translation services sector in China

Podcast transcript #53: An inside look at the translation services sector in China

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Find here the China paradigm episode 53. Learn more about Stephane Choury’s story and the translation services sector in China.

Full transcript below:

MATTHIEU DAVID: I’m Matthieu David, the founder of Daxue Consulting, and this China marketing podcast, China Paradigm. Today, I am with Stephane Choury. I have known you for a while now. You have been in China for more than 8 years. You started in China in 2011, and you have been working in the translation services sector in China for more than 8 years. You started your own business, HI COM three and a half years ago, which offers many services much more than what I was thinking initially. You are providing translation and interpretation, but also social media management on Dianping. That’s what you are talking about on your blog and your services, so I feel HI-COM is much more than an enhanced service of translation and interpretation like other players.

What I want to know more is about your path. You have been working in LCI Shanghai, which is not yours, in the translation services sector in China and then you decided to start your own. You learned a job and the translation industry in China by being a part of a team. After you understand some aspects of the industry and managing a business in China, you can embark your entrepreneurship in China. After I realized the research and consulting the business in France, I was able to do consulting in China. Many people underestimate how important it is to understand the industry before you start and not only having the idea. The idea is just part of it. The first question is what the size of your company is.

STEPHANE CHOURY: Thank you, Matthieu, for inviting me and I am very happy to be here this morning with you. HI-COM is three years old right now, and we have 14 employees in two offices with the main office in Shanghai. We opened up a sub-branch based in Guangzhou 2 months ago. We also have a legal entity in Hong Kong to oversee the significant services. It is the size in terms of regulations. Last year, we reached our target. This year, our target will be a shift to $1 million, around 7 million RMB. We will see if we can achieve that.

MATTHIEU DAVID: How many clients in a year?

STEPHANE CHOURY: Active clients are around 200-250. We have been in the translation services sector in China since we have a lot of different clients and everybody can consult us for translation. So, 200 entrepreneurs in China or SME or anybody that need interpretation service in China for any technical documents. We have many clients, but we are also a tiny estate.

MATTHIEU DAVID: One of the difficulties of developing your translation service in China is repeating clients and business. You have technical information about products to translate words. Once it’s done, it is done. You may not have a new one immediately or not monthly. How do you deal with this unpredictability?

STEPHANE CHOURY: We identify the main issue. We are at this stage, especially for a company like us, because getting retainer business in the language service industry in China is really hard indeed. We have many one-shots. For example, if you need interpretation service in China for a website because you want to embark your entrepreneurship in China or an SME needs to look nice for all of its content, we can do it. Maybe you can come back to us in 6 months for your articles, but that is much work for us to forecast the revenues. This is the issue we have as a young company. We tend to focus and start a priority with either client, such as manufacturing companies with a lot of manual, iteration, maintaining work to do. It is going to be a bigger retainer format, but we definitely have to target those clients, because the one-shot is really hard to predict for the translation services sector in China. This is one of the issues we are facing while developing our translation service in China

MATTHIEU DAVID: Because factories or manufacturers produce and learn new products often, they always have the same thing that needs interpretation service in China. That reminds me of a story of a company providing brand naming services. It became one of the leaders of naming for China and started with that to look predictable, but in fact that every company every year has a couple of names to find. It could be about the segments, the name of the product, the name of marketing on an interactive or whatever. Naming sounds like non-repeating, but it is repeating because new products are launched all the time. It is a bit similar to you. The factories and producers need interpretation service in China to create manuals for every launch of their products every year.

Could you tell us more about your client acquisition? I went on SimilarWeb and found out that about 70% of your traffic is from searches by people who are looking for information on Google. The search is straightforward, and I know you are doing a bit of marketing automation. I don’t know how deep you go, but I saw you have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page as well. You made social media more than what I find out. Could you tell us more about how you develop your translation service in China?

