Qatar Study Trip – Day 6 – Final Day

Friday was the last day of our Study Trip. After a week full of different experiences and interesting presentations, we had the option to do a voluntary Safari Tour through the desert located in the south-west of Qatar. This tour took place in the afternoon while the morning was spent on an individual basis varying from a shopping tour in the Souq Waqif, working out in the gym or simply relaxing in the Jacuzzi.

30 out of 32 students joined the astonishing activity in the desert. We were picked up in off-road vehicles by drivers who were wearing a traditional long white robe with long sleeves called “Thobe” or “Dishdasha”. In fact, this has made our experience more authentic and enjoyable.

After a 40 minutes ride, we arrived at the desert where we took a 10 minutes break in order to deflate the air pressure of the wheels by approximately 30%, which lead to better conditions to drive on sand. We took advantage of this short stop by taking first pictures in the desert, where we had the option to ride camels and to hold a falcon. For most of us, standing in the desert was a first-time experience making it even more special.

Once the vehicles were set, we were good to go. In the beginning of the safari, none of us did know what to expect. It was highly recommended to fasten the seat belts and store the belongings in a safe place. The following few hours of the afternoon were very pleasurable and beyond words. We were driving up and down dunes which got the adrenalin flowing. Although some drivers claimed that the ride could be dizzying, we proved to be quite brave and venturesome. We encouraged the drivers to drive faster and take more risks, however, they stayed duteous and put safety first.

The Safari Tour included several stops to enjoy breathtaking views and to take pictures. One of them was at the Qatari West Coast, from where we could see the Saudi Arabian coast. This spot seemed to be a proper place for fishing, since there were a couple of fishing rods. At the second stop, we enjoyed a short show of the drivers including stunts on the sand hill. Later on we drove to a flat area, where we could enjoy the sunset. Watching how the sun fused with the desert was an outstanding experience. The view we had in the middle of the desert was astonishing. Thereafter, the drivers encouraged us to run down a dune, which has filled our shoes with sand.

To conclude, it was a very exciting event to round off the study trip. We highly recommend everyone to experience Qatar, if the chance will occur. In the name of all the students, we would like to thank Mr. Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, Dr. Michael Kendzia, Mrs. Maya Gagdil, the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and the representators of the organizations we visited for their efforts and dedication organizing such an unforgettable week.

Authors:

Ruby Jabasini
Mohamed-Ibrahim Mohammed
Nesil Caynak
Thomas Burger

 

Qatar Study Trip – Day 5

The last day of company visits started with overcast weather, as we met at 08:15 in the lobby to commence the day’s program. With visits to ABB and Silatech, as well as a tour of the Museum of Islamic Art, an interesting day was upon us.

ABB – Swiss powerhouse in the Middle East
We were welcomed to ABB’s offices by Erika, the HR Manager of the Qatari branch. After a thorough security briefing in case of an emergency, we all felt safe and ready for the presentation. Erika started by giving us an extensive introduction to Qatar, it’s religion, culture, traditions, and economy. ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies, particularly stresses the importance of having a high turnaround of innovation in order to be successful in their industry. The Qatari branch currently employs roughly 180 people from 27 different nationalities, which mainly functions as a service centre. They supply to various contractors of large infrastructure projects as well as the oil & gas industry. Lastly, the company places great importance on their company culture and business ethics, which is regulated by their code of conduct.

Once the presentation came to an end, the group was kindly presented with gifts and a lunch box, which was so generously filled that in some cases it couldn’t withstand the heavy load. Thanks to the great organization of the group in charge, everybody had plenty of time to have lunch and explore the Gate Mall. At 12:50, the program continued with a visit to Silatech, which has its offices situated inside the mall’s towers.

Silatech – Connecting youth with job opportunities
The mission of the 2008 founded NGO is to help connect the Arab youth with job opportunities. The company operates out of Doha to serve the Arab world and is present in 16 different countries. Through partnerships they create various programs with the aim of assisting young people in finding a job most suitable to their capabilities. Thanks to Silatech, more than 300’000 young people have found work so far. After a very interesting Q&A session and some tasty snacks and refreshments, we were honored to meet the company’s CEO, Ms. Sabah Ismail Al Haidoos, who presented the group with a token of appreciation in the form of a beautiful trophy.

