BRI charting a new course for Silk Road

Jasur Mavlyanov (right) discusses issues foreign entrepreneurs in China are facing with researchers from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences on March 19. (China Daily)

Jasur Mavlyanov, 32, is from Uzbekistan and is the founder of Shanghai Silk Road International Trading Co Ltd, a startup dedicated to promoting business and trade.

I should have come to China earlier and then maybe the progress of my startup would have been greater. The Chinese market is larger and more diverse than any in Europe. Also, it has everything that Silicon Valley has - a full variety of resources, opportunities and talent - and more up-to-date technologies.

I majored in business in undergraduate studies in my home country and financial law in graduate studies in the United Kingdom. In 2010, after working for a major property company in London for about three years, I decided to come to China, which was developing on a fast track. My long-term goal is to figure out why the country is growing so rapidly.

Initially I considered Hong Kong, but changed my mind as the Chinese mainland market is bigger and more competitive and has less Western influence.

I turned down job offers in Canada, Germany and the United States and accepted a place to study public administration at the China University of Geoscience in Wuhan, Hubei province, despite the fact that I had never been to the country before and I didn't speak Chinese.

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed in 2013 the Belt and Road Initiative, which captured the needs of different economies and conveyed benefits to them by helping them grow, exchange ideas, and develop and improve relationships.

My home country was once an important part of the ancient Silk Road and I was eager to become part of this great initiative to rebuild it. I spent years mapping out ideas and building connections before officially founding the company in Shanghai's Songjiang district.

We offer trading solutions to clients worldwide - helping businesses from China and other economies involved in the BRI import and export goods, and helping Chinese enterprises establish their businesses in foreign countries and vice versa.

We also offer business consulting services - including worldwide company registration, marketing, strategy, operations, website design and cross-border e-commerce solutions. We are also building a digital business-to-business platform.

For example, for clients from countries such as Russia and India who want to enter the Chinese market, we can provide legal services consulting and help with their business development, especially online.

We have 700 clients so far, and one-third of them are from China, including some founded by expats looking for opportunities abroad. Some foreign clients perform well in developed Western countries but not in BRI economies, which are still developing with less advanced infrastructure and outdated information online about the market there.

We sign contracts with governments, industry associations and companies and gather all the information to form the basis of consulting ideas for clients.

The startup, which has four task-based employees overseas and another Shanghai-based employee who is also from Uzbekistan, is already making a profit. I am planning to hire someone local with better Mandarin proficiency to serve local enterprises as such services expand.

I think one of my advantages is my diverse background. I have lived in Turkey and Dubai and worked in the UK. I am not coming from a single business culture, which allows me to integrate all my experience to build something better.

I am interested in history, law and business, and my business plan combines them all, capturing all my ambitions and interests.

I looked at Guangzhou and Shenzhen, both in Guangdong province, and Shanghai when deciding where to locate the startup. I talked to agencies about how foreigners can start a business.

Shanghai gave the best and clearest answers in relation to policy and it has the biggest international community and longest history in commerce. I believe that I made the right choice. I like the vibrant atmosphere in Shanghai, and everything develops fast.

Compared to the UK in terms of the environment for startups, regulations in China are increasingly meeting the needs of expat entrepreneurs, becoming more flexible while gaining maturity.

The UK has established business law and it does not change. China used to learn from the West but now many countries have started to learn from China.

Editor: 曹家宁
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