Building a Business in China: The Journey and Insights of Benjamin King, CEO of Kinyu Supply Chain Management

There are times when one has to go on a journey to understand where the problems lie within an industry. Often, it is only through an in-depth dissection that you can begin to work on a real solution to that problem. Through his experiences living across China over the last six years, Benjamin King, CEO of Kinyu, has put together some exciting new business models to solve the unique problems companies often encounter when working with their partners in China.

This profile will look at Ben’s backstory and give insight into what has motivated him to build his business.

Have you looked back in your life and realised how some random and unrelated events had changed your life’s path forever? This theory is commonly known as the ‘butterfly effect’ and the notion is that the most minor, seemingly insignificant action can cause a considerable knock-on effect with what transpires as some incredible and unique results.

“I find it fascinating how an Earthquake in Japan led me on a path to China!”
                        Benjamin King, CEO, Kinyu Supply Chain Management

Ben has had his version of a butterfly effect with the evolution of his Asia based journey. His internship in a Tokyo based finance company was cut short by the 2011 Earthquake and subsequent nuclear fallout in Japan. Ben flew to Hong Kong, where he had an unlikely reunion with an old school friend, Yu Zhenze. This then led him on a path to China, living in 5 different cities, building a business, and starting a family.

While he always had a keen interest in Asia and Chinese culture, Ben was left with a strong desire to discover Mainland China. So he returned to university and started laying the groundwork for his future business. Throughout his time at university, Ben personally funded trips to China and worked to bridge the cultural gap. He also set about learning the intricacies of the Chinese business landscape.

Ben with Yu Zhenze, the inspiration behind Kinyu
Ben with Yu Zhenze, the inspiration behind Kinyu

The China Journey Begins

After graduating with his Master’s degree, which focused his dissertation thesis on the concept of ‘guanxi’ and relationships in China, Ben took a leap of faith and bought a one-way ticket to Changsha in Central-South China. Despite having little Chinese language ability, he became involved in developing e-commerce and supply chain finance companies as a partner with his old school friend.

The move to China proved challenging. Despite his dedication to understanding the Chinese business process, he faced steep learning curves. Ben underestimated the drive and knowledge required to build a business in China initially, which he feels contributed to the failure of his eCommerce business, along with significant policy changes.

“I felt like I wasn’t in control of it from the beginning and felt naive in believing you could just come to China and make money.”

Fortunately, the supply chain company Ben had invested in went on to thrive by offering Chinese factories advanced tax rebates to solve cash flow issues. This experience was a great launchpad to build a network of suppliers and understand how the export and logistics process worked in China. However, this business did not fulfil Ben’s mission of supporting foreign companies on the ground.

At this point, Ben switched his focus to representing UK companies locally in China, particularly around supplier relationships and procurement strategy. It started with a single client in the oil and gas industry, which took Ben to Beijing, and he spent two years there. Ben gradually got more clients until Covid-19 shocked the world and its supply chains. As a supply chain consultant in China during a global pandemic, Ben provided the support on the ground desperately needed by companies large and small. Kinyu SCM officially launched in 2020, and Ben wanted to find a way to scale his client representation. “I love solving all types of problems for these companies, but there are only 24 hours in the day!” This love formed the premise of The China Desk.

Benjamin King, Kinyu CEO, ‘building bridges’ in China for over ten years
Benjamin King, Kinyu CEO, ‘building bridges’ in China for over ten years

Building a scalable business model in China

The China Desk hires personnel in China for foreign companies, which Ben and his senior management team oversee. The aim is to engage with and empower local employees who may often work remotely for companies thousands of miles away. In addition, there is a focus on supply chain management so that industry experience can be concentrated and delivered as additional advisory services for clients. This contemporary offering presents an ideal solution for organisations that want to immerse their business into the Chinese market but do not want to navigate the complications of setting up an entirely new, dedicated team or discovering and organising a suitable workspace in China.

“I am truly driven by building relationships with people in China, understanding their skills and resources and then solving problems together with them.”

This new model, which focuses more on people rather than the supply chain suits Ben’s passions in China. Whilst the supply chain issues are interesting, Ben has solved a wide range of complex issues such as sourcing, ESG, compliance, logistics and payments. Ben wanted to find a way to offer services to a wider audience from multiple sectors.

Navigating China and its complexities

Building relationships requires a deep understanding of China. Life in China is a place of many extremes: Living in China can be very cheap, yet expensive. The rules are stringent, yet relaxed. Things can happen quickly and yet very slowly. It is prosperous but also poor. There is high-quality manufacturing, and low-quality manufacturing. Whilst there are tremendous opportunities within this, Ben believes this creates an element of inconsistency, mirrored in how information flows from suppliers and buyers. Ben wants to provide this consistency, with a clear path down the middle, allowing foreign companies to navigate the China market more effectively.

After living across the North, East and South parts of China, Ben has settled in Guangzhou with his wife, whom he met in Changsha. Ben attributes a lot of his comprehensive immersion in Chinese culture to meeting his wife. “Through her, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to be a part of Chinese society and everyday life in China. She taught me about traditional values and customs while also giving me first-hand insight into some of the challenges Chinese people face today.” With the support of his wife and through many years of dealing with Chinese suppliers, Ben is now fluent in Chinese, which helps him build stronger relationships with suppliers and partners.

Kinyu SCM has offices in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Tianjin, and through The China Desk, supports clients across many sectors, from energy to electronics to furniture. To find out more about how to hire personnel in China under The China Desk, book a consultation with Ben today using this link.