In this episode of The Negotiation, we had an amazing conversation with Sarah Kutulakos, COO & Executive Director at the Canada China Business Council, Canada’s premier bi-lateral business council. After studying Chinese since the mid-80s she first headed out to Taipei, Taiwan in the early 90s before joining Kodak at a time when marketing was first coming to China. We discuss the vast changes she’s seen on both sides of the ocean over those years and how the level of sophistication in how each country deals with each other has grown. We discuss the role of women in business in China, a role that will likely surprise many, and how the novelty of being a foreign company is now gone. We also talk about the One Belt One Road policy and how foreign companies can and should work to understand the massive changes this will bring to well over 60 countries and how they can also take advantage to find new business opportunities and take advantage of it themselves. Enjoy!
Today on The Negotiation, Sarah Kutulakos talks about her experiences working for the Canada China Business Council (CCBC) for twelve years, and how doing business between both countries has changed over the last decade.
Sarah talks about the evolution of the “depth of companies’ activities in China”. She highlights eCommerce as a big game-changer for the consumer market, as well as brands’ bolder attitude as a whole towards the creation of IPs.
Sarah says that if you do not figure out how to compete in China, you will not know how to beat Chinese competitors in your own core markets. It is not that going to China is a must; but if you have a product or service “that aligns with China’s consumption trends or five-year plan,” then it may be worth entering the market. However, she highly recommends tooling and partnering up before even considering an expansion. Those who try to impose their brand in China without the proper partners or support group will fizzle out fast.
The rise of the middle class in China was a key factor in achieving the unmatched speed of its economy today. “The capacity to accomplish is unfathomable,” says Sarah. At the same time, it is much harder to integrate as a foreigner today compared to as recently as 2011 due to changes in technology. “They used to roll out the red carpet for foreigners,” says Todd.
Sarah specifically points to April 2019 as a turning point that gave foreigners “second class status”, when, unless one had a local bank account, they would be unable to use digital payment systems. “We are not the shiny new thing,” concludes Todd. “They know now that they are the shiny new thing.”
Regarding how CCBC has impacted her home market, Sarah says that their incubation function has greatly expanded. The decision to enter China is not a light one, but Sarah is now confident that the team she is working with can help serve as the bridge between the two countries.
What is The Negotiation?
Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.
The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.