SOMETIMES, Mr Luo Fei enjoys taking a moment to look out of his 28th floor office across boomtown Shenzhen to reminisce on the dozens of major clients he has helped make their fortunes over the past decade or so of economic turgidity.
But while his top floor office may offer panoramic vistas of the beehive of commercial activity far below, Mr. Luo is just as likely to gaze wistfully over the hazy purple mountains and further to the west.
For it is there that his company’s charitable campaign has planted its deepest roots.
Green Pine has taken it upon itself to shoulder much of the “burden” of a comprehensive and generous program to help instill cultural pride in all of China’s 55 ethnic minorities through the establishment of song and dance troupes.
But in an exclusive interview with NextInsight, Mr. Luo, President and Director of Green Pine Capital, considers the act no burden at all, but instead a responsible decision – both ethically and from the business side.
“We see charitable giving like this as a very important investment,” he said.
The hills are alive…
From a place of tears and tragedy over a year ago, the sound of music can now be heard coming from the mountainous region hit by a devastating earthquake on May 12, 2008.
Green Pine is still relatively ‘green’ in its attempts to help all the country’s recognized minorities through song, but one ethnic group – the Qiang (羌族), who call quake-hit areas in Sichuan Province home – are among the earliest beneficiaries of Mr. Luo’s goodwill work.
“Our goal is to help children of all 55 ethnic minorities take more pride in themselves and their heritage. We want to set up an art troupe for every one of these groups to give them more confidence and opportunities,” he said.
China’s 1.3 bln strong population has 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, with the Han Chinese making up around 98% of the total. So to reach out the 55 minorities, Green Pine has already sponsored seven musical troupes, and plans to keep going until the remaining 48 have had their day onstage.
“In China, although everyone is guaranteed an education, it is very Han-centric,” said Mr. Luo, himself a Han Chinese. “So it is important to educate these minorities about their cultural heritage.”
He said the troupes are mainly singers, but also dance in rhythm.
“Through this means they can better protect and spread their culture through song and dance. Among the seven troupes so far, the one that struck me the most is the Qiang ethnicity,” Mr. Luo said.
He said that he and his colleagues encountered many Qiang children near some of the schools that collapsed or were still standing by a thread near the Wenchuan epicenter, and the resilience and bravery of the students’ moved him profoundly.
“This group gave me the deepest impression. When the quake happened, we were very upset, and upon arriving in Wenchuan, we worked with other organizations to arrange for their safe journey to Shenzhen.
“After, we set up a singing troupe for them, we helped them make friends and share experiences with other groups. They stayed in Shenzhen to continue their studies in a more stable environment for three months as their schools were being restored or rebuilt.”
In September 2008, Green Pine helped them return to the Sichuan capital of Chengdu to live in rented accommodation until their schools could be rebuilt. “In September of this year, all the students will be able to return to their rebuilt schools,” Mr. Luo said.
More than just song and dance
Green Pine has a two-pronged approach to its charitable campaign. In addition to raising the self esteem of ethnic minorities through song and dance, it also lends a hand to needy graduate students with scholastic promise.
“We help impoverished but talented graduate students with their tuition and adjustment to the rigors of higher learning through interest-free loans and no strict timeframe for return of principal,” Mr. Luo said.
He added that in Shenzhen, there are several hundred graduate students who have benefitted from Green Pine’s tuition support program.
Giving back to society
It was inevitable that the ‘elephant in the room’ question could be avoided, so it wasn’t.
As head of one of China’s most profitable venture capital and asset management firms, Mr. Luo was asked how such a successful operation dedicated to making as much money as possible could reconcile this with putting so much energy into charitable work – which was not in the business of making profits.
“We have 10 years experience in venture capital, and we have seen China grow tremendously over this period. Green Pine invested heavily during this period and reaped many benefits, so we want to share this bounty with others,” Mr. Luo said.
He said that over the past decade, Green Pine has invested in several dozen firms, with six of them having already successfully listed -- three on domestic bourses.
“Some had IPOs, some exercised M&As. So over the past decade or so, we have grown quickly along with them, thanks to the overall rapid growth of the domestic economy and its enterprises.
“And because we were major beneficiaries of this rapid growth, we feel duty bound to share our bounty with those less fortunate who may not be in a position to benefit from the country’s economic miracle for a variety of reasons.”
He said that looking back at Green Pine’s initial investments a decade ago, they are worth 10 times what was paid originally.
“This is very enviable growth. Recently we have been averaging over 20% revenue growth, so it is, you could say, a moral obligation to share some of this bounty with those less fortunate,” Mr. Luo said.
Mr Luo is also featured in our recent story Countdown to China’s Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) board launch
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