Hong Kong-based fashion consultancy

Podcast transcript #85: A Hong Kong-based consultancy bringing sustainability in the fashion industry

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Find here the China Paradigm 85 and learn about Fashionable Future, an innovative fashion consultancy working in the fashion industry in China and worldwide and trying to bring sustainability in the fashion industry. 

Full transcript below

Matthieu David: Hello everyone. I am Matthieu David, the founder of Daxue Consulting, the China market research company, and its podcast China paradigm. And today is very special. I have two guests at the same time from Hong Kong – Kanch Porta Panjabi and Kate Padget-Koh. So, you have a very long entrepreneurial story, and you decided to work together on and to put your resources and your experience into a company called Fashionable Futures, a consultancy based on sustainability in the fashion industry. 

You provide strategy consulting to those brands who want to build a branding strategy. And you have a very, very strong experience in Asia, Hong Kong, China by being working in big companies like Li & FungPuma, for the UK for instance, and to build your own brand, which I feel is a very, very different experience; very, very different story. And altogether you are providing a consulting strategy for those brands who want to adapt for the coming years with some values you insist on, and I want to already talk about them, which are sustainability in the fashion industry, and that you insist a lot on it in your presentation, and transparency. So, in order for people who listen to us to better understand, would you mind sharing a bit of some case you have been working on for the Chinese market, let’s say Greater China?

Kate Padget-Koh: Can we talk a little bit about how we operate just so that your listeners can understand more clearly?

Matthieu David: Sure.

Kate Padget-Koh: Okay. So, we work with a number of products. We basically work in three areas. We work with large brands that want specific projects done around sustainability in the fashion industry, innovation, and strategy. And they may be, they are probably in the midst of a transition of – coming from how they have been operating for some time. We are all very aware of the disruption in the fashion industry in China and worldwide, and the fashion retail business. So, we work with them to really look at how they can fast track any transformation they are currently engaged in. 

Secondly, we work with small brands and these small to medium-sized brands who really want to start on that sustainability journey. They may be so far into that but then again want to progress it. And how we do this? We do one on one consulting and we are just launching an online program for small to medium-sized fashion brands, and actually anyone in the fashion or associated space. It would also be suitable for the beauty industry and so on. So, we see that we need to get our message out there quite extensively. 

The third part and this is probably also very relevant for China too is we work with Chinese fashion manufacturers. We noticed that Chinese fashion manufacturers or manufacturers of apparel have been facing many challenges, and especially in China due to the trade war so that they are looking for ways that they can progress themselves and become manufacturers of the future. And that’s really what we are here to do. We understand this space very well and how we operate is to really help companies navigate these challenging times.

Matthieu David: So, to summarize, you segment into two different – three, sorry – three different offers: one for big brands, one for small brands, and one for Chinese fashion manufacturers and others around the world.

Kate Padget-Koh: Yeah, correct.

Matthieu David: And with all of them you work specifically and you insist again on the word sustainability. Before we go a bit deeper, how would you define sustainability in the fashion industry? I feel people may use it this word for different reason – the business is sustainable when it’s making profits in some way, it’s sustainable when it will start affecting the environment and the stakeholders around them, it’s sustainable when the brand is solid enough to actually continue to exist after the CEO may be replaced and so on. So how do you define sustainability in the fashion industry?

Kate Padget-Koh: It’s a very good question. And we actually have one part of our online program around this word because it’s rather overused, and it’s really, it is to sustain over time. I think Kanch can talk a little bit more about what we mean by sustainability?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah, sure. So, you know, sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations. So, to us really, sustainability in the fashion industry is – we understand businesses need to make a profit, sure – but for us, sustainability is really about making a product that is not harming the environment that we are and our future generations. So, whether it be producing new clothes or upcycling or reusing or remaking, it’s about how are you affecting the planet while you are doing that, and the planet in different areas. So, it could be – so, I think for a lot of brands to do everything is quite difficult. So, it could be that you focus on water, it could be that you focus on the social aspect, it could be that you focus on solar. So, it really just depends on what the brand is doing. But I think sustainability in the fashion industry is a big word, and under that, you have different umbrellas. Right? Is there anything else you can add to that, Kate?

