Michaela Julian is China senior manager of Servcorp, a global serviced and virtual office provider. Originally from Austria, Julian has worked for Servcorp for the past five years and was previously senior manager of the company’s Thailand operations. She spoke with China Economic Review about the company’s future plans in China, and its strategies to meet the changing needs of mobile workers.
Q: How has business been in 2011 so far?
A: The year began on a really strong note. We’ve experienced substantial growth across the country. However, the greatest success we’ve seen has been in Chengdu, where we opened our first office a few years ago. It had a slow start, but now it’s working very well. Our offices are located in the only Grade A commercial building in Chengdu and we now have big name clients like Walt Disney leasing space from us. China is definitely one of the biggest contributors to Servcorp’s overall global profits. For this reason – and our desire to help clients succeed in such a fast-growing market – we are really excited to be in the country right now.
Q: What kind of expansion plans does Servcorp have in China in the near future?
A: Within the next four months, we intend to open two more locations: one in Guangzhou and a third facility in Shanghai. In Guangzhou, Servcorp will be in the iconic IFC building, while the new Shanghai facility on the Bund will be our “boutique” location. Looking forward to 2012, we really want to focus on expanding into second-tier cities. Nanjing and Shenzhen are two strong contenders, for example. We know the importance of tailoring our products for those markets, so Servcorp’s solutions in Beijing or Shanghai would be a bit different from what we offer in second-tier cities. We want to create a product that is a bit lighter and more compatible for their unique markets.
Q: What do you think are the most important trends in China’s commercial property market right now?
A: There has been a huge influx of new space in Chinese cities lately and there is certainly demand for serviced offices in every major city. There is a real emphasis in China on the need to impress, so our products – such as having access to high-quality business lounges to entertain clients – have a lot of potential here. Our virtual offices are also becoming more popular. This service essentially provides everything but actual office space. Member clients can access meeting rooms, use prestigious office addresses for letterheads and business cards, and have dedicated receptionists answering their calls.
Q: Why are virtual offices gaining popularity in China?
A: Regulations require all companies doing business in China to have a registered address, which presents an opportunity for us. At the same time, start-up companies that cannot afford the costs involved with sourcing their own address can make use of virtual offices for as little as US$99 per month. The service is also easy for new clients to access – they can simply go online and sign up immediately.
Q: What differentiates Servcorp from other serviced and virtual office providers?
A: We provide a total business solution. If we were just in the business of offering “space,” we probably wouldn’t be in the business anymore, especially in cities like Shanghai where rents are increasingly expensive. We are really proud of the strength of our converged communications and IT network, which links all our locations worldwide. We also offer clients local rate calls even when they are not in their base country. And then our online portal also allows clients to manage an entire office’s operations.
Q: How have digital products helped Servcorp serve clients?
A: We provide two unique services to help support on-the-go customers. The first is an iPhone “Meetings” app. It enables our clients to reserve meeting rooms, amend existing bookings and order certain meeting services – such as car transfers, translators, and so on – all from an iPhone. Bookings are in real-time, so wherever clients are in the world, they can make sure their arrangements are in place. Another product we provide is the Onefone, a portable and secure VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service that turns your laptop into a business phone.