Daring to change for success
Dr Allen Shi Lop-tak
Higher Certificate in Fashion and Clothing Manufacture, Hong Kong Polytechnic (1980)
Executive Master of Business Administration, City University of Hong Kong (2007)
Honorary Doctorate of Management, Lincoln University, US (2009)
University Fellow, PolyU (2016)
Bronze Bauhinia Star, HKSAR Government (2017)
President, PolyU CEO Club (2021 – 2023)
President, Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong (2021 – 2023)
Founder and Chairman, Brilliant International Group Limited
“We are entering a new era and the most important thing is our willingness to change,” according to Dr Allen Shi Lop-tak, founder and Chairman of Brilliant International Group Limited. Dr Shi spoke these words on his election as President of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong (CMA), one of the major industrial associations in Hong Kong. They sum up the spirit in which he has lived his life.
From apprentice to conglomerate chairman
For the renowned industrialist and philanthropist, change has been a recurring element throughout his distinguished career, which began more than half a century ago. Born in Hong Kong in the 1950s, Dr Shi joined the printing industry as an apprentice immediately after completing secondary school. “I came from a low-income family and needed to start working at an early age,” Dr Shi said. “Life was very difficult at that time.”
Unfortunately, the young Dr Shi had a traumatic accident while operating a printing machine at work. He lost three fingers and had to spend three months in hospital. “I decided to change field and began work in the office of a garment factory,” Dr Shi said. Determined to improve his skills, he took evening courses after work at the Hong Kong Polytechnic, PolyU’s predecessor, to stay abreast of the latest knowledge and developments in the clothing industry.
In the early 1980s, Dr Shi suffered another setback when the garment factory where he worked closed down due to a lack of business. He again felt compelled to make a new career move. “There was no turning back at that point,” Dr Shi recalled. “The only way to go was to establish my own business and start afresh.” With financial support from his family, Dr Shi set up a small printing factory in 1984.
Dr Shi’s pursuit of entrepreneurship was not all plain sailing. However, his perseverance and determination to adapt to the ever-changing economic environment enabled him to triumph over numerous challenges and became a leader of the printing industry. Today, his factory has evolved into one of the largest manufacturers of commercial printing and paper packaging products in southern China, serving clients all over the world.
Dr Shi moved the major production facility of his printing company to the Mainland in the late 1980s, with the opening of a factory in Shenzhen.
Leading the industry towards re-industrialisation
When Dr Shi became President of the CMA in early 2021, Hong Kong’s manufacturing industry was suffering from the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the China-US trade dispute. But for Dr Shi, the situation presented not only challenges but also opportunities for businesses and industries.
“The use of technology in our daily lives has increased tremendously as the pandemic has changed people’s behaviour and habits,” he explained. “It is time for the industry to actively engage in re-industrialisation and develop advanced manufacturing. CMA is assisting traditional enterprises in applying new technologies to product development, production processes, sales and marketing, so that they can survive and thrive in the technological revolution.”
Leveraging his affiliation with the higher education sector, Dr Shi is keen to forge closer collaboration between industry, academia and the research and development sector. CMA has recently established a technology commercialisation centre, CMA+, to help match manufacturers with appropriate technical solutions developed by universities to assist in the upgrading and transformation of their industry.
In addition to making significant contributions to Hong Kong’s industrial development, Dr Shi is also committed to serving the community, particularly in supporting education and charitable causes. He has set up bursaries and donated to local universities, including his alma mater PolyU. In 2016, PolyU named a lecture theatre after Dr Shi as a tribute to his strong support to the University.
Over the years, Dr Shi has taken up a number of important roles at PolyU to support its long-term development. He is a Member of the Governing Committee of the PolyU Foundation and President of the CEO Club, established by PolyU’s Knowledge Transfer and Entrepreneurship Office. In 2016, PolyU awarded the title of University Fellow to Dr Shi in recognition of his significant contributions to the community. He also serves as an ex-officio Advisor of the PolyU University Fellows Association.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
As a self-made entrepreneur who overcame adversity to achieve success through hard work and perseverance, Dr Shi always shares his experience and insights with young people. “Hardship is an inevitable stage on the way to success. Without persistence and resilience, there will be no reward.” He also encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to broaden their horizons and look to the Greater Bay Area where opportunities for ventures are abundant.
Without persistence and resilience, there will be no reward.