Kate Padget-Koh: And I think a lot of it is around being conscious of what you are doing. We are at a time where, you know, it can’t be just growth, growth, growth. We have a lot of – like if we stopped buying clothes, all of us, and we didn’t buy anything for the next five years, we would be fine, right? All three of us. And for fashion people like us probably a bit longer. If I don’t buy anything, for the next 10, I am fine, right? So, what it is, is we are never going to stop buying fashion, we are never going to stop being engaged in fashion. But what is the future of the fashion industry in China and worldwide? When we look at it from a conscious perspective, another core part of what we are doing is design thinking and creating designers of the future. We see sustainability in the fashion industry is very much about building future leaders.

Matthieu David: You talked about manufacturers and Chinese fashion manufacturers as a third segment. The image we have of a manufacturer is to be very pragmatic, to provide products for the brands they work for, maybe at some point to create their own brand. But what is leading them to think about sustainability in the fashion industry? What do you think is pushing them to think about sustainability? I am not talking specifically about the Chinese fashion manufacturers, which may have many other issues than thinking about also stakeholders or the future in the coming 5 or 10 years.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Well, I think, like yesterday we had this conversation with somebody and it’s the customer, you know, the customer overnight is going to become demanding and say look, if you want us to work with you, this amount of the collection needs to have these values around sustainability. So, if they don’t change, then.

Matthieu David: I see.

Kate Padget-Koh: Irrelevant.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah.

Matthieu David: I see. I see.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: And it’s not just like the small brands, it’s like the big brands, it’s everybody you know. And I think we’ve seen it happen progressively the last five years but I feel like in the next two, one to two years, it’s going to be like overnight.

Matthieu David: You define sustainability in the fashion industry in a very broad way and not to damage your future – no, the present work and action don’t damage the future. How does it convert into actions with the work you do with big brands, small brand manufacturers?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Do you want to tackle that one, Kate?

Kate Padget-Koh: Sure. So, I think that critically we look at what is – why do brands do what they do. And we get them to look at what they are doing, their operations and why they exist and what they want, how they want to leave the world. So, you know, it’s very much about legacy and impact. So, if a brand is operating in a particular way, it has been that – oh we get fashion to as many people as possible at an affordable cost. But we also know that there’s been a cost to that, right, an environmental cost? And also, for the past – what – 20 years, we’ve trained generations to buy and consume clothing, and, maybe wear it once, maybe not wear it. I think I went a bit off your question. Sorry. 

So, what we really want to look at is a brand should be very conscious of what they are doing in their activities, do they look at materials? Do they look at their impact on water? Do they look at end of life? You know, there will be a requirement. We were having a conversation yesterday with some contacts we have and they work with some fast fashion companies in the fashion industry in China and worldwide. And there is a requirement that a significant percentage of the business that they provide to that organization, to that fast-fashion retailer must meet a certain sustainable criterion. That criteria covers factory certifications, material requirements, impacts in water and they are operating in China.

Matthieu David: So, if you work to – I mean with your clients, to assess what to do to actually work on the transformation with them and implement it, what do you specifically work on?

Kate Padget-Koh: We look at how you begin that journey because it is a very complex subject and our superpower is to make it simple. So, we take a very complex subject and we make it simple and manageable. We are not technical in the respect that we do not measure energy and we do not test the water and so on. But we do have very strong partners who we then would hand off to. So, what we see is we see that we are able to help brands navigate that world, that sustainability conversation because there’s a lot of information out there. It’s very confusing. And people are very concerned about saying and doing the wrong thing.

Matthieu David: Yeah, and the risk is too.

Kate Padget-Koh: Yeah, the risk.

Matthieu David: And the risk could be to be only words, right?

Kate Padget-Koh: Yeah. And everyone is scared that they are accused of greenwashing. They are scared that they get something wrong. And then, you know, they don’t do anything. And it’s really for us is to shift that, to have them and really for them – we also come from a place of – we are not saying is that you are doing the wrong thing, you should be ashamed of yourself, there is none of that. It’s about enabling the next generation of the fashion industry in China and worldwide, really.

