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The local touch goes a long way for multinationals

Updated: 2013-06-08 11:25
By Huang Zhiling in Chengdu ( China Daily)

Multinationals have to take local culture into consideration, said participants in the Fortune Global Forum held in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Thursday.

When Disneyland in China was built, it had to be like the Disneyland of China, said Robert Iger, president and CEO of the Walt Disney Co.

Before his company built Hong Kong Disneyland, its designers carried out research and decided to build more dining facilities than elsewhere.

People in Hong Kong spend twice as much time or even more at the table, Iger said in the discussion "Tapping into China's Changing Culture: an FGF Townhall."

Children visiting the Disneyland in Shanghai will find the Pleasant Goat, a household animation figure for Chinese children.

"We want to make children know that Disneyland not only has Mickey Mouse but also the Chinese element," Iger said.

Endorsing his view, Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate involved in real estate, tourism, hotels, and entertainment, said: "Tradition is deep-rooted in the Chinese mindset. When Westerners start a project in China, they have to understand the Chinese culture of Confucianism, and the religions of Buddhism and Taoism."

Economic development and new technology have changed consumer patterns among the Chinese, the younger generation in particular, participants said.

Now 100 million Chinese travel overseas each year. People born in the 1980s and 1990s like luxury goods. They buy Apple products and visit Starbucks, said Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry Group, a British luxury fashion house.

Young people go shopping in stores and buy online, which is the changing trend, she said.

China is one of the world's largest film markets, which was unheard of five years ago, Iger said.

Participants agreed mass market tastes are changing in China as a result of technology and urbanization.

An increasing number of people like to go to the cinema, which has a big screen and ideal acoustics. The TV market has witnessed rapid development too, and more people watch TV on their cellphones, he said.

As English has become the second language in China and Chinese invest more and more in education, Walt Disney has built a school in Shanghai to teach English and plans to build 45 schools in China.

"Many people in the world believe the pace of economic development in China is slow and are pessimistic. But each year my group invests $20 billion," Wang said.

His confidence originates from rapid urbanization. "The urbanization rate is only 40 percent in China. It will take at least 10 years to reach 80 percent. Coupled with urbanization is the migration of 200 million Chinese into cities," Wang said.

He believes business pertaining to the aging population also has broad potential as China will have 200 million people older than 60 within 10 years.