After 11 years of returning to China, Zong Fuli has not "followed the customs". Zong Fuli: I don’t want to be the successor of Wahaha

"Did you grow up drinking Wahaha?"

"I’m not."

"Everyone may be curious, you should have a lot of Wahaha in your house. Don’t you like it?"

"I liked to drink sweet when I was young, but now I don’t like to drink it anymore."

Zong Fuli, the 34-year-old chief executive of Hongsheng Beverage Group in the Xiaoshan Economic and Technological Development Zone in Hangzhou, told that her favorite drinks are oolong and Tieguanyin. The Wahaha boss’s daughter does not play to the outside world’s imagination of her, and is simply caught off guard – even for her own family’s products.

While everyone is watching when and how she will inherit the Zong family’s huge business, she is thinking about disruption – Zong Fuli plans to launch the first product named after herself and endorsed by herself. From brewing to launch for more than four months, everything is carried out at an accelerated pace. The cost has not been calculated yet. "

This completely self-centered approach, Zong Fuli also wants to implant in her products – combined with e-commerce, customized production of consumer-selected flavors. In the eyes of the outside world, this is not only subversive or even slightly "capricious": unlike Zong Qinghou’s strategy of "encircling the city from the countryside", the pilot of this drink is in first-tier cities, taking the high-end route. The point is that there are no homogeneous products on the market to refer to.

"What happens if you fail?"

"Do it all over again".

Zong Fuli said that this is her own business, it is Hongsheng’s business; it has nothing to do with her father or the Wahaha Group.

Perhaps the conversation at the beginning was a declaration of independence.

In Hangzhou, Zhejiang, the production workshop of Hongsheng Beverage Group, where Zong Fuli is CEO. Workers are producing bottled beverages under the Wahaha brand. The pictures in the text are all from Surging News reporter, Xu Xiaolin

"I’m quite proud."

Ms. Zong came across as disciplined and efficient. She arranged the interview between two meetings, and when the first ended early, she informed her subordinates to bring the interview forward, "I’m okay" – she wasn’t going to give herself time for lunch breaks.

After going to the United States to study in junior high school until she graduated from college, Zong Fuli developed a Westernized logic of dealing with the world – directly and insisting on herself. After 11 years in the countryside, she is still adapting to the road of "following the world", such as dealing with the government.

"If the government came to Kelly (Zong Fuli’s English name) and said things like’because our official has been on a business trip recently and studied, and he can’t handle this matter without signing it, ‘she would think’why can’t we use E-mail or fax to him’; ‘there are so many communication methods, why can’t we handle this in other places’… She feels that since this matter is very urgent, the government has many ways to achieve this goal, not because the leader has gone to study, and this matter has been put on hold," said Li Han, who served as Zong Fuli’s secretary.

Lu Dong, director of the Wahaha Group’s outreach department, gave a special saying: "Young people can’t rub a little sand in their eyes."

There is little room for compromise on what Zong Fuli believes: unlike the corporate "family culture" that her father advocates, "human favor" is more like a grain of sand in her eyes. She advocates system and efficiency. In the early days, some of her employees would be directly fired for not completing their tasks, and there was no room for "mercy". And Zong Qinghou will quietly "take back" the excellent employees who were fired by her daughter Wahaha Group.

Zong Qinghou once arranged for some experienced people to help his daughter become "more down-to-earth", and Lu Dong was one of them. When Zong Fuli returned to China, Lu Dong went to the capital airport to pick her up. "It’s completely different from her thin and small appearance when she was a child, like a flower that has bloomed."

But for more than 10 years, Zong Fuli has not learned the "social philosophy" of side-attacking, hard-to-get, and hiding her strength and biding her time. She speaks quickly, goes straight to the point, hits the key points, and does not reserve any room for detours. Even when criticizing something or someone, she is just as direct, taking the knife off.

