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Small businesses should make most of Belt and Road opportunities: Aussie CEO

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-30 15:26

SYDNEY - Small businesses can find opportunities in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Australian businesses of any size could benefit from China's appetite for premium products, said an Australian CEO.

Australian small business owners should make the most of China's rising middle class, Australia China Business Council CEO Helen Sawczak told Xinhua on Friday.

Despite competition from all over the world to win over the Chinese consumers, she believes Australian brands have something unique to offer.

"In China, with the rising middle class, there's a huge appetite for Australian products and that's because we sell ourselves on a clean, green and safe platform. That's something the Chinese middle class consumers are very keen to pursue," Sawczak said.

"Australian companies are trying to capitalize on the increase of the affluent middle class in China, and as China rebalances its economy from resources based to consumption based, there are definitely opportunities for Australian businesses."

There are around 5,600 Australian small-to-medium enterprises (SME) already engaged in business with China, and 3,000 with an actual physical presence there, and Sawczak said the strength of "brand Australia" is crucial to their success.

"Australian-made is seen as very premium and very high-quality, which the Chinese consumers are very keen on. We need to sell the Australian story to Chinese consumers and play to our strengths," she said.

"Marketing is done very well in terms of our agribusiness, education, and tourism. These are the areas of expansion for us, in terms of the quality, premium products that Australia can offer China."

However, Sawczak believes banking on the power of Australia's national branding is just part of the broader solution to small business success in China.

She said Australian SME's should consider how they can play a role in, and subsequently benefit from, the implementation of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

"Belt and Road is a major infrastructure investment, and can impact so many countries and global economies," the CEO said.

"Even huge infrastructure projects still require involvement from small business. It could be in catering, transport, or more. Ultimately, Belt and Road requires micro-economic support mechanisms to exist, so there is definitely opportunity there for small businesses."

Sawczak said while there are many opportunities for an Australian small business to find success in China, foreign competition is a huge challenge, and it is crucial that these companies approach the competitive Chinese market with a long-term strategy.

"China is our number one trading partner, but over 100 countries also list China as their number one trading partner. So while China is important to Australian business, it's very important to other countries too. We can't take it for granted," she said.

"There are competitors with big pockets, so you can't go in blindly. So ultimately to face this challenge, short termism does not work, you have to be patient and be there for the long haul."

Tapping into local knowledge is another important factor in ensuring small business success, the former corporate lawyer believed. "The 'homeground advantage' is something all Australian businesses expanding into China should be exploring."

"Most companies will get local staff, or partner with people who have got an understanding of the local market," she said.

"The Chinese consumer is very tech-savvy, so businesses need to understand that market, and it is a lot more complicated than people think, so you need people who understand the market really well."

"So many countries are closely linked with China. So China really is a huge platform, and it's a great one for making connections."

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