Zhejiang Daily had an exclusive interview with Shen Guojun on the topic of faithfully carrying out the “Double-Eight Strategy” (implementation of eight measures that would leverage Zhejiang’s advantages in eight areas) and striving to build a “key window to the world and the future”, and how Zhejiang’s private economy could ensure lasting development vitality. Shen is Executive Chairman of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs, Honorary Life President of Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, Founder and Chairman of Yintai Group, and a director of the Board of Hupan. On November 11, Zhejiang Daily published a front page article entitled Executive Chairman of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs Shen Guojun offers advice to Zhejiang entrepreneurs - Build a “Zhejiang private economic organism”. The following is the full text of the interview:
By faithfully carrying out the “Double-Eight Strategy” and striving to build a “key window”, Zhejiang is working very hard to deliver an outstanding economic report card; and the private economy, in particular, plays a pivotal role. With the COVID-19 situation having stabilized and on the mend, Zhejiang’s private economy is striving diligently toward a comprehensive recovery and more. In the context of constructing a new development pattern, how can Zhejiang’s private economy ensure lasting development vitality? The newspaper’s reporter interviewed Shen Guojun, Founder and Chairman of Yintai Group, on these topics.
Aligning the ship’s bow and sailing fearlessly in the storm
It was a sunny day in late autumn in Beijing. Shen Guojun had just returned to his office after a meeting when the reporter met him in Beijing Yintai Centre. He told the reporter: Although a number of Yintai Group’s portfolio of businesses were in industries that were more adversely affected by COVID-19, the Group was able to withstand the pressure, and was recovering gradually. To date, the total footfall at the 106 shopping centers nationwide had returned to 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels.
“The 10 million-plus Zhejiang entrepreneurs are like cells that comprise the ‘Zhejiang private economic organism’.” As far as Shen was concerned, each Zhejiang entrepreneur being able to strive to contribute positively toward producing an excellent report card that represented Zhejiang’s entire private economy equated to making up for the losses incurred as a result of COVID-19, and aspiring for greater development going forward.
This required increasing confidence first and foremost, and to confront adversity head-on. Given deteriorating COVID-19 conditions and global economic contraction since the beginning of the year, Zhejiang entrepreneurs should advance courageously with firm confidence; and confidence was inseparable from spiritual support. Shen believed that Zhejiang entrepreneurs should continue to advocate a “pioneering and entrepreneurial” spirit, turning challenges into opportunities, using pressure as impetus, and turning trials into experiences, and to consistently surpass themselves.
“Born out of crisis, growth amid crisis and succeeding in crisis. Zhejiang entrepreneurs have always been thus.” From the perspective of development history, Shen believed that Zhejiang entrepreneurs had always grown and developed amid markets and storms, and had adhered to the Zhejiang entrepreneurial spirit of continually “growing toward the sun”, which required aligning the ship’s bow and finding the right direction.
“Leading enterprises that are successful must continue to innovate and forge ahead, and become stronger and bigger.” Shen said that leading enterprises should not limit their development goals to themselves, but should also contribute to the industry and region, and even to the country. “The innovation of large enterprises should not simply be concerned with quantity, but also with quality. They must help to promote improvements in and upgrading of the industry chain, and lead SMEs toward better growth.”
“SMEs, in the meantime, should gradually learn from and absorb the experiences of leading enterprises, and transform.” Shen advised SMEs and individually-owned businesses to conscientiously survey their current development phase. Rather than blindly pursue success hastily, they should leverage their size and agility to realign, capture market trends shrewdly, implement targeted innovation, and seek business opportunities in crises, so as to “overtake at the bend” to a certain extent.
Powering digital innovation
Innovation is the primary impetus that leads growth. Shen believed that Zhejiang entrepreneurs should be bold explorers, organizers and leaders of innovative development, and jointly build a “private economic organism with endogenous vigor” to ensure lasting development vitality. In particular, digital technology was the key source of “endogenous vigor” of innovative development for the “Zhejiang private economic organism”.
COVID-19 was a major trial. It was a wake-up call for “digital development” for private Zhejiang enterprises. This made Shen realize that embracing digitalization would not only generate multiple survival and development dividends, as well as improve the market competitiveness of enterprises, it could also become an enterprise’s “immunity” against the impact of the pandemic.
Based on his own experience, he called on Zhejiang enterprises to make technological advancement a fundamental priority, and to take transformation and innovation seriously in the digital era. Some 11 years ago, Yintai group, led by Shen, spearheaded digital development in the traditional commerce and trade sector. Since the start of COVID-19, the online operations, management platform, and other digital development achievements had firmly underpinned Yintai Group in terms of effective COVID-19 prevention and control, work and production resumption, and continued recovery.
As a pioneer of digital transformation among private enterprises, Shen saw that enterprise digital reform should go beyond simply using new technology; it should also include enterprise reconstruction, model innovation and other areas. Currently, Yintai Group is in the process of redistributing job functions in traditional departments, and enhancing the setting up of teams in areas of high-tech application to lay the foundation for further digital innovation on its internal organizational structure.
Shen believed that Zhejiang’s private enterprises should adjust their mindsets and make learning new technology and embracing digitalization their top priority. They should also take action to accelerate the implementation of new technology and digitalization, and improve their organizational framework. Both commercial and trading enterprises as well as industrial production enterprises should actively implement digitalization in the areas of goods, management, production capacity, production details and transactions, and should simultaneously promote the digital development process of the entire supply chain.
Leveraging the vitality of systems and mechanisms
The private sector economy is the undisputed “established brand” of Zhejiang Province. Zhejiang's role as a pioneer and pilot of new initiatives has benefited the province’s growth and development. It has established systems and mechanisms able to mobilize the enthusiasm and stimulate the creativity of millions of people. Shen believed that for the private sector economy to thrive, care and support were required.
In particular, support lay in the implementation of in-depth reforms and stimulating new vitality. He believed that maintaining a good business environment in Zhejiang as well as actively and boldly introducing strong market-oriented policies on an on-going basis were critical to private enterprises. Continuously lowering market barriers to infrastructure, public welfare undertakings and other sectors would also further promote and consolidate existing advantages.
Support would also come from mutual assistance among Zhejiang enterprises.
Shen believed that the role of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs and other organizations could be fully leveraged as a bridge and a bond for exchange and communication between government and enterprises, society and enterprises, and between enterprises so that these parties could jointly build a spiritual home of unity and collaboration as well as resource sharing for Zhejiang entrepreneurs. This would help mobilize, encourage and drive Zhejiang entrepreneurs to develop further.
Shen mentioned in particular that Yintai Group was willing to shoulder its responsibility in the process of participating in the building of the new development pattern. “Many export-oriented private enterprises in Zhejiang that were initially focused on the international markets have begun to attempt to expand in the domestic market.” Shen said that Yintai Group would be willing to offer its business marketing channel advantages to build platforms, and help export enterprises make inroads into the domestic market to foster complementarity and collaboration between domestic and export trade enterprises so that Zhejiang private enterprises would be able to achieve high-quality growth in the new development pattern.