Matthieu David: I go back to the first question; would you mind sharing one or two specific cases in the past you have dealt with?

Kate Padget-Koh: Okay. So, we have manufacturers who – so if we look at Chinese fashion manufacturers, there is a lot of challenges we know around the trade war and they now are at the point. So, we have one group who operates in, they are specifically from China, but they also have offshore sourcing and manufacturing. And they are working with some pretty well-known companies but the huge capacity of their China production now cannot be, that US brand does not want to take it, right, because of the trade war impact. So, what they have to look at now is – suddenly they are faced with, what are they going to do? The model is broken. We don’t know what it’s going to be, how things are going to be in the future, and so they’ve got to look at who they are going to serve in the future. You know, it’s always been an issue in China that they go from the US and then something happens in the US and they run to Europe, but this also isn’t sustainable. So, we are now working with them to understand what is next – like how they can become more sustainable in terms of not so dependent upon their legacy customers. And this is obviously quite complex.

Matthieu David: Does it mean that you are also working with them to build their own brand?

Kate Padget-Koh: It can be but I think we are also, you know, that’s been happening in the last 15 years, let’s say. What we also see is if companies are big enough, then they may want to be working with existing brands, you know, whether they are introducing them to the Chinese market, they are actually investing in them, they are investing in innovation. I think this is a very interesting area. We have a lot of innovation, which needs to happen and how can manufacturers be partners in that? There is a lot around education for the future also. And we were on a call yesterday with a – it’s related to, kind of a very well-known educational institution, and they want to do design leadership. And it is a China challenge. So, it’s how they can progress at speed, sustainable innovations around critical materials. So, let’s say, denim, cotton and really educate designers of the future. So, Chinese fashion manufacturers can become part of that educational process too.

Matthieu David: So those values which are sustainability, and I am going to elaborate more to add transparency as well because you mentioned it in your presentation – how is it different in China and in the West? Are you seeing different uses? Are you seeing different maturity? Do you see some differences?

Kate Padget-Koh: I will speak very briefly about this because I know that you are – it’s a bit of a tricky question, right. In my experience, the majority of what I have worked in have been overseas brands who are operating in China or Chinese fashion manufacturers who are producing for those big brands. I think that transparency, it’s tricky. And I am surprised that that’s in our presentation because I am very careful about speaking about transparency – that is something which we have to, you know, it has to be proven, right?

Matthieu David: So, for your information, you mentioned ultra-transparency actually in your presentation. It’s on slide three. And I felt because you were using the word ultra-transparency, it was a key element. So maybe I misunderstood.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: I think that – if I can just share here – I think it’s really, for us the ultra-transparency is for brands to see that that is the future. We were at a conference a few weeks ago and there was a Hong Kong company actually – called – it’s very famous called Chicks. And they had started a program with blockchain where they were tracing the garment from production to end. So, the consumer had like a barcode, you could go with your phone, press on the barcode, and you know where the yarn comes from, you know, you know. So, I think for us transparency is really about that and the process in that. Now, in terms of factories and stuff, I think there is a progression that is happening over time. It’s not very fast but I think for us that is the goal, right? I mean, and I think now the consumer if you – the millennial generation, for example, they are very – they care a lot. They want to know where their clothes are made, how they are made, which farmer made them, is there any kind of social impact? So, I think for us transparency is about that really, about knowing where things are made. And again, as Kate said, it’s not about perfection, you know. 

Obviously with the big companies, sometimes it’s hard to know, so many layers it’s hard to know, right? So, like, for example, when I had my own brand, right, I used to go to China, go to the factories, sit with them, see how it’s being made. So, for a smaller brand, it’s easier to control in a way what’s going on whereas, for a bigger brand, there are so many layers of it, and now they are getting the customers aware. So even these bigger brands, they have to figure out how to do this transparency thing and to do it right, and to do it in a way that’s authentic and not misleading. So, I think for us that’s really what that is about.

Matthieu David: Transparency has trustability to be able to trace where it’s come from. Why, why, why Kate, were you saying that you were cautious with the word, with transparency?

