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.
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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.

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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.

Sapa – Mountains, Tribes and Rice

After Hanoi our next, very much anticipated destination, was Sapa. We were told that the drive would last 4 hours, but it ended up taking 6 hours (through which most of us slept through, fortunately). We started to realize that time management was no strength of our Vietnamese tour guide, which could have been influenced by him driving backwards on the highway not once, but twice.
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In the end, we arrived safely in a small town in Sapa, which was as a nice contrast to the high temperature and humid weather we encountered in the big cities we visited before. In the afternoon we went to the rice terraces and the nearby local villages. The moment we stepped out of the bus we were surrounded by elderly women and young girls trying to sell bracelets and other handmade goods. They were obviously experienced sales people. Eventually, most of us gave in and bought something small from them, which resulted in them following / accompanying us for the rest of our walk.

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Sapa

Our tour guide showed us their simple living conditions, which included rooms with basically no privacy (a curtain could be drawn for some privacy) and little electricity. Thereafter, we walked further into the village, where we encountered many stray animals and we ended up having a drink in one of the cafes. Quite exhausted from the long trip, we got back to the hotel and enjoyed dinner and a massage, which was a pleasant way to sum up the day.

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The following day, some students joined the optional hike up to a botanical garden on “ham rong” mountain, where we received a view over Sapa. Unfortunately, the majority was rather disappointed, since the garden was quite artificial and even had human sized animated figures like Tom from Tom & Jerry and Scooby Doo displayed.
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Sapa

All in all, we enjoyed this short escape to Sapa, although, considering the duration of the bus rides (from Hanoi to Sapa and back), it was rather short. We would have liked to see more of Vietnam’s nature. On our way to the departing bus, we were surprised by a quite extreme downpour. Even Sapa was disappointed to see us leave. Next stop, Ho Chi Minh City!

Hanoi – Organized Chaos

After a pleasant flight from Hong Kong, we were looking forward to exploring a new country. At the airport we had some time to exchange our money and suddenly all of us were millionaires, since the exchange rate for Swiss Francs to Vietnamese Dong is around 1 to 22’000.

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We divided our group into two parts because the Vietnamese bus drivers just came in small vehicles. At first we were a bit worried regarding the available space in the bus. But it was no problem at all, our bus driver managed to fit the luggage perfectly. We figured he must have been a great Tetris player as a child.

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During the trip to our hotel we realized how different Vietnam is compared to Hong Kong. Motorbikes were everywhere and there seemed to be no traffic law. Still, the chaotic looking traffic system worked somehow and no accidents were seen. We experienced that the motorbikes in Vietnam are used for everything. It is not a problem to fit five people on a single motorbike and therefore it substitutes family cars. Also it can be used instead of a truck to transport heavy wood, pipes, water and anything else one could dream of. We checked in and after a shower we walked through the vibrating night market in the old quarter passing by numerous little shops and owners trying to sell their goods. We made our first physical contact with Vietnamese traffic laws when we had to cross several streets. Basically there are crosswalks, but no single motorbike would even consider stopping for a pedestrian. So the rule is to just walk and the motorbikes are going to find a way to avoid a collision. Even though the sun was already set, the temperature was still over 35° Celsius and the humidity was brutal. As we got to the rooftop restaurant we were soaked with sweat to the degree that most of our t-shirts had changed the color already. We arrived at the mentioned location, which had a breathtaking view over the lit-up old quarter and beautiful Hoan-Kiem lake. While we were enjoying the view over the city, we suddenly realized that some members of our group got lost in the crazy traffic of Hanoi when we crossed the last road to the restaurant. However we found them quite quickly, and could enjoy the dinner without any further incidents. As we already decided on the dishes earlier on, the food came quickly and we enjoyed the famous and delicious traditional Vietnamese food. We also realized that the clocks in Vietnam tick a bit differently since we were the last guests at 10pm already and the kitchen was closed.