language service industry in China

STEPHANE CHOURY: When we started, we didn’t do any SEO in China specifically. We just looked at websites and having a sales team here. We have four salespeople to go around and have face-to-face meetings. Last year, we started to push a little bit on our SEO path. We are marketing the company now, writing articles about doing business in the translation services sector in China. It is pretty diverse, trying to give some insight into the language service industry in China and to our potential customers. Right now, we start collecting the fruit of our work, because this is the best time. The SEO we are selling is in a new generation right now. We have got around 20 leads a week through SEO. I am not saying we conduct through them for staying clear of the SEO. It is lower than what you can learn from face-to-face meetings or whether we are going to get a good commission. We can use this aspect of SEO differently. Our social media is still a bit weak. This is something we are working on. We automatically share our articles through our LinkedIn groups and target only the English audience. We launched a French website about copyright and marketing six months ago. We are actually working with the Chinese now because we believe Chinese customers are definitely ready for us. In fact, the content has become consistent more than what it used to be, based on my experience. It probably is the time for us to do not servicing or SEO, but especially on marketing.

MATTHIEU DAVID: You have four salespeople among 14 people, which is a pretty sizeable amount of salespeople in your team. I understand that initially, it was more outbound. You were looking for clients through sending e-mails, getting in touch with them. Then, you added SEO and other layers of marketing. Could you tell us more about the business model of your interpretation service in China? It will help us to understand the real picture of your company. The translation services sector in China requires many people from different backgrounds with different languages like people who have been in finance or marketing. They need the wording cemented. How can you offer so many services, including certified translation, voiceover, transcreation, liaison, and interpreting some services?

STEPHANE CHOURY: This is an excellent question. In 2012, I started working for a company called LCI, which is a French translation company. I have been its GM for four years, and we had a different approach. It was a very good learning curve for me. First, it was to use internal resources and translators to translate in-house. If the customer sent through a request and a document, it is ready. The problem with that is you cannot have so many resources and language pairs in the translation services sector in China. For English to Chinese, I need a Chinese translator who can translate English into Chinese. However, you have a theme like marketing, automotive, and different industries.

Every industry has its terminology. It is tough to have so many people in companies with their specialty. You need to have a client with a big volume first, and then hire specialists for them, but it doesn’t work. That is the issue we had, and that is why we decided to start a completely different interpretation service in China. We learned from that perspective. You need so many resources or what you do, so you outsource. When we worked and evaluated, we can place a robust process of communication and translation processes. We have four project manager in the company. They actually use the pool of resources that we qualify. We segment them very well through fields, language pairs, and that is what we do. For example, if I want to translate documentation from French to Chinese, my project manager will assess a good translator and proof-reader in the language service industry in China. With the language pair, we can get the document back, do the Q&A, and then deliver it to the customer. This is how we can manage to add so many fields to offer our interpretation services in China. Otherwise, we won’t be able to develop our translation service in China. We don’t have a single translator in the company. They are either a former translator, but not translating anymore. They just assist with the discussions.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Do you have a system of your interpretation service in China? Do you work on Google Sheets or a translator App? By the way, I found out that you are using Alibaba Cloud as well. Could you tell us more about the translation technology in China you use to manage so many talents in the language service industry in China?

STEPHANE CHOURY: At this stage, there is a complete database that we use. We have an assistant company to share our professional information and documents. For project management tools, we are using Asana. We used to use Trello, and we use Asana now.

MATTHIEU DAVID: I feel Trello is more famous than Asana.

STEPHANE CHOURY: Yeah absolutely, but actually Asana is a potent tool. It is a project management tool, and we use it for every single project that we launch. But we are still not very economized, and we use Excel spreadsheets. We have data to associate. We assess the project, and it states on the project what goes on. This is how we develop our translation service in China.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Excel is so flexible sometimes that it’s difficult to find software as flexible as it if you want to do some calculation and add it to your way of thinking. CRM companies, such as Zoho, will fit you into their way of thinking, which makes you feel not free enough. Among the 14 people, you have four salespeople and four project managers who are qualifying the talents for your clients. What about the remaining six people?

STEPHANE CHOURY: We also have a project manager for copyrighting and social media, a project manager for interpretation, and a project manager for lucidity, whispering, and conference interpreting. We have a pool of associates. Based on the request, we can assess the right associates for the interpretation service in China. For the copyrighted, it is going to be the same. We have talent, journalists, and copyrighters. As soon as a request comes in, we can select, assess, and send the group pool and resources to the company who request interpretation service in China. We only have sales and project managers in the company

MATTHIEU DAVID: In your presentation, you mentioned a software called SDL Trados Studio. Could you tell us more about that? Is it something that you are using internally? Is it a translation technology in China that helps to be consistent?

