At Microsoft we were introduced to the general manager of legal affairs. He provided us with great insight into Microsoft's Asia pacific R&D group, which is headquartered in China. We learned that China houses the worlds second largest R&D market after the US. Microsoft’s R&D headquarters in Beijing consists of more than 2,000 employees. We were reminded throughout the presentation that Microsoft prides itself on innovation, and the Chinese innovative landscape is broken up into three components: made for China, made in China, and innovated in China.
It was extremely interesting to hear from Microsoft regarding the future of computing, which they broke into three buckets: smart devices (e.g., TV, phone, refrigerator), cloud services (e.g., Azure), and natural user interface (e.g., touch and voice products). The cloud services category is a very exciting up-and-coming industry. Microsoft competes against competitors in this industry, such as Amazon, by offering its Azure hybrid public cloud product to clients that wish to significantly reduce personnel and infrastructure costs associated with using only a private cloud.
After the meeting we were fortunate enough to be taken to the Microsoft new product development area. Here students could play Fruit Ninja, a Microsoft Xbox360 product. We also witnessed Microsoft’s innovative voice translation device, which was able to take one native tongue and translate it to be fully understood by foreign ears. This product will surely help bridge the gap in regard to how global business and communication will be done. Lastly, we were taken into Microsoft’s simulated home where Microsoft products controlled nearly every aspect electronically. Even the window shades could be drawn or raised with the spreading of both arms when standing in front of them! What a great experience this visit was.
At COFCO, we were introduced to Tang Hong, General Manager of the Import and Export Department. COFCO was founded in 1949 and is the largest diversified services supplier in agri-business and food industry.
We were told that there has been an increasing demand for imports in China because of decreases in tariffs, foreign exchange reserves increasing RMB appreciation, enhanced purchasing power, and expansion of consumer group. COFCO’s ability to capitalize on these factors has been driving the success of the firm over the years.
COFCO manufactures many tasty treats such as chocolate, gummy, jelly, and peanut products. In fact Mr. Hong was nice enough to provide us all with gift bags full of their gummy fruit-filled products! They were so delicious (my personal favorite had to be the strawberry—so refreshing).
At COFCO, we encountered our first experience in which the host did not speak fluent or conversational English. We saw first-hand the difficulties of trying to work with a translator, but more importantly, we witnessed how the speakers and our group adapted to the situation, and in the end we were able to overcome the verbal barriers and the presentation ended up being a great success.
Saturday, May 19
Brian Staudt, MBA '13
I gaze out my window looking down on Beijing, the smog an ever-present, encapsulates the city like an opaque blanket wrapped. I shake off the grogginess and make my way downstairs to breakfast and a day, which will include visits to Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace.
After a breakfast that tantalizes the taste buds with an east-meets-west amalgamate of traditional staples of the two cultures, we board the bus for the short ride to Tiananmen Square. The sheer amount of people in the square is mind-blowing. Thankfully our guide, Bin, prominently displays a stuffed SpongeBob SquarePants tethered to a metal pole above the crowd to serve as a beacon guiding us through this bedlam. As we walk below the red and yellow flag of China, one cannot help but be enthralled by the historical significance of the hallowed ground upon which we stand.
As we make our way north to the Forbidden City the portrait of Chairman Mao becomes a more prominent feature of our sight line. His unwavering stare serves as a reminder that although the flame of his mortality may have been extinguished, the fire of his spirit remains strongly ablaze in the culture of the capital city.
Upon walking through the gates, knowledge that this palace once held a population of over 9,000 eunuchs, concubines, guards, servants, and the emperor himself seems rather trivial when juxtaposed with the hordes of international tourists presently gallivanting their way through the palace. The size and grandeur of the buildings, however, can simply not be ignored.
The afternoon agenda consists of a visit to the Summer Palace created by the emperor Wanyan Liang during the Jin Dynasty. It is hot as we reach the palace, but we proceed to take the voyage across Kunming Lake in order to reach our destination. Upon conclusion of the voyage we spend time observing the various structures located around the Summer Palace, marveling at the architectural allure and awestricken with the historical significance.
We make the return cruise back across Kunming Lake, our energy levels collectively expensed after a day of gorging on the cultural offerings of Beijing.
