Industrial design. Baby products. Digital signage. Horticulture. Online gaming. Ecommerce software. Veterinary pharmaceuticals.
This list is just a fraction of the industries I have encountered through the companies that I have spoken with over the last three months. In that time, I have met with nearly 60 Dutch companies from almost every conceivable industry and market segment. I spoke with them about – of course, their company and products, but mainly about their interest in doing business in China and what type of Chinese counterparts would be good business partners for them.
All these companies are participants of a trade delegation travelling to China at the end of next month with the mayor of Amsterdam. My part in their preparation for this trip is small, but essential: having a clear profile of the type of contacts and the type of business the Dutch company is interested in is fundamental for finding suitable matches in China. This, of course, is not easily done. China is a big place, the business and products of many of these Dutch participants are very specific and Chinese companies may have different expectations of meeting them. Nevertheless I feel confident that my part in this process will have contributed to this matchmaking search.
From advice to sharing experiences
Many of these meetings weren’t interviews where I would only check off the questions I had in front of me. Talking to entrepreneurs and export managers is one of my favourite (work) things to do, so I try to get as much information from them as I can – relevant to the context of course – but in so many of these discussions that also means you hit other topics.
Such as Japan: I was pleasantly surprised to hear that many of these companies are also interested to explore opportunities for their products in Japan – or are already there, alongside their China activities. Or, when talking to a company which is very new at doing business in China and international business in general, my role becomes that of an advisor in which I try to help them along in figuring out what is the best way for their company to grow their business internationally.
And then there are some entrepreneurs I spoke to which have been involved in China for much longer than I have – and those sessions turned into a mutual sharing of experiences in China.
Innovative, diverse, creative
But over all, what has been so good to see over the past three months – and what amazes me almost always when I talk to an unknown company – is the immense diversity, level of innovation and ambition that is inherent in Dutch business. Dutch business has raised world leaders in the smallest niches and the most advanced technologies, and includes some of the most creative work I know. It’s been a pleasure meeting and working with all of these companies which are hopefully heading towards a successful future of doing business in China, starting in Beijing.