STEPHANE CHOURY: Trados is what we call a CAT tool, Computer-assisted Translation tool. This translation is not a machine translation so that it is not going to be a variable in the translation. It is a translation technology in China to input, for example, in an English-to-Chinese translation. You are going to input your English text into this translation technology in China, and it would translate. However, once the translation is done, we are going to save it to the software. This translation technology in China then will analyze the segment and save all the translation done into memory or glossary. After it identifies the segment for the next interpretation service in China, we are going to do, we are going to do the same. We input the English text, but we link to the memory of this client and the produced translation on the same language pair. Then we see if the segment in the translation is the same in the source file. This translation technology in China is going to recommend using the same terminology. That assists the translator to be consistent. From a customer standpoint, the big advantage will be, for example, if you have a technical manual for a product and backdated to September, you can have a 30% difference. Using this translation technology in China, we are just going to translate it into the same font. It is more cost-efficient, faster, and consistent. You don’t start from scratch. It is really a good translation technology in China to have for any customer to save money and much more.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Is it a good translation technology in China for you to retain clients because I feel that you would know what has been done in the past and you will not change the wording from one product to another?

STEPHANE CHOURY: As soon as we explain this to our customer, they will stay with us absolutely, because they don’t want to switch companies. It is even more cost-efficient, because if you have many compliments with repetition, it will save money. We are not going to charge the repetition. We can have the opportunity to explain this translation technology in China to them so that they will stick with us.

MATTHIEU DAVID: That’s the thing with financers, and we are going to talk about the competition. I feel the translation services sector in China is full of straight answers, and that is what you don’t have. You don’t have this kind of interpretation service in China. You don’t have this thinking in terms of systems and this long-term view that a company has to have a payroll to develop your translation service in China. So, you have to set up a system.

Talking about the competition in the translation services sector in China, we know some of them like Cadence Translator, Freelancer.com, and Amazon Mechanical Turk, providing a very robotic interpretation service in China from Amazon. Could you tell us more about how you see the competition in the translation services sector in China?

STEPHANE CHOURY: We have a position in the market. We cannot compete with everybody. All customers that need interpretation service in China cannot be our customers. This is something that we took much time to listen to. This is one of the mishaps we did when we started, which is going after everybody and thinking, “With the volume, we are going to make it now.” We have to have a position. We are never going to compete with a freelancer and automatic translation with a proofreader. We have to bring added values to our customers. The translation technology in China we are using is our added values, especially for creating manuals, because in the long run the quality is better and you are going to save money. For technical translation, it is simple to evaluate it even for every translation process. We have the advantage compared to most interpretation service in China or freelancing. We use a translator and a proofreader. Only one person cannot catch all the mistakes all the time. They are all native in the linguistics and translating, too. We have a final tier within the Q&A and use a translation technology in China for consistency. We have a process to ensure quality. I am not saying that the freelancers that you are going to hire are not going to be good. They may do good once or twice, but the consistency may or may not be available. We ensure that, but we are going to be a little bit more expensive.

The last advantage we have and why we are a little bit more expensive is our tone of voice. I was speaking about technical translation, but we also provide a lot of interpretation service in China of a press release with direct customers, marketing agencies, or social media that are based on a contract. On that, our added values are we understand it and how to do it. We work through the translation to make sure the translation to be sent to the customer and proofreader to achieve the standards we want to achieve with a platform. We are more expensive, but we provide a good interpretation service in China to our customers. If someone wants a translation or proofread, he or she is not our customer. We have to live with that. We target people who want a little bit more values. This is operational, so we don’t market to everybody and compete with freelancers.

MATTHIEU DAVID: That is one of the issues of freelancers in the translation services sector in China, which is being scared about working with others because they feel they will lose their work to have someone else or another freelancer to check their work. They will be very reluctant to do it, but this is within your system that you have established this peer review with two translators for each work. When we think about the freelancing model, we can see many limitations. The only advantage would be the price and flexibilities that they have, but in terms of systems, it is very weak.