After our last trip back to Mövenpick Hotel with our designated buses, we celebrated and thanked our very friendly and reliable bus drivers one last time, which was an emotional moment for all. Before the evening program, the time off was used to either work out, recover, or enjoy the spa facilities.

Voluntary activity – Museum of Islamic Art
Due to bad weather conditions, the group was forced to go to the museum by bus rather than taking the boat across the bay. Apart from hosting various interesting exhibitions on Islamic art, the museum itself is worth seeing for its unique architecture and surroundings. What made the visit even more worthwhile, was that Mr. Dia-Eddine offered to share his extensive knowledge and guide the group through the museum. To round off the tour, the museum has a popular terrace which allowed us to take great pictures of Doha’s Skyline.

To complete an eventful day, the majority of the group celebrated the beginning of the weekend by attending a local full-moon beach party at the Hilton Hotel.

Written by:
Fabio Vettiger
Carlo Ammann
Joshua Turnbull
Timothée Grunder

Qatar Study Trip – Day 4

Once again, our local hero and arguably Qatar’s best bus driver a.k.a. “Bus man” effortlessly brought us to our first destination of the day, the Sidra Hospital. The newly opened research facility is a relatively small part of the total project, meaning that the vast majority of the hospital is not operational yet. Upon arrival, we were very warmly received by some of the hospital staff. Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Ferguson, and Chief of Staff, Mr. Dominic Harris, were responsible for explaining into great detail what the hospital will be capable of in the future. Some of the key challenges they currently face are issues relating to obesity and related illnesses. The number of people that already suffer from these associated illnesses is already considered dangerously high compared to the world average and is projected to grow to truly alarming heights in the near future. Consequently, many of the strategic health objectives are being adjusted to accommodate the future health needs of Qatar’s citizens. The goal of the Sidra Hospital is to educate the people about the implications of an unhealthy lifestyle, thus transitioning from a reactive healthcare system to a proactive one. Dr John Ferguson also proudly mentioned that the Sidra Hospital will be the first (almost) all-digital academic medical centre which will set new standards in patient care for women and children and will ultimately serve as a medical hub for the GCC area.

Dr Deepak Kaura, chief radiology and entrepreneur in healthcare management, gave us an insight on how Sidra is reshaping the healthcare environment, by introducing innovation creativity into their processes and daily routines. The Sidra Hospital has implemented a unique platform for all its workers that empowers them to voice their innovative ideas, often leading to practical and cost effective solutions. The paediatrics department also offers a range of high-tech machinery such as a 3D diagnostic imaging printer, used for training purposes amongst other things.

What surprised most of us, is the sheer amount of external support not only in terms of investments, but equally in terms of the shared vision to create a world class healthcare system for all of Qatar’s citizens. This is clearly in line with and driven by Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

After a short lunch break we headed straight to the training centre of Qatar Airways attached to Hamad International Airport. We were received by a Finnish and an American manager responsible for the corporate strategy. They provided us with facts and figures of the industry as well as the company itself. Hence, here we want point out the one we found most interesting. Firstly, the managers underlined that most of the airlines industry is explained through geography, technology, infrastructure and other external factors, such as events. Furthermore, the Hamad International Airport is one of the few five stars’ airports providing state of the art facilities making it possible to transit from one airplane into another within only thirty minutes.

When it comes to the company itself, their pace of growth clearly stands out – in only 11 years they managed to increase from 41 to 192 aircrafts and are thus the fastest growing air company. Qatar Airlines is always investing in the latest technologies and new fleets. When purchasing new fleets the company faces the challenge of the internal design, meaning they need to decide how many business respectively economy seats they should offer and in which order. To put this in context, we want to highlight the immense costs that are faced in that industry. For example, a flight from Doha to London costs approximately 150’000 USD.

In order to manage a company in such a complex industry, a large number of well-qualified staff is needed. Thus, the company comprises a multicultural workforce with over 150 nationalities amounting to a total number of 24’000 staff members. In this regard, one of the managers stated that a fleet is not only a transport system but a plane full of opportunities that can only be met by working together.

