I went to a city called Fuling which is in western China. It’s home to a few million people yet it doesn’t have a single Starbucks (at least none that I noticed). I was there to discuss the possibility of a entertainment related theme park. When meeting with the powers of the city I asked what is it about the city would make tourists travel there as its clearly a bit out of the way from visiting the known places like Beijing and Shanghai. The first part of their answer astounded me. “people come here from all over China to see the home of the famous Fuling pickles”. I restrained my smirking out off politeness. I had never heard of Fuling before let alone Fuling pickles. In my own head I dismissed the idea that this could be a viable location for anything. Now after returning to Beijing, I recounted the experience to many of my Chinese friends and just about all of them said ‘Fuling pickles are known throughout China” or “I love Fuling pickles”.
So I have now changed my tune and once again realize that China is not the US and people think different. You cant make judgements about what will work in China from your desk in Burbank. Maybe Fuling wont be the right location for the next Disneyland but between the incredible lakefront, forests, clean air, and yes those pickles there are many possibilities for sustainable business in cities we westerners have never heard of.