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Daughter of Wahaha chairman wants to sell tea drinks in Europe, U.S.

03-05-2012 15:06 BJT

SINGAPORE, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Kelly Zong, daughter of Zong Qinghou, Chinese mainland's richest man in 2010 and chairman of beverage industry giant Wahaha, is putting her bilingual and cross- cultural strength to good use by leading the efforts to create tea drinks aimed at cracking the international markets.

The company is currently developing Chinese tea drinks that may hit the supermarkets in Europe and the United States as early as this year, she said in a recent interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of a forum of business women organized by Forbes in Singapore.

It is now in the process of trying to get the organic food certification as well as the United States Food and Drug Administration's approval for the products, said Zong, currently president of Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage Group and general manager of Hangzhou Wahaha Import & Export Co., Ltd.

"I am hoping to bring the Chinese tea drinks to the world," she said. "Hopefully they can be available at the supermarkets in Europe or the United States (by the end of) this year."

Zong said she is targeting mainly the high-end market with the Chinese tea drinks.

She said she was not sure if the overseas consumers would accept the tea drinks to be launched yet, but "at least we will know how good it is or where we can still improve ourselves."

Zong was one of the five Chinese mainlanders who made it to the list of 15 powerful business women to watch released by Forbes Asia last week. Speaking in panel discussions in fluent English, She was also one of the guests that attracted the most attention at the forum.


Zong spent several years in the United States receiving her high school and university education, before joining her father's company in 2005 as an assistant to a mid-level manager. She is now in charge of about one-third of the company's production capacity as well as the import and export arm.

Zong said the overseas experience gave her an advantage when she was placed at the helm for the company's international operations.

"Basically my father took care of the operations for the domestic market and I don't take part in his part of the business. I run the international part, which he does not take part in, either," she said.

Zong showed her profound knowledge of the overseas market, saying that it is actually "not as complex as it looks" to crack the overseas market, which comprises several major sections such as carbonated drinks, juice and coffee.

What it requires are sales channels like the supermarkets, the targeted positioning of the products and the marketing efforts, she said.

Her overseas experience, however, also makes it a bit challenging for her to handle the communications process with some of the staff at Wahaha, especially when she first came back from the United States.

"I tend to accept the straight forward way, whereas it is often more acceptable in the Chinese culture not to be that straight forward," she said. "Sometimes they would feel that I was being too blunt."

She said she was making efforts to change the way she communicates with her employees.

Obviously hard working, Zong spent most of her time working and traveling on business trips, but would go on tours to different places if she has the time.

She said she was trying to avoid exposure to the media so as not to be affected by the public seeing her as only the daughter of one of China's richest man. One can only find a few images of her over the years on the Internet.


Zong spoke frankly of her identity as the heir-apparent to the family business, too, though her father is only 67 years old.

"I think anyone who wants to pass a business on to the next generation or implement a change should first take a look at what is the desired future direction of the business and then decides who should be the one to take over," she said. "I definitely do want to take over the work just because I am his daughter and I would have to do the job."

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