GEPC Participant Eva Serrano: Create Value Beyond Profit

Eva Serrano, from Spain, was a participant in the initial class of the Tsinghua SEM Global Executive Program in China (GEPC). She has been the President of Inditex Greater China since 2019. As one of the largest fashion retailers around the world, Inditex reported revenue of €27.72 billion in fiscal 2021 (1 February 2021 to 31 January 2022), up 35.8% year on year. In 2006, she came to China with Inditex and fulfilled the business development plan in the Asian-Pacific region. Shanghai is a special city for Eva Serrano because she settled down there in 2006 and gave birth to her daughter. She takes this city as her first love and home. Besides, she was nominated as the “2019-2020 Shanghai Outstanding Entrepreneur,” won the 2020 Shanghai Magnolia, and was elected to the 2021 China Carbon Neutrality Forum launched by the Institute of Global Development, Tsinghua University.

Concerted Efforts to Safeguard Shanghai

On April 14, 50 needy families in Siming Community of Jing'an District in Shanghai received a special caring gift: a box of fresh vegetables (about 5kg) and 30 eggs. This was an act of kindness by Eva Serrano. On March 31, she had purchased 100 vegetable packages for the community residents. “The social group that is elderly and physically disabled is vulnerable to the pandemic. They might get stuck. I need to help them come through the hard times,” says Eva.

Eva Serrano is not only concerned about the daily life of the community residents, but also always ready to do something that is within her scope to make a difference in society. When she learned that the grass-roots work is short of hands, she applied to be a volunteer. In March, this foreign executive took the lead in serving the community and assisted residents in taking nucleic acid tests. She said that epidemic prevention and control is the responsibility of the whole society. She wanted to render her small service to remove some of the workloads from community staff. When she learned that them community volunteers were badly in need of personal protective supplies, especially coveralls and disposable gloves, she immediately sought and bought them, helping the volunteers stay safe.

Social Initiatives in Motion

Eva Serrano and Inditex have contributed to epidemic prevention and control in China through real deeds. On Janurary 25, 2020, Inditex donated 1 million yuan to Hubei to purchase medical supplies when the COVID-19 epidemic first broke out in early 2020. 160,000 medical masks bought abroad were delivered to the affected area to alleviate the shortage of gauze masks. On February 5, Inditex purchased 2.7 million medical masks and protective garments (worth 1 million euros) from around the world and distributed them to the frontline workers across the country via the Tsinghua University Education Foundation. As an extreme rainstorm hit Henan in July 2021, Inditex and the China Environmental Protection Foundation (CEPF) immediately donated relief materials worth 10.58 million yuan to Xinxiang city of Henan province and 1 million yuan to the disaster-hit area via the China Women Development Foundation.

Bullish Chinese Market and Further Digital Investment

"We keenly know that the flexible pattern and adaptability to a rapidly changing environment are required to run and manage a company in China. Inditex has embarked on a digital transformation journey since 2012. In the years to come, we will strive to speed up the transformation, digitalize our stores in China and enhance our brand digitalization,” she says. In 2021, Eva Serrano was interviewed by The Paper, in which she discussed Inditex's transformation in China. Inditex takes the Chinese market as one of its major partners. Upholding the concept of creating value beyond profit, Inditex takes root in the Chinese market and optimizes customer experience as a way to satisfy the needs of Chinese customers with high-quality products and integrity. Speaking of future targets, Eva Serrano says, “We aim to create value for the Chinese economy, society and environmental protection when we expand business in China. We expect to integrate online and offline resources and satisfy the needs of Chinese customers with optimum choices. Meanwhile, to get access to Inditex’s sustainability, we also invite more local partners to realize the goal with joint endeavors.”

Bridging Chinese Design and International Fashion

Chinese consumers were the followers of the European trends many years ago, like the fashion trends in London and Paris. But that just happened in the past. Nowadays, most countries focus on the Shanghai Fashion Week trends. Eva Serrano said that the rapid rise of local design helps Chinese designers have a big role to play in the fashion world. Inditex collaborates with young Chinese designers to share resources, complement each other's advantages and establish a bridge between Chinese design and international fashion, thus introducing unique Chinese traditional handicrafts to the world.

Effusive Friendship with Tsinghua University

Inditex has forged a close partnership with Tsinghua University over the past few years. They have developed pragmatic cooperation in strategic innovation, teachers' development, students' practice and Spanish training in sustainable development, green supply chain and recycling economy, delivering fruitful results. Yang Bin, Vice President and Provost of Tsinghua University, and Pablo Isla, then executive chairman of Inditex, had an online exchange in January 2022, where they discussed closer cooperation between Tsinghua and Inditex for concerted contributions to climate change mitigation, public health, artificial intelligence governance, online education and other major issues. Eva Serrano was present in the meeting.

In 2019, the Tsinghua University-Inditex Sustainable Development Foundation was established, which seeks to cultivate awareness and the culture of sustainable development and lay down a global sustainable development strategy via innovation research, cooperative teaching, social practice and Tsinghua University's creative campus management. Pablo Isla acts as an international member of the advisory board of Tsinghua SEM and offers valuable suggestions for educational business and sustainable development in China.

During the 2021 China International Import Expo, Isla and Bai Chongen, Dean of Tsinghua SEM, had a dialogue via video link, where they discussed ways to deepen cooperation and create value in the economy, society and environmental protection across the country. Inditex cooperates with Tsinghua University to support MBA students’ overseas study tours to Spain. So far, 160 students have participated in these tours.

In April 2022, Eva Serrano participated in Tsinghua SEM’s Global Executive program in China—Opportunity in Diversity: Decoding the Dynamic Chinese Economy. She had a chance to have online study and to exchange ideas with senior enterprise managers from ten countries, including China, the USA, France, Spain, South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia. This program offers a panoramic perspective for senior managers and business leaders to observe effective leadership and management in a fast-changing Chinese market in accordance with business practice and regulatory framework of China and Chinese customer expectations. Eva Serrano shares an old Chinese saying that goes, “Never stop learning!” She thanks Tsinghua professor for the recent online courses, saying it provided “me great opportunities to learn and gain a lot about China’s current economy and politics, helping me achieve further self-improvement of commercial knowledge system.”

Source: School of Economics and Management

Editors: Guo Lili, Sangeet