Who’s Hu

Luo Hong

Businessman-turned-photographer

Luo: piece of cake

The 42 year-old is from Sichuan and his first job was as a photographer’s assistant.

Big break

On his mother’s birthday he could not find a cake he liked. So he baked one himself and thought the result so good that he opened his first bakery. He soon opened more shops. In 1992 he founded the company Holiland.

Need to know

The late Robert Rich – the American billionaire inventor of non-dairy whipped topping – was so impressed by Holiland that he came to meet Luo personally. A deal was then inked to use the “Cream King’s” products. The unlisted firm now has close to 1,000 stores and revenues of around Rmb2 billion. China is expected to consume Rmb50 billion worth of bakery products in 2010.

So is Luo the typical Chinese entrepreneur?

Not exactly. Holiland’s business went through a crisis in 1999, in part due to a folk superstition in Dongbei (a key market) that 99 was an unlucky number. So fewer people celebrated birthdays, leading to a collapse in cake sales, and big losses. Luo responded by bringing in a professional manager, Xie Li to run the business. He then decided to readjust his work-life balance very much in favour of the ‘life’ part.

How exactly?

Forbes magazine has cited 24 world business leader with an ‘outstanding’ hobby. It mentioned Warren Buffett (ukulele), David Rockefeller (entomology), Bill Ford (tae kwon do) and Luo himself (wildlife photography). In fact, Luo has become more famous as a photographer than as a businessman, going as far as Antarctica to photograph wildlife. But after his long sojourn Luo now says he wants to get more involved in the business again; he says the company’s “rhythm is now too slow”.

In his own words

When Southern Weekly asked him if there were any companies or entrepreneurs he admires, it reports he looked confused and replied “No”.


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