Kate Padget-Koh: I just think around a China conversation. We don’t always know where? Not in my world or my experience in the past but generally, there can be questions about whether things are authentic. However, what I also want to bring into the conversation is, we also – in China, there is so much incredible innovation that is happening. And we have some clients and partners that we work within the South that are doing amazing supply chain solutions, which are fully traceable, which are really progressive. And I think that’s really exciting. And this is just the beginning. So, we know that there have been companies that have just set up in Hong Kong because of the access to South China and all the innovations that are happening. And I really think that we are in a very unique position to be able to – for new brands, this is an ideal place to operate from – the ease of doing business and the access to the rest of the world and to sustainable innovation is really valuable.

Matthieu David: That’s a very good transition to another set of questions I would like to ask you about why should someone create a fashion brand in China? When do you need to create a brand? I remember I had this conversation with a Chinese, I want to create my brand. And I asked her why? Because it’s mine because it’s me. I want to create a brand because it’s me. Is the will to express yourself in the product enough to create a fashion brand in China? How do you analyze this?

Kate Padget-Koh: Yeah, this is really good because we talk about this all the time. We talk about it a lot. I’ll speak about it briefly and then Kanch will take over. So, nobody needs to create a fashion brand in China. We have so many brands; it’s probably the easiest to do ever. And there are influencers – whether they are from China, whether they are from other parts of the world who really want to create brands, right? And there is no need for anything more. From my perspective, there are two reasons why you want to create a fashion brand in China – that the example you just made, which is ah well, it’s mine, you know. And I would say that’s probably from – I want to put something out there. You could say it’s kind of like ego to have a brand that is yours. The other part of it I see which I think is extremely valuable is, for example, what Allbirds or Reformation or those kinds of brands where they have created brands which are educating customers to be using sustainable products to look at how they engage in fashion industry in China and worldwide in a way which is conscious, which is considered. And I think the future of a lot of brands is, – it’s a duty to provide something in the world which is educational and is a conscious way to engage with fashion.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah, I’ll just like end a little bit on that. But I think I totally agree with Kate. I think we don’t need more stuff. There is a lot of stuff out there and you can find what you need with all this stuff out there. So, I think if you create a fashion brand in China, there really has to be certain values that you want to educate the world about. So as, you know, Allbirds or Beha, all these, they’ve got a real stand, and that’s what they want to sell to the world. So I think if you have a real stand and a position, then yes, by all means, go ahead, create a fashion brand in China but if it’s something you want to create because it’s yours, that’s fine but I don’t think that’s a strong enough position because there are so many things out there. So yeah, you have to have some kind of educational aspect to want to get out there. And, at the same time, of course, it has to be beautiful, it has to be respectful, it has to be so many more things that the consumer is now demanding. 10 years ago, when I started my brand, there was no – net afford had just started. Online was not even big, there was no Instagram, you know. So, it’s much easier to create a fashion brand in China but I think it’s also much harder because there is so much more out there and everybody has access to everything. So, yeah.

Matthieu David: So, you just said that if you find out a segment where you need to educate a population, your potential clients, yes, it could be a good reason to create a brand. How do you find those segments? Maybe it’s your work. How do you find those segments where there is still a gap to create a brand? How do you find what is going to be fashionable? And you – actually if I understand correctly but maybe you will correct me, sustainability in the fashion industry in some way is the new fashion. There are good reasons to adopt this fashion, but it’s a new fashion. So how do you – first thing, how do you assess those gaps where there is a need for education and a new product which conveys those messages and education? And secondly, how do you know what’s going to be fashionable?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Well, I think market research, you know, to see. If it’s something like okay, I want to create – going for the purpose of creating a brand for sustainability in the fashion industry, then it’s, you really have to see what’s out there and what is the products are like, you know, the guys. Again, the guys who created Allbirds, right? It was like nobody was using wool with a shoe at that time, right? And so, it was a very new concept and they spend I think like, I don’t know, at least over 10 years in just developing the product, and that they had over 150 prototypes before they got the right one. So, I think its market research – having an idea and also having a connection to the idea. 

