This year I was proud to represent Australia as a delegate to the G20 Young Entrepreneur’s Alliance 2016 summit in China. Alongside a crew of great Australian representatives from different parts of our entrepreneurial ecosystem I embarked on a journey to the country that is steadily rising to political and economical leadership in the 21st century.

It was my first time going to such a summit and representing my country, to say I was excited is an understatement. I was also going in with a strong sense of determination to learn as much as possible about how other G20 countries are developing their ecosystems and to build a global network of entrepreneurs and ecosystems drivers.

Takeaways about China

Before I talk about the summit I want to capture and note down my retained ideas about China and in particular, doing business there.

My perception of China before visiting the country was that it was a country with a huge economy and population, but still stuck a little in the past. I was dead wrong. China is in a lot of way more technically advanced than Australia and is just getting started. On the back of taxi’s in Beijing I was playing games via an in-built tablet. On the subway in Shanghai I watched projected hologram advertisements play on the wall of the tunnels. Noisy and polluting motorbikes weren’t to be found, instead, everyone rode on clean electric bikes and buses. It reminded me of how Japan felt from a technological perspective when I visited many years ago. Granted, this was the big cities and not the small villages of China.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner. The economic opportunity for Australian entrepreneurs who can cater to a Chinese market is huge.

I remember about 3 or 4 years ago seeing a front-page newspaper story that predicted Australia becoming Asia’s gourmet food bowl by 2020. As over 2 billion people in our region have shifted from poverty levels to middle class their appetite for meat and dairy products has grown insatiably, and there’s a lot more growth to come. We are well on the way to that front-page headline prediction becoming true. China has already saved Australia’s wine industry and is also driving the growth of other sectors of agriculture trade, including beef, seafood and fruits.

I also learnt that Australian tourism businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity by not listing their destinations on the Chinese equivalent of Tripadvisor. Last year over 1 million Chinese tourists visited Australia. There are roughly 135,000 Chinese students currently studying in Australia.

Don’t, however, underestimate the work required to tap into this market. The Chinese are incredibly savvy business people, it’s very competitive. And doing business in China is not just a matter of conducting commercial transactions with suppliers and buyers. Instead, it’s built on relationships. Just like in Australia, who you know is just as important as what you know.

It’s very much part of the culture to get to know your potential business partners over a Chinese banquet and a lot of wine before you get down to the real talk of any deal. The Australian delegation had the good fortune of being hosted by a multitude of different parties on our tour, both Australians and Chinese. Each had a different perspective and story when it came to doing business in China.

A recurring theme however was the commitment of time, energy and resources that are required to tap into the market. If you want to sell to Chinese consumers, expect it to take 100% of your attention for a few years. It’s a market that takes a long time to understand and navigate successfully. There are countless ways in which laws differ (especially employment contracts) which often trip up first timers to the country. Something to keep in mind if you intend to sell Australian products to Chinese consumers; a ‘made in Australia’ sticker and picture of a kangaroo isn’t enough. The Chinese prefer to buy brands that are established here in Australia as well. Brands that have a long history and credible story are favoured.

Takeaways from the G20 Young Entrepreneur’s Alliance Summit

Those were my main takeaways from visiting China. I also took a lot away from participating in the G20 YEA summit. I got to observe, participate and share ideas about how to grow entrepreneurial ecosystems in our respective countries – represented by over 300 delegates. It was an incredible experience to witness how countries can sit together and deliberate on issues and come together to create recommendations for government and entrepreneurs. It was also gratifying to learn that the work we do at the Foundation for Young Australians (particularly the $20 Boss high school entrepreneurship program) is world class and in demand from other countries. My own initiative JobHack also received a strong reception and interest from different parties.

From this trip I’ve taken a lot of ideas, networks and lessons to bring back to Australia. I’m honoured to have been inducted as Co-President for G20 YEA Australia. I look forward to building on the work of G20 YEA within Australia.

It was an incredible experience and I encourage other young Australians to get involved with the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance. Now, all I need to do is catch up on the all the emails and hopefully not encounter too much jetlag when I get home!

Finally, I’d like to thank the the president and sherpas of this year’s Australian delegation to the summit. I’d also like to thank the Foundation for Young Australians for the opportunity to attend and represent them. And last but not least, thank you to all the delegates who attended for sharing your ideas and inspiring me.

Till next time,
Nathan