Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Open Letter to Henry Blodget - Doing Business in China

From ChinaTechNews: Henry Blodget Does China
By Perry Wu

"First, most foreign companies in China fail. That begs the question: why do they still keep on coming? The standard answer is that with a population of 1.3 billion, you can't afford to ignore China. It is too big, too important, has too much potential to ignore. That might be true, but I think there is a different reason. ... The reason has much in common, Henry, with why people poured money into Internet companies in the late '90s."

"When a company wants to "conquer the Chinese market," the company should be reminded that even China Mobile has different services, prices, and business plans for each of China's provinces. Add to that, China Mobile only recently was able to standardize wireless short messaging services (SMS) among most of its provincial outposts. Now if China Mobile can't localize and standardize in each province after a couple years, no foreigner should expect to be able to do anything similar in less than an annum multiple of ten."

"Anthony Lok, managing director at Bank of China International in Hong Kong, said a few days ago: "Everyone sees 1.3 billion people buying things online, but it turns out that 800 million of them are sitting on the farm." This sums it all up for you."

"Investing in one of China's many website portals is an example of investing in most other industries in the Middle Kingdom. Pretend you are an emperor whose concubines are a group of quintuplet sisters (true, a small group for an emperor like yourself) and you want one to bear you a son. This is the type of crapshoot you have as you wager on which portal will be China's Yahoo. Though these companies have billion-dollar valuations, that there are so many identical (,,,, et al.) offerings for users and advertisers should make you shudder. How can such identical companies exist online?"

"Libraries are filled with some good, and some poor, writings on what it takes to do business in China. But just as Oscar Wilde described marriage as the "triumph of imagination over intelligence," I think many foreigners in China have fallen in love with a fantasyland." Read more

Henry Blodget, the disgraced bubble-era analyst, is now a columnist for the online magazine Slate. He has written recently about business and investment in China:
Go East, Young Man
Where's My $58 Million, Madame Wu?
Caged Hedgehogs, Car Smugglers, and Guanxi
The Real "Great Leap Forward"


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