Dmitry Portnyagin: Transit Plus aims to attract loyal customers who would choose us after they visit China

Transit Plus Consult&Logistics, ABT`s partner, offers corporate buyers a new format of cooperation with China. It means full outsourcing in this country from the customer’s name. The company constantly analyses the Chinese market, traces new technologies and is ready to help settle all business processes related to this unique market, where you have to learn a different language, traditions and customs, another system of doing business.

«We know what partners to deal with», Transit Plus general director Dmitry Portnyagin says. And he guarantees that every minute spent in the Celestial Empire will be useful and efficient for business travellers.

— Dmitry, tell us, how you came to business travel. As far as I know your company started from consulting, logistics and goods deliveries from China, and not from business trip arrangement.

— We started active work in the field of business travel, i.e. business trips arrangement about a year ago. Before that we had nothing to do with services like that. Our clients, business partners, friends and just curious people often ask us, why we were so interested in this new area of work. How does it fit the overall conception of our company that specializes in international logistics and consulting? The answer is simple — business travel gradually became part of our work with clients. We discuss various aspects of production and deliveries from China during talks, and of course many businessmen want to see everything with their own eyes. And it is quite understandable. I always recommend clients not to grudge time and to visit this «country of great opportunities» in order to understand how everything actually works there. We gradually gathered requests from several clients, who decided to follow my advice. And we took a unanimous decision to launch a whole segment of business travel to southern China, in particular to the largest industrial cities — Guangzhou, Dongguan, Foshan and Shenzhen.

The first and the main thing that we offer business travellers is comfortable accommodation in the Celestial Empire and the second is desired results within a short period of time. We understand that usually preoccupied businessmen consider spending five days on a program like that a luxury, so we try to fill this time with business excursions and useful contacts to the maximum. Every trip is thoroughly planned by our specialists: they search for Chinese partners that meet the customer’s demands, arrange meetings, find qualified interpreters, accompany and consult travellers during the whole trip. As a result, due such a broad tutorship the client personally controls all production issues in China and goes on doing business at a distance without any problems. We can help them through our supply program that includes services like quality control, purchase of samples, execution of international payments to suppliers, transportation services and so on.

— What services do you offer corporate clients as a DMC (destination management company) in China?

— We help find interpreters, book hotels and hire transport, but these are not the most important things. Our aim is to provide a full service package and to organize an individual business trip. We are not focused on getting huge profits in this area, our aim is to attract frequent customers, so that they choose us as their long-term partner and a representative in all matters in this country.

— Can you name hot periods in Chinese regions that are most popular with business travellers, when the cost of accommodation, flights and interpreter services rises dramatically?

— Yes, sure. It does not happen very often, but it does happen. The main cities with regular business activity throughout the year are Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong-Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Tiapei. They are the venues for regular world industrial exhibitions that attract producers from China as well as buyers from all over the world. As I live in Guangzhou, I can say that prices for tickets and accommodation usually grow significantly during the Canton Fair — the largest Asian fair that takes place twice a year- in October and in April. The rise in prices lasts about a month usually.

— Dmitry, what are the nuances of business etiquette in China? What should a business traveller always remember about? For example, are there certain words, gestures or mimics that should be avoided during business talks?

— Many of my colleagues have written articles and even books on this subject, but I do not emphasize these questions, although I can tell you about some nuances. For example, Russian businessmen are very ambitious and hasty, which is considered bad manners in China. It is not Russia, where you come and discuss prices and terms with your partner quickly, sigh a contact, shake hands and leave without even asking how his wife is doing or where his children study.

In China talks may last for quite a long time, you will probably be asked numerous questions about your family, about what you do on weekends. And the reason is not that they are so curious about your private life, but it is a way for them to understand how serious your intentions are, whether you have enough experience and money after all. Of course, often, but not always the long period of talks may affect its terms. So you can drink green tea, tell funny stories about your relatives and probably this is what will help you establish contacts with your Chinese partners.

Many will not agree with my next chauvinistic statement, but my personal experience proves it. You can seldom find good friends among the Chinese, so you should always watch out. Do not let them manipulate you. They may admire our great nation and our success in business, look after and treat you and then turn the matter in their favour. In short, do not relax too much during business talks, show that the result is of primary importance to you. After you sign a contract, do not let them deceive you because you are best friends, always check the goods quality before shipment. In general, be careful.

— Is it necessary to have a Chinese escort interpreter or is English enough?

— It depends on who your partner is and what the level of his company is. Today many factories hire managers who speak decent English and directors themselves often turn out to be MBA graduates. But even in this case I would recommend you to find a good interpreter with the knowledge of the language not less than the new HSK 7. This will help you establish a contact with the Chinese quicker and not only with top management, but also with ordinary workers at the factory — they can tell you a lot of interesting things as well. It is not only the knowledge of the language that matters, but also understanding of specific aspects of talks, the skill of asking questions in the right way and the right interpretation of interests of both parties. That is why interpreter services in our company cost $150-200 per day — they can not only make a correct translation, but also instantly help you find yourself in the situation and consult you on some unexpected matters.

— Many airlines offer tickets to various Chinese cities. Can you share your considerations of a business traveller when choosing an airline?

I go to Russia and other countries by plane very often. If we speak about airlines that have flights to Russia and back, there are not many of them, really. For example, only two airlines have flights «Guangzhou-Moscow» — Aeroflot and China Southern Airlines. I usually prefer Aeroflot, because Russian stewards are very attentive and helpful and meals are better, than on Chinese flights.

— What events apart from specialized fairs can you recommend to those who come to China on business?

If you are only entering the Chinese market, you won’t probably need anything here except for specialized fairs — there you will find everything you need: both goods and partners. As for those who live in China, we attend various conferences and summits where we can always find something useful for our business, open new areas of work. In general, we do the same as businessmen in Russia. I don’t think you should spend much time and effort studying the business community in China. Your time allocation should be as follows: 30% is for establishment of business contacts with suppliers in other countries, including China and for arrangement of supply patterns, and 70% is for doing business in your country, i.e. for sales, distribution, cost cutting and new directions of work.

— China has a very rich culture and history. What do you personally like here? What can this country surprise its visitors by?

— Many people wrongly consider China to be a country with strong traditions and a list of strange features. But Middle Ages have long been over here and now China is a very developed and technologically advanced country. The main thing I would like to point out is safety. I have never had conflict situations with locals or authorities for the time I have been living here. This is a very comfortable country for doing business as well as for living.

As for traditions, many of them are still observed and may surprise foreigners. It is enough to visit the Chinese and find a small version of an ancestor temple in their city flats.

Of course, we can not leave aside Chinese cuisine — it varies in all the provinces and its ingredients may surprise you. For example, Guangdong cuisine, which is the cuisine of Guangzhou inhabitants, unlike Chinese cuisine in general, is not hot, and many dishes are steamed. As for exotics, here you can find crocodile meat, stewed snails, fried dog and cat meat, lotus root.