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The world's largest convenience store chain now has a big presence in Chengdu. It plans to open stores in Chongqing later this year. Cui Meng / China Daily
Megumu Ubasako, chairman of 7-Eleven (Chengdu) Co Ltd Li Fusheng / China Daily
Megumu Ubasako, chairman of 7-Eleven (Chengdu) Co Ltd, has made the capital of Sichuan province his home.
"I am already a local here," said the 57-year-old Japanese national, joking that he feels like a business traveler when he returns to his home in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo every year.
His affection for the city is partly due to the family like support he received since he arrived to head the Chengdu branch of the Fortune 500 convenience store chain in 2011.
"Local authorities offered us excellent services and great support," he said.
Ubasako recalls that the municipal government set up a group of various departments head to help the company gain a foothold as soon as possible.
"Some companies say they usually need one to two years to go through administrative procedures before they can start business. But in Chengdu, it took us less than three months."
Xu Yali, the company's administrative director, said "the municipal government also granted us an annual subsidy of 500,000 yuan ($81,000) on office rental for three consecutive years and a 5,000 yuan stimulus package when we open a new store".
Since its establishment in 2010, the 7-Eleven franchise holder for Chengdu has opened 90 stores offering more than 2,000 products throughout the city.
Combined revenues from its stores hit 150 million yuan last year.
Ubasako expects the figure to reach 180 million yuan by the end of 2013, an increase of 20 percent, faster than branches in other cities on the Chinese mainland.
One reason behind the good performance is the outlets provide tailored-made services to locals.
"People in Chengdu have a casual lifestyle. So we have established dining areas in or outside our stores so that customers can drink tea and have meals happily, and this is a big difference from stores in such cities as Beijing," Ubasako said.
"Of course, we would not have made such rapid progress without our hardworking local staff."
The company has about 1,300 employees in Chengdu. Just nine are from Japan, with most from Chengdu or other cities in Sichuan province.
Now well established in the city, the company is shifting its focus to developing franchisees.
As of April, it had 13 franchised stores in the city and plans to turn half of its 90 wholly owned stores into franchises this year and 80 percent of the total by 2014.
"We invite more Chengdu people to join us and run their own stores. This will bring greater convenience to local people," said Ubasako.
After living in Chengdu for almost two years, he said he has fallen in love with the city.
"I like Chengdu very much. As a major city in China's western development campaign, Chengdu has seen stunning development in recent years.
"It also has a lot of greenery that goes well with the modern buildings," said Ubasako, who worked in Beijing for three months before he came to Chengdu."Compared to Beijing, it is more livable. Every Wednesday after work I invite my colleagues to jog and play badminton at beautiful Sichuan University. "
"What makes me even happier is that we go to enjoy Sichuan cuisine together. I thought it was spicy when I first tried it, but now I will miss it a lot if I do not eat hotpot meals once in a week." Ubasako has even become something of a Sichuan cuisine expert himself, cooking huiguorou - double-cooked pork - for his two sons when they come to visit him from Japan."They say it's too spicy," he said, laughing.
"But they love Chengdu's scenery, especially the Temple of Marquis Wu and the remains of the Jinsha settlement."
(China Daily 05/21/2013 page19)