SAIC Taking Wrong Approach to Build Its Brands

China’s number 1 auto maker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC), is setting up a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley to tap advanced technology for its automobile brands back home. As Rose Yu writes in the WSJ’s China Real Time blog:

Chinese car companies, including SAIC, could do with all the help they can get, as the majority of Chinese consumers prefer foreign-branded cars. Chinese domestic brands’ market share in the country’s passenger-vehicle market fell to 36.5% in May from 39.4% in the year-earlier period, the ninth-consecutive month of decline, according to data from a government-backed industry group.

“Building a brand is an arduous job,” said Chen Hong, Chairman of SAIC Motors. “Chinese car makers must go upscale, otherwise the situation will be worse.

“In terms of sales, SAIC is a big car company. But when it comes to core technologies, we are far from strong enough,” said Mr. Chen, who became chairman in May. “Silicon Valley houses a number of emerging-technology companies. Having a footprint there will help improve our innovation ability.”

But how could “having a footprint in Silicon Valley” help improve their innovation ability? It’s not like breathing the Silicon Valley air will automatically make a company more innovative. Money isn’t only the way to acquire new technologies. The best innovations happen where the problems need to be solved. SAIC doesn’t need to look farther than China to find these.

What the Rise of the Chinese Middle Class Means for Entrepreneurs

I will be speaking at Stanford University on April 12, 2011, on the topic of “What the Rise of the Chinese Middle Class Mean for Entrepreneurs.” It is part of Entrepreneurship in Asian High-Tech Industries seminar series run by Professor Dasher.

Below is an email announcement sent by Professor Dasher:

Our “Entrepreneurship in Asian High-Tech Industries” series has gotten off to a great start and continues with a *very exciting* session next week:

“What the Rise of the Chinese Middle Class Means for Entrepreneurs”

With Helen Wang, author of the book, The Chinese Dream

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
4:15 – 5:30 pm
NVIDIA Auditorium, Huang Engineering Center, Stanford

It’s fantastic that we could get Forbes columnist, consultant, and expert on China’s middle class, Ms. Helen H. Wang, to find time in her schedule to speak for us this week.   This session in our series is presented in cooperation with The Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Stanford (ACSSS).  I’m also happy to say that Helen is another Stanford alum!

Originally from China, Helen has lived in the U. S. for over twenty years.  After earning her masters degree at Stanford, she joined at the prestigious think tank, the Institute for the Future, in Menlo Park, California, and consulted for Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, Oracle, and Bank of America.  She then became a Silicon Valley entrepreneur in Internet start-ups.   In 2004, Helen returned to Stanford as a Reuters Fellow, developing technology solutions for underserved communities. She has also founded a social venture, e-Mobilizer, to help woman micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries use mobile phones to access online markets.  E-Mobilizer has been nominated twice for the San Jose Tech Museum Award.  A sought-after speaker, Wang now divides her time between consulting for companies doing business in China and helping non-profit organizations make a difference.

Her 2010 book, “THE CHINESE DREAM: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You,” describes the explosive growth of the Chinese middle class over the last two decades and tells a number of riveting personal stories, including Helen’s own.  It has received commendations from various prominent scholars and business people, as described on her website.

In our seminar on Tuesday, 4/12, Helen will focus on the implications of this world-changing phenomenon for entrepreneurs in China and Silicon Valley.

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