FEB 29 2012
This was originally posted on http://dodeqa.com/2012/02/29/between-china-hong-kong-meet-ecommerce-b2b-expert-michael-michelini-interview but the website is down and Mike revived the post. Enjoy

Between China & Hong Kong, Meet eCommerce B2B Expert Michael Michelini – Interview

Posted by Thibaud

Michael Michelini is an American entrepreneur based in Shenzhen, China. Last month, we met in a coffee shop in Hong Kong to talk about eCommerce and exchange ideas about what it is to do business in China.

How did you arrive in China?

It is a funny story. Actually, at the beginning of my career, I was working in Wall Street. One day, I decided to quit my job to take care of my eCommerce projects, as I had been selling online since 2004. I spent one month in Asia to try and find some new suppliers. When I came back to the US, I just realized that almost everything was boring compared to what was going on in Asia and I chose to get back in here.

What were you selling on your online store?

The name of the store is New York Bar Store and I sell bar supplies and bar products. Actually, I am still running this eCommerce website! It was my first success and I really enjoyed taking care of it.

How do you explain your success?

SEO: I was kind of good at getting a lot of traffic to my website for free. The website was optimized in itself with the right tags and keywords (on site SEO) but I think that my main competitive advantage is that I was passionate about what I was selling, which allowed me to do some good PR job, developing relationships online and getting many incoming links (off site SEO).

You define yourself as an eCommerce and Social Media guy: what does it mean?

Well, in a way, I kept on doing what I was good at: SEO! I am now established in Shenzhen, in the province of Guangdong in China, where I run my company, Shadstone. Basically, I offer consulting services to Chinese businesses that want to go online. Most of my clients are either manufacturers who want to sell out of China or companies who want to build their brand. In both cases, I help them through training programs and strategic recommendations.

How did you happen to work in eCommerce, in the B2B sector?

When I arrived in China, I observed something quite intriguing: everyone was willing to buy from manufacturers or sell on the Chinese consumer market. But no one was addressing the needs of local businesses willing to export products on their own. This is how I came up with a range of services tailored to this category of business people.

Also, the troubles I face as a foreigner in China are also the same issues Chinese export driven businesses are facing! Therefore, their struggles became my chance to offer services to them!

Given your experience in China, what do you think is a key success factor, particularly for foreigners?

Trust is everything. If you do not have great, steady relationships with your partners, whether they are suppliers or clients, you will no go very far. You ability to show up in events and engage in the local community is crucial. If no one knows you, no one will do business with you. My advice is to come in the region, observe business habits and build a strong reputation as a reliable professional. Then business opportunities will flow in.

I just joined a Chinese ecommerce federation as VP of foreign affairs, Hero Meets Hero and this is exponentially helping me network and understand the needs and difficulties of a Chinese Export driven ecommerce business.

What would you say is the main difference between China and Hong Kong?

In the 1980s, the Chinese Government decided to make Shenzhen a Special Economic Zone, meaning that this area would be the main source of growth for the entire country. This is why the region became a cluster of factories where most of the products people consume all over the world come from.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, has always more or less been like a tax heaven, thus being a great place to establish Asian headquarters of many international companies. Because of the lack of taxes – or the very low level of taxes – Hong Kong also attracted most warehouses of these companies, which were able to drop-ship their products.

However, we are observing an interesting phenomenon: more and more factories are leaving Shenzhen, moving further in the inland territories… and Shenzhen is becoming a new supply chain hub, competing with Hong Kong. Let’s see how things go in the next years.

Which trends do you observe in China nowadays and what do they mean for the future?

China is a booming economy and people are starving for consumption: they really want to consume and shop and show everyone what they can afford. This is the western lifestyle they have been sold on and they want to experience it.

In a way, it is the opposite of what is going on in America and Europe, where people are tending to watch their consumption, because there is a kind of social awareness of the impact of consumerism from a global point of view.

Chinese people are not ready yet to accept that they need to reduce their consumption, because they are hardly starting to experience this and they think it would be unfair to ask them not to take advantage of it while western countries have been enjoying such a way of life for years. So, I have to say that I am a bit curious of the impact that this growing consumption will have on our planet in the future.

Thank you very much Michal sharing your insights with us!

Get eCommerce B2B Advice by Michael on Shadstone

Buy great bar supplies on Michael’s eCommerce website New York Bar Store

Connect with Michael on Twitter

Tags: China, eCommerce, Hong Kong



Comments (1)

Leon Stafford, March 4, 2012
I’ve known Mike for a few years, but his story always inspires! Good point about China “deserving” the freedom to be consumers for once of all the things they have only manufactured until now. We can only hope they realize the negative global impact of this faster than the West hopefully is now