Friday, March 20, 2009

Final day in Shanghai

Today was filled with sight-seeing and shopping. We went to the Old Town area of Shanghai, famous for its beautiful gardens and market with hundreds of vendors. When we arrived at the market, the streets were filled with thousands of tourists from all over the world. It was a bit overwhelming being surrounded by so many people.

Once we had survived two hours of this chaos and had some fun along the way bargaining with the vendors, we traveled by bus to the Shanghai Acrobat Circus, among the most famous in the world. The show lasted for an hour and was packed with various groups of performers doing incredible acts with plates, unicycles, bicycles, motorcycles, roller skates, and more. The group enjoyed the show immensely.

We then traveled back to the hotel, and all were free to spend their final night in Shanghai doing whatever they wanted. Tomorrow it's back to the United States.

Our flight departs from Shanghai at 6:00 pm on Sunday, but we have to leave our hotel by 1:30 pm in order to make it on time.

Long day in Shanghai

This was a very long day, kicking off at 9:00 am and ending around 10:00 pm.

We started today off with a visit to the investment firm Fountainvest, where one of the company's partners described the changing landscape of private investment in China as the country opens up to accommodate privately held companies (non-state-owned enterprises). The students asked phenomenal questions, focusing particularly on issues of competition, garnering interest to increase investors from within and outside China, and determining which companies are stable enough to invest in.

After a lengthy break for lunch, we gathered in the lobby of Charms Hotel and walked to the subway station in People's Square, a short distance from the hotel. The subway took us within three blocks of the tower housing Ernst & Young, our next stop for the day. Jenny Chan, who oversees IT operations of E&Y in Shanghai, gave a great presentation on the Chinese marketplace. Once again, our students asked many questions, and Jenny was clearly impressed both with their curiosity to learn and with their ability to ask smart challenging questions. She offered them realistic advice about breaking into a career in the Chinese market - to be seriously considered for an internship or a job, an American student has to be dedicated to learning Chinese and the local culture/customs. It's not as simple as attaining a job here and expecting to do well because you're American; with the economic situation, the American way of conducting business is no longer elevated to the highest level of being the exclusive "right way." So any posturing by an American as being superior doesn't guarantee such broad opportunities or success in China anymore.

Once our visit to E&Y ended, we walked several blocks to the Yan'an Hotel. At 6:00 pm, we enjoyed a buffet-style dinner featuring local Shanghai cuisine, all paid for by Kelley alumnus Simon Goe. Then at 7:30 pm, Mr. Goe met with the students in a conference room for an hour and a half session about his success in the Chinese market. He now serves as Chairman and CEO of the Ocean Star International, Inc and Beijing Honglin Pharmaceutical, Inc.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shanghai Stock Exchange and Nielsen

Our Thursday started with a less-than-favorable breakfast in the Charms Hotel, which we anticipated based on online reviews of the hotel. The selection was limited to fried foods (fried potatoes, fried dumplings, fried noodles, fried eggs, spring rolls) and a variety of stale breads.

At 9:00 am, we hailed taxis outside the hotel and headed to the Pudong Financial District to visit the Shanghai Stock Exchange. After going through two security checkpoints, neither of which seemed particularly stringent or secure, we stood outside a wall of glass overlooking the trading floor. The room below was almost completely empty, a sign of the times considering most trading is done electronically and not on-site. The visit was, alas, not so impressive since there was such little action to see inside the facility.

Our guide suggested we look at captioned photographs in an adjoining room, but the room was dark and no lights were turned on so that we could more easily read the captions. The room was also full of obscure models of various building projects, among them models that were in states of decay and disarray. Perhaps these observations simply reflect the changes that the stock exchange has undergone in recent times and the decreasing relevance of the actual facility.

Once this visit finished, the group rested at a nearby Starbucks before venturing on to the nearby subway station. It was our first adventure on the city's subway system, and it was surprisingly easy to find our way around. The stations and trains were immaculate, and all card kiosks and announcements had understandable English translations.

