among the business leaders providing insight into doing business in China and India at a Northern Virginia breakfast forum on February 28, 2007. Dean Frank moderated an expert panel that included Wong, Wei-Wu He and three others at Surviving & Thriving in the Flat World: China, India, and You! The event, presented by Potomac Executive Biz and co-sponsored by the Smith School, drew more than 150 area business people. Frank opened the forum by describing the entrepreneurial spirit, excitement and hard work he has seen traveling in both India and China.
You become genuinely afraid for the U.S. when you see the work ethic there, said Frank, whose job was to engage the panelists in the discussion that followed. Much of the talk focused on identifying business opportunities and responding to challenges faced by foreign firms with interests in the worlds fastest growing economies.
Doing business [in China] has gotten easier and easier over the last 10 years, said panelist Wei-Wu He, a general partner and co-founder of Emerging Technology Partners LLC. Panelist Jai Saboo, a serial entrepreneur and principal with Saboo Business Group, said the same is true in India, even for smaller firms.
One of the places where small and medium-sized businesses are finding success is by partnering in India, noted Saboo. The panelists agreed that in such partnerships, whether in India or China, it is important for the foreign firm to own the customer.
Whoever controls the customer wins in China, said Wei-Wu He, who along with Dean Frank noted that firms must also know their customer. As an example, they pointed to Wal-Mart, known for meeting local tastes with live fish and sliced pig ears in its Chinese stores.
Wong, who is also CEO of private investment firm Opus8 Inc, believes there will be a significant opportunity in China for foreign firms providing business services. Right now its a land grab, said Wong referring to the rush to meet the consumer product demand of Chinas growing middle class. But Wong believes producers will soon need to compete on customer service and that will mean opportunities for firms providing service solutions. Opus8 is in the process of raising a $50 million East-West fund to invest in technology and service companies in China and North America, with a focus on CRM, business process outsourcing and outsourced marketing and information management.
The Smith School delivers its EMBA program in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as a customized MBA program in Tianjin, for Otis Elevator China. In India, the school has had a relationship with the Management Development Institute (MDI), one the country's leading business schools, for the past two years. The two schools have collaborated on executive education programs, faculty research and other initiatives.
Smith China Web Site: www.rhsmith-umd.cn.
Jeff Heebner, Office of Marketing Communications