Creating a successful business in a foreign land is often a daunting challenge. Some lack the sheer gumption to seize the opportunities that await, or fail to even identify them. But Carlos Moncayo, a young Latin American setting up shop in a land as alien to him as China, dipped his toes into those untested entrepreneurial waters and became the co-founder and CEO of ASIAM Business Group, a manufacturing management company. And all this before he turned 30. So it came as no surprise that he was named Asia’s Best Young Entrepreneur in 2009 by Business Week.
As a young boy, Carlos grew up in Quito, Ecuador and went on to study law, first in Quito, and then in the U.S. as an exchange student at Willamette University. There he became interested in Chinese law, which inspired him in 2004 to enroll in a law program in Shanghai on full scholarship. Surprisingly, neither did he speak Mandarin nor did he know anyone in China at that point of time. In Shanghai, he started learning Mandarin and interned with a Chinese-American law firm.
His stint at the international division of the law firm made him realize that a large number of lawsuits filed were related to issues between factories based in China and their midsized South American clients on the other side of the world. Moncayo sensed a business opportunity. A professional intermediary who could improve communications between the Chinese manufacturers and their overseas importers was the need of the hour. And so, the seeds of ASIAM were sown.
Having decided to take the plunge, Carlos discussed the idea of starting an offshore manufacturing management company in China with his two brothers, Fernando and Luis. Fernando and Luis helped Carlos establish an office in Ecuador, using a $10,000 cash advance from their father and another $10,000 from Fernando. In China, Moncayo opened a small office on Shanghai’s Changshu Road to serve importers from Latin America. By August 2004, ASIAM was all set to roll.
Carlos wanted ASIAM to emerge as a reliable medium between the suppliers and the buyers, and dreamt that some day international transactions could become as easy as local business dealings. The entire process – from selecting suitable suppliers, and executing pre-production formalities, to supervising the manufacturing process, and performing pre-shipment inspections – would be handled by the new company. Soon that dream would become reality. Within two years, ASIAM managed to get business from six major clients in Ecuador.
Although ASIAM started off catering to clients from various industries, Carlos realized that his services were most required for clients from the garment industry. He also decided to focus on developing long-term relationships with his clients. By 2007, Carlos started working on giving his clients, mostly leading fashion retailers, specialized services that enabled faster delivery of quality products. Today, ASIAM ships consignments to clients within 60 days of placing the order. Small wonder that ASIAM won the “Business Excellence Award 2009” given by the World Confederation of Business.
I had $400 in my pocket, tons of energy, and big dreams.
— Carlos Moncayo, upon his first arrival in China as a student
Moncayo attributes a good deal of his success to his employees, which is evident from the enthusiastic and hard working team based in the company’s current head office in Hangzhou and the commercial office in Quito, Equador. Of course, he also receives good support from his brother Fernando, who is the Commercial Vice-President and Luis, who is the COO.
In the first five years of its existence, ASIAM averaged a stupendous yearly growth rate of 112% and facilitated 70 clients in importing products from more than 300 Chinese factories. Brazil is the company’s biggest market, followed by Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Carlos splits his time between China and South America. Amid his hectic business schedule, he has also found time to complete a diploma course in management from Shanghai’s China Europe International Business School in 2008.
With ASIAM shipping more than $34 million worth of clothing in 2010, Moncayo is surely making a big difference in the field of affordable fashion. Accolades followed as he was selected for New York City Venture Fellow 2010. This is a program founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg aimed at assisting international entrepreneurs by offering benefits like mentorship, office space in New York, and networking opportunities. Carlos Moncayo is also the youngest permanent member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum, an invitation-only global think tank under the patronage of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
When Carlos Moncayo gets back to China, after days of international jet-setting, he prefers to spend as much quality time as possible with his wife. Going for long runs and catching up with friends are the other things he likes to do in his leisure time. He also goes to church on Sundays, whenever possible. But he confesses he cannot help checking his BlackBerry even on weekends! After all, when you take the entrepreneurial plunge, you have a long way to go. And ASIAM and Carlos are up to the task.
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© Thomas White International, Ltd. 2019