Web chat: Kirsty Tan

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Welcome to the Financial Times live web chat with Kirsty Tan, who features in our Ten Questions Q&A.

Kirsty Tan, is international dean of Shanghai International MBA (Simba), representing Ecole des Ponts (ENPC) Paris Tech in France and liaising with Tongji University in China and will answer your questions on Thursday, 16th February 2012, between 13.00-14.00 GMT.

Post your questions to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day on this page.


With your Malaysian and international background, what advice do you have for Malaysian entrepreneurs? Are they better placed or hampered by the country’s multicultural background and racially inspired policies? Could you have been successful in Malaysia?

Frans Jonkers, Cambridge, UK

Kirsty: Being Malaysians, we have a distinct advantage. We have been exposed to multi-culturalism and dealing with multi-racial issues growing up. Dealing with international companies with multiple cultural dimensions is innately made easy. I would encourage Malaysians to see beyond Asia and start venturing into different parts of the world.

Success is defined by our state of being. If I feel successful in my village, then I am successful. Hence, the short answer to the question is, yes, I would have felt successful in Malaysia given my current state of being.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs interested in setting up a business in China?

Kirsty: There are many books about doing business in China and I do not profess to be an expert. But I believe the key question is why do you want to do business in China? Opportunities and risks exist in any country around the world. China is a complex country where economics and politics run parallel, yet are intrinsically intertwined.

Once the “why” question is answered, then consider your niche and competitive edge in providing services or products in China - (1) the “what” and (2) its “lifespan”, that is whether your products and / or services are duplicable. You will lose your competitive edge very quickly, say within six to twelve months, if you are unable to generate new ideas within that timeframe.

You will obviously also need to consider your market entry strategy - the where, when, how and so forth...”Quanxi” or network is much discussed in the academic and business journals; with the right “quanxi” or network, one can do quite well in China.

You mentioned in your Ten Questions interview that your decision making process boils down to one question: “If I was to die tomorrow, which decision would I regret not taking?”

Do you have any regrets about any choices you have made in business or your career? If yes, what did you learn from this?

Kirsty: After each decision, I commit myself fully to the choices I have made. There are no bad or regrettable decisions as I always learn from them. These life lessons form who I am today.

I also learn that we need to put aside our inhibitions to venture and explore the innumerable opportunities ahead of us, only then will we grow to be who we want to become.

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