The entire Qatar Airways Group consists of Qatar Airways as well as a Privilege Club, Qatar Duty Free, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Distribution Company and Qatar Cargo amongst others. This reflects the complexity and different aspects that need to be considered within the airline industry. Each member helps supporting the others through cross-financing. For instance, expensive cargo flights enable the group to provide cheaper commercial ticket fares. The Qatar Cargo is the third largest international cargo carrier in the world, only after the Emirates and Cathay Pacific. For example, one of their Boeing Aircrafts has a cargo capacity of 100’000kg, which can fit up to 11 cars or 75 horses each flight.

After soaking up all these interesting facts, we had to rush to our next visit. Luckily, we made it on time to our appointment with Thomas Wasshuber, Managing Director of the Swiss company Habegger, that we were all awaiting since meeting him earlier this week. Clearly, our expectations were exceeded and we had the chance to peak into a state-of-the-art information pavilion. We were highly impressed by futuristic exhibition of the FIFA coming up in 2022 and taking place in and around Doha.

Written by:
Nadia Kagi
Alexander Locher
Justin Dijkstra
Lena Götsch
Theresa Annen
Anna Lorena Orantes

Qatar Study Trip – Day 3

Hamad Port – The gateway to Qatar’s future.

Today was the earliest morning of the week. Meeting point was at 7.45am in the hotel lobby. After most of us enjoyed a delightful breakfast in the hotel, we were to able to have a little nap on the bus heading to Hamad Port Project, which will be the new main port of Qatar.  The construction of the port commenced in 2011 and started operations in 2016. However the project will only be completed by 2018.

The new port project is a state of the art mega project consisting of three parts.

  1. Hamad Port
  2. Qatar Emiri Naval Forces Base
  3. Economic Zone 3- Canal

All of the above mentioned works are in line with Qatar’s National Vision 2030 and the project aims to make Qatar a regional hub for sea cargo.

Overview of Hamad Port including the Naval Base

Upon arrival we were greeted by the projects consultant, environmental manager, the legal advisor and the client manager of the project. We were given in brief introduction of the new port project and how it is constructed and coordinated.

Following their presentation and an interactive Q&A session we were driven around site, were we able to view the huge cranes that can lift up to a 100 tones and the newly created basin.

Our group is viewing the basin and the mega cranes

Manateq

After being stuck in traffic for an hour we were forced to consume our lunch in a quick 30minutes break – literally fast food. Once we finished lunch and arrived at the meeting one hour later than planned, we were warmly greeted by the business development manager of Manateq.

Manateq is the developer of the three economic zones in Qatar. The company provides infrastructure and the company develops and operates economic zones and logistic parks that aim to diversify Qatar’s economy. Manateq pursues the Qatari National Vision 2030 towards social and economic development.

After an in depth presentation and taking a group picture we returned to the hotel to take a short rest before starting the second part of the day’s program.

Group picture with Manateq’s Business Development Manager in the middle, next to Mr. Dia-Eddine and Mr. Kendzia

Gathering with Swiss companies at Grand Hyatt/ Dinner with H.E the ambassador of Switzerland to Qatar.

At 17:45 we departed for the Grand Hyatt Hotel where we were invited for a drinks and we had the chance to network with Swiss expats running businesses in Doha. A number of high profile people were also attending, including senior management of a large Qatari jewellery company, Qatar’s Commercial Bank and the local subsidiary of Holcim.

After drinking some wine and smoking some cigars we were taken to have dinner with H.E. the ambassador of Switzerland to Qatar.  We were served traditional Arab food and entertained by a local music trio. After many interesting discussions with the ambassador, his wife and other invitees, we concluded a successful day in the warm weather of Doha.

Mr. Dia-Eddine offers ZHAW gifts to the Swiss Ambassador

 

Authors:

Sandy Tran
Ramona Moser
Kristina Milojkovic
Michelle Hofmann
Jeremy Kravetz
Florian Paschka

 

 

Qatar Study Trip – Day 2

Qatar University

After having an excellent breakfast at our hotel, we left at 8:45am to the Qatar University.

