As a member of the Franchise Council of Australia delegation, I attended the Hong Kong International Franchising Show from Thursday to Saturday last week. While I was not sure what I would learn, I expected to have my eyes opened. With the exception of airline hassles (being bumped from a direct flight to one via Bangkok, long story), it turned out to be a valuable experience. The main impact points were:
The Australian franchise space is very active, and per capita we are arguably the most franchised country in the world. But don’t let this fact fool you, when you multiply the population to the level of China, a small percentage is a very big number! We were talking consistently with franchisors that had thousands of franchisees, and not just the McDonalds of the world, but relatively unknown businesses to us that were just huge in China. The scale is massive.
In this part of the world, business is done with a relationship focus and the mix of attendees to an event of this nature is always interesting. From the franchisors as mentioned earlier and franchisees to representatives of the industry from Indonesia, India, China, Hong Kong, Australia of course, and many others, and suppliers such as introducers and financiers (and the occasional business advisor…), there was no need not met. The environment was also inclusive, allowing meetings to be either formally or informally set up for people of interest. It is intense and maybe tiring if you have a lot of people to meet, but invaluable to have everyone in one spot for three days.
As per the scale comment, China is a market of interest for many. We know from client experiences that this is a lucrative market if executed properly, and Hong Kong is the gate to the path of least resistance to the greater Chinese market. Everyone in Hong Kong knows someone, as all business is done on relationships, and the Hong Kong government prides itself on its ability to assist entry to China (and, of course, its local economy).
Tied to the conference was an Innovation Expo, and seeing was believing as you wandered around. There is a massive push in areas such as 3D printing, where they had displays of printing metal objects as well as the now regular plastics variants. The software displays show that disruption is no longer a word, but a process happening around us, with some game changing options in nearly every industry available to those willing to adapt quickly.
This leads to a change in perspective. Here in Australia we no longer have the luxury of thinking we are “far enough away” to operate in independence. The available capital, knowledge, systems and contacts will inevitably lead to new competitors entering the Australian marketplace, which with small cultural adaptions we will embrace as consumers.
The flipside is that our businesses can also push out and operate on a global scale with much lower barriers than previously encountered. The world is an exciting place, it is becoming smaller, and those who embrace these changes will inevitably be the most successful.
In short, if you get a chance to visit an event such as this, go for it. You cannot help but expand your business mind!
Jason Bertalli CPA
Director – Franchise & Business Services