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After the great dinner it was time to watch the finals of the European soccer championship. Therefore, anyone who wanted to stay up until 2am to watch the game walked to a popular sports bar. It is quite exceptional that bars in Hanoi stay open that long, which was the reason why the bar was extremely crowded. The bar was packed with French people (including representatives of the French embassy), while there were just a few Portuguese supporters. We enjoyed the preshow on national TV and even discovered ourselves in some of the scenes, since a Vietnamese crew was broadcasting live from our sports bar, capturing the cheering French supporters. On the way back to the hotel we experienced the widely known tricks of the taxi drivers. They try the typical tricks like driving in loops or using modified taximeters, which increase at a rather fast pace. However, as soon as the driver realized that we are not that easy to be cheated on, he drove straight to the hotel.

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The following day we had some free time in the morning and were able to do individual sightseeing and soak up the busy and chaotic atmosphere of Hanoi. We then all gathered at the Swiss Embassy. The ambassador Maser gave us a warm welcome in her office and some very interesting facts about the culture, economy and challenges of Vietnam. At the moment almost 100 Swiss companies are located in Vietnam. As the ambassador explained, the country is currently at a crucial economical point as they are trying to boost economic growth. The next few years will decide if economic growth will continue or whether the country will fall into the middle income trap. In addition, the troubles in the South Chinese sea were discussed extensively. Overall we received a good insight into the job of an ambassador and her daily work.

Swiss Embassy

Swiss Embassy

After a short lunch break a bus picked us up at the embassy to visit the Carlsberg brewery, which is located in the center of Hanoi. We received an insight into the Vietnamese beer market, Carlsberg’s product portfolio and how the different customer segments are targeted. Interestingly, in the rural areas of Vietnam, locals drink up to 10 beers per day due to simple boredom. Moreover, we were told that in the North of Vietnam, women usually drink tea or coffee while the men drink alcohol extensively, whereas in the South it is more common to see women join the men as well. Later on we were shown around in the brewery, where all the different Carlsberg brands for the Northern part of Vietnam is produced and bottled.

Carlsberg

Carlsberg

In the evening we had some time off and thus walked through the vibrating city, where we enjoyed the diverse and dynamic ambience of locals and tourists mixed together, eating, drinking and celebrating. It was the birthday of one of the students and it is safe to say that we had a lot of fun celebrating it. Great music, fantastic food, cheap beer (0.10 CHF per glass) and even better company resulted in a night to remember.

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Hanoi

Hong Kong, the city that never sleeps

After spending some time in the older and more traditional part of China, many of the group members couldn’t await the arrival in the – let’s call it – animated Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong is seen as one of the most advanced cities in the world, it’s not exempted from logistical problems. In addition to the late arrival of our plane, there also was some misguidance of our luggage. Therefore, it can be said that it is important not to depend on punctuality of planes in Hong Kong.

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Nevertheless of this series of unfortunate events we made it to UBS, where Lorenz made it possible to visit Mr. Eigenmann from the bank’s corporate banking division in Hong Kong. The building itself, called the International Finance Center (IFC), is worth a comment in this blog. After spending most of our time in rather manufacturing plants, we stumbled upon something slightly different at UBS. The huge skyscraper with dazzling views was more than a welcome change for the group. At UBS we gained some highly interesting insights into the financial industry in Southeast Asia and how the corporate business at UBS operates as a “start up” within the bank. The branch’s main goal is to win local subsidiaries of Swiss entities as its clients. Furthermore, UBS aims to get in contact and open business relationships with companies that have recently been founded in Hong Kong by their Swiss headquarters. It was pointed out that enticing customers away from competitors is challenging and requires a lot of effort. However, once it comes to convincing prospects with “Swissness”, there is still a good chance to make the deal and enlarge customer base.

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After having left the IFC tower, we experienced our first tube ride to the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. When thinking of complaining SBB customers in Switzerland, this gets a whole new meaning for us. There was some serious beting that someone wouldn’t make it out of the tube but fortunately, everyone made it to the hotel save and sound.

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Third fun fact about Hong Kong – there is always a way at Mr. Wongs it seems nearly impossible to fit so many people in such limited space but this guy works his magic every night of the week so we’ve heard. Moreover was the atmosphere through the roof and the food was suprisingly delicous. After getting home early we realised this vibrant city and it’s city lights definitly never gone to sleep………….ever. But the motto for this trip so far don’t hate appreciate!!!!

