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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Super-connector brands like Cathay, Lee Kum Kee are Hong Kong’s superpower

Super-connector brands like Cathay, Lee Kum Kee are Hong Kong’s superpower

As Hong Kong retakes its place on the global business and cultural stage, a special group of companies will be uniquely important to our continued progress. These are the corporations whose products or services play a vital role in connecting Hong Kong with the Asia-Pacific region and the world.
The most obvious is Cathay Pacific Airways, arguably our largest cultural connector and global ambassador for Brand Hong Kong. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing is one of the world’s leading exchange groups. The MTR Corporation builds and runs world-class transport systems locally and around the globe. Broadcaster TVB connects Hong Kong to the world with its local artists akin to frontline ambassadors.

Other local corporate “diplomats”, or “brands of legends” as I term them, span every facet of business. These include oyster sauce king Lee Kum Kee, soy milk brand Vitasoy, White Flower oil maker Pak Fah Yeow and toy manufacturer VTech.

Their common denominator? These are all companies telling a piece of the Hong Kong story and are trusted or loved (sometimes both) by millions. They are part of Hong Kong’s DNA.

Why are these companies even more important to Hong Kong now? Because we have lost time, reputation and appeal, largely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the most recent Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index, Hong Kong had fallen to 62nd place last year from 49th in 2021.

Our city must now catch up and regain momentum. Our hardware is world-class: we have built brilliant and efficient infrastructure for residents and visitors alike. The same is true of our talent: our people have dynamism and energy like nowhere else.

Add these factors to Hong Kong’s unbeatable lifestyle – from mountains and beaches to the city and some of the best bars and restaurants in the world – and we have every reason to feel positive about the future.

So what’s missing? Hong Kong’s soft power. This is our vital asset and it has been underperforming for some years. We need to focus on our soft power strategy in the same way, for example, that South Korea does with its music, culture, technology and food. Soft power is our opportunity. Our brands of legends will be key diplomats to reconnect Hong Kong with the world.

The problem, however, is that these companies often need help to identify the right track for growth while seismic global changes are taking place. Our brands of legends need to continue building their business and brand stories with strategies that make geographic sense.

In some cases, they have the opportunity to become part of the fabric of the Greater Bay Area and Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam: all places with a deep Chinese heritage.

An important asset to all Hong Kong’s brands of legends will be creating bonds with different stakeholders who are in a position to build new business networks, open doors to growth opportunities and bring fresh thinking to management.

I see many of our brands of legends benefiting from this type of active engagement with supportive stakeholders, with the goal of creating value for all parties. If the Hong Kong community pursues this approach, we will build a powerful, global ecosystem of socially conscious businesses that do good for society and, at the same time, achieve growth and success both locally and internationally.

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