Chinese medicine is growing in popularity in Hong Kong, though it is not yet a huge business here. Practitioners tend to work in isolation from one another, curing patients with the traditional brand of knowledge at locations scattered across town.
But Chinese medicine graduates with business acumen could take the lead in making the profession more organised and influential. Dennis Au, an alumnus of Baptist University’s School of Chinese Medicine, was the first runner-up in the recent Global Entrepreneur of the Year award presented by Youth Business International. Through adopting a creative business approach, and with the right assistance, he successfully created a start-up that proved to be financially viable. He beat young entrepreneurs in over 30 countries and regions to win the award.
After practising in a private clinic for three years, Au set up his own Chinese medicine centre with a close friend in 2008, giving each other support and weathering crises together. Lacking business knowledge and capital, they sought assistance from the Youth Business Hong Kong (YBHK) Programme under the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups.
Au now has four clinics in Hong Kong. He and his partner have also formed the non-profit-making organisation Chinese Medicine For All, which provides mobile clinics, health workshops and trained medical personnel in needy areas in China, the Philippines and Myanmar. It is admirable the lengths Au and his partner have gone to in putting their knowledge and skills to good use, while ensuring a stable return of income that has kept their operations going.
The mentorship service and business networks Au benefitted from through the YBHK programme was a great help, he said. Understandably, they were particularly important for a science major like him with little business background and training.
The programme also offered seminars and gatherings with fellow young entrepreneurs who, through experience-sharing, gave a boost to novices like Au. The networking and sharing with business professionals helped with the growth of his company. “We have also learned about how to develop our business through trial and error,” he said.
He has no intention of studying for an MBA yet. He says that is something he may do in several years’ time when his business is more mature.
Open to graduates of all disciplines, an MBA enhances one’s skills and knowledge in business management as well as in fields such as accounting, finance and marketing. Not all young entrepreneurs may see a need for it, particularly Au, who benefitted from links obtained through a local programme which helped give him a head start in his business.
It will be interesting to see if Au feels the need for a different level of networking in years to come, whether there are other substitutes for MBA training, and in what ways MBA courses can be tailored to the needs of people in various fields.
Linda Yeung is the Post’s education editor, a veteran journalist who studied in Hong Kong and abroad.