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Wahaha heiress wants to be recognised as entrepreneur
Publication Date : 13-03-2013
It is every girl's dream to be a princess. But the daughter of the richest man on the Chinese mainland is reluctant to wear the tiara.
Zong Fuli, the 31-year-old heiress of Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co Ltd, the mainland's largest soft drinks company by sales, loathes being stereotyped as a second-generation billionaire.
She prefers to be recognised as a true entrepreneur.
In January, she was elected as the youngest member of the Zhejiang Provincial People's Political Consultative Conference.
Her efforts at improving the food and beverage industry and sense of responsibility have earned her a place this year as one of 10 Chinese representatives of Young Global Leaders, a forum and community working in cooperation with the World Economic Forum.
Zong said six more young Chinese people were selected this year than last year.
"More and more Chinese young business leaders are valued by the world, and people are paying more attention to China now," she said in an exclusive interview with China Daily. "This gives us more confidence and more sense of responsibility. Despite all the titles, I am just Zong Fuli."
Zong Qinghou is listed by Hurun Research Institute as the richest man on the mainland, with a personal wealth of 82 billion yuan ($13.18 billion).
In many ways, Zong resembles her father. They are both zealous at work. In 2004, she returned to her hometown after graduating from Pepperdine University in the United States.
At the start of her career, she worked as a deputy director at a production base in Xiaoshan, Zhejiang province.
She was later promoted to president of Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage Group.
Now the young woman is in charge of one-third of Wahaha's production, including imports and exports.
Her overseas education has shaped her mindset and values at work.
Zong has plans to roll out a line of high-end tea beverages overseas. "It should meet the nutrition standard among Western customers," Zong said. "Going global is not merely profit-driven. It is about showcasing our products and culture to the world."
Familiar with Western lifestyles and culture, Zong is confident she knows what Western consumers want.
For example, many people in the United States pay close attention to nutrition content and prefer organic food, she said. Therefore, Wahaha focuses on non-sugar and low-sugar organic tea exports to the US.
She also has adopted advanced ideas and management skills she picked up from overseas trips.
Dubbed as the "iron woman" in the family-run company, Zong has a Western style of management.
She believes in a system and teamwork, speaks what is on her mind and promotes employees by talent, not by age.
"I think if you want to make a well-localised company internationalised, the first thing you should do is to move both the employees' and the customers' minds from the local level to global level. It will take a long time, but it is necessary," she said.
One of the biggest trends among the first generation of Chinese billionaires is that almost 90 percent of their children study overseas, said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report.
"They are looking to prepare their children to run their business for the next 20 to 30 years," Hoogewerf said. "Their children are not only learning the best of China, but also have a global outlook."
According to the Hurun Research Institute, many of them have already started to take over part of their parents' work.
With a fortune of 36 billion yuan, 31-year-old Yang Huiyan, the daughter of the founder of the property company, Country Garden (Holdings) Ltd, is the richest second-generation of billionaire, according to Hurun Research Institute.
The son of the founder of the steel giant, Highsee Iron and Steel Group Co Ltd, Li Zhaohui, 31, ranks second, with a wealth of 12 billion yuan.
Is the daughter perfect in the eyes of her father? In measurement from one to 10, Zong Qinghou gives his daughter an eight based on her performance at work.
"She is diligent," he said. "But she needs to return to Chinese culture. She is adapting now."
Chinese management is people-oriented while Western management relies on a system, he added.
"She thinks I am too tolerant, I think she is too tough."
In China, "employees have to respect you from the bottom of their heart", he said.