Brazilian franchises share experiences on how to operate in China during the COVID-19 pandemic
The initial epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic, China is now slowly recovering from an unprecedented crisis. The country was the first to impose a lockdown, ordering all shops to close and prohibiting people gatherings, in an attempt to reduce the speed of contagion of a disease that had already reached other countries at that time. Economy was obviously impacted, but now companies — including those of Brazilian origin — are struggling to continue operating in a new scenario.
Coife Odonto (photo), a dental clinic franchise brand that has 28 years of experience, is one of the Brazilian franchise companies with units in China, where it operates under the name VIP Dental Clinics. The company is supported by Franchising Brasil — a sector project for the internationalization of Brazilian franchise brands carried out by means of a partnership between the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) and the Brazilian Association of Franchising (ABF).
Focusing on foreign patients and aiming at meeting the demand for dental services in China, the company started operating in such country in the middle of the crisis. Rodolfo Magalhães, Global CEO of Coife, says that all the precautionary measures recommended by the Chinese government were taken since the beginning, and that surprisingly the franchise did not have any problems with authorities to open its first unit in the Asian country.
“It was an extremely tense moment”, states Rodolfo. “Years of study, work and investment could have been wasted. Our Chinese team decided to stay there and face the situation and it was not hard to make such decision — it was unanimous, and the sense of union of the team was crucial”, he adds. Magalhães says that they learned a lot by meeting the governmental health requirements and also by observing how other businesses and people were acting during the pandemic.
Rodolfo states that life has been slowly returning to normal, and that the number of services has been increasing every day. Based on the monitoring carried out by Bing, China currently has approximately one thousand active cases of COVID-19, as well as over 70 thousand cured patients, and now the country is considering easing the local lockdown.
Another franchise brand that has recently started its operations in China is Ronaldo Academy, a company focusing on the development of soccer players and the awareness of citizens. The company is a member of Franchising Brasil and already has 8 units in China, all of them existing since the end of 2019. The brand also faced uncertainty because of the pandemic and suspended all activities. Pedro Badur, Managing Director of Ronaldo Academy, mentions “caution and uncertainty” in this scenario, but he also states that the company is well established in the market, and that it has a detailed plan to resume its activities.
“China is recovering and we are working on business recovery. Our plan is to have a healthy return to operations and offer operational and methodological support to the Chinese units, as well as to assure a safe environment for the children and teenagers from families that trust us and enroll their children in our academy. Our top priority is to strengthen the ties with our students and their families when this storm ends,” adds Pedro.
Brazil, with an increasing number of people infected with COVID-19, has also been going through a similar situation. Coife Odonto and Ronaldo Academy emphasize the importance of communication with customers during the crisis, as well as of a solid team to develop new strategies and solutions in this troubled times. The soccer academy, for instance, has been making available online contents to its students, thus keeping service provision active.
“This is a difficult moment for everybody, but we are going to make it”, says Pedro. “If we think collectively and responsibly, it will be easier to go through this period, and the world will be a better place after the crisis.”
Rodolfo, from Coife Odonto, also points out the importance of studying similar cases from the segment in which a company operates, as well as forming a crisis management committee to deal with difficult times like this. “We have to focus on the solution instead of the problem, and we must keep the union and the understanding among the managing board, employees and franchisees”, he explains. “It’s also important to help raising the awareness of people by promoting safety and hygiene measures, because they will be crucial also after the end of the pandemic.”
About Franchising Brasil
Franchising Brazil is a joint project of the Brazilian Franchising Association (ABF) and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil), which aims to support the internationalization strategy of Brazilian franchise networks and their international commercial promotion. The initiative was designed to promote this recognized business model in the main international markets.