The ZHAW School of Management and Law organizes an annual study trip to China and Vietnam. This year, the trip could not be carried out due to the Corona pandemic. In the alternative program, experts from Asia and Switzerland held online lectures via video link for the ZHAW students. Two groups of students produced vlogs on the Swiss pharmaceutical industry and the textile and garment industry. The key research questions focus on the business relationships and supply chains between Switzerland, China and Vietnam. The experts explain the profound and long-lasting changes which the pandemic imposed on supply chains in these industries.
ZHAW School of Management and Law organizes an annual study trip to China and Vietnam. 25 SML students visit subsidiaries of Swiss companies in Asia and learn first-hand about international business relations. This year the trip could not be carried out due to the corona pandemic. In the alternative program of this elective module, experts from Asia and Switzerland gave online lectures via video link for the students. Four groups of students produced vlogs on Swiss industries that are particularly affected by the corona crisis in economic business relations with Asia:
After breakfast, around 7:15 am, we boarded a next boat and traveled for about 40 minutes to get to the first landscape, Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho. This is the largest of its type in the whole Mekong delta. During this visit, we had a chance to board a merchant boat that sells pineapples. After spending 2 hours at the market, our journey back to Ho Chi Minh began. On the way back, we had a stop at an interesting point to rest and had lunch. The same evening some of the students even had their flights to Switzerland.
We would like to thank Dr. Braun and ZHAW SML for offering us the opportunity to do the study field trip. It was a unique experience for everyone. We also thank Wei Sun and Tra Mi Cong for their assistance in facilitating our organization in China and Vietnam. Ultimately, we would also like to thank the companies we had the pleasure to visit. They have given us an insight into their processes and showed how things work in Asia thus increased this unique experience. We hope that the study field trip will keep taking place many years to come and wish the future participants an exciting, experiential journey.
After 2 weeks of intense and interesting company visits, the last part of our trip was to visit the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a huge labyrinth of rivers and islands with floating markets and villages surrounded by rice fields. We were picked up from the hotel at 07:30 am. After 2,5 hour drive we arrived at Ben Tre. Our tour of the region started here. Boats are the main means of transportation. We boarded our boat, which took us on the rivers of the Mekong Delta.
Our first stop was a coconut factory. The Ben Tre area is famous for its coconut candy. Local women work in small factories making these sweets spending their hours boiling the sticky coconut before rolling it out and slicing them into pieces.
Later transportation got small and personal. We were divided into groups and got on small row boats. Now it was Dr. Braun’s time to show his rowing skills. We drew for 15 minutes under Braun’s leadership. During this 15 minutes trip, we enjoyed the fresh air along the canal and beautiful water coconut tree scenery.
After a little walk, we got on tuc tuc’s. Some of us had some difficulty fitting into the tuc tuc’s. After a 15-minute ride, we boarded a large wooden boat for lunch. We were shown how to make Vietnamese spring rolls and made our own spring rolls. After spending 2.30 hours on the boat we drove to Can Tho to stay overnight.
Can Tho is home to 1.5 million people, and it is the capital city of the Mekong Delta. When we arrived at the hotel, some of us went directly to the roof of the hotel where a bar was found and watched the sunset. The last evening of our trip we ate at a restaurant where we could also watch Federer’s semi-final match against Nadal.
Today was our last company visit before heading to the Mekong Delta to end our trip.
The bus driver picked us up on time and we headed out. After driving 40 minutes we arrived near a spacious and lush company campus where our host company was located. Only to notice that we were on the wrong side of the road. This was a bit of a challenge to walk with a group of 14 people over a road at rush hour time. But with a couple of hand signals and confidence to just walk on over the busy street we succeeded.
The company we visited was Swiss Post Solutions Vietnam where Jen Nguyen, Customer Management and Anatolijus Fouracre, Managing Director, gave us an introduction to the company and their IT Projects. We received an excellent insight into the operations of SPS Vietnam such as digitization, data processing and software development. The expertise of the entire onsite team was impressive.
They also gave us a tour of the whole building where we could see how their program and OCR (Optical character recognition) system works. This system analyses various documents that need to be digitalised and transforms them in a computer readable format. This information can later be used to gain useful customer data and patterns which is then processed for a personalised shopping experience.
It was interesting to see that they have customers all around the world and that pne of their main customer base is the United States.
In the afternoon we enjoyed walking around the city and going to different craft beer breweries before hitting up some street food stalls in the evening.
