Roland van Os on his new task as Regional Director China

Roland, please let us know a little about who you are and what you did before moving to Shanghai.

Sure. I joined H-OI almost 5 years ago in Istanbul with the objective to build a dedicated set-up for Bonprix in Turkey. The key strategy was to improve speed and flexibility. We successfully introduced the Fast Fashion strategy that still contributes significantly to the Turkey Bonprix business.

In mid-2016, I switched to the position of Global Director Business Development. We developed different projects and strategies for H-OI such as the digital showroom, our full-service model “featuring Limited”, and last but not least, we coordinated the introduction and development of new customers.

And before even that, I worked as an importer – with Bonprix as one of my customers.

What are the main opportunities you see for the Chinese market and how does this reflect on your strategy?

The main opportunity for China is that it can do complicated styles. In addition, it has a great fabrics source. Generally the China market changes rapidly. It is not the cheap sourcing market any more and we see vendors who offer speed, flexibility and creativity. A proactive approach towards our customers is one of the key parts of our long-term strategy.

Talking of strategy: we need to set up a comprehensive sourcing strategy which will develop strong and competitive production in inland China, but we will also source for offshore opportunities.

One other big opportunity is the silk line – the train connection between China and the EU. It reduces transportation time significantly. Some of our customers already use it to get Fast Fashion from China.

Is anything totally different from what you expected and already knew from your frequent visits?

The biggest difference from what I expected is that Shanghai is a real nice city with a young, hip and great vibe. Everything is done by mobile phone, starting with ordering and paying.

When it comes to business, I was happy to see that we have vendors who are already very advanced with digital showrooms, own fashion apps and a general strong digital set-up.

I was also positively surprised by the attitude of the people and the teams. They collaborate and work on the changes we need to make in order to build a strong and consistent future for H-OI. And we do have great coffee in the office.

From a more private perspective, one great thing is that in Shanghai you can easily travel by bike – I love that.

Do you already miss anything? Food-wise or anything else?

The biggest challenge for me is to balance this new opportunity with my family as they are still in the Netherlands.

The food is great here – I love Asian food. But even our famous “Dutch Stroopwafels” are available and it would have been tough to go without my favourite cookies.

Is it correct that there is quite a large Dutch community in Shanghai?

Yes, there are a lot of Dutchies here. I have some friends who have been living in Shanghai for years and I have just become a member of the Dutch Association Shanghai. There are generally a lot international people in Shanghai and that makes it very interesting to live here.

And last but not least, some more impressions of our freshly renovated Shanghai office: