Chen Guangbiao’s Business Card Needs to Be Recycled; Chen doesn’t appear to have devoted the same sort of effort to technology systems at his own company

Jan 14, 2014

Chen Guangbiao’s Business Card Needs to Be Recycled

By Wei Gu

Recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao should rethink his now-famous business cardAnd, perhaps, he needs to rethink his use of a business card to begin with.

The Chinese businessman’s card made headlines when he went to New York earlier this month in what he said was an effort to buy foreign media assets. Next to his photo—a detail that some in China include on their cards, especially those who work as property or insurance brokers—he also offered up 10 honorary titles, including “Most Influential Person of China,” “China Moral Leader,” and “Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China.”

The Chinese side of his card also has 10 titles, but different ones that play more to a domestic audience. One cites the May 1 medal for outstand achievement he received from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Many Chinese entrepreneurs like to stress their affiliation with government bodies, which gives them more credibility in the state-dominated society.

The titles have the opposite impact that Mr. Chen probably wants. So many big titles together make them all seem small.

Though they didn’t draw headlines, Mr. Chen’s contact details also were noteworthy. Unlike most other important people in China, who pride themselves on not giving much contact details on their cards, Mr. Chen listed two mobile phone numbers and two email addresses.

His China cellphone number is a status symbol in itself, with six “8”s, including four together at the end. The number must have been pricey to procure, as the number eight is deemed as a particularly auspicious number in China.

Mr. Chen doesn’t appear to have devoted the same sort of effort to technology systems at his own company. Both of his email addresses are with 163.com, a free email service provided by Netease. This isn’t uncommon in China, where even government officials put their own YahooYHOO +2.88% or Hotmail addresses on their cards.

The bigger question is whether Mr. Chen needs a card at all, particularly in a China that has become more technologically sophisticated.

With the rising popularity of Chinese social networks on cellphones, email increasingly looks like an outdated way to keep in touch. When Chinese people meet at social functions now, they often don’t exchange business cards. Instead, they turn to their phones, open their WeChat application, and started adding each other as friends.

Li Ling, a children’s book publisher in Beijing, said she hasn’t used business cards for more than a year now. Instead, she has put all her contact details on a QR code, the black-and-white checkerboard patterns that people can scan with their smartphone cameras. When she meets new people, they can simply scan the code on her phone with their own devices and the contacts will be added to their address books.

Of course that doesn’t work with everyone. Recently a foreign business associate who isn’t on WeChat kept asking her for a business card. Her friend jokes that she is getting so famous that she doesn’t need carry a business card anymore.

Ms. Li says environmental reasons aside, there are practical reasons to keep it simple. “If I meet someone with whom I’m not really interested in keeping in touch, there is no point exchanging business cards,” said Ms. Li. She added, “Now, without WeChat, it is hard to do business in China.”

Maybe Mr. Chen should listen to Ms. Li’s advice and live up to his title of “Environmental Protection Top Advocate” by getting rid of paper cards entirely.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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