Shengyang SME interview


Name: Kemal Yener

Position: Head of Marketing

Company: Star Mall Group

Location: Shenyang

Company size (no. of employees): 120

Sector: Real estate

Core business: Commercial real estate

When did you come to China?

Our story in China began in 2007.

Why did you come to China?

There were several things that we considered when we decided to invest in China. First, the fast growing economy was a factor: China grew an average of 11.7 per cent between 2003 and 2007, and many economists project that China will grow around seven per cent from 2015 to 2019. Second, the pragmatism of China’s government – China’s enormous economic progress is due to the courage of its leaders and the people who have undertaken bold reforms. Third, the sheer number of opportunities in China – due to the size of the country and homogenous distribution of the population, China will continue to be a promising investment region for the foreseeable future, so we will be keeping our eyes and ears open for opportunities. We have observed that commercial real estate investments are mainly occurring in second-tier cities due to scarce land opportunities in China’s bigger cities, so this is where we have focused our efforts, too. We will be continuing to focus on second-tier cities, while at the same time evaluating potential partnerships offered by different global enterprises.

Where is your company located?

We’re located in Shenyang, Northeast China, but our holding company is FIBA Group, with headquarters located in Istanbul, Turkey. FIBA Group is a respected and well-known player in international markets. It controls an investment portfolio of high-value brand names in both financial and non-financial lines of business. The group’s investments in the financial services industry are in banking, leasing, factoring, insurance, NPL management and private equity. Its non-financial investments are in aviation, retailing, real estate, energy, shipbuilding and port management.

Why did you choose Shenyang as your China location?

We had looked at five potential cities in China to invest. Shenyang was the one where we observed that the city met our expectations in terms of economic development and future growth.

We had great support from the local government in Shenyang. We saw that the government had a clear vision of how to develop the area, where before there had been production factories. Now, we can proudly say that how the investment decision was right for us when we see the new developments and the huge improvements that are taking place in Shenyang.

What is the biggest challenge for SMEs in China?

The general business culture: you cannot simply import your business model into China. You need to be flexible and adjust to a country that practices business according to ‘Chinese characteristics’. Without a presence and close supervision in China, it will be difficult for your company to ensure its best interests are being advanced by its agents and employees.
What is the biggest challenge for SMEs in your particular sector?

Human sesources. Our companies typically have flexible lines of authority, which often runs up against Chinese workers accustomed to a hierarchical structure where each person has a ‘clearly-defined role’. These differences sometimes lead to tensions between Western managers who are used to employees who take their own initiative and Chinese staff who have been trained from a young age to always follow instructions from the top.

Are you aware of EU-funded support projects for SMEs and have you ever used any?

We haven’t used any EU support so far.

Star Mall Real Estate Development Company is a foreign-funded enterprise invested by the well-known Turkish conglomerate Fiba Group, operating in the commercial real estate development sector in China. Established in 2007, it engaged in the development of its first project in China – Star Mall Shenyang Plaza.