Could you tell us more about your product and interpretation service in China? I didn’t know you are doing like social media marketing and listening. Could you tell us why, as an interpretation and translation company, you are pushed to create this service?

STEPHANE CHOURY: The term you use is very good because we were pushed. The DNA of HI-COM is definitely a translation company in the language service industry in China. We chose this name HI-COM, that stands for Hyper Communication. In terms of SEO, only translate, or translation would be better for the domain name. However, in the long run, because we may be driven by a customer, and we offer more than just interpretation services in China, just translation is not enough. Our SEO has to be around businesses where people need interpretation service in China. The language service industry in China is a big and growing market. We may do a little bit of social media, content creation, and some re-naming to make HI-COM more diverse. Now, we provide interpretation service in China for our customers, but some of them say, “I have a website in Chinese now. But when I got social media, Facebook doesn’t work in China. I can’t access the content. Can you help me with localizing and opening WeChat, Google, or whatever social media?” I said, “We can do that.” We help a customer open their social media accounts and publish the content. We do not provide market strategy in China. If they come and say, “Bring me the strategy.” This is not something we have expertise in at this stage. Maybe we will go there; maybe we won’t. It’s going to depend. We still don’t know, but in terms of employing the existing strategy, localizing and adapting to the local market, we can do it. Branding name will be the same. If a customer comes and says, “I want to localize my brand.” I am like, “Do you want to do a real deep analysis and focus group targeting all the cities or different provinces in China?” If they want to do that, I will be direct to help them, absolutely. If they say, “I just want a local name that sounds good and a linguist can explain to me the culture.” If it is free in thesetting up of trademark, that is what we do. We offer those services and the same with Q&A. We did a couple of Q&A content. We are not experts in Q&A, and this is something that maybe we’ll look into this year, perhaps not. We are still considering that because it is an entirely different world, but we have customers coming to us and saying, “I need a Q&A to push my content. We have the content because we created the content.”

This is where we stand at this stage. It is a little bit too much. We are a little bit overwhelmed on that. Maybe we are going to have to move on and use more partners. We are still investigating where we should settle in. We are a young company in the translation services sector in China, so we are still investigating it.

MATTHIEU DAVID: It’s the same story with Dianping in China. One of the highest keywords that drives the most traffic from SimilarWeb is “creating an account as a business in Dianping in China.” You do the interpretation service in China for that. You have the content, so you can also go a little bit farther, which is to open an account and publish it online, but you are not going to be creative. The client is doing the creativity, the words, the positioning, and the strategy. You are localizing and translating the wording, but you will not do what a branding agency or market agency would do, which is to create a strategy and so on.

STEPHANE CHOURY: The story of Dianping in China is actually a very interesting and recent one because it started last week for us. We give insights into the Chinese market to different customers. Some of our customers who want to view say, “I want to attract Chinese customers in my hotel or my restaurant in Europe.” UK and France will be the deepest market for us. We got in touch with Dianping in Europe. We sent it a customer and signed a partnership with them last week. They have a representative office in Paris, and they can open up an overseas account of Dianping in China for their customers. So, you can attract the Chinese, and they will come into the market when they come to Paris.

We signed the partnership and recommended them. The idea behind is if a hotel or a restaurant actually attract Chinese tourists, I can recommend Dianping in China, and its people will add them to the account. This is not my business, but what I see behind is that they will need a website, all the menus, and all the descriptions in Chinese. This is what I want to do eventually. If they want to do a commercial on Dianping in China, I can translate and add them to trader content or moderate their accounts on Dianping in China. I don’t want to do a job I cannot do, but I can recommend. Since I recommend them all to do the Dianping in China, I would get all the interpretation service in China. We are trying to serve on trends to serve the customers. The translation services sector in China itself is not very sexy, so we are going to have put much stuff on Dianping in China. Three years ago, we surfed a lot on the cryptocurrency in China and did communicate a lot on translation for a company’s ICO white paper.

We ranked very high because we are not specifically writing about which language you should translate a few white papers to replace them. It is currently Japanese, Russian and Chinese and English. We provided a lot of white paper interpretation service in China, so we try to surf on-trend to sell in the language service industry in China.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Your translated the white paper from which language to which language?

