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Is Groupon trying to get kicked out of China before it even gets started?

Dumb, dumber, dumbest. Of all the US Internet companies that have been trying to enter China it looks like Groupon is making the dumbest mistake, and that even before it officially launches here.

Over the past weeks I have followed Groupon trying to set up its business in China. Not only from the press, but also from friends that interviewed there for one of the 1000 jobs that they plan to fill over the next couple of weeks, and of course from things I heard from other Groupon clones. I actually gave them a decent chance because of their plan to partner with Tencent and their commitment to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the Chinese market. The fact that the biggest Chinese clones are working together to compete against Groupon could be a potential problem, but one that can be solved with the amount of money Groupon has available.

But now they dug a big hole for themselves to fall into: how stupid can you be to air a pro-Tibet commercial during the Superbowl to promote your company? Not only does it upset a lot of their US customers, but it may get Groupon China in trouble as well. Tibet is one of the most sensitive issues in China and whatever you think about it, you should not touch it as a foreign company if you want to run a business here. Given the size of Groupon’s investment the company is surely on the government’s radar and they will see this ad as well. And what would Tencent do? Would they risk working with a partner that is making beginners mistakes even before any contracts are signed? To be continued, I am sure.

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  1. It’s a bit clumsy for sure, but the way I see it, it’s not a pro-Tibet ad. It’s almost a parody of a pro-Tibet ad if anything. And if I take apart the ad, word by word, the most “offensive” line is that Tibet’s culture is in jeopardy. That’s very subtle and is also quite true in the same way Shanghainese dialect is in jeopardy. But that’s in some ways just a result of migration and mobility within China as much as it is a criticism of the Chinese government. What I’m trying to say is it can be interpreted in different ways and isn’t explicitly anti-China government or pro-Tibet in my humble opinion.

    Not disagreeing though that it doesn’t help their aspirations in China.

  2. Is Fish Curry even a regular Tibetan dish? I don’t think there’s any seafood at all in the Tibetan cuisine.

  3. @WoAi I think the ad crosses the line big time, foreign companies in China should stay away from anything related to Tibet. Comparing Tibetan culture to Shanghainese dialect misses the point, Tibet is a sensitive issue in China, Shanghainese dialect not.

    @Jaco Absolutely right, fish curry is not on the menu in Tibet.

  4. First, Tibetans don’t eat fish.
    Second, count down to Groupon’s exit from China market.

  5. i heard that most tibetan people would not even eat fish because of some religious reasons.

  6. Forrest Gump’s words describe it best “stupid is as stupid does …It means that an intelligent person or company who does stupid things is still stupid.