So, like I think the founder of Allbirds, he knew a lot about farms and, you know, and so it’s like there has to be some kind of connection as well. So, first, obviously, look at the market and then like a connection, find a connection to you, like that’s really a deep connection, have a reason for doing it. So, I think that’s and then, market testing consumer, go out to the consumer and see what is it, what’s the consumer feedback? I think what a lot of people do is they say, okay, I am going to create this brand, start something and then go out and test the market. But then it’s too late.

Matthieu David: I think this is contrary to what the image we have of a creator who is going to stay alone, create his own pieces and so on. What you are describing is actually a process where you listen to society, you listen to the consumers in order to create your brand. Is it the same way we create brands in the 21st century?

Kate Padget-Koh: Definitely. Social media is so active people are constantly engaging with each other. And, you can put anything out over there. And even if you are really supremely creative, you are some kind of outlier, your need to put that in front of people is so great. And I think the younger generation who will be the brand creators of the future, they are so used to engaging with others around their creations and getting feedback. It’s just very, very different. And I think there is another part to this question, which is what are the brands of the future? We still have a lot of problems to solve, like if you look at the whole of achalasia, for example, how do you take all the – for want of a better word, plastic out of achalasia? How do you do that? Like if you could just remove a lot of the man-made fibers out of one category was massive, then how all the conversations around end of use, I think that’s getting – end of life that’s getting much more, people are much, much more aware of that. In Hong Kong we have several companies which are doing – they are repurposing, kind of like reselling luxury products or children’s products or whatever. And then, there are so many ways that we can engage with products when we would normally have stopped now. And then the whole rental thing, we can just see that these different ways of engaging with the fashion industry in China and worldwide escalating.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: And innovation, I think that is also another big – So we were in Paris a couple of weeks ago and we were at this forum and there was somebody from the US who started doing this where they took the fabrics and then made it into a liquid state and then made it – separated it and made it back into the solid-state. And it was like carbon fiber and the carbon fiber was going to be used in cars. So, it’s like, you need some kind of innovation, especially like the end of life, end of use. So, finding an innovation as well. So, I think if you are creating a brand that’s something, that is key in today’s world.

Matthieu David: When I listen to what you say, I feel that you – there is a lot of proximity with the brand and ideology. You bring in a new set of beliefs, a new set of behaving. Maybe if Marx was born today, he would create a brand. So how do you feel about it? Actually, and to be honest, it makes the fashion industry in China and worldwide much more attractive to meet you because it conveys much more than just a logo or just a design. And I feel that it was more of the case like 30 years ago.

Kate Padget-Koh: Definitely. It is an ideology. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of looking at life. And I think – I know for both of us, we got into fashion because it expressed something, certainly, for myself, I saw it as something which had values and had credibility and respect and it was something beautiful, and it’s something which impacts people. I don’t know if every – like you just said, I don’t know if everybody has that view of the fashion industry in China and worldwide but certainly that’s how I see it, and certainly to resolve some of the issues we have around environmental impact. That’s the way it can be dealt with going forward.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah, and I think with the thing that happened is with fast fashion, we lost a little bit of the soul, because when I created my fashion brand in China, my collections, and I am sure Kate probably the same is like, we really went into study something like, I don’t know. For example, the collection was about dance, right? Then you went there, you studied dance, you really understood the movement, you did drawings, you did twirling. And then from there came like a five-piece collection, which was, you understood there was like a reason why every fold was in its place, why – I used to do my own prints – why every print had some kind of or what was your message in the print to the world? With the fast fashion, you just kind of lost that. It was like quick clothes, cheap prices and so to me it seems like it’s going, like it’s a cycle, right? And now the younger generation again is back in this thing where they care like I mean I have two kids, and I am sure that in a few years when my son is buying his own clothes, he is going to be questioning. It’s no doubt, so I think yeah, it’s a cycle maybe.

Matthieu David: Should everything be online? You mentioned that it’s very easy now to reach out to the clients, consumers and you have so many tools; and the opposite Kate, you mentioned that transparency – we have to be cautious with this word. Should everything be online for a brand and I am specifically thinking about the luxury brands which are always very slow actually to disclose and to be everywhere? They were very slow to go online to have their first website; they were very slow to open their first e-commerce website as they are very slow to go on social media. They don’t really know how to communicate out of the shop, I mean out of the boutique. Now they know, but it took time. So, what about – should a brand, be everywhere, put everything online?

