Our guest this week is Valtero Canepa, in Shanghai for the past 8 years, operating in the healthcare business and Vice president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China (CICC).
What is your personal experience with China?
I came to China when I was 52 years old which is quite atypical, as many Italian managers come to China at the beginning of their career. I came here because I wanted a new challenge for myself. I moved from the headquarter of my company to the Chinese branch as the only Italian and the only foreigner. As I expected, I discovered that here in China, both work and life-wise, there is an energy that I couldn't see in Italy or Europe for a long time. The opportunities we can find here are nowhere else in the world at the moment. Today, after 8 years, I am still very happy to be here. I do not only dedicate myself to work, but I also have a family, and I got involved in few “social” activities as well.
One is to support my country, Italy, with my activity on the board of the CICC. I believe the China market is a unique opportunity for the “Bello e ben fatto” project, the typical combination of beautiful and well-done built-in Italian products.
Another one is to promote the SlowFood concept of good, safe, and fair food in China, mostly focusing on the support to the local farmers and producers and the preservation of the many characteristic local agricultural products. This is also a great way to integrate with the local culture.
CHALLENGES AND ADVANTAGES
How do you see the advantages and challenges of being present in China?
China has significant potential: whoever wants to get involved in any kind of business or social activities can find the way and the ground ready. Especially in Shanghai: this city is extremely open-minded and receptive. Challenges originate from the historical fact that China's development has been incredibly fast. In many sectors International and Chinese companies compete now on the same ground. With this in mind, I think that understanding the local culture and background is fundamental to adapt and be successful in this country. This is also a great opportunity to learn and grow every day. Cultural differences are still relevant, however, I find a wider gap between the people of my generation here and back in Italy, than with the new generations. An additional challenge is the language barrier. Yet, as someone with a disability develops other senses better, this helped me to enhance my attention and to learn to observe.
With your lasting and valuable experience, which suggestions would you give to SMEs that approach China territory nowadays?
The best approach is to try to understand and respect the “other” with an open mind. I believe in respecting each diversity, rather than in homogenization. Localization and being “local” is good, but it is also important to be “authentic”, accepting and celebrating our roots, to understand and manage the different situations. The rules for success are the same here as everywhere in business. To be curious and constantly being interested in learning is the ultimate key.
We thank Mr. Canepa for his insight and his highlighting curiosity and self-improvement, crucial tools that many experts in their fields have mentioned in most of our previous interviews and with which we fully agree.
If you want to learn more about Slow Food check their website to discover the latest initiatives.
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A special thanks to our collaborator Jane, for her Chinese translation of this piece.