The representatives from the Qatar University introduced us to their university systems and explained us that during the undergraduate programs the school follows a strict gender segregation rule. However, a surprising fact was that approximately 60% of the enrolled students are female. Consequently, in Qatar’s business environment women have many job opportunities and hold important roles within companies. After the introduction, the associate dean of the law department explained us how the law is being practised in Qatar. Their law system is based on the civil law, as in Switzerland, and on the Islamic Sharia. Concluding the visit at the university, an international expert in entrepreneurship who has spent 4 years in Doha illustrated the opportunities and challenges to create businesses in Qatar. Furthermore, he explained that Qatar has an unemployment rate of 0.5% and that most graduates are not willing to start their own business since they can receive high entry salaries. Consequently, the entrepreneurial spirit has to be promoted in order to encourage the students to found innovative start-ups and take the risks to fulfil the potential in Qatar’s markets.

Due to our active participation in the morning we had to skip lunch and went straight back to the hotel.

Habegger Productions LLC

After having seen the theoretical approach at Qatar University on how to do business in Qatar we were lucky enough to enjoy a company presentation from Habegger LLC. This is a Swiss company operating in the event business. Coming from concerts, visitor centres and exhibition booths to festivals, Habegger has high quality tailor made services for any kind of client. They operate worldwide from 4 administrative offices located in Zurich, Berne, Vienna and Qatar. The last one in Qatar has been opened in the year 2006. After a pull-out in 2008 due to the economic crisis they reentered the market.

Habegger group re-entered with the perception that due to Qatar’s immensely high GDP and steadily growing economy, demand would be overwhelming. However, they had to deal with huge cultural differences and hence had to overcome challenging burdens. Lessons learned include that Qatari people’s decision making highly depends on their emotions. Pictures, videos or showing what the company actually has achieved so far is crucial and connected to huge amount of unpaid effort. Filtering out requests that actually are meant seriously (and not cancelled the next day) provided a difficult challenge. Also are there regulations that restrict doing business in Qatar such as the rule that 51 percent of shares of a company on Qatari soil needs to be owned by a Qatari citizen. Therefore, trust among business partners is a necessity. Mr. Thomas Wasshuber, the country manager of Habegger Qatar, clearly emphasized this point. The issues with regards to cultural differences are reflected in their decision to restrict their operations to projects with international clients. However, with their high quality and sophisticated state of the art solutions they were able to gain a relevant market share and win important tenders. Therefore, they managed to get famous and renowned references in Qatar.

Especially are they proud to execute many projects in the sporting area. The soccer World Cup of 2022 takes a big share of their work and delivers many projects of very large scale. Recently they finished their largest project, a FIFA pavillon that serves as an exhibition for the FIFA World Cup. If everything works out, we will be invited for an exquisite pre-opening tour on Wednesday afternoon.

Islamic Cultural Center

In the evening, we headed to the Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center were we received a warm welcome with tea and a brief practical demonstration of the Islamic culture. The guide taught us some basic Arabic language and gave a good insight into their everyday-life.

Proceeding, we were shown two videos, one of which was about Qatar’s history, development, culture, life and people in general. The second video was about DNA and basically provided one main message: we are all related in some way, we are all equal. With this, we were introduced to the roots of the Islamic religion. We were given a very thorough explanation of the Islamic culture and really managed to open our minds by giving a critical view and counterattacking while answering our questions. The Islamic belief has the same roots as most religion, which means we all believe in the same god. Stereotypes and terroristic practices definitely lead back to a lack of education and misinterpretation of the Quran.

As we were right on time for Salatul Janazah, the last prayer of the day, the group split into female and male to participate in the praying. Girls had to wear an abaya and had to witness the happening from a separate female praying room. The lady explained the basic practices and behaviour of the praying practices.

After that, we were free for the evening. As the Cultural Center was located very close to the Souq Waqif, we all ended the evening there.

