From the classroom to the boardroom

Updated: 2013-06-18 07:29

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

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The employment rate in Beijing was 33 percent as of May 1, while in Shanghai the number was 44 percent as of May 10, according to the cities' education commissions.

At the same time, 82 State-level entrepreneurial cities have spent huge sums to foster potential businesspeople through policies such as subsidized office rentals, free accounting services and also contributing half of the company's social insurance payments for the first two years of operation.

"But I hope college graduates don't feel as though they are entering a no-risk zone when they start a business," said Zhu. "When consulting about starting an undertaking, the first question on most of their lips is 'What policies does the government have?' Overreliance on preferential policies will become a weakness and will lead to poor competitiveness and business adaptability."

In March, Wang Xuanyi, 26, registered a company in Shanghai that provides psychological counseling. She said the policies can create an illusion of starting up without responsibility.

"How can those who have no idea what to do after graduation or who can't find a job start an enterprise and provide jobs for others?" asked Wang, a native of Shenyang, Liaoning province.

"However, for youngsters like me, those with clear ideas and a firm conviction to start a business, have to benefit from the policies as much as possible," she said.

A burgeoning trend

Liu Wei and two classmates, who describe themselves as "homebodies", chose to create games for mobile phone apps, a burgeoning trend. One of them, Cai Haoyu, acts as CEO.

The computer science majors, who left Shanghai Jiao Tong University last year with master's degrees, registered an Internet technology company called MiHoyo.

So far, the only game they have developed is The End of School, an anime-style game similar to Super Mario. Since its launch in February, the game has been downloaded 300,000 times on the Chinese mainland, earning the three friends almost 600,000 yuan.

Liu said the game will be launched in the United States and Japan in the latter half of this year and they are happy hustling for business. However, two headaches remain; staff recruitment and raising capital.

"Veterans and top talents won't work for my small company, but those who do apply are unsatisfactory," said Liu.

"The three programmers I recruited were all recommended by friends, but that can't sustain the long-term need for employees," said the 26-year-old.

One way to attract talent is to offer better wages than larger companies, said Liu. However, his company can't afford to pay the average annual salary for a games programmer, roughly 200,000 yuan, so he is considering raising capital.

"I must be careful, because raising funds is like a marriage, but I won't have the opportunity to express regret and ask for a divorce," said Liu, commenting on the large number of legal disputes between investors and the enterprises they've backed.

Wang admitted that running a business is much harder than she had imagined.

"When we were looking for clients, people often looked down on us because of our age and lack of experience. My monthly plan is lagging behind," she said.

Niu Liben, chairman of the board of Fclub e-commerce (Shanghai) Co, said: "An old Chinese saying is: 'A man without downy lips makes thoughtless slips', so there is a traditional prejudice toward young people. It's harder for young people to attain a position and be competitive."

Niu, 38, started a business at the age of 22. However, he quickly realized that he wasn't ready for such an undertaking and decided to return to paid employment until he had sufficient experience to strike out on his own once again.

"Young people's passion is always appreciated, but they're also easily discouraged and swayed," he said.

Niu advised those thinking of starting a business, even those with clear entrepreneurial ideas and aptitude, to gain a couple of years' work experience. He emphasized that recent graduates, whose ideas may be immature, should definitely think twice.

Wu said,"The media mythologizes too many 'heroes', which makes youngsters take it for granted this is a fast and wide freeway. Actually they (the successes) are just one in a million and you never know what favorable factors may have contributed to their success."

However, Liu believes he has chosen the right path for his business. "The mobile Internet is the craze of the age and it makes me feel I am participating in that age in a special way," he said. "I'd rather do something I love than simply be a cog in a wheel, doing the same thing as everyone else in the office."

Defining success

Industry insiders consider an entrepreneur to be successful if his or her company survives for three years, but for new graduates the stakes are high: Only one out of every 100 is likely to succeed.

But some experts say the most important indicator of freshman success is not how long the business survives, but what the young entrepreneur learns from the experience.

The motivation of Chinese entrepreneurs has changed from making a living to seeking better opportunities and growth, according to a 2012 report by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

"I never expected to make a stellar enterprise at the first attempt. Success is something I have in myself, because I'm engaged in a wide range of social circles and do everything from finance and administration to public relations," said Liu.

Jia said that while success should be celebrated, people should also be lenient to those who fail.

"No entrepreneur will say they've succeeded, because success is the product of numerous successes and failures. That's why we often hear about people who have experienced many ups and downs in the entrepreneurial process," said Jia.

In Shanghai's Yangpu Business Incubation Center graduates are provided with free tutors and offices for their companies for six months.

Fresh graduates are immersed in a pure working environment, alongside people from the same age group and with the same goals, said Zhang Juejin, office director of the center.

"All these efforts are being made to help young entrepreneurs get through the preliminary phase. Those six months will allow them to understand their career path and help them decide whether to continue with their own companies or to look for a job," she said.

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