Eric Arroyo, born in Mexico and married to a Chinese wife from Hunan province, is currently the business manager for South China at Torres China, importer and distributer of wine, water and ham.
More hotels were built in China than anywhere else
Eric studied Hotel and Business Management in Switzerland. But when he graduated, it was during the 9. 11 in the U.S, the Twin Tower attack. So it was very difficult, especially for five-star hotels, to do business., because nobody was traveling during those months. All these made it hard to find a job in star hotels. Nobody could find internships. But, at that time China was booming. They were building more five-star hotels in China than anywhere else in the world. Then China was very attractive for, especially for students like Eric.
"I started working for the Shangri-La Group in Shenzhen about ten years ago. I started my internship there. There was so much work to do. At that time, I was the only non-Asian working for the Group in that hotel. Other people were like, either Hong Kongnese, Singaporean, Chinese in general."
Different cities need different marketing strategies
China is vast and complex, and customs vary from city to city. To succeed in different markets, one does need to think hard.
"one of our products, we have very expensive water from Norway called VOSS water, in North China, Beijing, Shanghai, it sells like crazy, really really a lot. But here in South, not so much."
"Because especially for foreigners, big foreign companies, when they come to China, when they try to enter the market, they all make the mistake that they think China is just...ok, let's do a marketing strategy for China. But what everybody realizes later on is that every city within every province, they have completely different cultural customs, so they react differently in different markets, also they have different needs. And they are separated by so much distance, and that what works in one city doesn't work in the next, what works in Shenzhen doesn't work in Guangzhou".
People are more educated now than what they used to be ten years ago. They are looking for the brands. This is the same as they buy clothing, they look for the brands. The same thing is happening with wines. It also has to be big names that every one wants and talks about. The sort of good brands at more affordable prices.
Guangdong is catching up
Although Guangdong has a big economy, South China still behind North China and East China in the wine industry. But it's catching up.
"The biggest market is North China, Beijing, then we have the East, Shanghai and the region around Shanghai, and then the South."
In general, South China is still a developing market. Shenzhen is also being crazy the way it develops.
"I couldn't dare to say that Guangdong will take over the rest like Shanghai and Beijing because we are still a bit far, maybe 10 or 15 percent behind. But it could be. Again, they are different markets. The products sold in Shanghai and Beijing are more expensive. Here we sell entry-level wines. Because people are really looking for low-price wines. Brandy in South China is working really good".
The key is to adapt
Places are different, but actually, Mexican culture and Chinese culture, or Asian culture, in general, are not that different. And the key is to adapt.
"If you can adapt yourself and understand that you are not in your country, you are not...you don't expect the things to happen the way you want them to happen. Because they are not gonna happen. And then be patient, you have to understand it. And then, just don't lose your head. A lot of people, they lose their patience, and they get angry, and they start hating, and say "Ah, how could people spit on the street and the babies pee on the rubbish bins? Even in Hongkong, there is a big argument about it. It's interesting, it's fun. It's being fun living in China. Although, of course, it's far away from my home country."