Qatar Study Trip – Day 1

Today was the first day of our Study Trip to Qatar. For us this Sunday was very busy but in Qatar the professional week starts on Sunday and goes until Thursday. We met early in the morning to go to the Commercial Bank which is the first Private Qatari Bank founded in 1975 and offers a range of products and services across retail and corporate banking divisions. There we met the Deputy CEO who gave us an introduction which was followed by speeches of his co-workers giving us a deeper insight into the history of the Commercial Bank, the new banking regulations in the world and in Qatar and the rise of digitalisation in the banking sector. Lastly, two fresh graduates who joined the Commercial Bank recently, described to us what it means for them to work there.

Following the meeting at the Bank we took the bus and went to see the Qatar Foundation. It is a private non-profit organisation that serves the people of Qatar by supporting and operating programs in three core mission areas: education, science and research, and community development. There we also had the chance to have a look at Doha from above and all the Universities that the Qatar Foundation cooperates with.
Additionally, we were introduced to the variety of higher education provided in Qatar by universities from all over the world, having a campus in Doha. It was made clear how important the network is to Doha and how they profit from each other.

A sub-division of the Qatar Foundation is the Qatar Science & Technology Park, which has several functions. First it is a working space and “free zone”, which is a opportunity to build a company in Qatar without certain regulations that are companies normally obliged to. Second it is an incubator for tech start-ups. Lastly it is as well a free trade zone within Qatar.

We were able to attend a rather technical speech about the R&D efforts made by Shell in Qatar and as well were allowed to visit the lab and a test field.

In the evening and after a very interesting day full of impressions and different companies, we drove back to the hotel rather exhausted but happy. The evening was free time, which was used to go out and find local food, bars and bonding some more.

It’s time to wrap it up

Having learned numerous facts and figures about the emerging markets theoretically during the previous semester, 26 students and two lecturers from the ZHAW had the opportunity to get a live insight to China’s and Vietnam’s economy, culture and their way of doing business within the fast moving environment. This sounds like an easy trip – doesn’t it? In fact, it wasn’t – the schedule was thought though! Within two weeks, the group headed from Shanghai to Xi’an, followed by Hong Kong, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. During each short stay we were welcomed by 11 companies (i.e. UBS, Schindler, Huber + Suhner, IBM, etc.), which introduced us to their business and gave us a clearer understanding about the emerging markets and its behaviour.

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Alongside the company visits, a glimpse into the university life of Shanghai (Jiao Tong University) and Ho Chi Minh City (TDT University) was a welcome change for the ZHAW delegation and did show how the educational system in Asian works.

Moreover, also the Swissnex Shanghai and the Swiss Embassy in Hanoi warmly welcomed us and presented their role within China and Vietnam.

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Next to all the formal visits, the group enjoyed a few days to embrace the Chinese and Vietnamese culture, exploring the terracotta army, the region of Sapa with it’s rice fields and the stunning area of the Mekong Delta with it’s moving history.

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While getting to know the importance of emerging markets in Asia throughout the semester, the whole group built up a lot of expectations. And it can be said that this trip met all the expectations to it’s fullest! China being the strongest economic power in the world in term of its GDP based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) – couldn’t have been more mind blowing. The fast changing environment, its annual growth, the hard working people and the skyscrapers were fascinating for all of us. Especially, seeing a huge middle class arising in China is impressive. But some discussions with very opened-minded Chinese people gave us a glimpse behind the scenes of all that glory. China is going to face some serious challenges within the next decades. Sustainability, middle income trap, innovation, education system, going from a production county to a innovation driven country are only a few keywords to be mentioned here. The central Chinese government will definitely won’t get a boreout within the nearer future – this can surely being stated after this trip.

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After a stunning time in China the group couldn’t wait to experience Vietnam with it’s arising economy and historical heritage. Besides the people’s kindness we were truly impressed by the economic boost Vietnam went trough the past few years. With an average growth around 6% this country is definitely catching up! It is surely to be mentioned, that the north of Vietnam with the capital Hanoi tends to be more traditional than the economic centre Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Having heard from the different company visits that the main market advantage seems to be low wages, it can be said that the Vietnamese government needs to push the country and it’s economy to overcome the low wages and create more market advantages to attract companies after a unpreventable rise of the labour costs.

