Multinationals adapt to fast evolving Chinese consumer market
Updated 14:43, 07-Nov-2020
By Zhu Feng

The growing Chinese consumer market presents huge opportunities for multinationals. The ongoing 3rd China International Import Expo (CIIE) attracted more than 2,600 companies from around the world to showcase their best products in six major sections. Some of those companies have attended all three editions of the CIIE since 2018. That includes big names, such as Nestle and Xian Janssen.

Medical equipment and healthcare products, one of six sections of the expo, take center stage as many parts of the world continue to be affected by COVID-19. The pandemic is a sorrowful but also valuable lesson on how public health could affect the economy, said Asgar Rangoonwala, president of Xian Janssen, in an interview with CGTN.

China was the first country to report COVID-19 cases and also the first to hold it under control after the government mobilized the entire society, implemented lockdowns, and reduced human contact to a minimum. Only after the pandemic was controlled, the country's economy took a breath and picked up pace towards recovery. "The CIIE is a clear signal that the Chinese government, along with the Chinese society, is managing the pandemic," said Rangoonwala.

Industries in China have witnessed rapid digitalization in recent years thanks to government support and entrepreneurs' awareness of its importance. Healthcare is no exception. The pandemic, to some extent, accelerated the process. "I am pretty sure China will have in a few years the most modern healthcare system in the world," observed Rangoonwala, "A country with 1.4 billion people, with increasing healthcare demand, the only way to cover this population is the digital way."

Digitalization is all about data, which now plays a key role in reaching targeted consumers in the Chinese market. That's what companies like Swiss food giant Nestle is practicing. "In China, everything is data-driven," noted Rashid Qureshi, chairman and CEO of Nestle Greater China. China has developed e-commerce and the popularization of smartphones reshaped the way consumers consume advertisement. "In many other parts of the world, you make one television ad and you make one product. You communicate to everyone," said Qureshi. "Nestle in China has to be a data company so that we can really use data to ensure we are targeting the right consumers."

Chinese consumers' awareness of environment has been rising in recent years along with the country's growing middle class. The pandemic put an extra spotlight in the environment as a private survey conducted by Kantar Consulting shows that more than 72 percent of the consumers in China's 1st-tier cities are willing to pay extra for environment-friendly products. 

That also leads to changes in corporate behavior. "We are showcasing our sustainability efforts (at the CIIE)," said Qureshi. Nestle is recycling capsules of its popular Nespresso to make chopsticks and even Swiss knifes. 

"For us, it's not only enjoying great products but we have to protect the environment for our future generations," concluded Qureshi.