After a brief break for lunch, we prepared to walk a short distance to China Pod. It became quickly apparent that the company's headquarters was going to be a challenge to locate. First, a cab driver simply dropped us off at a nearby intersection and pointed down a closed street indicating that she couldn't take us any further. So with that we expected to walk a couple of blocks past the construction to get to the building. We still were not sure where their building was located, so we called our contact at China Pod. She indicated we were only three minutes from their building. Two of our staff members then ventured down the street for about 15 minutes and discovered that the neighborhood was horribly impoverished and definitely not the area where China Pod was located. Upon their return, one of our students approached a Chinese man inside a business who spoke English. He told us that China Pod was at least 25 minutes away, and by that point we were late to our appointment. After a group discussion about what to do, we decided to cancel our China Pod visit. This definitely taught the group a lesson about the difficulties of traveling in a large city where even the taxi drivers don't know how to get you to places or will outright refuse to take you to a location unless ou can provide detailed directions or show them on a map where to take you.

When that dramatic moment came to a close, we hailed taxis and went on another driving adventure, this time to Nielsen. Although we had the address written out in Chinese, most of the taxi drivers didn't know how to get us there. Nielsen, by the way, is located on one of the major streets in Shanghai. The Lonely Planet travel guide for the city had warned about this; many drivers come from other regions and have little or no experience with the city itself. Thus travelers should know where they need to go and how to get there. A map is a necessity.

Once we made it to Nielsen, we were treated to a phenomenal presentation by Oliver Rust, a staff member who has worked in the Shanghai office for many years. His knowledge of the Chinese market was quite impressive, and he went into great detail about the changing demographics of the country and the impact of changing consumer behavior on marketing approaches by both international and domestic companies. The students asked a series of great questions, and Oliver graciously answered all of them. Nielsen gave each of us a nice pen and notebook set.

The group had the rest of the evening free to explore the city or to simply rest after a very long day of traveling and walking around Shanghai. Tomorrow we'll be doing more of the same.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday in Hangzhou, Wednesday in Shanghai

Our final day in Hangzhou started with an unexpected detour - Zhejiang's School of Management Dean Wang had to attend a contract signing ceremony and could not lecture on the topic of entrepreneurship as had been planned. So the group boarded the bus and traveled a short distance to the National Tea Museum, where they were able to walk the beautiful grounds and view the intriguing exhibit on the history of the region.

Some students participated in a traditional tea ceremony inside the museum's gift shop.

After the museum visit, the group traveled back to Zhejiang University for lunch at the cafeteria. Our students once again mingled with the Chinese students and continued to learn more about each other.

Then early in the afternoon both groups of students traveled to the headquarters of Wahaha, the largest beverage company in China and the fifth largest in the world. To start the tour, the company allowed the students to select one beverage from their vast arsenal to try. Next, the group headed to a massive conference room to watch a promotional video about the company's history and their future aspirations to move into emerging economic areas around the globe. Their primary motivation within China has been to directly compete with Coke and Pepsi in order to take a greater portion of the market share. Afterwards, the group walked through the company's museum to learn more about the strongly paternalistic relationship of the leadership with the workers and the strong collective mentality promoted. Workers in the recent past were married in a mass wedding ceremony, and the company has even flown groups of workers on vacation to exotic locales. To finish the visit, the group toured a bottling facility on the corporate grounds.

Finally, to close out the day, the group returned to the hotel. Our students spent their final evening and night in Hangzhou hanging out with their Chinese counterparts, experiencing what typical life is like for a Chinese college student.

Then early Wednesday morning, the group packed up, checked out of the Lakeview Hotel, and headed for Shanghai. After a two hour bus ride, the group arrived in the bustling city of over 20 million. Literally dumped off at the Bund to start the day, the students got to immediately see some of the most breathtaking parts of the city. After a brief walk down the famous Nanjing Road for lunch, it was on to Charms Hotel to check in. Soon the group will have a couple of very busy days visiting local companies and international companies with Shanghai offices.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday's visit to Wensli Silk

After enjoying lunch in the cafeteria at Zhejiang University, the group departed for Wensli, one of the few manufacturing industries that remains within the city of Hangzhou. The company, which produces silk, granted our students access to an old screening assembly line where silk cloth was imprinted with deep colored dyes.

The Kelley students took a group photo with the Zhejiang students in front of the primary Wensli building, and then all got to watch the image be imprinted on a piece of silk. At the end of visit the Wensli representatives graciously presented us the image of silk in a nice white frame.

The group also got to tour the company's apparel museum and visit the gift shop. Both included exquisite scarves, neck ties, bedding, jackets, and other housewares and clothing.