Dr. Hinrich was pictured with Global Sources’ board of directors in 2016
Dr. Merle A. Hinrich
- Executive Chairman of Global Sources Limited
- Honorary Permanent President of Hong Kong Baptist University Foundation
- Chapter Honouree of Beta Gamma Sigma HKBU Chapter
- Founder and Chairman of the Council of Members of the Hinrich Foundation
- Founder of Global Sources Research Foundation
- Co-founder and former Chairman of the Society of Hong Kong Publishers
- Director on the Board of The Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association
- Member of the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, D.C.
- International Board Member of the Weizmann Institute of Science
- Member of Advisory Board of Tsinghua University
- Investment Promotion Ambassador with Invest Hong Kong
- Member of the Hong Kong Foundations Exchange
- Member of the Pacific Basin Economic Council
- Honorary Doctorate of the University of Nebraska (1996)
- Honorary Degree of Doctor of International Law of the Thunderbird School of Global Management (2010)
- Honorary Fellow of Hong Kong Baptist University (2015)
“When I first came to Asia in the mid-1960s, international trade was limited in scale. In the years that have followed, I have witnessed the growth of Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and then Mainland China. It is globalisation that has driven their progress.” The term “globalisation” was mentioned repeatedly throughout the interview with Dr. Merle A. Hinrich, Honorary Permanent President of the Hong Kong Baptist University Foundation and Executive Chairman of Global Sources Limited, Asia’s leading business-to-business media company.
Connecting East and West
After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the United States, Dr. Hinrich took a bold step by moving to Asia to embark on his career in Tokyo, working at a trade publishing company, and then starting up his own business in Hong Kong in 1971. Since then, he has worked throughout Asia, including in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Mainland China, among others.
Witnessing the rise of Japan and the Four Asian Tigers, through their rapid increases in exports, and foreseeing the trend in international trade, Dr. Hinrich was determined to build a bridge connecting sellers in Asia with buyers in the West. His company started by providing international buyers with quality trade journals and magazines, which those buyers relied on to make their buying and sourcing decisions. In 1996, the company expanded its business to e-commerce platforms, launching Asia’s first business-to-business online marketplace. Due to this foresight, he was recognised as “Asia’s e-commerce king” by The Economist. Under his extraordinary leadership, immense foresight, and sharp business acumen, the company has achieved steady growth for 45 years. Today, Global Sources‘ network assists more than 1.4 million international buyers, including 95 of the world’s top 100 retailers, in more than 240 territories worldwide. The company is without doubt a pioneering model and leader among its Asian counterparts.
Choosing Hong Kong as a base
Out of the many Asian cities on the rise economically, why did Dr. Hinrich choose to start his business in Hong Kong? “There is no other place in Asia that is as global or business friendly as Hong Kong,” said Dr. Hinrich. He noted that Hong Kong has good infrastructure, a low and simple tax system, an excellent rule of law, and little restriction on foreign ownership. It is open to a multicultural environment with great flexibility. All these factors have been highly attractive. Dr. Hinrich said, “It is true that Hong Kong has always faced keen competition from surrounding regions. Yet it has succeeded because of its agility, versatility, and openness to globalisation.” Additionally, people in Hong Kong are provided with tremendous benefits and privileges through its excellent public health care, efficient transport, and secure environment.
Creating value for customers
Asked about his business philosophy in this increasingly globalised world, Dr. Hinrich summed it up as “customers, customers, customers.” In his view, every business has to fulfil the expectations of three critical clients: customers, employees, and shareholders. The shareholders provide capital for the company and aim to earn a return on their investment, while a team of dedicated and productive employees help the company to sustain growth. Nevertheless, “it is customers who we are looking to support in these efforts. In particular, for a business like Global Sources, whether it is a specialised trade magazine or electronic platform, we deliver information to our customers. We have to do a lot of research to identify our buyers’ needs so that we can provide knowledge that will add value to them.”
“All businesses are constantly evolving and we have to adjust accordingly to keep pace with the fast-moving business environment. However, change is not always easy, especially when we move from one country to another,” said Dr. Hinrich about the main business challenges he has faced over the last five decades. “You have to be very flexible and intimately understand your capabilities before you can operate in a variety of cultures and cope with change.” To him, the most challenging endeavour has been the company’s development in Mainland China. China is culturally, economically, legally, and politically different from the context that his team was used to dealing with.
Benefiting from globalisation
Speaking about China, Dr. Hinrich said the impact of globalisation had been manifested in the country’s development. Not until China joined the World Trade Organization and began fully participating in global trade did 600 million people successfully become alleviated from poverty, thanks to rising exports. “This could not have happened if China had not opened its door three decades ago. We have all benefited directly or indirectly from globalisation.”
Dr. Hinrich believes the benefits of globalisation are obvious. It is due to globalisation that Asian exports have risen and that there is increasing engagement of foreign direct investment throughout the region. These developments have benefited the economies and the people. Standards of living have been greatly enhanced. It is very important to sustain globalisation and political leaders play a vital role. “Many public officials do not appreciate how pressing it is to be engaged in making globalisation more successful. We should be embracing a tendency towards increased globalisation not of increased isolation.” Dr. Hinrich believes that to sustain globalisation, it is essential to have a generation of people who understand its importance. In this regard, Dr. Hinrich established the Hinrich Foundation with the mission of promoting sustainable global trade.
In the next issue we will see how Dr. Hinrich achieves his goal through the Foundation’s efforts, as well as his key to success.