Kate Padget-Koh: When you say put everything online, do you mean to sell?

Matthieu David: Oh no, I am thinking all communication, all transparency? I would – if we go up to the full meaning of transparency, you would actually put cameras in the office of every brand to show how they work. So, should we go to this extreme where actually you see everything about what they do and how they behave internally? How is it? Is it diverse? Is the team diverse? Do they behave respectfully to each other? And then you can show it with cameras everywhere. So how far do you go?

Kate Padget-Koh: I don’t know if that is going to happen. I don’t really have a point of view on that. I think we get so much stuff online, that we are already overwhelmed with information. I do think that it’s great because Nike and a number of companies will publish their suppliers. They are happy to share. So, I think sharing is valuable. When there is no sharing, whether it’s relevant or not, questions are always asked, what are you hiding, right? So, this one thing which we’ve become very aware of and very happy about is that when we talk about sustainability in the fashion industry, it becomes less about competition and more about collaboration. So, people are willing to share information, they are willing to – you know, even with competitors because they see that, we’ve got something to do in the world that is important. Otherwise, you know, whether we’ve got 11 years left or whatever that is, if we don’t do something together, this is not the time to be competitive. So, I think that’s how I would answer your question.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah, I think I agree to it. I think, you know, the fashion industry in China and worldwide has always been very linear and you see it getting more circular in terms of like the brand’s collaborating and I think yeah, online – definitely you need some kind of presence. Again, how deep you go and what the relevant information that you share, but also, like in-store and I think a physical presence is also necessary. So, I think you need to have like a mix of both in a way whether it’s like via pop-ups, whether it’s – this in terms of like representing and selling your product. I think you still need that; people still want to touch and feel and see, especially in Asia. Okay, maybe in the States, you are in a little town and you want to buy something from New York, you are not going to drive 10 hours, but like in Asia, I think people are still, the proximity is still relative enough where people want to go to the store.

Matthieu David: Talking about China more specifically, are you seeing some brands? Do you have some brands in mind which convey what you are saying, the insistence you have on sustainability in the fashion industry? Do you see some brands which are built on maybe older brands or new brands that are built on those topics you are mentioning?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: I think this – what I find very interesting in China is the luxury children’s market because they are very conscious of what their children are going to be wearing. And they have a very high-quality commitment. And, I can see where that comes from. And I believe, from the research I’ve done in this area, they are miles ahead of the majority of other countries. And that’s, you know, it’s very much their connection with their kids and how the future generation is careful. So, I do consider that has been very relevant and valuable.

Matthieu David: Interesting.

Kate Padget-Koh: I can’t – sorry, I can’t think of the name of a brand off the top of my head for you.

Matthieu David: Okay. Okay. We are heading to the end of the interview. And we have a couple of questions, you know, at the end of every interview about books, about what you are witnessing in the market. So, what books have inspired you most as entrepreneurs, as a brand?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: How long have you got? I’ll start with the one I am reading right now, and I gave it to Kate as well.

Matthieu David: If it’s a good one.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah, it’s called Fashionopolis. And yeah, it shares basically the history of the fashion industry in China and worldwide and also the future of fashion and where it’s going. So that’s what I am reading at the moment. And it’s yeah, it’s very – 

Matthieu David: Who is it by? Who wrote it?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: I’ll tell you; I think it’s John or Thompson or something like that. I’ll just let you know in a second. Let me check.

Kate Padget-Koh: Actually I – yeah, I have it in front of me. And I, what I – there is a number of books but quite honestly anything about fashion, it becomes irrelevant very quickly. So, the business of fashion – the publication, is fantastic. It’s so good. And I think also The Financial Times had, especially weekend, you know, that it has a lot, there is a lot of subjects around in there and I think any – I would tend to read more from those publications. And it’s also – I don’t want to say my laziness but my short attention span that I tend to read from publications than books at the moment.

Matthieu David: I see. So, I thought the second question I had – how to stay up to date? I understand it. 

Kate Padget –Koh: Contests. 

Matthieu David; Which ones are interesting about fashion?

