5 ways to go global in China


The US market is big. But the size and pace of market growth outside the US is so dramatic that all businesses, from startups to public companies, are taking notice, and wanting to go global.

Accessing these new markets is not trivial. But by understanding the landscape and taking the right approach, it’s easier than ever before.

China is the biggest opportunity, and yet so few people understand the market. Internet giants like Groupon and Facebook take the region very seriously, because they see the upside. But most midsize and growth-stage companies wait too long make a market entry into Asia.

Hopefully some of this information can be helpful to you as you make your own way, and make your argument internally – to your executives, your team, your clients, and your partners. Here’s the current landscape in China, and how you can succeed there.

Millionaires and Luxury

Did you know that China, India, Brazil, and other rapidly developing countries are now home to the world’s top consumers? Beginning in 2007, emerging economies overtook U.S. consumption for the first time, equaling 32% of total world consumption compared to 28% in the U.S. Ignorance can indeed be bliss.

China is the elephant in the room. It now has over 950,000 millionaires, with an average age of just 39, 15 years younger than their Western counterparts. Most people are astounded by this fact.

The exponential growth in personal income within these countries has driven this shift in global purchasing power. Merrill Lynch reported that in 2010, the number of wealthy people in the Asia-Pacific region exceeded that of Europe for the first time, with much of this growth being driven by China and India.

Going global in Asia, and China specifically can be intimidating because of language, custom, and government. But the rewards are there for the intrepid, and clever.

China has a reputation in the US for mass-manufactured goods, and commoditized electronics. But that stereotype no longer holds true.

With a 20% increase in awareness of luxury brands in 2011, Chinese are also getting a taste for the finer things in life. China’s wealthy are creating a sales boom in business jets, accounting for 25% of Airbus’ total sales for 2010.

The size of the global middle class there is growing at an even greater rate. It’s expected to more than double to 3.8 billion by 2020 and to reach 4.9 billion by 2030. The vast majority of this growth —85% — is expected to come from Asia.

What’s not to like? If you’re going to do business outside of the US, you might as well strike out where the upside is worth the investment.

Why you can pull it off: if you are a luxury good maker, whether that’s consumer goods, software, or anything in between, you can ride the high demand of those 950,000 millionaires. If you’re looking to make an entry to China, focus on the high end of the market, and the high end of your product portfolio.

Size Matters (And China Is Still Growing)

Asia now has nearly a billion Internet users, too — almost half of the world’s total, and more users than Europe and North America combined. China, emblematic of this trend, is first in Internet users by country, with 485 million users.

That’s more than the combined populations of the U.S. and Japan, who happen to be second and fourth on the list. But while more than 75% of Americans and Japanese are already connected to the Internet, only 36% of Chinese are online.

That’s over 800 million Chinese still waiting to get connected.

And it means that your investment in China will pay off even more over time. On top of what you can accomplish today, the market is still nascent.

Why you can pull it off: today, you might only get a small little foothold in China – it absolutely is difficult. But stick with it, because there are 800 million people who are about to come online in China, and that small toehold will become a foothold, and that foothold will become a serious and lucrative presence. Stake your claim now, and start building long-term relationships with partners, suppliers, and local marketing agencies.

The Language Itself Is Skyrocketing

The English language is destined to lose its stranglehold on the Web, that much is known, and obvious. Over the past ten years, growth of non-English speakers on the Internet has lapped that of English speakers.

But, most people think that Spanish language support is the logical next step after English, due mostly to the fact of to prevalence of Spanish in North America, and the familiarity with the language many of us already have.

As it turns out, the number of Chinese speakers using the Internet has increased 1200% in the last decade. That number alone makes up nearly a third of all people online.

Spanish isn’t faring poorly, mind you – the number of Spanish speakers online has increased 700% in the same span. But that’s half the increase as compared to Chinese.

Again, the unfamiliar is, despite everything else, the biggest opportunity.

Why you can pull it off: translation and localization have made great strides in the past 3 years. It used to be that you had to either hire a local person FT to get high quality work, or take your chances with a low-fidelity solution like Google Translate. Today, you can have your cake and eat it too with human, high-quality translation but executed at scale. Crowdsourcing and the Programmable Web (read: API’s) have moved us considerably forward, and a lot more is possible today, even if you’re on a budget.

Mobile Is The Great Equalizer

We’re very sophisticated in the US and the EU in building mobile applications – our UI/UX, our leveraging of external data, and our cultural savvy have created a lot of highly innovative companies with large users bases, in short periods of time.

And in many cases today, we offer mobile apps before we ever think about building a Web app.

Take that and multiply the mentality and the ultimate effect many times over, and then you’ve got China. In China, mobile is king.

Increased access via mobile devices is helping more and more people get connected. In 2010, there were over 800 million mobile Internet users, and by 2013, mobile access is expected to overtake desktop access.

Growth of mobile Internet use is expected to be especially strong in Asia. The number of users in the region connecting to the Internet via their mobile devices is expected to reach over 1.4 billion by 2015.

Robert Laing is the CEO of myGengo, the going global company that offers human translation at scale. Before founding myGengo, Robert led Web teams on projects for clients such as Last.fm, Unilever, Nissan, Deloitte and KPMG. Robert has lived and done business in the UK, Australia, Belgium and Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter here.

Image courtesy of Flickr user flickrsven.


Ernie Diaz

Even if this article promises “Ways to” and only delivers “Why to’s”, the author is right, the Internet is the best way for an SME to get a start in China. What the other commentors are missing is that you bypass all the red tape and cheaters by going right to the online consumer.


yeah,that’s right. I’m chinese and even this, I’m already tired do business with our people cause you know, the government thing and huge unfair between rich people and poor. Especially on internet, too many cheator there at our country. I need find a way do real business with honest foreigners.

Alex Buran

The article is misleading. Doing business in China is very hard. You won’t see anything by just having your site in Chinese. There are huge obstacles such as doing business with cash, in-person, through government permission and bribes, through personal connections and so on.

It’s great that MyGengo came up with a way to create an API. But, that’s not enough to conquer China!


This is all a bunch of hoo ha statistics.

The reality is that not every company fits well in china. Quite frankly, the rewards aren’t worth the risk. Don’t believe me? See which American company makes more money in china vs in the US.

China is like that hot girl staring at us. Fun to flirt with but one which u can never marry

When is the media stop going to hype


I was looking for strategies to break into China in this article. Tip: Partner with another Chinese company b/c the rules are WAY DIFFERENT.

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