Having seen the size of Chinas and Vietnams economic power as two big players in Asia, we can better understand the way of doing business in or with Asia and are more familiar with their way of living. It is for sure, that the biggest part of the group will get to work with Asia in their future career and specially for this purpose it is essentially important to get a first impression of how the business in Asia rules. In a nutshell, the field trip 2016 was a huge success and a life enriching experience for all the students to whom the opportunity was given to participate on this adventure.

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A big Thank You! goes to Mr. Markus Braun and Mr. Wei Sun who had been working really hard to make this field trip 2016 become reality! And last but not least, we would like to thank all the students who had contributed to this trip in one way or an other! For future participants, we can highly recommend to attend this module. Even though the days were long and though, it was more than worthwhile.

Best wishes,

Fabio von Arx                      Tim Schmid
COO                                    CEO

Mekong Delta – Goodbye my friends!

After a short night of sleep we had to get up early to catch the bus to the Mekong Delta. Our departure was delayed by a few minutes because of an issues with the Air Conditioning. Our tour guide promised to get there save and sound without any further issues. A promise he could not keep. Anyway, the almost 2 hour ride was highly appreciated and almost everyone slept through.

Our first stop was the Cu Chi Tunnel visitor complex. The tunnels of Cu Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels which were being used during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The Relics of the 120km Cu Chi Tunnel complex are being located 70km in the North-West of Ho Chi Minh City Centre. Thanh, our tour guide showed us through the complex with its tunnel entrances, traps and buildings. He also gave us some great insights into the history of the Vietnam War which were very impressive.

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However, the highlight of the tour was the walk/crouch through the Tunnels. We were able to choose between the distances of 20 meter, 40 meter and 60 meter. The maturity choose the shortest way, only some brave students and Mr. Braun went over the full distance of 60 meter. Originally the tunnel were half as big as they are now for tourists. Nevertheless we found it already quite narrow. After the long tour everybody expected to have lunch at the venue. Unfortunately we had another 3 hour bus ride ahead of us. So we were pleased with a short snack break.

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As we entered the bus for our next stop we were told that the AC of our bus has broken down definitely. We had to drive 40 minutes before we could exchange our broken bus with a “new” one. Around 3pm we finally arrived to have our belated lunch. The long wait was definitely worth it. The diverse food was very delicious and delightful.

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Our next stop was a harbor close to the restaurant where we started a boat tour on the Mekong delta river. In the middle of the tour we stopped and visited a local family, saw some crocodiles, had a snack and some brave students even took a shot which was preserved with snakes and indefinable animals. The end of the river tour was a short ride in a horse carriage. Back on the main boat we had a refreshing coconut juice while we headed back to our bus.

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After saying good bye to 3 of us we hit the road to our last and final stop which was Can Tho. The bus ride was quite long and everyone was tired from the eventful and exhausting day. Finally we arrived in Can Tho around 10pm.

After a quick refreshment we headed to a restaurant were we had a last dinner as a group. The people at the restaurant did not speak English at all. Fortunately our student Anh Dung was able to communicate and translate. After dinner some students could not resist to take a swim in the hotel pool.

After a more or less long night of sleep the group had to catch the bus at 6.30 to visit the floating market. The ride to the pier took only 5 to 10 minutes were we switch to a boat. At the floating market Mr. Braun was kind enough to offer coffee for all of us. Furthermore we visited a local family, a rice factory and we were able to buy a variety of fresh and delicious fruits. The visit of the floating markets was a memorial experience and a great end of our field trip.

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Back at the hotel we packed our belongings and gathered at the lobby at 10.30 for the official ending of the Field Trip. As the group has become really close, it was not easy to say goodbye.

In words of our tour guide: Goodbye my Friends!

Ho Chi Minh City 2 – Save The Best For Last

For the last day we arranged three visits, which meant, that we had to stick to our tight schedule for the day. Having left the hotel on time, we arrived at the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) after an hour bus drive. We were warmly welcomed by Mr. Binh who is part of the marketing division team of VSIP.