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The next morning we had the pleasure to welcome Monica Yan from IRC Global Executive Search at one of the hotels meeting rooms. She shared her knowledge about the current hiring market in China with us. Her enthusiasm for her field of work was infectious and the insights were highly cherished by the students.

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Simultanious with the ending of the presentations the majority of the students went on for some sightseeing in Hong Kong.

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Don’t close without a fun fact – on Saturday, Hong Kong experienced the hottest day in almost 50 years (it’s true – we googled it and google works now). 🙂

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Xi’an 2: Learn from China…

After having dedicated the previous day to the city’s history, we now returned to our major. We started by visiting ‚Xi’an Hi-tech Industries Development Zone’ (XHTZ), one of the most successful amongst the Chinese national high-tech zones. The tour through the exhibition of their future projects was spectacular (light show on a model of the city!) and informative due to Wei, who acted as an interpreter (and it was by far not the first time we could benefit from his presence!). XHTZ’s aim is to position Xi’an increasingly as the perfect spot for high-tech companies and to foster innovation in this particular field. Driving innovation within the objectives of a national five-year plan defined by a strong state challenges the classic western approach to innovation. However, if these projects suceed SML might have to rethink theory and consider camapigning for state capitalism.

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Subsequently we had the unique opportunity to get insight into the production of mobile phones. We were explained the process along the assembly line and could watch it through a pane. That ZTE let us have a glance behind their curtains allows for an assumption that their working conditions are comparaly well, which was confirmed by our tour guide who provided us information on wages, working hours and holidays. After finishing the tour she led us to the ZTE’s canteen to wait for our lunch delivery from Xi’an for lunch. When we saw the delicious-looking dishes we regreted having ordered sandwiches and couldn’t refuse the offer to choose at least a starter from the buffet.
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For the next company visit our bus took us to the Chinese subsidiary of the Swiss Bühler Group. After a competent introduction we were guided through the plant where machines for grain processing are produced. They explained how through leaner processes efficiency was increased substantially. What used to be process management theory came alive on-site.

After ZTE in the morning it now occurred to me again that the steps of quality control occupies quite some space in the plants and accordingly more labor, more time. I realized that to date quality control to me was first of all step 7 out of 7 when preparing for exams. Its significance in practice I have underestimated obviously. Just the things you get aware of, being a Swiss student on a trip to China…

We decided to visit the Big Goose Pagoda on ur way back home. The buddhist temple provided just the right atmosphere after a busily scheduled day. I think everyone was to tired to get deeper into history and facts about the temple, so we just wandered around and took pictures – while other visitors took pictures of us (slowely but surely we are getting used to it).

 

 

Little huge city Xi’an

After a night occupying our train wagon physically as well as acoustically we arrived in Xi’an. Most of us imagined Xi’an to be a small city – a chance to get some rest between Shanghai and Hong Kong. They were wrong. Our guide Ivy made that pretty clear when she told us about the political significance Xi’an had in former times when it used to be the capital city of China. When it comes to culture and history, Xi’an is still one of China’s important spots due to the Terracotta Army. Even though Xi’an might be smaller than other Chinese cities, it is home to 10 million citizens, which is inconceivable to us Swiss (especially for the ones among us coming from Appenzell, I can imagine). Ivy’s information that seemed more important to us at this very moment was that we could check in the nice Grand New World Hotel already and have a shower before meeting the warriors of China’s unifier Yin Shi Huang.

Ivy told us that after Yin Shi Huang’s unexpected death caused by mercury consumption they tried to cover the smell of his dead body by filling the coffin with sea animals (fun fact? or did I get something completely wrong?) while conveying the corpse back to Xi’an. That was when I realized that our earlier check-in might have been not only altruistically motivated (or good customer service as we know after studying at SML) but also out of self-interest. She welcomed us back in the bus and was happy to see the group more awake and less smelly. After Ivy provided us with essential background information on the Terracotta Army, actually seeing the emperors soldiers – buried to protect him in his life after death – was highly fascinating. The brutal policy of killing the artists and burying them beneath the soldiers to keep the army a secret made me think if he was not afraid of meeting his victims from his first life in his second life.DSCF3130

Although Ivy showed a tough leading style to keep the group together and actuate us we probably would not give a disciplined army: We had to change plans and go for lunch between pit 2 and 3 already.