STEPHANE CHOURY: When it was picked, it was about a year and a half ago. The main language to respond at the time was from English to Japanese, Korean, Chinese especially because it was important, and Russian. The whole company’s goal in ICO was to raise funds, so they needed the white paper and their websites to be translated into the languages of their potential investors. We surfed on this way of ICO, so we are looking for ways to surf them.

MATTHIEU DAVID: How can you make money with the interpretation service in China of Dianping in China, because Dianping in China is just a list on a website like Google Reviews in the west. How can these be credible and sizeable?

STEPHANE CHOURY: We don’t make money by the registration, because Dianping in China does it. What we make money on is translating all the documents of our customers, because if they need to attract their customers, they need all their documentation and their websites to be changed. We try to see further. The part of Dianping in China is just studying the problem of our potential customers. They come to us and ask about Dianping in China, “I need that. It is complicated to contact them. How do we do?” We help them. We don’t make money on that, but they will remember that and say, “Now I have Chinese customers, but I need all to be in Chinese. Can you help me?”

MATTHIEU DAVID: You are getting your clients through Dianping in China because they know Chinese clients are using Dianping in China, and it is opening up the box. You had to do their websites, their documentations, menus in the restaurant, and even more.

STEPHANE CHOURY: Absolutely. Eventually, they can do social media in China. We try to see the long run.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Could you tell us more about the story behind your co-founder?

STEPHANE CHOURY: Our co-founder Robert Harrison is a British citizen. He worked for LCI before like me and came to China to ship off a product to a former consumer. We started the company together because I am not a translator. I was only the GM of LCI, so I knew a lot about the industry, but not the production, translation technology in China, where to find auto selectivity, or putting in place a good process. He brought this expertise to the company, which we really needed. He is a very good complimentary of this business on the finance and marketing side. It will be more on the production side, probably in the western part.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Is it fair to say that as a CEO, you are in charge of the administration and sales, while Robert would be more in charge of production?

STEPHANE CHOURY: Absolutely. That is exactly how we develop our translation service in China.

MATTHIEU DAVID: You also work with Kate Chernavina, your wife. How does it work at the office to work with your wife? Do you think it is creating a sense that she will be favored within the team? How is it accepted, because I think it is pretty recent, about a year ago?

STEPHANE CHOURY: Our relationship works very well. We got married last year, and our relationship is really good. We do treatment, and I think the colleagues like her. She is really professional and good at what she does. That is the key. If she is not good at what she is doing, we would have a problem, and it would become a bit more expensive. But the fact is that she takes care of the entire website. She is the one who brings us where we are now in terms of SEO, so everybody can actually see the good benefits of her work. She is a good copyrighter and managing all the SEO and marketing. She brought really a lot to the company, so we are actually very happy to have her. After working with her as my wife, I know it can be a problem for some people. So far, I think we don’t have an issue with it, and we are very happy to be in this company.

MATTHIEU DAVID: What would you advise people who are considering starting a business with their husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, especially international couples? We see a lot of Chinese foreigners who think about doing business on the side or as a full time. What would you suggest they be aware of?

STEPHANE CHOURY: I am not objective, because I was there too. I recommend it because you save much time having meetings at home. Also, we have been overseas for a long time, so we don’t have this French mind-set that, “We are couples so we cannot work.” We are entrepreneurs in China. That doesn’t exist. It is impossible not to think about work after coming back home. I don’t believe in that.

Anyhow, you save much time, because you can have an idea for the weekend. I am not saying we are working all the time, but I am just saying that you can get a good idea and don’t have to go into the office. That is really good. You need to get along very well. I am not saying that all the couples don’t get along very well, but you need to have a very safe and relaxed relationship. We are safe. We really get along. We are not only married but also very good friends. It works well. It is a great experience. If the company fails, but you have to take the risk, respect each other, and listen to each other. It is a great experience, and I believe it gives the opportunity or a good prospect for a company that is operating at a great expanse.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Working in family or couple makes you feel that you can actually be more productive because you would continue the conversation and think after work. I’d like to know more about your current situation. You just opened a second branch in Guangzhou and did something with KON in Spain. It gave me a sense that you begin to get Chinese clients going overseas or at least not only in China. Could you share the current growth you see for your interpretation service in China?