Chris, the human resources minister who joined Hongsheng Group a few months ago, remembers meeting Zong Fuli for the first time: Zong Fuli, who was on a business trip in Hong Kong at the time, went back to Shenzhen to interview him. At the Shangri-La Hotel not far from Shenzhen’s Luohu Port, the two were seated, without greetings or courtesy, and cut to the chase: "Hello, I’m Kelly. I want to make something like this. Can you help me do it?" Chris remembers that the conversation was 100 minutes long and very confidential.

And when the reporter asked to follow up to learn more about her, she had her subordinates reject us, "She said she didn’t like being followed." This is non-negotiable.

The directness of this "young master" sometimes makes people around her feel cold sweat, and some Wahaha "old officials" will give her some gentle advice – but these are basically in the early days, "Why in the early days, because now basically I don’t see them, it’s not that they can’t see me, it’s that I don’t want to see them," Zong Fuli said.

She believes more in the results of self-exploration, just like the 10 years she spent alone in the United States, learning about the world from movies, books, and the people and things around her, and gradually becoming what she is now.

Zong Fuli is the first president of the Zhejiang Province New Generation Entrepreneurs Association, a fellowship of second-generation entrepreneurs in Zhejiang Province initiated by the United Front Work Department of the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee. During her tenure, the chairwoman hopes to show the society the style of the second generation, "Let the public know what our second generation is doing, instead of simply showing off our wealth, buying luxury cars, soaking up beautiful women… In addition, I think as an entrepreneur, we still need to pull back the traditional Chinese things. So I made a donation to the endangered plays of the Zhejiang Cultural Department, hoping to help those craftsmen and singers pass on the traditional things." But aside from conference activities, Zong Fuli rarely has private contacts with other second-generation entrepreneurs – she is not a keen social person.

Xia Yi of Hongsheng Group’s public relations department said that Zong Fuli would rather rush back to the company restaurant for dinner than stay in social settings to chat with her "friends".

Her other social duties also include, executive member of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, standing member of the Zhejiang Provincial Political Consultative Conference, standing member of the Zhejiang Provincial Federation of Industry and Commerce, executive member of the Zhejiang Women’s Federation, representative of the Hangzhou Municipal People’s Congress… activities other than performing her duties, "If I don’t have to participate, I won’t participate, why? I want to keep my own space, how to say, if I have too much contact with people outside, I will be assimilated."

"You’ve built your own little barrier."

"Yes, I think the meaning of life itself is that you have to find yourself. I hope this is a process of self-development, not that I need to listen to your values or give me some advice. I don’t seem to be that kind of person."

As a businessperson, she also has the confidence to choose and refuse in a business where interests rather than values come together, because "at this stage in this industry, my family is rich enough, and there is no need to cater to others." Just as she does not shy away from talking about her money, she does not hide her "pride".

"You find me more proud, right?"

"Not counting."

"No, I’m quite proud. Because I think how to put it, I have a lot of things. Look at my education, my age, my background, and all my things, I am indeed higher than many people, so I have a very strong sense of presence."

Of course, it would be arbitrary to call her an arrogant "rich second generation". For those she "likes", she will ask her subordinates to find ways to invite them as guests.

Among those invited, the reporter heard the names of some economists and financial writers, some of whom studied companies and some did capital and financial research. Xia Yi stressed that they were noticed by Zong Fuli because of their intelligence rather than fame.

Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, Hongsheng Beverage Group’s production workshop with Zong Fuli as CEO.

"The company needs to be cleaned up internally"

At the 2012 "Fengyun Zhejiang Business" awards ceremony, the host Bai Yansong asked Zong Fuli, is your father your idol?

Zong Fuli replied, "Yes and no."

Now she asks this question again, and her answer is: "I think my father is a successful business person for me now, but as for the role of my father, I don’t think he has a lot of influence on my growth. My intimacy with my parents is not as high as that of ordinary people, and their way of educating me is a kind of free-range."

"But I like the way they treat me and give me space, and all my values come from my observation," she added.

