Smartphone, FMCG firms to expand abroad via Belt & Road

Updated 2018-05-07 14:20:00

Chinese smartphone firms, and those in the fields of automobile, e-commerce and fast moving consumer goods, or FMCG, see opportunities in the Belt and Road Initiative to become global brands.

That is the view of the head of the China arm of Nielsen, a market research firm.

A number of factors, such as a young population, a growing global economy, positive attitudes toward spending, busy lifestyles, and digitalization, are shaping new consumer behaviors in the overseas markets and providing new momentum, according to Andy Zhao, president of Nielsen China.

In the past few years, China's smartphone production has covered a fourth of the world's total production volume, occupying a third of the world's market.

China's exports of automobile products to markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative reached billion in 2017, up 9 percent year-on-year, industry data showed.

"Chinese companies have achieved remarkable success in the automobile and smartphone markets in Egypt," said Tamer EI Araby, managing director of Nielsen Egypt.

With high social media penetration, e-commerce also is becoming a strong opportunity in the overseas markets. So far, e-payment tool WeChat Pay has entered 25 countries, while Alipay has entered 70 countries, and JD Pay 54 countries.

"In the current economic context there are two new consumer market trends," said El Araby. "One is that discount stores are becoming the most popular shopping channel, and the other is that online shopping continues to surge."

Since the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese companies have seen increasing opportunities to enter the global stage, he said.

"As a new driver of globalization, the Belt and Road Initiative is helping companies stretch their international horizons and grow," said Zhao.

According to data from China's Ministry of Commerce, between 2013 and 2017, the country's trade in goods with economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative exceeded trillion and outbound direct investment reached over billion.

During that period, Chinese companies set up 75 economic and trade cooperation zones in countries and regions involved with the initiative and created 210,000 job opportunities, the data showed.

However, beneath the achievements lie the challenges. China's successful international brand is still a minority, and most are product brands.

"For Chinese enterprises to go global, they should not only focus on product quality, but also on after-sales services," said Zhang Jianping, director of the Regional Economic Research Center of the Ministry of Commerce.

On the other hand, huge differences in political, economic, cultural and legal systems of the various economies need to be taken into account.

"While companies 'go global' they also need to 'go local' so they can perform well overseas by solidifying their operations and becoming fully integrated there," said Zhao.

"Besides, they need to 'go up'," he said, which means pushing on with innovation, strengthening the influence of their brands and leading the way as 'Made in China' becomes 'Created in China'.

"Over the past few years Nielsen has helped Chinese companies become more important players on the world stage," Zhao said, citing 3C (computer, communication and consumer electronics) products and motor vehicles as an example.

By providing Chinese companies with commercial and cultural services, Nielsen has helped many Chinese enterprises to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.

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