(This is the first of the own Sinalunya interviews to people that, for different reasons, are representative of the leitmotif of this blog, which is the economic, social and cultural relationships between Chinese cultural countries and Catalunya)
With the growing internationalization of Catalan economy, companies are aiming more and more at East Asian markets in search for an increase in sales. Economic crisis in Spain and globalization of economy are bridging the gap between worlds that until recently were far apart. Because of his unique familiar upbringing, Dídac Lee (Figueres, 1974), born in Catalonia from Taiwanese parents, may be one of the key figures to analyze what Catalan (and Spanish) companies may expect when doing business in Chinese cultural countries and viceversa. Sinalunya has approached him with this purpose and we thank him for taking the time to answer these questions.
Q: Catalonia, as well as the rest of Spain, is immersed in a serious economic crisis, but at the same time many companies are taking bold decisions in terms of internationalizing their products and services. What is your perception of the present moment of Catalan economy and what the near future may be?
R: Obviously we are in times of economic trouble for both Catalan and global economy. However, I am convinced that the values that belong to our culture, such as effort, ability to work and sacrifice, and creative spirit will be the key to succeed. These are values that belong to the traditional life style of the Catalan people and which reappear in times of crisis.
Q: Which are the things would you change in order to favor entrepreneur people and the creation of new companies and jobs? What is lacking?
R: Although the situation has lately improved and entrepreneurs now have more support than a few years ago, in my humble opinion I think that there are mainly two aspects to improve: i) the need for a more flexible and agile fiscal framework to reduce uncertainties for both entrepreneurs and investors; and ii) the need to dignify the culture of the entrepreneurship, because the references that we have are usually the opposite. For instance, in the most-watched Catalan TV soap opera Ventedelplà, the entrepreneur is the bad guy!
Q: Talking about your success, do you think that the Taiwanese culture of your family had some positive influence that you perceived as lacking on the average Catalan entrepreneur?
R: First of all, the Taiwanese culture of my familiar background has influenced me on everything related to the sense of entrepreneurship and dedicated work. It has also taught me a deep respect for people, to be thoughtful, and to treasure honor and ethics. These values are not exclusive of the eastern mentality, but they are most inherent to it. In fact, they are also part of the Catalan culture, so I have received similar influences from both cultures.
Q: Regarding the way that Catalan people are usually perceived (hard-working, wise, business-oriented), what do you think their chances can be in East Asian markets?
R: I have no doubt that Catalonia has a chance in East Asian markets, but everything will finally depend on the mentality of the companies. What is certain is that we have increasingly global technologies that allow us an easier access to those Asian markets. Because of my personal experience, I can talk about examples like the FC Barcelona, Zyncro or Spamina.
Q: Some of the genuine Catalan creativity (i.e., Antoni Gaudí, Salvador Dalí) is highly appreciated in East Asian countries. What do you think the reason may be? Can it be of help for Catalan companies too?
R: I don’t know what are the factors that have an influence on Catalan creativity. What is certain is that we usually have a good reputation all over the world.
Q: In reverse, do you think that Chinese people and their companies can find themselves comfortable if they decide to increase their commercial activity in Catalonia?
R: Our impression about them is that they are hard working people, with a great drive and a desire to undertake their own projects. So far, these are mainly small businesses, but in the future they could represent an opportunity for medium and large Chinese companies to settle here. However, I believe that most companies in China probably have other priorities before considering to establish in Catalonia. Still, our own challenge is to become a priority investment area for Chinese companies and to become the gateway to the rest of Spain and Latin America.
Q: Talking about your companies, what are the main projects you are working on now? Any specific goals you would like to achieve in the near future?
R: We are currently working on cloud-based products and technological innovation as a common denominator. Matrix or Zyncro, for example, are some of our companies which are taking global growth. Zyncro is a Corporate Social Network that is changing the way in which organizations communicate. Within a year we have achieved more than 100,000 users and we have a presence in 6 countries (Spain, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, United States and Perú). Other companies already established in our group Inspirit, such as Spamina, are carrying out their plans for international expansion.
Q: You are also a big FC Barcelona fan and recently you have become member of its governing board. What did Barça represent for a young kid of Taiwanese origin and how did you get involved in Sandro Rosell’s team? What are your current tasks and goals in FC Barcelona?
R: I met Sandro Rosell through mutual friends. I began to collaborate on the Club’s Social Media and a few years later I had the honour to be proposed as a part of his bid for the presidency. As Director of the Technology Area (New Technologies), my goal is to help to increase club revenue through e-marketing, e-commerce and mobile services. I would also bring the club closer to its members, listening to their proposals, helping them make inquiries… In short, to make the dialogue between the members and the board of directors easier. And, finally, another important aim is to show the excellent work undertaken by the FC Barcelona Foundation, which today is still largely unknown. The FC Barcelona holds an important set of values, it is not just about football or sports, and these are the values to be promoted among children and young people, like responsibility, respect and team spirit, among many others.
Q: You have also been responsible for the recent rugby game of USAP Perpinyà in Barcelona, which has attracted Catalan people from both sides of the border to the Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium. Do you realize that you are also contributing to bring Catalan people closer again? How do you feel about the response that the match got (fans, media)? Will there be other USAP games in the future in southern Catalonia?
R: In fact, I was just one of the people responsible for the event, helping Ramón Cierco. I must admit that, at first, I did not even know the game but what I really understood is that game represented the union between Southern Catalonia and Northern Catalonia, and for me it was an honour to contribute to make it happen. We wish this is just the first step of a long-lasting collaboration.
Q: Finally, please let us know a little bit more about yourself by telling us your tastes:
A book: Good luck, by Àlex Rovira
A movie: Jerry Maguire
An actor or actress: Wesley Snipes
A song: The Sea (Morcheeba)
A musical performer: The Prodigy
A landscape: L’Empordà
A dish: Big Mac
A football player: Iniesta
A wish: To end hunger in the world