The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

China: Business Opportunities in a Complex Market

Jean-Philippe Desjardins is the president of two advertising agencies: Orangerine for the past five years and The Wallrus for the past year. His latest initiative is a web platform that assembles content for an event on an interactive wall, from social media postings to videos and images.

Jean-Philippe has a penchant for international trade: The Wallrus has a presence in 75 countries, mainly in Europe, North America and Latin America, as well as in a few countries of Africa. For the past five months, he has been extending his horizons even farther: he has set his sights on the Chinese market. He tells us why.

Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) – Why are you interested in doing business in China?

Jean-Philippe Desjardins (J.P.D.) – The Wallrus is positioned in a growth sector at a time when marketing in China is not as sophisticated as in Canada. Large Chinese businesses are trying to stand out from the crowd, and our product helps them do that. Not to mention that the use of our platform depends on screens, and televisions are ubiquitous in China. So it is a very promising market for The Wallrus.

CCMM – Do you see a difference between the Hong Kong and the Chinese markets?

J.P.D. – Yes, and it’s crucial for entrepreneurs to understand this: Hong Kong has a common law system and everyone speaks English, so it’s easier to do business there. China is a more complex market.

CCMM – Why is that?

J.P.D. – You need to know the regulations and remember that the government can suspend approvals from authorities at any time and that you don’t start doing business there without a Chinese partner… It takes time to understand how to make your way in the market. Once that is done, the possibilities are endless. Imagine: the population of Shanghai is almost 25 million[1], and the population of Canada is only 36 million[2]. And that’s just one city…

CCMM – Is this the right time to be working with China?

J.P.D. – Yes, thanks to the government’s drive to create success stories between China and Canada and the interest among major Chinese investors.

CCMM – What sectors are good for business?

J.P.D. – Generally speaking, anything that’s creative. That’s something that China is missing. But if I had to choose just five sectors, it would be sustainable development, biotech, optimizing industrial processes, events and culture – the Chinese are craving culture! The important thing is to visit the country to get a sense of the market and meet prospects. There is also a network of Quebecers in China, particularly in creative and cultural fields. Sharing experiences with these people can be highly rewarding.


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