Hong Kong has long attracted European entrepreneurs as a vital hub and springboard to Asian markets. It is very much a non-stop, business-friendly and dynamic city. Now it holds even more promise in the form of new opportunities in ASEAN regional group of nations.
Stefano Tordiglione is among those to have been lured by its charms and business potential. The Italian designer arrived in Hong Kong in 2007 with no intention to stay but quickly appreciated the opportunities the city offered. He rapidly became one of its most successful interior designers.
His company now employs 5 people and uses freelances back in Italy. He works on projects in bot Europe and elsewhere in Asia.
Hong Kong has been a turning point, he says: “I like to say that Hong Kong is like a washing machine… once you’re in, you know, you play the game and you have to turn at a fast pace. But, at the same time, it gives you the possibility of being at ease. So infrastructure is also very good.”
What struck Stefano was the simplicity of business bureaucracy. However, he is mindful of the challenges of Hong Kong’s particular business culture: “Hong Kong is a city that moves and is changing economically and in the mood. So, the challenge is to keep up with it, and to adapt. In fact, I think that you have to be consistent and patient.
“Hong Kong is a city that moves and is changing economically and in the mood. So, the challenge is to keep up with it, and to adapt. In fact, I think that you have to be consistent and patient.”
Some 90% of companies in Hong Kong are SMEs there is plenty of help available for European start-ups.
Firstly, there is the EU’s SME Centre, whose goal is to facilitate market access for European SMEs, with practical, personalized advice and legal information. There are also matchmaking events where new arrivals can meet local entrepreneurs.
Another tool is the SMEIPR Helpdesk, a platform that can manage your intellectual property rights in China.
Andrius Bartuskevicius, Vice Chairman of the Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong explains its practical value: “The SMEIPR Help Desk is organising more than 90 events every year in the region to help these SMEs to understand what is required. And this is all free of charge.”
Using Hong Kong as a hub in Asia will soon make even more sense. The Economic Community of the ASEAN group naitons, a new single market of some 620 million people is set launch at the end of the year.
“Apart from mainland China, the ASEAN market is another big trade partner for HK,” says Bartuskevicius. Actually it’s the second largest trade market for HK. And there are a lot of opportunities for Europeans coming over to HK, to use it as a hub to expand their businesses into ASEAN markets.”
So what are the keys to succeeding in Hong Kong?
Stefano Tordiglione says the most important thing “is to have a strong identity, especially here in HK… But, if you want to, here, you can make it! “