The visit started with Mr. Binh showing us the showroom of the VSIP and giving us some information and facts about the history of the VSIP. The VSIP was established as a Joint Venture between Becamex and Sembcorp. Becamex is a Vietnamese state owned company and Sembcomp is led by a Singapore consorcium. After learning some key facts about the seven Industrial Parks all over Vietnam we headed to the meeting room, where Mr. Binh gave us a better understanding of the strategy and the state of development for all of the Industrial Parks.

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The VSIP tries to attract companies with tax incentives. The VSIP in Bonh Duong, which we visited, is  already housing over 200 companies. After visiting the High Tech Industrial Park in Xi’an it was interesting to see a more developed Industrial Park in terms of company-acquisition. It was surprising, that VSIP accommodates only 13% of western companies, whereas we learned in the last 2 weeks that more and more companies prefer Vietnam over China because of the lower labor cost.

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After the presentation we had to get on the bus quickly. Our next stop was the TDT University which was located on the other side of the city. Having arrived a little bit too early on the Campus we were warmly welcomed by Ms. Ngyuen and Prof. Pham director of the banking and finance faculty. They directed us to a dining area, where we had a great lunch organized by the University. Strengthened from lunch and coffee we headed out on a tour around the campus. It was unbelievable how big the campus really is. It even has it own streets and a football stadium with a capacity of over 7000 people. The highlight of the campus tour was a visit in the huge indoor hall of the TDT University. Fortunately for us, a welcome-party of the freshman was taking place. We were asked to have a a seat on the stand and got announced by the host of this event. The crowd was on fire because of the appearance of the European guests and we were stunned from the sheer excitement of the freshmen. The host of the event adapted very quickly to the situation and called us on stage to play a dancing game with the freshmen. Although nobody understood the rules of the game it seemed like everybody had a lot of fun.

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As we left the freshmen introduction we found our way back to the university buildings, were several volunteers had prepared a presentation. The international volunteer students started their presentation and told us something about the campus and the student life at the TDT University. Another presentation was hold by a student of TDT University. We learned something about the young banking and finance faculty as well as how business in Vietnam takes place. Now it was our turn to get on stage. Our students Fabian Brändle and Phillip Manser gave an insight of Swiss-Banking. After an interesting Q&A session, Anh Dung Phan attempt the stage to say thank you in Vietnamese. He probably overrated his language skills in the opinion of Prof. Pham. We suggest that he works on his languages skills before coming back for another visit 😉

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The last and final company visit of our study trip was Dan & Dan, which is a Joint Venture of Andy Mannhart. We were warmly welcomed by Mr. Dan and his family. He showed us his show room which expanded on three floors where he gave us some interesting information about his products and how it is to do business in Vietnam. Due to the bad weather, we were not able to get on the roof garden of the building. An alternative was found in the building next to the showroom which provided a bit more space for all of us. Mr. Dan was very kind and open minded regarding the Q&A session with us. We learned a lot about doing business in Vietnam and the evolution of Dan & Dan as well as his upcoming expansion plans.

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The Q&A Session with Mr. Dan was highly interesting and interactive, but the highlight of the visit was the dinner Mr. Dan invited us to. Even if we had some problems getting to restaurant because of a bus breakdown – probably because of the great short cut we took on the way to Dan & Dan – the mood was great within the group. Mr. Dan was so kind and arranged a restaurant nearby, ordered the food and told us some interesting stories. After dinner we unfortunately had to wrap up the visit with Mr. Dan and his daughter, as we had other plans for the night.

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Equipped with a new bus we headed back to the hotel. After realizing that we finished our last company visit, the whole group switched quickly in party mood. Our student Christian turned into DJ Capelli. He took the microphone and played some music while holding the phone next to it. Everyone was singing and cheering to pretty embarrassing music. Our guide Thanh probably never experienced such an orchestra in his bus before.

After a short break to pack and prepare for the next days in the Mekong delta, everyone headed out to the pub crawl. We warmly welcomed Mr. Braun and Wei in our little group who were keen enough to join us for some party time. After a short walk we arrived at the bar “Lost in Saigon” were the pub crawl had its origin. We stayed for a solid our and enjoyed free beer and the occasional shoot. Everybody had a good time and was ready to march out. Pup after Pub we found our way through the Ho Chi Minh City nightlife, a worthy and eventful ending of our field trip.