After a more or less flawless journey so far we had 2 minor incidents today.
We arrived at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City on time. The passport check took 1 hour but everybody was connected to the internet via mobile phones which eased the waiting time.
The luggage, which was already put beside the conveyor belt, was already waiting for us. One luggage piece was missing so we searched the remaining belts for it. Without success. Tra Mi was left without luggage and had to get some clothes for the remaining days. (Note: Her luggage finally arrived on Thursday evening)
Luckily we had accommodated for some buffer time to mitigate the risk of being late. So we headed on to the bus and made our way to the Shoe factory. We arrived at the location at the agreed time 13:08. Our guide then phoned the company to ask if he was at the correct gate. They sent us somewhere else just to call us again and tell us to come back to that same location where we had been before. After some misunderstandings and 1.5 hours later, stuck in huge traffic we aborted the mission to visit the factory and instead made our way to the hotel where we arrived at 16:00.
To conclude we can say that we had a very chaotic introduction to Ho Chi Minh City but on the other hand it was interesting to see how Vietnam differs in organising and carrying out things in comparison to China and Hong Kong.
Despite not visiting the factory we then had a bit more free time to explore the city which was also rewarding. The sheer amount of motorcycles that bustle around the city show how chaotic life is here. Yet somehow it seems to be how things work here and no accidents happen.
In the evening we met up with Jean Paul Hässig, Chairman of Swiss Business Association in Vietnam who has 30 years experience in Cotton Trade and has been living in Vietnam for 10 years and brought along his coworker Daniele who lives in Vietnam since 2014 (5 years). They gave us a very insightful presentation in the Cotton trade business which was very interesting. They discussed their personal opinion with us about the current trade war between China and the US. After that we went to a local Vietnamese restaurant and ordered various dishes to share. The food was very delicious. Overall we had a relaxing day with a good ending.
Last day in Hong Kong. In the morning we went to Migros Hong Kong (Ldt). by taxi. Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed and were invited to a presentation. Ma Christa Koch, Head of textile MHK Aline Maritz, Trainee MGB introduced us to Migros Hong Kong. Migros Hong Kong is an internal service company and sourcing office in the far east for Migros. They focus on hardgoods, textile and food imports. Ms Koch and Ms Maritz, who used to study at ZHAW School of Management and Law, were very open in answering the pressing questions of the students. It was interesting to learn that almost 100 people work for the Hong Kong office as well as what goes into the sourcing process of Migros and all the quality measures that are taken to ensure ethically and safely produced products.
After the presentation and the QA, Migros invited us to a Chinese round table lunch with Dim Sum and the signature dish chicken feet, which was very delicious.
In the afternoon we had a bit of free time which some used for shopping while others headed out to the Stanley beach.
At KMPG we learned about the company’s activities in Hong Kong. Our Host Ewan Ye, orchestrated a very interesting program for us. Additionally, a group of KPMG expats and locals introduced us to the history and life in Hong Kong. They gave us an opportunity to ask about how private life here differs from Europe and they gave us their thoughts on what they think about the protests. The panel agreed that this unrest in this city, with almost 2million people or 25% of the entire population protesting peacefully against the extradition bill. Nevertheless,
The situation is comparable to political events that happened all over the world, like Brexit or Catalonian independence movement in Spain. While they are optimistic that these protests move on peacefully, there are concerns about a possible by the security forces. As we write this blog, one day after the big protests on Sunday, the prime minister went on record to say that the extradition bill is „dead“.
At UBS we learned about the different business units acting in the Hong Kong market. Oliver Leisinger, who graduated at ZHAW in 2014, made it possible for us to meet high profile UBS professionals and learn interesting facts about the Asia pacific market. While it was interesting for us to learn about a bank that represents us Swiss people in Hong Kong, the most unforgettable thing was the view from the office looking from the 52nd-floor in Hong Kong Central towards Kowloon. A breath-taking view that makes everyone want to work in such an environment.
Early in the morning we headed to the airport to catch our plane to Hong Kong. Upon arrival most of us chose to buy some essentials and do laundry. Later in the evening we met up with Tra Mi and went to a rooftop bar with a stunning view over the city.
On Sunday we had the chance to explore the city on our own. Most Students chose to go to Victoria Peak. So did our group and we were able to enjoy the stunning view and even got to see some local wildlife: A family of wild hogs crossed our way. Truly a memorable moment.