Xian-Janssen Pharmaceutical's business unit communications leader Srikant Ramaswami describes China through the lens of Beijing.
Why is Beijing hot?
China's greatest universities are located in Beijing and are in close proximity to China's Silicon Valley, Zhongguancun.
While Beijing does not serve as a financial capital such as Shanghai or Shenzhen, it is the center of China's political base. Many companies want to have a strong presence here, so they can best communicate and align with the government. As a foreign enterprise, alignment with the government's priorities is critical to achieving success in the Chinese market.
How developed is the PR profession? Do brands feel PR is an important tool to grow revenue?
The profession is developing rapidly. When I first arrived, many of my local colleagues thought I would be working in the 'propaganda department.'
2. China Chamber of International Commerce
1 Fuxingmenwai Street, Beijing
Tel: (86 10) 6801-3344
3. Renren (China's Facebook)
23/F, Jing An Center, No.8,
North Third Ring Road, East
Chao Yang District, Beijing
Tel: (86 10) 8448-1818
I had to educate key stakeholders about the value of PR and the role it can play in delivering credibility and clarity to select audiences.
Part of that education has involved hosting workshops with global agencies and delivering lectures on what PR is, and how it can help firms.
To be successful in PR involves being a strategist first and really understanding the business. It is also important to understand how to read a profit and loss statement, understand the relationships between phasing and inventories, gross profit and net income, and operating expenditures and cost of goods.
Many companies here are beginning to see the value of PR over advertising and how it can truly transform a corporation from being just a player to a key differentiator in the market.
What is it like developing a local team?
It is challenging, but infinitely rewarding. Setting high standards and helping the team reach them is key.
Mentoring your staff and caring for them individually is important. Chinese people appreciate the power of networks and relationships, but tend to be more introspective and not speak up as freely when everyone is present, so I spend time with the team outside the office.
What healthcare sectors are experiencing the most growth in Beijing?
Mental health is a sector really experiencing growth. Over-the-counter medicine is also growing as China's per capita income increases.
China's push for broader healthcare coverage will also lead to more opportunities. There is a desire to bring affordability and access to even the remote parts of China. From Beijing to Guangzhou, Wuxi to Urumqi, there is something very exciting and incredible happening in this country. Healthcare access and sustainable innovation are very much in focus.
How is healthcare communications changing in the country?
Cellphones are becoming a key way to communicate and share medical information. Individuals can now quickly connect with others and be exposed to global best practices, helping them demand better healthcare. The market is really developing and communications with a healthcare company's full range of stakeholders has become more important.
Health education has also become important and sites such as Sohu, Youku, and Weibo now host a variety of health-related information.
What are the biggest challenges?
Things are done differently here. Foreign multinationals cannot come into China and automatically expect their business model or method of conducting business to work. Finding and retaining talent is a challenge as it's an immensely competitive environment.
What do you love most about Beijing?
Beijing is a dynamic and fascinating place to live. It is a mixture of the old and new China. Special-edition Ferraris share the road with auto rickshaws; a traditional Chinese medicine shop is housed next to a new Starbucks. I love that I can get custom bow ties here in every color, venture into The Bookworm to hear a renowned author speak, or dine in a 600-year-old Hutong that is now a famous restaurant.
Beijing gives you a much greater look at what China is.