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Selling to the seniors

Government projections show that the elderly population (those over the age of 60) in Hong Kong will rise by 42 per cent to more than 2 million in 2020 from the present 1.4 million.

"This is a fast-growing consumer group with many diverse needs," says Brenda Lam, head of learning and development at ACCA Hong Kong.

"Through [the ACCA Business Competition], we aim to enrich the skill sets of the entrants and at the same time enhance their social awareness," she adds. "We believe the existing business models of many enterprises can be further enhanced to tap into the growing elderly market. When done properly, the tremendous purchasing power of the elderly can drive consumption significantly. Innovative business ideas also help create business opportunities."

Howard Ling, senior consultant at the HKCSS-HSBC Social Enterprise Business Centre (SEBC), says ACCA and SEBC have set "a sustainable business model targeting the local elderly" as the theme for this year's contest because it is an emerging trend in the local retail sector.

"We want to encourage students to develop more business models for barrier-free consumption and extend this concept from social enterprises to more small and medium-sized enterprises," Ling says.

"There are a few highly successful examples, such as the QB House 10-minute hair-cutting chain which operates 42 outlets in Hong Kong. Nearly 70 per cent of the chain's clients are senior citizens."

Hopefully, the contest will also help cultivate the entrepreneurship of some of the contestants, Ling says, noting that there are many socially conscious, willing investors and family foundations that are seeking to fund worthy local projects with long-term benefits.

"Some participants with great ideas may attract capital to finance their projects and become entrepreneurs right after their graduation. So this event is more than just a competition. Interesting projects may receive financial support and become real enterprises," Ling says.