Dezan Shira & Associates now an Asian practice

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BEIJING, Jul. 2 – Dezan Shira & Associates opened three offices in India today, expanding its presence in Asia to 11 offices across the region. The Indian offices are the first for the firm outside greater China.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis, the founding partner of Dezan Shira & Associates, and publisher of China Briefing, today commented at a press conference at the Capital Club in Beijing that the firm “was now a truly Asian practice” and “had broken the mold of independent consultants practicing in one country alone.”

In reference to the firms opening today of three offices in India, Mr. Devonshire-Ellis said that international manufacturers now require professional services firms, at a consistent quality level across borders, to be providing advice to them in all sizable developing markets. “The reasons are essentially three fold; firstly the continuing impact of globalization as established and developing international manufacturers and service suppliers seek to maintain competitive pricing worldwide; secondly, the developing wealth and liberalization of new markets for goods and services such as China, India, Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Brazil; and thirdly, the desire within these opportunities to perform to an established set of proven regulatory, fiscal and compliance obligations.

“While the third portion of this in developing markets maybe an evolving process, it is a necessary one and assists not just the foreign investor but also the local market adapt, in time, to sustainable policies of transparency and fair trade. The end result of this is a sustainable commercial environment and the on-going creation of wealth. And that has got to be good news as globalization progresses down the line, and in particular with the prospects for discussions over trade taking a place at the table of the regional conflicts that still plague us in many areas of the world today.

“Globalization brings with it the prospect of peace and that is the driving force behind this international trade revolution. For us, being now in a position to facilitate FDI into both China and India, as well as the development of bi-lateral trade between two countries that only 40 years ago fought a war, cements both our position as an Asian player but also helps, in a minor way, smooth the process of cultural appreciation and friendship between these two huge nations and elsewhere.”

With Dezan Shira & Associates now having eight China offices, Mr. Devonshire-Ellis was asked if this represented a job completed in China or whether there were still opportunities within the PRC. He replied “China is still a developing market, although it may not always appear so when you look at Shanghai for example. The main challenge in China is inland development, and getting the rural population to start purchasing, instead of saving. That is a huge task and one the Government are trying desperately to solve. We are seeing a move inland and are studying opportunities in central China now.

“I expect to see Dezan Shira & Associates continue their development in China, and in terms of a job completed – I will possibly consider that as a factual statement when we have a viable office in Urumqi. But that is still some way off, so we have a lot of work to do in China. For sure opportunities exist, and they exist inland. Setting up in Beijing or Shanghai now is just adding to the competition, it doesn’t bring any added value. True pioneers look at new markets instead of jumping in to established locations. The demographics change however, and in Urumqi, you need to look at markets in Russia, Kazakstan, Pakistan and beyond.

“In central China, you need to understand the relationships between Wuhan and Chongqing and Shanghai for example, and inter-provincial trade. But smart entrepreneurs are moving there and in time, when it is sustainable for a professional services firm to be in these cities, we will make that move. We already just opened up a new office in Hangzhou last month, and we have working groups researching the interior. I’m looking forward to seeing us there and we will continue with our China expansion.”

Pressed on other possible Asian plans, Mr. Devonshire-Ellis stated “Our South China Regional Partner, Alberto Vettoretti, is looking at Vietnam this summer and will report to the equity partners of the practice when he has completed his research. Once we have decided upon a viable and sustainable business model for the provision of professional services in Vietnam for foreign direct investors, then we shall establish a presence there. However, these markets we are looking at are different from each other and I don’t think it appropriate to necessarily force a China based business model on other regional countries, it may not work. We have to take into account local regulatory issues, as well as the legal and tax base, try and work out the forthcoming evolution of these, and base our own investment plans on the local environment.

“Our business model for India, for example, is radically different from our model in China, and we expect this to be the same elsewhere in Asia. With a foothold now in the Indian market, we are also looking further West – and Dubai and the Middle East is another regional location of interest to us as a firm. Dezan Shira & Associates is an Asian practice and we shall continue to look at opportunities and requirements with the region and go where our clients want us to be. That is what being in the services business is all about, and we are up to the challenge.”

Further questions were asked about the new India Briefing magazine to which Mr. Devonshire-Ellis replied “We own the brand and have gone through the trademark process. We also have the support of the government in this, in fact I am the ASSOCHAM conference this Friday and we will be discussing the publication. By then the final touches will have been completed to the India Briefing website, and it will follow our policy of complimentary access for subscribers. Like China Briefing, it will serve a dual function, as a marketing tool for our firm, but also as an educational service to other businessmen and other professional firms. We want it to become an industry standard like China Briefing is here. Again, like China Briefing, it is aimed directly at the foreign investor and is specifically tailored to their needs. The first issue is an overview of expatriate individual income tax and also an overview of India’s Free Trade Zones. It will be launched in two days time – Wednesday this week, so look out for that.”

Summarizing his firms new status, Mr. Devonshire-Ellis concluded “On Friday last week, Dezan Shira & Associates was purely a China based firm. Now, with our investment in India, today we have become an Asian firm. The implications for us are huge, and exciting opportunities lie ahead. We hope this will spur greater interest in investments into India, and ultimately the region as a whole. Being a service firm means, as I said, being where you are needed, and I am proud of the fact that our practice is the first foreign-invested China consulting business to have broken out and made a meaningful investment to service clients elsewhere in Asia. It gives us a significant advantage in our ability to provide meaningful regional investment comparisons and assist with the Asian developments of our China based client base as well as attract other businesses into Asia.”

From more information:

Dezan Shira & Associates China Briefing India Briefing