There is a tale about the way China Inc does business abroad. A man, tired of going over a hill to sell vegetables, started tunnelling a shortcut through the hill. Passers-by warned him that this could take decades, too long for him to ever use the tunnel. "But my sons will, and my grandsons," replied the farmer.
Wang Zhonghai, head of Tianshi, China's largest herbal food supplements firm—and a recent entrant into India—read the story when he was a child. "We always take a long-term view of both life and business," says the thirtysomething Wang. "We researched the Indian market for years and then set up operations." Then the company quietly shifted its south Asia headquarters from Bangkok to New Delhi and has started roping in distributors in every major Indian city to market its competitively priced products, expected to give ayurveda a run for its money. Says Wang: "Ours are not mere products but civilisation in bottles."