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Ho Chi Minh City 1 – South Vietnam

After some relaxing days in the very north of Vietnam, we transferred to Ho Chi Minh City, which is located in the south of the country. The mild and much more comfortable climate in the south is a nice change to the otherwise steamy and hot climate in Hanoi and was much appreciated by the whole group. The former capital, previously known as Sài Gòn, is home to 7.1 Mio people. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the economic hub of Vietnam and home to many international companies. (Nowadays, it is the economical heart of the country, where many international companies branched out). Apart from the city center, Ho Chi Minh City has a dominant rural structure, comparable to a densely populated province. As we made our way from the airport to our hotel, the countless motor scooters caught our attention. Furthermore, the busy streets with its many shops and restaurants and vibrant lifestyle was a lasting experience.
Saigon Aerial Night Skyline

For the two upcoming days in Vietnam’s biggest city, we were confronted with a tightly packed schedule. The first day started at 7:30 AM with a delicious breakfast in our hotel Lan Lan 1, before we headed out to the first company visit at the IBM innovation center in Ho Chi Minh.

IBM Innovation Center

After a short bus drive we arrived right on time to meet Mr. Luu, who is a Senior Client Manager at IBM Vietnam. After a warm welcome from Mrs. Trang and Mr. Luu the presentation started. Mr. Luu introduced the schedule of the presentation and gave us the opportunity to state our interest and suggest additional topics. After a short introduction from Mr. Luu, Doctor Braun provided an introduction with some facts and figures about ZHAW as well as the purpose of our visit. Mr. Luu started with a company introduction, where he pointed out the strong market position and worldwide size of IBM. Additionally, he presented the core services of IBM, which are IT Infrastructure and many diverted IT consulting services.

During the second part of the presentation we got some insights into the strategy of IBM, which is mainly based on Mobile, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things and Social networks. A good addition were the facts about IBM’s business in Vietnam and its close cooperation with the government. The software business of IBM highly relies on creative solutions; which IBM obtains at so called hackatons where they team up with local Start Ups to create new applications and ideas. Another key topic was the well-known artificial intelligence technology, IBM Watson. Mr. Luu indicated the tremendous potential of this technology in terms of big data and machine learning technology. The presentation of Watson was rounded up with an interesting video about a possible use case of Watson combined with a Japanese robot. The video can be found below.

At lunchtime the group went back to the city center to enjoy individual lunches. Some of the students enjoyed local street food while others took a break from the Asian cuisine with a solid western meal.

Schindler Training Center

Strengthened from the extended lunchbreak, the group gathered at the hotel lobby to go on their way towards Schindler’s training facilities. After a short bus ride through the city center, we arrived at the very modern and recently built training center. We got a warm welcome from Raja, a very experienced technician from India, who manages the Schindler training center. After a short introduction from our side and a brief discussion about the purpose of our visit, Raja started the tour with the promise to make it understandable for non-technicians. Raja’s experience and knowledge of the Schindler products was very impressive and gave us a good understanding on how Schindler elevators operate. Although, Raja was coming from a technical background he was still able to answer many business and market related question about Vietnam.

Schindler Vietnam has over 450 employees and offers more than 20 different training courses for its local partners. The training facility has a capacity to educate more than 2800 technicians annually. The trainings range from simple mechanical troubleshooting up to software updates and programming.

The visit at Schindler lasted a little more than an hour and soon we made our way back to the hotel. During the ride through the busy streets our local guide suggested a traditional Vietnamese restaurant next to our hotel, which became especially popular among the students after some heavy and intense rain. After some free time, almost the whole group went to the suggested restaurant. A short stroll later the size of our group proofed to be a real challenge for the restaurant team, which had some issues during ordering and serving. The slightly longer waiting time was quickly forgotten as the staff presented a wide range of delicious Vietnamese specialties and some refreshing Saigon beers.

Still tired from the long trip and travelling, the day ended early and most of us went to bed early.