STEPHANE CHOURY: We opened up a sub-branch in Guangzhou two months ago. At this stage, there isn’t an access server because we have the service in the business right now. In terms of legal, we are going to create a sub-branch in the coming months. We just make the sales there. The reason why I did that is that it is a good time to get all this area of Guangzhou. We want to be close to those who know a lot about technical manuals, key transcript user guides, etc. There is not too much competition around that compared to here. It is going to be a bit easier to work. We placed someone there to go after all those big guys and even Chinese companies because we can see now that there are more and more Chinese coming. It was really hard for us a few years ago, but now we can see in the recent amount of Chinese companies that need interpretation service in China for a good manual. Because, first of all, Chinese companies are more and more involved with marketing good content to sell on Amazon in the US and Europe. The competition there for them is so normal that they understand if they have good content, they can have more conversions. It’s also because customers don’t buy a product if the description is not correct.

MATTHIEU DAVID: I already saw that AliExpress was a disaster with this.

STEPHANE CHOURY: The China-US trade war has a very good opportunity for us, in terms of Chinese companies selling more in Europe than in the US because of the tariffs. In Europe, we have so many qualities.

MATTHIEU DAVID: It’s a beauty for you, but a nightmare for producers and marketers.

STEPHANE CHOURY: For us, we can see a good opportunity, and we will push it a lot on social media to explain how to sell on Amazon in Europe, which can localize the content. We can see a big opportunity there, so we really want to push that. In terms of developing our translation service in China, we are investigating. We opened up Guangzhou to push the functions on the business model. My idea is to see if we can push some smaller parts in China and find someone who will be a semi-entrepreneur in China. We have a brand icon and some process. We can take volumes in terms of interpretation service in China. If you want, you can self-opt and create your own company through our franchise model. We take care of the production, and provide you with all the processes, marketing material, benefits from the website, and everything. You can develop your business to sell your interpretation service in China through an icon contract. This is maybe something to investigate.

MATTHIEU DAVID: How much margins do you think you can give to a franchisee? They may actually pay a little bit for the brand on a monthly or annual basis, which is a typical franchise model. He has to work only with you, which would be the agreement. It cannot be someone else for the interpretation service in China, because he is using your brand, but I guess he would get a commission. What is your idea of the commission he could get?

STEPHANE CHOURY: To be honest, at this stage, it is not very clear. It is going to depend on the situation and the price of specific cities because some cities are more constraint on price than others. If you can’t find the same barrier with the same price as we put in Shanghai, we still need to define that. But in Guangzhou, we have an agreement between the franchise and the sales representative that we put in place, and I believe it is going to work, so we are going to go with that. We will open a better icon and push an entrepreneur in China, who has been working in China and a little bit of network, saying, “I want to try something, but I don’t have the finance. I don’t know a lot and don’t want to take too much risk.” We can find a pathway. Through working with us and developing your translation service in China, we will support you as a brand financially so that you can develop and have your little interpretation service in China running there. We can do the production, finance, prediction, and everything for you. Just send the product and be part of the team. This is a cool opportunity and something we are investigating to develop. In terms of the growth and target, we reached $1 million this year, and we will open a target in Europe as well because we have a lot of European customers, in France obviously, but also Spanish customers. For translation, we sense a small deal. For example, if I have a new customer coming for the website like a French company saying, “Translate 5 or 10 pages for about 200 Euros. I pay in Hong Kong 200 Euro with a commission,” and that adds value to the customer. Some of them don’t have the script system they are investigating, so I lose many opportunities like hiring someone in Europe with a European bank account. I would be able to develop much business with the Chinese perspective because everybody is looking at China right now. We can say, “We know China. We can translate for you.” That is going to be the target, joining the franchise in China and then opening an office in Europe.

MATTHIEU DAVID: In 2019, there are so many frictions in payments all over the world, from Hong Kong to Shanghai. I feel there is a lot to do in the think tank. You mentioned writing a translation on Amazon, mainly for Chinese producers. Would you mind sharing with us, among the 200 active clients you have, how many are Chinese?

