July 24, 2019

Hong Kong has room for Finnish companies

Gitta Hägg-Lundvall

Executive director at Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong

Now is probably the right time to confess that I knew hardly anything about Hong Kong before 2015, when I began my internship at the Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. I had visited the city as a tourist, of course, but the only things that stuck in my mind were the chaotic masses of people and towering mirror-glass skyscrapers.

Hong Kong is marketed to Finnish tourists as an urban destination where the East meets the West, but many of them do not experience its uncongested sandy beaches, breathtaking (literally, but also in terms of views) hiking trails and national parks that cover 40 per cent of its land area. In addition to having something for everyone, Hong Kong offers Finnish companies a compact market with more than seven million people.

Whenever I tell someone in Hong Kong that I am from Finland, I find it unbelievable how many know something about this far-off, northern country. Currently a top destination, Finland is interesting and Arctic. Finland has the world’s best education system. And the world’s best education system enables this minuscule country to produce remarkable innovations. Of course, we also have the Northern Lights and Santa Claus. The Northern Lights, in fact, have been rooted so deep in the minds of people in Hong Kong that I have stumbled into many tourists who are planning to travel to Helsinki in June to see the Northern Lights.

The Finnish brand is strong in Hong Kong. It epitomises trust, cleanliness and technological knowhow, combined with soft values. Cleanliness and trustworthiness may sound like cliches, but, from this part of the world, these qualities are justifiably associated with Finland. For example, China, a country of food crises, offers numerous opportunities to Finnish food industry companies. It seems outright absurd here that you can look at the label of a meat package for details about its content, starting with the name of the farm and animal, in a Finnish grocery shop. Or that you can pick berries straight into your mouth in Finnish forests. In Hong Kong, I picked a box of tasteless Australian strawberries into my shopping basket for a price of seven euros.

The Finnish brand is strong in Hong Kong. It epitomises trust, cleanliness and technological knowhow, combined with soft values.

I have therefore been delighted to notice that Finnish food industry companies have recognised the potential and set out boldly to conquer the markets in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The list of alcohol brands available here may seem lengthy, but, believe it or not, there is room for more. Arctic Brands Group, Gustav Distillery, Hartwall, Kyrö Distillery Company, Laitila, Laplandia, RPS Brewing and Ägräs Distillery have been the pioneers, paving the way for others for some time. In terms of food, Bonne’s juices, Raisio’s Benecol yogurts and Taiga’s chocolates are available in my corner shop.

Hong Kong is touted as a great test laboratory for foreign companies with sights on China. And for a good reason: Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” agreement and status as a free trade zone offer companies convenience when it comes to imports, distribution, logistics, financial transactions and subsidiary establishment. The processes are straightforward from a Western viewpoint, and English – it being the second official language of the autonomous Special Administrative Region – will do just fine. Hong Kong, as a centre of trade and finance, has created systems to support businesses and entrepreneurship that also benefit foreign companies and entrepreneurs entering the market.

In addition to high-quality food and drink, there is a need for Finnish healthtech and smart city expertise to Hong Kong. Population ageing is obviously a challenge also in Finland, but our healthtech companies are presumably interested to hear that the number of over 65-year-olds will rise to 2.58 million – representing 35.9 per cent of the population – in Hong Kong by 2064. The Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong, published by the local government at the end of 2017, identifies development needs and improvement proposals in the areas of smart mobility, smart living, smart environment, smart people, smart government and smart economy.

Now is the right time to turn your attention to Hong Kong.

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