This story has been reported many times in the past: Zong Fuli had Wahaha when she was 5 years old. In the impression of Wahaha’s old employees, Zong Fuli, who was still a primary school student, went to the Wahaha company cafeteria to eat after school with her schoolbag on her back. At that time, domestic beverage companies came to the fore, and the competition between the major children’s beverage brands of Sun God, Robust and Wahaha was fierce. Her parents were busy with work, and Zong Fuli often ran in and out of several college student dormitories.

After finishing junior high school in 1996, Zong Fuli went to study in the United States. Four years later, she entered Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, majoring in international business – the university’s business school is one of the most powerful business schools in the United States. After she graduated from university in 2004, Zong Qinghou immediately put her directly involved in management: less than a year after returning to China, she began to serve as the deputy director of the management committee of Wahaha Xiaoshan No. 2 Base. Four months later, she also served as the general manager of Hangzhou Wahaha Children’s Clothing Co., Ltd. and Hangzhou Wahaha Kaqian Na Daily Chemical Co., Ltd. In 2010, she became the president of Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage Group Co., Ltd., responsible for one-third of Wahaha Group’s product processing business.

These days, Zong and her father sometimes don’t see each other once a month. It’s not an exaggeration for them to know each other’s recent situation through the media. Zong sometimes goes home for dinner on Fridays, during which the father and daughter chat about "whether the food is good or not" and not about work.

In the past, when working, father and daughter often argued because of disagreement, and no one could convince the other. In the eyes of subordinates, this argument basically ended with Zong Qinghou’s concession: "Do as you say first."

From the appearance point of view, Zong Fuli has a deep trace of her father: tall and slender, with firm facial lines. But when it comes to cultural background, lifestyle, and business management, this is very different from the father and daughter who are 37 years apart in age.

Zong Qinghou runs in the front line of the market for 200 days, 365 days a year, and meets all first-level dealers in person at least once. He believes more in the experience and intuition of running with his feet; while in the eyes of Hongsheng employees, Zong Fuli pays more attention to data analytics.

Zong Qinghou emphasized "governing people" and was hands-on. Lu Dong mentioned that when receiving a visitor, he would even ask how to send a car and what car to use to pick up such details; while Zong Fuli confirmed the system, and the tasks assigned to him only asked about the results.

Hu Hongwei, executive chairperson of the Zhejiang Business Research Association, traced this difference to cultural nuance:Zongfu has an insight into the survival wisdom of Chinese society, but Zong Fuli may not have enough knowledge of Chinese society.

In Hu Hongwei’s opinion, as the older generation of entrepreneurs gradually ages, private entrepreneurs in Zhejiang are collectively facing the problem of succession and transformation.

"The illusion of seamless succession of family wealth and the natural gulf between generations make the conflict between father and son of the wealthy class more intense and dramatic than that of the common family," wrote Wu ******, a financial writer, in an essay titled "The Confusion of the Second Generation of Chinese Enterprises."

In the face of Wahaha’s transformation, the Zong father and daughter have different opinions.

Zong Qinghou believes that the transformation of a huge enterprise with more than 150 branches and 30,000 employees can only be improved and slowly advanced; Zong Fuli feels that the transformation is extremely urgent – "From my point of view, I think it needs to be cleaned up internally, as well as the personnel, the market structure, and then the whole idea needs to be readjusted."

She said she hadn’t talked to her father about the transition, "because I know my dad, and he’s very committed to his ideas" – a rare father-daughter consensus on sticking to himself.

In his aforementioned article, Wu ****** concluded that the "second generation of enterprises" are currently "facing doubts and challenges that their parents did not have, or even could not understand."

Zong Fuli once said that her greatest frustration came from her father’s disapproval. Sitting in the conference room, the "old people" didn’t seem to pay attention to what she was saying.

