“The most difficult thing is not to make an address book, but to maintain it.” This is what Harold Parisot, founding president of the Chinese Business Club, answers when asked about his ability to invite politicians and decision-makers to his table. The appearance is impeccable — dark suit, newly pressed shirt — the sparkling look and the smile is as easy as the determination is strong. This young ESSEC graduate and entrepreneur, firmly believes that relations between France and China has always been forward-looking. And it was exactly this momentum that became the reason for him to create the Chinese Business Club. Set up in Paris nearly seven years ago, its sole purpose is to stimulate Franco-Chinese collaboration and facilitate networking. This top-of-the-range real estate specialist could be proud of his interpersonal skills in both the French and Chinese business communities. And with his private lunches, he is making the distance between east and west much shorter.
How was the Chinese Business Club born?
To go back a little bit, in 2012 I created the Harold Parisot consulting firm, a company specialising in prestigious off-market real estate in Paris. I targeted French families who wanted to sell real estate very discreetly but also wealthy foreigners that had an interest in real estate. Among the potential buyers were Brazilians, Middle Easterners, and an increasing number of Asians, mainly from mainland China and Hong Kong. The latter were very keen to meet French business leaders, politicians and brands. To meet this demand, I founded the Chinese Business Club. It is a French-Chinese lobbying and business-matching platform — on an annual subscription basis — that meets 10 to 12 times a year in Paris. Members come to do business, meet and develop their network. The people that come here are really here to do business. It’s really a club des affaires.
Facilitating exchange between China and France
As a lobbying and business matching platform, this prestigious club connects the people behind both countries’ finest exports, who unquestionably have much to gain from working together. The club aims to help both sides understand each other better by highlighting the talents and complementarities of China and France.
Who are the members in the club and what are the different profiles of them?
There are a lot of entrepreneurs and start-ups, as well as big companies, senators, politicians, ambassadors and journalists. The companies are French and Chinese and cover all areas of activity — pharmaceutical laboratories, food processing, heavy industry, tourism and service. My personal goal is to bring together about 100 companies. Our positioning is resolutely top-of-the-range, no question about it. To shed some light on a few examples, during the lunch with Jean-Pierre Raffarin, there were 19 ambassadors. For the one with Emmanuel Macron, 5 French ministers were present and for the one with Nicolas Sarkozy, 7 billionaires came especially from Hong Kong for the event.
Why is France so appreciated in Asia, and especially among the Chinese?
There is a desire from both of the countries to work hand in hand and to further develop business. Until recently the French were scared of China but thanks to clubs such as the Chinese Business Club and others, the French are getting to know China better. Meeting on regular basis is how opportunities are created. And it is important to stress that the Chinese love France. They think we have a lot of expertise, which is why they are interested in the country and want to invest in it. For us, this is a tremendous economic opportunity. Like any investor, the Chinese are looking for the best profitability. The most popular sectors are food processing, hotels, tourism, pharmaceutical laboratories and technology.
What is your advice if somebody would like to set up a business in China?
Join the Chinese Business Club! You’ll meet people like this. But beside from that, the first advice that I would like to give is to have an interest in China and the Chinese. Make sure to have business cards in Mandarin, a website in Mandarin and be present on WeChat. There is a lot of French brands and companies today that have an interest in China but that are not present on WeChat nor have a website in Mandarin. That’s the first thing to have in mind. Then of course, it doesn’t hurt to go to China and to meet people and develop a network. Without any contact or network, there’s no business really.
Last but not least, tell us your favourite hotels in Paris:
Hôtel Barrière Le Fouquet’s and Prince de Galles.
Your favourite cities in China?
Beijing and Shanghai!
Favourite hotels in those cities:
Hotel Eclat in Beijing and W Hotel in Shanghai.