STEPHANE CHOURY: Right now, 10%.

MATTHIEU DAVID: 10%, so about 20 of them. What are the main interpretation service in China they request?

STEPHANE CHOURY: For Chinese customers, that would be definitely for the websites. They need to have windows in the local language, and it has got to be the product description, user manual, and product description. We saw with them, and this is the current article we are working on. What we saw is actually the conversion rate is very low, when the description is not there, and the return rate on Amazon is very high when the user manual is not done correctly in terms of languages. Some of them comment and say, “We don’t have many returns in Europe. We don’t understand why.” We will look at their user guides, Google Translate, and some people return the product because they don’t understand the user guides, and they are losing much money. They realize that, so they come to us for interpretation service in China.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Interesting. So you could come to your clients with a number to say, “We have been able to improve the bottom line or the profit by just a percentage, thanks to improving the interpretation service in China,” which is a part of the branding and establishing trust with your customers and your leads.

Do you see anything happening within your Chinese clients and the marketplaces like Amazon? We found out that Chinese producers want to lead Amazon because Alibaba is too expensive with a 50% commission. You need to buy traffic now to establish presence and websites. Do you see a trend of Chinese companies trying to target their clients in the west directly with their interpretation services in China?

STEPHANE CHOURY: I do not see that, to be honest, but I hope it will happen. That’s going to be a good opportunity for us. Since we don’t have so many Chinese customers for interpretation service in China, even though it is growing this year, but we don’t have so many Chinese customers and don’t have access to that kind of information. What we have access to as a company in the translation services sector in China is we are there, and we need to increase the production rate add descriptions from a linguistic standpoint. In terms of the strategies to develop our translation service in China, they won’t talk to me about so that I won’t have this kind of information.

MATTHIEU DAVID: What do you think about the translation technology in China? Do you feel that translation technology in China is going to disrupt the entire language service industry in China? We see that now because you can talk to Google and translate it into another language. What is your opinion on this?

STEPHANE CHOURY: We did some testing on the systems of translation technology in China. To be honest, we are still safe for more years. Because translation technologies in China are not up to speed, in terms of localisation. If you do a Google Translation, you get the meaning. For example, for an internal meeting or documentation, translation technology in China is enough, which makes part of our businesses gone for sure. Chinese is a little bit more complicated to translate, but Google Translation can translate 90% of the English, French, Spanish, and Italian. As long as it comes to the brand image for the website or marketing, you need a style guide, the tone of voice, and the talent. That will not change. What can affect us will be on the interpretation service in China for technical manuals because a technical manual is more straightforward, and I think at some point we will lose this interpretation service in China. Eventually, we will have to get Google to translate and a proofreader, but we are still going to have a human touch in the translation services sector in China for years. Technical will come to a point where it is going to be enough.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Talking to one of the co-founders in Shenzhen, who is an American but speaks very well Chinese. It is extremely difficult to be convincing when speaking another language. I believe that the automatic translation from AI and so on will need time to be very convincing. They will be able to translate words or a sentence roughly, but not with the right tone or context. At least you need people who know how to use translation technologies in China, which could be another interpretation service in China to provide in the future.

STEPHANE CHOURY: That’s called the post-rating in the language service industry in China. It is the fact that you have a machine, for instance, but someone who can proofread will get an adaptive style to read the messages that you want to give to your customers in the native language. Because if you are not native, it doesn’t work, even if you are speaking it well. I speak English, but definitely not like a native, but if I write something in English, Americans and British will accept, but it is not native. So, it is your brand, and you see that. You present yourself with a non-native content or speech to convince someone. “I know you are going to expect to have a native level,” so we definitely have a couple of blocks in front of us, and we will adapt. Actually, big translation agencies, called LSP, Language Service Provider, employ a lot of marketing and translation technologies in China to diversify and provide an entire solution to the customers, because they see that they will lose businesses because of the translation technologies in China. They are in a problem of marketing services and technical solutions, such as IT or websites.

MATTHIEU DAVID: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Choury. Congratulations on everything you have achieved over the last three and a half years in China. I hope you enjoyed and thank you to everyone for listening to China Paradigm.


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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