"Now I won’t." Sitting in the large conference room of her company, the young entrepreneur spoke with a strong echo, "When I grew up with Wahaha, many things needed his support, and some opinions needed his approval, so there would be communication problems, but now I don’t think I will."

From 2009 to 2012, the annual operating income growth rate of Hongsheng Group under Zong Fuli exceeded 30%. By 2012, the annual operating income of the group exceeded 12 billion yuan. Hongsheng’s financial settlement is independent of Wahaha Group.

On February 12, 2015, Zong Qinghou suddenly posted a new item on Weibo, a personal certification that has not been updated for a long time: In the selection of the top ten financial contribution enterprises in Xiaoshan Economic Development Zone, Zhejiang Province, Wahaha has four companies on the list, "These companies are mainly managed by my daughter. As a father, I can’t help but be very pleased with my daughter’s growth!"

This is a rare occasion for Zong Qinghou to praise his daughter in public.

Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, Hongsheng Beverage Group’s production workshop with Zong Fuli as CEO.

"Can you see me?"

"Wahaha used to be brilliant."

"I also agree with what you said about being brilliant."

"What about now?"

"It’s normal now." Zong Fuli replied.

Mr. Zong topped the Hurun Global Rich List for the first time in 2010 and was China’s richest man by Forbes in 2012, but in recent years, the names of property and ecommerce entrepreneurs have increased.

In the past few years, Wahaha’s market performance has been on a downward trend. At this point in time, Zong Fuli launched new products, which means there will be more interpretations: is it a way to explore Wahaha’s transformation, or a precursor to Zong Fuli’s succession?

But Ms Zong admits only that this is a transformation of her Hongsheng Group. "For me, I don’t want to be an heir. Why must I inherit? I don’t want to inherit a company, but I can own it. If I succeed, I hope to be able to acquire Wahaha. That’s an ownership, not an inheritance, right?"

She emphasizes that the "old people" her father had arranged for her were the result of a two-way choice, provided that "I will use this person myself", rather than the one-way arrangement of her father. This is not an "assistant", because the premise of the word is that she will take over. She, on the other hand, is more looking forward to a vigorous "revolution" – she is setting out to overturn the organizational structure and strategic direction set by her father.

According to Chris, Hongsheng’s human resources minister, when Hongsheng was a Wahaha foundry, it shared a system with Wahaha Group, such as R & D, production, procurement, finance, manpower, etc. "So when you have to close the loop enough now, you will find that compared with a normal enterprise, there are some things missing, such as many external departments for customers. For example, sales, marketing, media departments, etc."

People at Hongsheng Group call these newly formed department ministers "paratroopers," which means to open up a brand new department.

"When Hongsheng was founded, it imported people from Wahaha. The organizational structure included some ideas, but in the course of more than a decade of development, Wahaha’s imprint has become less and less, and the original team has gradually decreased. So the direction behind us should be to cultivate some people for ourselves, and then introduce some people from outside, so as to form our own management team." Wang Jie, head of the lean development department of Hongsheng Group, said, "The direction of new products must be the style of Kelly, which is to make high-end products for younger fashion consumers or more detailed markets."

Zhou Jiuming, the head of Hongsheng’s production equipment, counted the Wahaha "old man" in the beverage area: "There are about 3,500 people in beverage production, printing and machinery, and about 7% of Wahaha’s employees." Zhou Jiuming joined Wahaha in 1987, which was the start-up of the group. In 2005, Zong Qinghou arranged for him to be in charge of production equipment in Hongsheng.

According to Zong Fuli’s layout, Zhou Jiuming’s department specially introduced a batch of new production lines. For the new product project, he didn’t react at once: "After all, the existing production line is a fixed asset of billions, and the large-scale production lines are very advanced. At that time, my first feeling was that she was making new products, to give full play to these production lines, and finally found that she was not doing this thing, but doing a transformation model." He said, "Such a change of investment is quite large. The production lines of plastic bottles and glass bottles are different, and Wahaha did not make glass bottles before. As far as our production is concerned, three or four million yuan has been invested so far, which is just a point."

