CANNES/BEIJING: Western companies have the opportunity not only to grow in China but to embrace some of the elements that have made China grow at incredible pace, particularly its tech sector, according to the President of Nielsen Greater China.

"I think the East and the West can both learn from each other," Xuan Yan told the audience at Cannes Lions' China Day on Tuesday.

But, he said, there are a number of attributes that the West could emulate, and these could be instructive to companies operating in China.

"Number one: speed. If you look at the speed of adoption in China, it's just absolutely phenomenal," Xuan observed. "You look at Tencent's ecosystem, you look at the database: 800 million people and still growing."

This, he added, is despite some serious external pressures, including slowing infrastructure, a challenged manufacturing market, and import-export growth declining.

Yet the speed of digital growth has created "tremendous opportunities for all of us," he said. The question, however, is whether Western companies can mirror this speed "to capture that kind of growth".

For Xuan, the copycat style that remains associated with China has masked the culture of innovation that has exploded in recent years.

"You look at WeChat," he said, in a another reference to its parent company, Tencent. "It's truly an economy where people do business. You don't have to leave WeChat to get things done. It's everything you could want."

Furthermore, with a business model that adds value to both the consumer and to companies, the app is used around four hours a day on average. "That's crazy," he said.

Xuan noted the increasing convergence of both technology and culture across the world, adding that those who move fast and take risks will reap the greatest rewards. But larger companies suffer because of their aversion to risk.

"I think our respective [late] leader Deng Xiaoping's instruction to cross the river by feeling the stones, maybe that’s irrelevant today," he said.

"I say jump in, move fast, take some risks, really what are the consequences? You can fail, but you can pick yourself up and catch up."

Data sourced from WARC, Financial Times