South African companies doing business in China on Thursday encouraged those willing to enter into that market to be innovative and partner the Chinese people.
Hollard insurance company is one of those companies. Briefing the China-Africa forum held in Johannesburg, Hollard International managing director Frans Prinsloo said his company opened an office in China in 2006.
"When we entered the Chinese market, we did not want to compete with large insurance companies but decided to be innovative. We now sell 40,000 policies a month in China which looks big by South African standards but small in China. Understand the market, partner the local people, be patient and have good relations with your partners," Prinsloo said.
He said they launched the first mobile handset insurance product in China which is among the world's largest cellular telephone market in terms of number of handsets sold.
There are opportunities in the insurance industry in China with good environment which is improving legislation to international standards, Prinsloo said.
"Partnering Chinese companies also helped us to also sign some Memorandum of Understanding with a Chinese company to help them in Africa. There is no one size that fits all in the international market. Language skills also help enormously."
Colin Coleman, the managing director of Goldman Sachs International, said South African companies should not fear the unknown risk but tackle the unknown fear.
"Most South African companies are nervous to do business in China because of language barrier. There is a big market in China. My interacting with the Chinese has showed that the Chinese are more welcoming," he said.
Coleman has helped connect some companies to do business in China for years. He said South African companies have to look for projects which are bankable and fundable and approach the Chinese for sponsorship with a good business plan.
Coleman also helped South Africa's largest healthcare insurer, Discovery Holdings to penetrate the Chinese market among others.
He said there is a need to constantly reform some deals reached to balance the trade.