Global Glance: July 6, 2015
A quick look at intriguing international stories
By John Bostwick, Managing Editor, Radius
Welcome back to Global Glance. This week we look at:
- The accidental global tech player
- Returning expats and reverse culture shock
- Chinese authorities seize meat from the 1970s
OnePlus: The Accidental Global Tech Player
OnePlus, the China-based smartphone producer founded in 2013, informs its website readers: “We are not a company looking to go global. We were born global.” There’s strong evidence to support this. While most companies achieve success in their domestic markets and then look to expand globally, OnePlus has succeeded internationally and is now looking to, in effect, expand into its own domestic market. According to a recent Forbes piece, after a lukewarm reception in China, OnePlus “has ramped up its marketing efforts in the Mainland, opening its first brick-and-mortar store in Beijing and hiring well-known blogger and internet personality Han Han as its spokesperson.”
The Forbes article quickly adds that the company’s primary focus is still on global sales, and OnePlus recently entered India’s promising smartphone market. The piece includes an interview with 26-year-old OnePlus co-founder and global head, Carl Pei. Interestingly, Pei notes that the start-up’s original strategy did not focus on global sales but on domestic ones. As a result, OnePlus assigned inexperienced young people to its global markets team. Pei explains: “It was just like an experiment, ‘Hey, do the global markets and see what happens. Do whatever you want.’ We call our group ‘a Shenzhen within our company,’ or a start-up within a bigger company.” Credit here goes to youth, inexperience and experimentation. Despite its initial domestic focus, over 90% of OnePlus’ business was global in the first quarter of this year.
Reverse Culture Shock: Expat Repatriation
A couple of recent posts on The Wall Street Journal’s Expat blog are worth a look. Both address the subject of expat repatriation, and the “reverse culture shock” that sometimes ensues. Debra Bruno’s “Repatriation Blues: Expats Struggle With the Dark Side of Coming Home” captures the confusing, often unexpected feelings that may follow an expat assignment, including a prolonged sense of homesickness for what was once a foreign place. These feelings may be accompanied by alienation from the home country. Bruno quotes Maria Foley, who expected an easy transition when she returned to Canada from an assignment in Singapore: “We moved back to the same house; we were driving the same car. And it hit me like a punch in the gut. It took two years until I felt like a human being again.” This malaise may lead to an increase in employee attrition; Bruno cites a study that shows “about 12 percent of [expat] employees leave the company within a few years of repatriation.” Given the high cost of expats, it may be that global employers start spending almost as much time and money preparing expats for repatriation as they do preparing them for the initial assignments.
Brian Sumers’ post “When U.S. Expats Return From China: Readjusting to American Business Culture” addresses the narrower subject of US expats returning home from China. The post has some fascinating information on the time and mental effort it takes to move back and forth between these two very different business cultures. For example, when parties from two US companies meet for the first time, attendees tend get down to business almost immediately, after maybe a few minutes’ perfunctory talk about where the attendees live, etc. In China, by contrast, one US expat interviewed by Sumers was advised not discuss business in the first and even second client meeting: “[The client] wanted him to focus on how he answered personal questions to be sure that he came off as trustworthy and dependable.”
Chinese Authorities Seize Smuggled Meat from 1970s
The Financial Times reported that China’s customs authority seized over 100,000 tons of smuggled frozen meat, some dating back to the days of the Cultural Revolution. The size of the haul is almost incredible. The seized meat included chicken, beef and pork; had it been all beef, “it would be equivalent to the meat that butchers could obtain from 500,000 head of cattle.” The article explains that mainland China’s strict import restrictions on beef have created a huge market for meat smuggling, much of it crossing China’s border with Vietnam.
It’s unclear where all the meat originated from and why some of it had been lying around frozen since the 1970s. What other foods and drinks might “pair” with a piece of beef from the disco era? The New York Times reported that one wag on a microblog offered this suggestion: “A bottle of 1982 Lafite plus a piece of 70s steak and a pair of 80s chicken wings. . . . Bon appétit!”