Interview with Mihran Papazian, ChinaHay community member

 For its China issue, iTechnology.am was looking for active people doing business in China. One live example of this is the ChinaHay community. From the ChinaHay community website we contacted Mihran Papazian, one of the active members of the community. Mihran Papazian moved to China in October, 2006 and now lives in Shenzen, Guangdong. He spends summer time in Yerevan, Armenia, so our team met him and talked about different points about the Chinahay community. We hope you enjoy the inverview as much as we enjoyed talking to Mr. Papazian.

iTechnology.am: Tell us a little about yourself and what it is like living in China.
Mihran Papazian:
Living in China is a challenge for not only the Armenians but for everybody who moves there, especially for business purposes. It is one the biggest countries and everyone wants a piece of it. This is the main reason.

iTechnology.am: Please explain the Chinahay community and your mission? What is the size of the community? How many people are active in the community? Do you organize gathering meetings?
Mihran Papazian:
The Armenian diaspora in China has many years of history. It is said there were three generations of the Armenians living in China. The first generation were the traders living here during silk road times. The second generation are those Armenian who came to China in the 20th century from Russia, Azerbaijan and generally from Caucasus region. I would like to recommend a book for those interested: “Gathering Place” by Eduard Sergoyan. The book tells the concrete history of this second generation. And the third generation are those young Armenian people (probably the oldest ones of this generation are 30-35 years old) who came to China during last few years. The ChinaHay name which was given in 2007 is the name for this new third generation.

iTechnology.am: We found you community website on the internet. Whose idea was it to form the group and what information do you publish online?
Mihran Papazian:
When I came to China and understood that I was going to spend my life there, I realized that I needed an Armenian community. I knew that some Armenians were living in China, but there was no organized community. So I had an idea to create a website which would help both newcomers and generally other Armenians in China to learn about each other, to find each other and to participate in community life. We post the events, news and gatherings on the website. We also post photos and stories about achievements of the community. Our facebook page is also active, but as it is not used in China since it is blocked. The Facebook page is mostly for people out of China interested in the ChinaHay community life.The first big gathering of this new community was in Shenzen, in September, 2009.
There are probably 3000 Armenians in China, but as active and participating people we know almost 300. And one can find information on ChinaHay community members here by registering on the website.
Now we are in the process of registering ChinaHay as a formal society. We do have other projects, among them opening the Armenian center in Hong Kong, tracing the Armenian heritage in China, etc..

iTechnology.am:  If a person is interested in getting involved in China from Armenia, how can they join and participate in the ChinaHay community?
Mihran Papazian:
ChinaHay community is quite open for every Armenian living in China or interested in doing business in China. It is a young community and there is no limitation for membership. Our goal in the near future is to have more Armenians in the community, because we are sure there are more people living in China than we know or have contacts of.

iTechnology.am: What is the primary business the Chinahay community is concentrated on in China? We are focused on technology, and wondering if are there tech focused specialist who could assist Armenian businesses?
Mihran Papazian: 
Mostly the Armenians are busy with trading. They have trading companies and work both for local and foreign markets. As about tech professionals they are not so many among community members.
I myself am member of Shenzen eCommerce association and I am a mentor for startup weekend. I would like to note that IT is a very tough market in China. Everybody thinks it is a huge market with millions of customers, but it is not true for China, because the 80% of the market is controlled  by Alibaba holding (You can read about biggest Chines IT companies here).

iTechnology.am: We know you are involved in the startup community in China. Do you have specific advice for Armenian startups who would like to start doing business in China?
Mihran Papazian:
Yes, I have an advice, don’t do it. Don’t try to sell software in China. First of all the Chinese are the kings of copycat. You can buy a full package for Photoshop for just 1$ in China. And one important point for selling software in China: it is very difficult to sell software product to the Chinese, because software is something you can not touch, and it is very difficult for a Chinese to pay for something he can not touch, that is the Chinese culture. Well, if anyway you want to enter the Chinese market, you must first command the language, learn the culture and have a lot of connections.
But I am not saying that IT business can not be successful in China. What the Chinese are missing is creativity. They don’t create anything new. If one does innovation, well, maybe it can have success, but still it is very difficult.

iTechnology.am: Thanks Mr. Papazian for the interesting talk. Have a nice summer time in Armenia.

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