Saturday, May 19
Venkat Raj Sathavalli, MBA '13
In my experience of traveling abroad, there’s no better way to experience a culture than through its locals. We were extremely fortunate to have met Max Klein, the son of Prof. Jill Klein, who initiated this experience for us. Having been in Beijing for the past 4 years, I soon realized how in sync he was with how a foreigner could survive in a culture so alien! I have eaten a lot of dumplings in my time but never in a million years would I have trusted a hole in the wall on a random street in Beijing to serve us the kind of experience it did. For just over $8 we had an unlimited supply of dumplings and beer. I would go back there in a heartbeat!
Dumplings aside, the experience was more enriching as we got to interact with not just Max, but also his friends who now live in China. Talking to them about their experiences was an eye opener and it became pretty clear how language was a key to enter and do business successfully in this country. We literally took half an hour just to pronounce a Chinese name right! Max and his friends are now celebrities with their pictures on the wall—hopefully our group will have one too for future AU students to see. By far one of the best nights of our trip!
We topped it off by heading to Q bar, which was a rooftop bar that was frequented by Expats. Again thanks to Max, it was one of the unique moments on our trip where we didn't feel like we were in China. Surrounded by foreigners who have now made China their home, I was sort of inspired to take the plunge and think of working in Beijing one day.
Sunday, May 20
Venkat Raj Sathavalli, MBA '13
The moment we'd all been waiting for. As I woke up, I had to remind myself of where I was and what I was going to see. After all it’s not every day that you get to see the Great Wall of China! The excitement and anticipation was feverish and all of us couldn't wait to get a glimpse of one of the only manmade structures that can be seen from space.
After an hour-plus bus ride we made it, and it’s safe to say that it exceeded all our expectations. I am proud to say that I have climbed the Great Wall of China! But only after sweating and panting, did I realize that a certain amount of physical fitness was required in order to avoid passing out! Our toboggan ride down made up for it as we flew down the slides at crazy speeds! Some of us bought souvenirs while others of us relished egg pancakes that were available street side. I hope to visit with my family/friends one day and share the experience again with them.
Hong Jiao Market is a five-story building that will absolutely overwhelm you. Depending on your budget you can buy the most expensive of pearls or really cheap ones (I mean who can tell the difference, right?) whether it be a resplendent necklace, gorgeous earrings, or just a simple elegant ring. But that’s not all, after two floors of pearls both real and fake, next up is handbags. Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Burberry, Coach: you name it, they had it. A floor further and you come across footwear along with belts. I knew you'd get fake stuff in China, but the length and scale of what I witnessed was astounding. Small little stores clustered up against each other with sellers trying to entice you in. At one stage they get so physical that they literally pulled my arm in if showed some signs of interest. A pair of blinders would definitely have come in handy!
What really dumbfounded me on the last and final floor was an iPhone 4S being sold for $64. I kid you not; the phone looked and operated the same. The range of electronics was mindboggling—they had everything from cameras to iPads at one-tenth the cost. But we all know about 'Made in China'!
There was no better way to end the day than with a foot massage! This was a Made in China choice I'd buy with my eyes closed!
Monday, May 21
Roy Ketchum, MBA '13
Being in Beijing, I discovered how Chinese businesspeople are starting new businesses and expanding existing ones. Omate is one example of how a Beijing-based telecommunications equipment company is taking advantage of the growth in public transportation and infrastructure in China. Omate’s close relationship with the government, which is usually called guanxis in China, has helped the 10-year-old company to reach nearly $ 70 million in annual sales revenues. Today, about 70 percent of the largest Chinese subway systems use Omate’s digital video camera networks. However, Omate is still a very informal organization and the office gives you the ambience of a start-up company. Once you are in the Omate office, the first thing you see is a table tennis set-up in the middle of the office.
After the first company visit, we went to a local Chinese restaurant and experienced the important value of meals for Chinese families. When we reached the restaurant, we were seated in a private room. Professor Klein commented to the group that having lunch in a private room is a very important honor for Chinese families.
Our last visit was Li-ning, which it is a successful Chinese sport apparel clothing company. Li-ning has a modern campus with state-of-the-art facilities that include soccer fields, basketball courts, gyms, and coffee shops. At the entrance of the campus, you can see a big sculpture of the gymnast “Li-Ning” doing the scissors. The tour guide shared with us told us that the Li-Ning logo is based on this sculpture. The Lin-Ning campus offers a racetrack in the middle of the offices, so when employees start to feel stress they just can run to gain some energy. The Chinese brand has more than 8,200 stores in Mainland China and the management team shared with us Li-Ning’s future plans. So, maybe in the future you’ll pick up a Li-ning shoe instead of a Nike or an Adidas one.