Indian Traders Learn Mandarin Chinese to Strike Business Deals in China

It was sheer serendipity that first took Parag Bogani to Guangzhou in south China, but business intent made him sign up for a Mandarin course on his return.

Three years ago, the Kolkata-based manufacturer of flex banners went to China on an impulse, accompanying a friend, a furniture dealer. And though he couldn’t make any sense of the Mandarin when he walked through the wholesale tarpaulin markets in Jiangsu and Guangzhou, he understood the business potential well enough.

Bogani joined a Mandarin course at the School of Chinese Language in Kolkata as soon as he returned. Two years later, he is fluent in the language, and has joined a group of small India . traders who regularly visit China to procure cheap furniture, textiles and electronic goods.

There has been a sharp increase in small traders who have enrolled in Mandarin classes in the past two years, says Nitin Rao, founder of Career Crafters language institute in Mumbai. “For them, Mandarin is the language of money and opportunity.” Where Indian traders would earlier travel with interpreters, they are now learning the language.

“The second wave of learning Mandarin is here,” says Reshmi Kumar, Mandarin tutor and owner of Cornerstone, an institute of foreign languages in Mumbai. While the first wave was initiated by Indian corporates who sent employees to China, small and medium-scale businessmen are now learning this supposedly difficult language.

Trade between the two countries touched $61.7 billion in 2010, marking a 43% jump from the previous year. The number is expected to touch $100 billion by 2015. For small Indian businessmen eyeing that pie, learning Mandarin is the key.

Of the 1,25,000 Indians who have visited China in the first three months of 2011, 72% went for business, according to the consulate of Peoples Republic of China.

In 2010, more than 5.49 lakh Indians travelled to China, up from 4.48 lakh in 2009, and more than 60% were traders.

Netherlands-based Indian businessman and the owner of Caressa spa in Mumbai, JC Kapoor, 68, recently enrolled in a Mandarin course when he saw that huge quantities of low-cost furniture and lightings could be bought from China for his newly-planned salon business.

“India and China are aggressive trade partners and everyday we hear stories of traders who travel to China and procure cheap goods. The need to learn Mandarin is greater than ever,” he says.

Kapoor says it is widely believed that “if you know a bit of Mandarin, you can impress the China man and get better deals”. Mumbai-based computer peripherals supplier Rajesh Jadhav has a similar story. Jadhav, the owner of Jadhav Brothers and Company, enrolled in a Mandarin course when he realised there was a demand for low-cost computer peripherals among his clients. He visited the wholesale markets in Shunde and Guangzhou in China, where he was told large volumes of mobile and computer peripherals were sold at remarkably cheap prices.

Taken from the Economic Times: 21.07.11