1421 Consulting Group touches down in Chengdu: Discovering ‘the new Shanghai’

Business consulting firm 1421 Consulting Group (1421) has launched its third China office, in Chengdu. The Beijing/Shenzhen-based firm views the West China metropolis as the rising star in China’s rich business landscape. Or, as Ali Sheikh, the new branch’s general manager puts it: “With an annual growth rate of no less than 8 per cent, Chengdu is China’s new business magnet.”

Business consultancy firms in China’s large east coast cities are looking west. Amidst the business frenzy and the fierce competition in first-tier cities, Sichuan province’s capital Chengdu is a business haven, with ample opportunities, room for development and growth.

“If you have a stable business framework, whether that be with a product or service, the next step is to localize it. Keys to success are to have local knowledge, insights and the hands-on experience. That is where we come in.  We offer the expertise to execute plans to reality and ensure the sustainable success for it to thrive.”, Ali Sheikh insists.

Attractive to businesses

According to the 33 year-old UK-born consultant, there is a lot in Chengdu that makes this capital of the west attractive to international businesses. “Chengdu is one of China’s fastest-growing economy. There is a lot of interesting development going on in Chengdu. It is a city of innovation and entrepreneurship, with many universities that make it a talent hotbed. The Chengdu region is a very pivotal area for China’s central government, that has launched its ‘Go West’ policy amongst others, to steer the attention to this area. At 1421 we are receiving a growing number of support request from new and current customers that start a business in Chengdu or expand to the city from other China bases”, says Ali Sheikh.

Natural resources and business infrastructure

Chengdu’s attraction as a business arena can be defined in many ways. Firstly, “the region has excellent natural resources and agriculture sectors which promote social and economic development. These give comparative advantages and supports trending sectors.

The homegrown labor market has rich talent here, with 14 universities producing technical and adept young professionals. Indicative of future economic trends, there is an increased number of Chinese returnees (from overseas) who contribute in the international business scene, making Chengdu a top 3 city for resettling. This well-educated workforce is crucial for sustainability and progression.

I’d like to give the excellent infrastructure a special mention. With Qingbaijiang Rail Port as the gateway of the Belt and Road Initiative it is also building a new airport city, Tianfu International Airport. The importance of this means more trade and a network ready for the future.

Finally, Chengdu has a stable financial system​ which has specialization in three aspects: fintech, rural finance and consumer finance. All of which support the regional trends. Hence why, it is the financial hub of Western China, a magnet for investment and facilitating the policies.”

‘Pro business’ government

Ali Sheikh insists that the local governments in the region are very ‘pro-business and investment’. “They are responsive to competitive forces and agile to respond to changes. One good example of this is that Chengdu is in the process of developing a unique, standalone intellectual property regulation, to better safeguard professionals and enterprises developing patented technologies.”

What are the industries that make Chengdu particularly interesting?

“The city focuses on sectors that support the growing population such as agriculture, healthcare and education. Strong innovation and technology weaves through these sectors and boost the overall tech sector itself. The creation of sector clusters makes overlapping technology highly probable. And, with science and technology being so pivotal, Chengdu makes a great place for start- ups and new enterprises. The barriers of entry are lower than in most other places. With different districts offering different sector clusters, there is high productivity in other sectors such as manufacturing and even aviation.”

Ready for business

After having worked for years in corporate banking in London, Ali Sheikh is ready to support clients in South West China. The potential and the relative scarcity of competition is one of 1421’s reasons to open shop here. ​“This part of China has proven itself to be a high growth environment, one of many reasons to why I settled here. I started my new career path as the General Manager for the British Chamber of Commerce in this region, looking after 4 provinces, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou and Chongqing. Now with the opportunity to develop businesses, it is gratifying to be part of local economic development”

What is 1421’s offering?

“We at 1421 Consulting Group are excited about China, guiding Western companies drives us and the challenge of it all inspires us. We operate with a talented team across various cities in China. Our niche is being a western firm based in China with regional knowledge, combining Western employees with passion for China and Chinese employees with a cultural understanding of the West. We are focused on providing solutions for Western SME companies setting up and growing their business in China.”

“We offer a one-stop service model, which an effective process of delivering results with minimal disruptions to the client. Our services are Business Consulting Services such advisory in market entry, Corporate Services such as entity set ups, Bookkeeping Services, Management Services supporting operations in China and optimisation service.”

The new Shanghai

Ali Sheikh is full of enthusiasm for his new role. “I expect substantial growth in this region and 1421 to capitalise on this. Continued favourable policies will draw businesses here and there is positive progression to be the ‘new shanghai of the west’.

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