In the souvenir shop some tried to apply their negotiation skills (they gained at SML) to get a good price for some hand fans (and succeeded of course).

After returning, some of us benefitted from the hotel’s offers by swimming in the pool, playing ping-pong, working out – or pre-testing the quality of the mattresses.DSCF3160

In the evening all of us 26 students (we now are, after Lorenz arrived this evening) went out to the wonderful Muslim Quarter and astonishingly accomplished to stay together most of the evening. DSCF3232Some moved on to check out the club „Muse“ (a hint of two twin-dressed Englishmen…) – a mad, noisy spot, which was fun for about one hour. Not being able to read the drinks menu properly and communicate with the bar personnel ended in only ordering two beers per 8 students. Sweaty and a little step closer to deafness – but still in a good mood – we let us drive home by two rickshaws. Xi’an had delighted us and we were looking forward to another day in this great city.

(This article is not censored.)

Day 3 – Rise and Shine

The last day in Shanghai started with some heavy lifting. Luggage was packed and gathered in the hotel lobby, which ended up being open to exhibition for quite a while, since the local bus driver seemed to be unfamiliar with Shanghai’s morning traffic. Overall, the concept of time seemed to be not very well understood by the individual in question. Anyways, after our obligatory contribution to climate change and more specifically Shanghai’s lovely grey smoggy sky, we reached our destination at Autoneum. The friendly plant manager greeted us and provided us with a detailed presentation about Autoneum and its Shanghai plant. After multiple attempts of the plant manager in drowning the students in technical details and information nobody would ever even remotely remember, Mr. Braun skilfully stepped and sweet-talked the manager into leaving out some of the specifics. However, salvation lasted only briefly. As the plant manager finished the presentation he passed on the word to one of his employees, who provided us with a rather similar presentation. Of course Mr. Braun saved the day a second time and we were finally taken on the tour. The production facilities looked very organized and well structured. Clearly, the process of preparing and cutting the isolation materials is not the most complex, but it was still very interesting to see how people worked in the factory. One of the most interesting insights gained was that most of the machinery used was mostly produced in China. Only high precision instruments were imported from Switzerland or Germany. This greatly indicates how rapidly China’s development even in producing machineries has progressed. After the tour, gifts were presented, group photos were taken, roundhouses of applauses were given and an engine was ignited.

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I would have been mean to question the drivers’ time perception skills only for being late in the morning. It also might have been our CTO’s planning that was not as meticulous as he thought it was, but censorship is a local custom and of course we adapt. Arriving about an hour late at Huber and Suhner the group was greeted by some paparazzi. Somewhat starting to get a feel of why certain stars get annoyed by being photographed all the time, another group picture was taken. Multiple attempts later, the students joyously devoured their surprisingly tasty pre-ordered pizzas and were finally ready to rock’n roll. The tour commenced and was extremely interesting. Although the guide spoke in riddles, it was fairly obvious how well structured and organized Huber and Suhner’s facilities are. But the real highlight came after the tour with the presentation of a guest-lecturer organized by Huber and Suhner. The Chinese native, who obtained his PhD from HSG, provided an exceptional presentation about the economic situation of China. It was impressive to see how critical he discussed the topics at hand and how freely he spoke about negative aspects of the Chinese macro environment.

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After a diverse Chinese dinner, the group of now past-tofu-lovers (if you ever see brown tofu… just don’t) headed towards the train station. The sub-sequential embarking of the train was a true success and a lively group of students established a cozy atmosphere in their wagon. Also, the rules of UNO proofed to be a quite challenging to certain individuals from Appenzell. Regardless, the train ride was a joyous experience and everybody reached the final destination save and sound.

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