East-Meets-West Strategy: Q&A With Weishan Xie, President of Kmind
Published: Mar 29, 2023
As the consulting market continues to heat up in the Asia-Pacific market, we at Vault-Firsthand got the chance to ask Weishan Xie, the President of Kmind, a few questions about the development of the consulting industry in this market, as well as about his firm specifically. The following is an edited version of Xie’s and Vault-Firsthand’s conversation.
Vault-Firsthand: What is Kmind’s position in the consulting market—what industries does the firm work with, what specialties does it have, etc.?
Weishan Xie: As a professional consulting firm that helps companies tackle their most critical and challenging problems, we position ourselves at the top end of the market.
We serve fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), durable goods, and emerging industries where companies constantly find themselves embroiled in fierce competition. We excel at helping them solve competition-related problems to achieve steady, high-speed, and sustainable growth.
Vault-Firsthand: You've spoken in the past about how ancient Chinese philosophies, like those found in Confucianism and Taoism, inform the firm's methods. What is one example of the firm implementing this philosophy in the modern age?
Weishan Xie: Confucius said, "There are some with whom we may study in common, but we shall find them unable to go along with us to principles. Perhaps we may go on with them to principles, but we shall find them unable to get established in those along with us. Or if we may get so established along with them, we shall find them unable to weigh occurring events along with us." We in China are both in tune with and capable of adapting to changing circumstances. This is the way of life advocated by Confucianism. In Taoism, the book Tao Te Ching holds that "the supreme good is like water". And in The Art of War, Sun Tzu describes "military tactics are like unto water," stressing that like water, one should modify their tactics according to the time and place and as needed. The essence of both Confucianism and Taoism lies in change.
In addition to developing measurable plans and charting strategic directions for companies, Kmind helps them respond to changes in competitors and markets by incorporating Chinese wisdom in advancing their strategies. Not only do we try to lock in a company’s relatively stable and predictable operating parameters with our preparation campaign, but we also architect strategic direction with the aim of a sound implementation phase. The core methodology revolves around remaining flexible and adapting to new conditions.
I think Eastern wisdom is well suited to leveraging the power of consumers’ hearts and minds. For example, when we first started working with FIRMUS, a Chinese premium milk formula brand, it was situated in an industry dominated by international firms. Instead of following conventional strategy, we broke down inherent barriers around technology, safety, and formulation. We made use of a common perception among Chinese people that “you are raised by your surroundings” as the foundation of the strategic direction “more suitable for Chinese infants”, which resonated with the hearts of Chinese consumers when choosing their formula. Through this, FIRMUS found a new growth path, and in wake of its success, reshaped the competitive landscape of the entire Chinese infant formula market.
Vault-Firsthand: You've also spoken about your firm's work to "combine east and west" in the business world—what do you think are the best aspects of the eastern and western mindsets?
Weishan Xie: Western theory revolves around quantitative concepts such as logical deduction and the scientific method; it tends to optimize and segment and creates excellent products as a result. Eastern philosophy emphasizes qualitative concepts and grasping the “intangible” elements, making it perfect for seeing and adapting to “the big picture.” Just as Sun Zi Bing Fa translates to "The Art of War" and not "The Science of War," there is an artistic element ever-present in the Eastern mindset.
Vault-Firsthand: We have noticed that Kmind proposed the idea of "next-generation strategic consultinga new generation of strategy consulting". What is new about this idea, and what sets it apart from previous models?
Weishan Xie: The idea is not entirely new. While certainly a creative idea, it was formed by drawing upon ancient Chinese wisdom. We introduced intangibles into the West’s traditional strategic theory: a fusion of art with science.
Current western strategy revolves around a systematic approach based on data and logic. Kmind has built upon this foundation and integrated Chinese wisdom, kickstarting “a new generation of strategy consulting.” The fundamental innovation lies in building a brand that can manage the hearts and minds of the people. With our unique outlook, Kmind has achieved explosive success, swiftly transforming five obscure brands into large-scale industry leaders.
Vault-Firsthand: Given the current state of the economy, what do you see the role of the consulting firm becoming in the next months or years?
Weishan Xie: For companies, the current macroeconomic situation is filled with both challenges and opportunities. As the generals of our clients’ battles on their ”outward-facing” fronts, we as consulting firms must guide companies to attain healthy, long-term growth and help them avoid wasting resources, benefitting their development and overall economic growth.
Vault-Firsthand: What excites you most about the future of the consulting industry, particularly as it applies to the Asia-Pacific market?
Weishan Xie: The fact that Kmind has been placed in the top three in two of Vault's Asia-Pacific lists for 2023 ("Best Consulting Firms in Asia-Pacific for Innovation" and "Best Consulting Firms in Asia-Pacific for Firm Leadership") has led to recognition in the international market as a consulting firm that integrates Eastern and Western wisdom. I hope to continue giving new motivation to the development of global strategic consulting; and Kmind is always willing to share with our peers in an effort to boost economic prosperity.
Vault-Firsthand: What advice do you have for someone who wants to join the consulting industry?
Weishan Xie: I hope my fellow future consultants will be able to strike a balance between Eastern and Western cultures and integrate the two to bring about a new landscape for strategic consulting and make a difference in society by exerting an influence like none before in the industry.