China Musings #21: Chinese Women and Luxury Cars

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In a place like Shanghai, you get to see a lot of luxury cars. Maseratis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis – you could just stand at a street corner and count them as they drive by. At first I would notice the cars but then I also noticed the drivers. In far more than half of the cases, the drivers were female. 

I asked some Chinese friends, and they initially joked that it’s women driving the cars of their wealth hubbies, but that didn’t really add up as I observed some of these women. They looked like the owned the cars. What am I saying, they looked like they owned the city. They eluded confidence and an aura of success. It’s quite impressive. So I did some research, and was surprised about what I learned. 

So turns out that the purchasing power of women in China is almost on par with that of affluent Chinese men. Not very surprising considering that 51 percent of senior management positions are held by women, 2/3 of the world's female self-made billionaires are from China, and women in China contribute half of the household income.

But what *is* surprising is that affluent Chinese women have developed a global reputation for being avid buyers of luxury cars – in the biggest car market in which luxury cars already account for 10.3% of all car sales. In fact, Chinese women account for 40 per cent of Porsche and Maserati’s buyers in the Chinese market. In the rest of the world, women account for less than five per cent of buyers. Ferrari noticed that Chinese women prefer more powerful and more expensive models, and sales to Chinese women are about four times the sales to women in the west. 

The trend has driven a number of foreign prestige auto brands, such as Audi, Cadillac and Ferrari, to step up their efforts to market toward this consumer segment. Due to their varied cultural, social and economic backgrounds, Chinese women have very different buying habits than their Western counterparts. And some brands have responded creatively to these differences, developing marketing campaigns that appeal specifically to Chinese women (think along the lines of cocktail parties with Giorgio Armani’s cosmetics line and Italian lingerie company La Perla).

One thing you sense here is how ambitious Chinese women are. Paired with their financial means, this translates into a strong desire for more “high powered” products than women in the US or Europe. Luxury cars in particular have become a way for Chinese women to display their power, an outspoken symbol of their newfound status in society. Maserati in particular is a brand that meets these aspirations: it’s a very performance-oriented sports car, bold, innovative, and with a touch of glamour. As a matter of fact, I never seen as many pink and purple Maseratis as I have seen here in China.  

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Tales of Life & Death – Dealing with personal uncertainty

Someone I love is fighting with cancer. I have therefore decided to make that person, their life, and their battle my priority over the next few months. Under the name “Tales of Life & Death,” I’ll be sharing more from this journey.

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In my conversations of the past few months, people have repeatedly applauded my decision to prioritize the health of said loved one. Upon hearing the diagnosis in late November, I hit the brakes on my own career, left the company I helped co-found, and temporarily relocated to where the patient is living. As much as it looked like a tough decision that would merit applause, it really was just the most obvious thing I could do – and wanted to do. 

Apart from the fear I felt for the patient, the entire situation evoked a lot of personal fears. I was anxious about how this would all play out for me, about how long I would need to put my own life on hold, and when it would it be morally and ethically justifiable for me to continue with my life. Let alone what life would hold for me once I was ready to hit resume. 

The past few months were not easy. Being unemployed was a frightening thought. Having to deal with a serious illness of a loved one is insanely stressful. And as a social person, knowing that I’d find myself in an environment where I didn’t know many people was scary. But there I was, knowing I was entering a difficult period in my life that had no clear timeline. 

As I was embarking on this journey, a friend advised me to approach this new phase in my life with curiosity, and not so much with anxiety. Yes, there were all these things that I knew were coming and that scared me – the “known knowns.” But there were also so many things that I didn’t know were coming my way – the “unknown unknowns.” How could I know how this period would change me the better? How could I predict how my priorities might change? I just couldn’t.

But in an attempt to prepare myself for these good things to enter my life, and to train my eyes to see them, I sat down and wrote an extensive list of how this entire situation could end up being a blessing. I was basically trying to “brace for impact.” Being away from China might make me appreciate it more. By taking velocity out of my life I might be able to gain clarity of thought. Facing serious illness might help me see what truly matters in life, and what doesn’t. 

Now, three months into the journey, the patient’s situation has become stable. We were able to move from chemotherapy (carpet-bombing the body with chemicals) to a much less aggressive therapy called immunotherapy (more like a “sniper” that goes after the bad cells). At the same time, the past three months have allowed me develop a business idea that I deem worth pursuing as my next project. 

My loved one’s journey isn’t over, but it is now at a point where I can allow myself to hit resume – a moment I didn’t expect to come so fast. Equipped with a lot of élan, I look back on the past three months not as time that I lost, but a much needed break to make sure I am not just running in my life for the sake of running, but that I am running into the right direction to begin with.

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Tales of Life & Death – Celebrating the Chemo

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Someone I love is fighting with cancer. I have therefore decided to make that person, their life, and their battle my priority over the next few months. Under the name “Tales of Life & Death,” I’ll be sharing more from this journey.

The best piece of advice I got in the days leading up to the start of the chemotherapy was that we should “celebrate the chemo.”

I was talking on the phone with a good friend who beat breast cancer a few years ago. And as we were talking about her experience going through chemotherapy, she said that most important thing for her was to start appreciating chemotherapy – despite all of its nasty side effects and the burden it puts on both the patient and the family.

I was really surprised, but also curious to understand why. As my friend put it, the days/weeks during which the patient receives chemotherapy, are basically the time when the fight against cancer actually matters. Yes, chemo is full of chemicals that fuck up your body, but the chemo is also what makes the difference in the patient’s fight with cancer. If it wasn’t for the chemo, the cancer would keep doing its thing. But it’s because of the chemo why the patient is getting a chance. 

It’s a curse, but it’s also a blessing. So why not fully appreciate the blessing-side of it?  

I really liked this change of perspective. And one of the first things I did was to call the patient and to call the people around the patient to let them know that we should all look forward to the chemotherapy. That we should celebrate it, cherish it, appreciate it. And so we do. Chemo week has been the week we are eagerly longing for.

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Tales of Life & Death – The Beginning

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Someone I love is fighting with cancer.

I have therefore decided to make that person, their life, and their battle my priority over the next few months.

My focus, attention, and even my physical presence will be channeled towards that person so I can support them with all of my love and energy.

As I am studying more about cancer – and the fight with it – I am equally learning more about life and death.

Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing more about this journey with you – under the name “Tales of Life & Death.”

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China Musings #18: Taking Chinese Companies Global

Having worked cross-boarder out of China for the past 15+ months, I learned a thing or two about what it takes for Chinese companies to be successful on global stage. Below my conversation on this very topic on the China Accelerator podcast. It's a dedicated interview of 35 minutes in which I share perspectives and anecdotes from my time in China.

Podcast link: https://goo.gl/1rYzxJ (or check on iTunes)

0:00 Welcome Back and Introduction 
1:50 Introducing Omid Scheybani 
2:50 How Omid came to China and why he stayed 
4:45 Chinese perceptions on Global Markets 
8:15 Chinese Tech going Global and shift in Chinese exports 
12:27 Diversity in Chinese Business and need for intl. Talent 
14:57 Omid’s Advice on working for Chinese companies 
17:55 Challenges for Chinese Businesses going global
19:25 Adapting to Chinese Business Norms 
20:00 Treatment of intl. Talent 
20:25 Perspectives of Chinese products in intl. Markets 
26:34 Lightning Round Questions 
29:19 Spread of Chinese Products to intl. Markets 
33:31 Closing thoughts

Speaking at a Retail Summit at Google Beijing

Speaking at a Retail Summit at Google Beijing

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