Kate Padget-Koh: The business and fashion were fantastic ones.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah, very good ones. And then there are some really good ones like Finding Mastery. Although it’s not related to the fashion industry in China and worldwide, he interviews like very high performing individuals. And so, it’s like really good for business people because like how do you have more productivity? Everybody wants that, right? Everybody wants to.

Kate Padget-Koh: And then the other – there was one other series of books, sorry. It’s Harvard Business Review. They do these little manuals on different things and they did like one on resilience, one on focus. And I think if you are an entrepreneur and a business owner, that’s definitely like – it’s very helpful.

Matthieu David: If you had extra time, what would you do? What other business you would add?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Sorry, we have a lot of ideas.

Kate Padget-Koh: I have another business. I am an artist.

Matthieu David: Any idea you’d like to work on? Do you feel another value in the market on top of sustainability which is taking off, for instance, as a topic?

Kate Padget-Koh: I think, I can only – I am thinking of what Kanch is going to say and how.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: I think, you know, for us, we have many projects that we would like to do – something around the blockchain. And then I have another project which is around F&B and, vegan and plant-based. And yeah, Kate and her art and fashion from that. So, I mean we have a lot of projects and just not enough hours, I think.

Kate Padget-Koh: Right now, we are very focused on this consultancy, but we, you know, we constantly have ideas.

Matthieu David: What unexpected success you have witnessed over the last, let’s say, three years? Something you would not have expected to be successful to work and actually became massive and worked very well?

Kate Padget-Koh: Are you talking about other brands or?

Matthieu David: Anything you have witnessed in Asia during speaking China more specifically, that you were not expecting to succeed? Giving you an example, 10 years ago when I arrived in China, people were still paying cash to get anywhere online. And now it’s all – everything is digital and WeChat, and much more advanced and it’s the west. So that’s, for me, very constraint. So, what have you witnessed which could have been a constraint for you three years ago, but is happening now and it’s becoming successful mainstream?

Kate Padget-Koh: I think there are so many things, of course you know, payment systems as you were mentioning. Also, with the way that Alibaba and a lot of those, Taobao and so on and a lot of those platforms, how huge they’ve become and how much more advanced they are in AI and data than anyone in the West. And I think, it’s – and also the infrastructure development in China. I mean earlier this year I took the bridge from Hong Kong to Zhuhai, and, you know, the ease of going through immigration and all of these things, which 10 years ago and when you arrived, do you remember? Just how much the infrastructure has changed and also cleaned up. I mean Shanghai now is a very beautiful and relatively clean city.

Matthieu David: Yeah, yeah. Kanch, what were you saying? What has been surprising to you?

Kanch Porta Panjabi: It’s on the hi-speed train.

Kate Padget-Koh: Yeah, yeah.

Matthieu David: Yeah yeah. And the opposite – what have you seen as a failure over the last three years? You would not have expected to be a failure?

Kate Padget-Koh: You know where we live? To that, that – what we are dealing with currently.

Matthieu David: Okay.

Kate Padget-Koh: We never expected this.

Matthieu David: Okay.

Kate Padget-Koh: To the extent as this.

Matthieu David: I see, I see.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Yeah definitely. Well, I think on a grander level like for me being Indian – education, because if you, like you know, coming from India and focusing a lot around there, you see masses, most of the population is still uneducated like not being able to read or write. And I think for me, that’s like, considering that we have internet and everything is everywhere, it’s just like the contrast. I feel like that is just – at some point like that doesn’t work, you know.

Matthieu David: Yeah. In 2019, yeah.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: So, I think that’s kind of a shame.

Matthieu David: Thanks for your time. I hope you enjoyed it. And it will be published I believe in 10 days.

Kate Padget-Koh: Okay.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Perfect. Thank you.

Kate Padget-Koh: Thank you.

Matthieu David: Thanks for listening.

Kanch Porta Panjabi: Take care.

Matthieu David: Bye everyone.


China paradigm is a China business podcast sponsored by Daxue Consulting where we interview successful entrepreneurs about their businesses in China. You can access all available episodes from the China paradigm Youtube page.

Do not hesitate to reach out our project managers at dx@daxue-consulting.com to get all answers to your questions

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