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Sommelier captures Chinese wine consumers

by Katrina Phelps

Red Dolls Wine vineyard.Connecting Chinese consumers with a picturesque South Australian vineyard is proving to be a very fulfilling business opportunity for a UniSA MBA student.

Qualified sommelier Tim Nicholls has been able to combine his love of wine with his newly acquired Chinese business skills after completing the Business in China Intensive School (BiCIS) program as part of his UniSA MBA study last year.

The BiCIS program has run for seven years now and provides a great opportunity for local business students to learn first-hand what Chinese business is all about.

“I was completely amazed by what I experienced - Shanghai and Beijing are really setting incredibly high standards for the way they do business,” Nicholls says.

“They have a great thirst for global brands but still remain uniquely Chinese.

Tim Nicholls (left) with Chinese visitors at the Red Dolls Wine cellar.Tim Nicholls (left) with Chinese visitors at the Red Dolls Wine cellar.

“The Chinese emerging wine palate is an interesting business opportunity and my experience through BiCIS has helped develop our virtual tourism, wine and wine education service.

“For the Chinese consumer we want to demonstrate that learning about wine and wine production can be a fascinating journey of discovery that only enhances one’s appreciation.”

With several years experience working in the wine industry in Toronto, Singapore and Europe, Nicholls and his wife Shelley Dover - who completed the UniSA MBA last year - have established their Red Dolls Wine business which offers a range of wine experiences specifically targeted at the Chinese market, including an ‘adopt a vine’ program.

“Our primary market for the brand is the visiting Chinese consumer, whether they are visiting friends and relatives, staying for a while to study, or here on business or government delegations,” Nicholls says.

“We work in conjunction with Adelaide businesses that are looking for innovative ways to showcase the best of SA.

“I am always excited to meet Chinese people, to learn about their country, and practice my Mandarin.”

Nicholls highly recommends the BiCIS program which includes industry and company visits, cultural tours, lectures and guest speakers.

MBA Program Director, Bob Gilliver, says the BiCIS program is often cited by students as a highlight of their MBA, and that it has become one of the annual marquee events in the program.

“Not only does it provide an extraordinary learning experience for our MBA students, it also opens doors with Chinese companies in many different industries and builds connections with other MBA programs in China,” Gilliver says.

“All of these factors enhance our push for continued internationalisation of the MBA.”

International Management Lecturer Dr Song Yang has been involved in all of the BiCIS programs.

“Each year we’ve had up to 40 students take part in this intensive residential program to learn about business in Asia,” Dr Yang says.

“The magnitude and scale of business in China is huge and the business pace is fast. This creates a dynamic and competitive environment not only in business but also in terms of space. Australia in comparison has a smaller market and business scale, a smaller population, our environment is not as competitive and we have space.

“Personal relationships and networks are also a particular point of difference and it’s important that anyone wanting to do business in Asia understands that a different approach is needed.

“MBA no longer means ‘missing before action’. More students have started to explore the Chinese markets with the experiences from BiCIS. Tim’s story is an example and more will follow.”

Students who participated in this year’s BiCIS program say highlights of the program included experiencing the Chinese economy inside China as compared to reading about it; networking with Chinese and Australian students; and gaining firsthand knowledge and experience in dealing with Chinese people, business and culture.