Among the middle and senior management of Hongsheng Group, you will see many young faces, who are in a hurry like Zong Fuli, the boss. The company, which has been established for more than 10 years, now gives the impression of a start-up company and moving forward.

It is not difficult to detect that Zong Fuli is deliberately separating the new product and future Hongsheng from her father. After returning to China for more than 10 years, she is confused by the prejudice of the outside world – why she thinks that the premise of everything she has is inheritance.

"Didn’t the original capital you used to develop inherit your father’s assets?"

From negotiating with the government to buy land, to purchasing all the production lines, to installing and debugging, and all the products that came out were all made by me. My father didn’t help me much. All he gave me was an order.

At the 2012 Fengyun Zhejiang Business Awards Ceremony, the judges’ award speech to Zong Fuli was, "The sonorous rose under the monument of the fathers." That time, the Zong family father and daughter won the award on the same stage.

In the eyes of a financial writer, Zong Fuli does not have to be herself under the premise of "denying Wahaha", and maybe she should also ask her father about his successful experience.

When Ms. Zong was in school, her idols were Soong Meiling, then Park Geun-hye and Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt that they are all female leaders. "I admire myself the most now," she asked again. "Can I say that?" She put away her smile and said solemnly, "It’s better to rely on yourself."

But she felt that the outside world might not know her well enough. "Can you see me?" she asked.

 Zong Fuli, President of Hongsheng Beverage Group

[Dialogue with Zong Fuli]: I have never hated marriage

Surging News:Wahaha’s performance has been on a downward trend in recent years. At this time, there may be some speculation about the launch of new products. For the entire group, is it a way to save the market or explore the way?

Zong Fuli:I don’t think this background is particularly relevant, because this is done by my Hongsheng Group. I don’t have any following pairs with Wahaha itself. Everything uses my own assets and then my own resources. Because many of you will ask me if I want to inherit Wahaha, right? For me, I don’t want to inherit a company, but I can own it.

I don’t want to talk about this directly, because first I need to declare that I have this ability, so this product is indeed a very important step in the strategic sense of my entire company, but it will mean more to me, that is, I need to prove it, not for my father, nor for my company, but for this industry.

Surging News:If you want to endorse new products by yourself, will you come to the forefront more and more in the future?

Zong Fuli:I would, I would.

Surging News:Like another young entrepreneur, Wang Sicong, would also make fun of himself as an Internet celebrity, which is not a derogatory term.

Zong Fuli:I don’t mind being an Internet celebrity, but I want to be a different Internet celebrity, and I still want to take the path of entrepreneurship.

Surging News:I heard that you recently developed some communication strategies in a skin care product advertisement. Is watching Korean dramas also a kind of research?

Zong Fuli:The spread of that advertisement made me realize that there must be a communication of social concern to generate a topic of discussion. Watching Korean dramas is a sport for me to pass the time and relax my mind. I enjoy the process of laughing or running away with the protagonists. More importantly, they have the power to make people yearn and look forward to.

Surging News:What are you like in private?

Zong Fuli:I feel like a little friend in private. I also watch Korean dramas. On weekends, if the weather is good, I will ride a bicycle to West Lake.

Surging News:Do you have many friends?

Zong Fuli:I don’t have many friends, only one or two. First of all, it takes time to make friends. If I make a friend, I need to be responsible to him, and he needs to be responsible to me, right? Value time.

Surging News:Do you think it is a false proposition for female entrepreneurs to balance career and family?

Zong Fuli:This problem doesn’t exist for me… I want to reiterate that I have never hated marriage.

Surging News:You are a person with a lot of wealth, but you are also a consumer. What is your outlook on wealth and consumption?

Zong Fuli:Wealth is no longer my own to a certain extent. For me, what I can see and own every day is my real wealth. Those invisible reputation, status, and wealth rankings are all clouds. Consumption concept, I like unique things.