Shanghai, 29th August 2012
My regular blog followers will have noticed I don’t spent that much time in China anymore…today I am back in Shanghai and while it is nice to be back in a city I used to come every month not long ago, I now have my reservations about operating in China. For many years I had a company in China but when I stepped out of Lighting Images to start KLD I gave up my physical presence in China. With economy in Europe in tatters many look at China (and India) as saviour countries for business. As a lighting designer I have been active in China since 1995, so I guess I have some authority to formulate an opinion about doing business in China.
First of all let me say there are still heaps of projects in China, nothing has changed there. The economy is still steaming ahead despite a slow down likely as a result from the eurozone worries. Compared to the 90’s the country has certainly opened up and allowed specialists like us to share our expertise in lighting up projects. But the country is also coming of age with many young and native lighting designers now operating in China. Competing on price is a lost battle certainly if you are operating from overseas in this market. So does it pay to have an active office in China? The answer is yes but depending on the modus operandi. If you decided to base yourself solely in China I think it is a tough (very competitive) call. However if you operate an office for the purpose of having a presence in China with your main centre of expertise overseas, it should pay off. Clients are still willing to pay a premium for perceived overseas expertise. The local foothold is then perceived as an added value as this assumes you have your ear to the ground and are aware of the local way of working and doing things.
I have an operational presence in Shanghai for our current projects in China. The question now is do I keep it as a representative presence in China with all project administration and design work still outside of the country or do I move to create an self-contained operation that can operate independently from the overseas head office? More tomorrow.
Light Watch 3-130: Shanghai (Pudong) 1995 versus Shanghai 2012…