After hearing from the Italian and Chinese companies working in different business sectors, this week we met Mr. Paolo Bazzoni, President of China- Italy Chamber of Commerce, experienced international Chief Executive Officer and Board member, permanently based and integrated since 15 years in China, Business Administration Economics from Università Commerciale L.Bocconi- Milan.
How would you introduce yourself and your experience in China?
My name is Paolo Bazzoni, I have been in China for 15 years, arriving directly from North America in 2007 as the Prysmian China CEO position. The fact that I never been exposed to Asia culture and Chinese business was for sure a stimulus for my quick and full culture integration. This was a very interesting challenge for my work experience and life, and enriched quickly my managerial cultural background, allowing me to better go straight to the Chinese way to do business. My Prysmian experience lasted 6 years, then since 2014, I am a board member of Bonfiglioli China taking care of the localization and overall growth strategy of Bonfiglioli Group in China. We re-organized the whole business according to the local market needs, and nowadays, we can be proud to have now in China a Bonfiglioli branch of 1.6 bn RMB turnover, representing the first contributor to the Bonfiglioli Group outside China, with a local management team empowered and focused on the key strategic goals.
In April 2020 I have been elected as President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China (CICC) in Shanghai, where we are working for more expansion and territorialization of the services to the Italian companies. We have now around 600 members, which means there was an increase of +32% compared to the previous year.
As the Chamber of Commerce, we have n.5 offices in China, in Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Canton, and Chongqing. We work in close contact with the institutions and consulates. We are opening desks in Chengdu, planning also one in Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Shandong. We aim to be closer geographically to the companies we serve. In this direction, we are signing a Memorandum of Understanding (Mou) with the local governments. We also offer physical desks for our member companies. Since the Italian companies are mainly SMEs, we aim to give real and effective support to the ones that want to approach the Chinese market, so that they can do the first step and decide if and how to invest in the market.
How do you see the advantages and challenges of being present in China?
Flexibility and attitude to integrate are the main important points that need to be taken care of. The cultural factors are important but they are not real barriers. The integration with the local specificity of China is more important: more than the language, the link with the local mindset is fundamental to be successful here.
People that approach China need to leave prejudices and pre-concept back to where they were born and have the humility to start listening to the counterparts. Being ready to learn from others is crucial. This is the perfect mix to make the projects happen.
Another important factor is to build trustable links and partnerships. The “Guanxi” is all about this: it means to work and be able to build strong one-to-one relationships, both personally and business-wise. This gives value to the relationships that we build and makes the difference. Especially in the medium-long term.
In China, there is strong control and planning in economic terms, with 5 years plans that are succeeding. This is an important factor to be taken into consideration when managing a project and a company here. The best way is to align with this and also make long-term plans for the businesses.
One challenge is the speed: China goes at high speed, and the development goes at a high speed as well. So, a good manager needs also to take decisions fast, react in a fast way and implement also rapidly. In my opinion, Italian companies have a DNA of high quality and have also flexible solutions, so they are quite ready to adapt here. Italy and China have with no doubt a lot of points in common: cultural wise, values of family, the culture of food, etc. However, Italians when are here should get ready to listen more and not be pretentious. The right investments can be done with a good knowledge of the market, integration, and practicality.
Last year the whole world had to change the approach to marketing, fairs, and exhibitions and got online: how was your experience?
Even without the pandemic, I think a mix of online and offline events was already taking place. The physical moment of the exhibitions is still very important. Even with a mix of online and offline, we can have good results. For example, in November 2020 we organized together with ICE (Italian Foreign Trade Office) and the consulate in Shanghai the CIIF, mechanical fair online and offline. We got together the excellence of Italian companies and we had a great successful event.
Which suggestions would you give to foreign companies approaching the Chinese market?
The best advice is to avoid being naif and get the support needed before deciding how and where to invest in China. To have success here managers need to have a broad and deep knowledge and to be guided by the Italian System of institutions and this is the mission of the Cina Italy chamber of commerce.
Thanks a lot for the time to Paolo Bazzoni and the CICC. Stay tuned for the next interview!
Please visit the website of the CICC for the latest news and opportunities: www.cameraitacina.com
Leave us a comment and let us know your feedback on your experience as an entrepreneur in China or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .