Emerging Markets Field Trip 2015 – Last Note

Without doubt was this year’s field trip to China a huge success. Not only did the participants receive a great insight to successful multinational companies, organizations and start-ups, but also explored the natural as well as cultural sites of this astonishing country.

A huge thank you goes to executives and representatives of companies and organizations who invited us to their facilities, as well as to Dr. Markus Braun and Mr. Wei Sun who organized this filed trip together students from the executive team and individual expert groups:

  • Executive Team: Tobias Huber, Kevin Mueller, Christoph Angst, Fabian Spörri, Jeannette Krummenacher and Julia Fiechter
  • Expert Group Beijing: Biggy Nguyen, David Högger, Fernando Hervas, Karin Wiesmann and Jörg Örtli
  • Expert Group Shanghai: Ischi Hung, Fabian Moser, Dino Reusser, Jakov Zrakic, Michel Lazzari and Pascal Geser
  • Expert Group Guilin / Hong Kong: Michael Krähenbühl, Florian Elger, David Franke, Remo Breitenmoser, Samuel Giese, Andreas Koch, Michael Kassowitz and Lorenzo Müller

Again, this field trip was an unforgettable experience for each and every participant. Thank you for making time to read our numerous posts.

Day 13 – Hong Kong – Convention and Exhibition Centre / Credit Suisse

Our last stop on this journey is Hong Kong. For the final day we have once again a tough program. In the morning we had the opportunity to visit the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). First we received a brief introduction about the organization. They told us that the HKCEC is build on an artificial underground due to the lack of landscape in Hong Kong. Afterwards we were guided through the impressive state-of-the-art building where we saw different exhibition halls, theaters and meeting rooms. The HKCEC attracts million of people and since the opening in 1988 they hosted 43’096 events and welcomed over 86 million visitors.

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In the afternoon we had the honor to meet several specialists from Credit Suisse in the largest skyscraper of Hong Kong. The International Commerce Centre or short ICC-Tower how it is called is 484 meter high. The offices from Credit Suisse which are located in the 88th floor offered a spectacular view. Many of us used this scenery to take selfies and shared this unique moment with Zurich. 😉

Credit Suisse has outstanding expertise and is well positioned in the Wealth Management and Investment Banking. Thanks to their competence in advisory for doing business the HNWI clients benefit from customized investment solutions. Compared to Switzerland a typical Chinese client has much higher expectation of their return on investments. For Credit Suisse it is a challenge to satisfy their needs as they demand a return of at least 10 percent.

In the evening we had a farewell dinner at a Chinese restaurant and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere for the last time. By the end of the dinner the official part of the field trip has ended. Many of us will continue their journey individually and others are traveling back to Switzerland. It was a amazing time and we would like to say thank you to Mr. Braun and the ZHAW for making this trip unforgettable.

Day 12 – Longsheng / Hong Kong – Trekking, Travelling, Typhoon

In the morning the group met for another hiking tour. Since we did not return to the hotel in Longsheng again, the backpacks were packed a little fuller than for the hike the day before. The tour lead from the hotel we stayed the night through the rice terraces to a distant village. During the 1.5h walk the weather was perfect for a hiking tour again.

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From there a local bus took us back to the parking space where we changed to our private coach. After a 1.5h drive we arrived at the airport of Guilin. The airplane departured even though there had been a typhoon warning for Hong Kong. If we would have left two hours later, the departure would have been uncertain and the group would probably still be in Guilin. However, we were lucky and happy to leave the airport on time. Apart from small turbulences during the landing the fligh was comfortable. In Hong Kong, we transferred to the hotel by bus. Since Hong Kong is relatively small and the hotel was located in the center of the city, we saw many attractions including the huge harbour during the drive.

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The sky was dark and clowdy and the streets were almost empty because of the approaching typhoon. Most of the shops were closed and the search for a restaurant became a challenge. However, some of us managed to find an open pasta restaurant while others stayed at the hotel to have dinner.

It was a long day with a lot of travelling and we are looking forward to exploring Hong Kong tomorrow.

Day 11 – Longsheng – Rice Terraces

China has many faces – in order to get an impression of the life in China outside the big cities we travelled to a county called Longsheng. In comparison to crowded and overloaded metropolis Beijing and Shanghai, the region of Guilin offers a quiet and relaxing atmosphere wihout any smog and skyscrapers. We could not get there with our heavy luggage so we just took a backpack with the necessaties for two days. Looking at the sizes of the bags everyone seemed to have a different opinion on how much you need =).

The journey itself was already quite an adventure. From our hotel in Guilin our bus took 2 hours to arrive at the first parking lot. Traffic laws did seem to matter even less than in the cities and our driver managed to increase our heartbeat quite a few times by overtaking with more or less no sight. From there our group transferred to a smaller bus since the streets were narrow and had sharp turns. After half an hour of bus ride we reached the end of the road. To get to our hotel we walked 20 minutes up the hill, climbing quite a lot of stairs.

Before checking in it was time to stop for lunch. First of all the food was amazing. The highlight was definitly chicken and mushrooms cooked on an openfire in a bamboo cane. Cooking like this is a specialty of this region.

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The village which was our goal is called Ping’an. In this area the inhabitants are mainly the Chinese minority groups called Zuhang and Yao. The rice terraces the people are cultivating are estimated to be 650 years old and cover large parts of the surrounding hills. Those facts make the place very unique and creates a wonderful landscape. The inhabitants life of the tourism and sell handcrafted goods alongside the paths.

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After we were all full and happy we checked in in our hotel and had a short rest. To have the best views on the rice terraces we organized a two hour roundtrip hike. The weather was not too hot, so climbing the staires was comfortable. The areal view on the top of the hill definitly made it worthwhile. Back at the hotel everyone had some time off to relax. In the evening we met for lunch which was again a real treat. To gather feedback of the past days program, Mr Braun asked the students for their input and suggestions which lead to a really good discussion. Overall there was a great mood and after the serious work we could not resist to end the night with an ice cold Tsingtao – 乾杯!

Day 10 – Shanghai – Novartis and trip to Guilin

Today we were invited to the Novartis Research facility in Shanghai and shortly after left for the airport and the next destination in our trip: Guilin.

Even though we felt excited to see what else China has to offer, the faces in the bus this morning betrayed that many of us would not mind staying for a bit longer in this unique and modern city.

After a short visit to surprised employees at a nearby Novartis office building, our bus finally dropped us off at the Novartis Research Facilities where we were actually expected and warmly welcomed. Ida Yuan taught us in an eye opening presentation about the massive opportunities and challenges Novartis faces in China. Mandy Ding then impressed us with the potential of the pharmaceutical market: Because the affordability, accessibility and the average age in the Chinese population is rising so quickly and constantly, China will soon become the most valuable market in the industry after the US.

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Ida Yuan finished the presentation with surprising facts about what young Chinese students are looking for in their future employers: With “Work/Life balance”, “Job safety” and “autonomy/independence” being named as the most valued aspects, we recognized that we are not so different after all.

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In the evening we arrived in Guilin and parted from our luggage for the short ride to the hotel. During the ride, we had the pleasure of enjoying detailed information and trivia about everything anyone could possibly know about the city from our new guide Jeremy. Happily reacquainted with our luggage, the group finally vanished into their rooms.

Day 9 – Shanghai – Meyer Burger / Swissnex

Today we were invited to Meyer Burger. Anita Schrag welcomed and guided us through the morning at the company. Her team of individual experts gave us a tour through their present and planned production line, offices and supply control building. The most impressive topic of this morning was the production management. Step by step we were introduced on how they assemble their machines, which produce solar panels through a lamination process. Anita gave us valuable insights on the challenges and opportunities they faced while transitioning to the China market. After an exciting morning we were invited to lunch and then set out for the program at Swissnex in the afternoon.

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The afternoon at Swissnex was filled with interesting presentations about China’s development in the past and present. The last presentation was held by Michael Lehmann and covered topics on how to do business in china and what mindset one should try to acquire before doing business here. The day was quite eventful and we enjoyed the personal anecdotes and insights. They gave us a great foundation if one day we were to do business in China.

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Day 8 – Shanghai – Optional City Tour

Today we had our first and only day off after a week packed with fascinating and remembering impressions. As I attended an internship in Shanghai a couple of years ago, I made the offer to guide my classmates through some parts of the city. 6 of them took the chance and followed me. Starting with the supermarket ‘Carrefour’ at the Thumb Plaza in Pudong, they were surprised about the seafood section. Customers are able to buy a living fish, frog, turtle, etc. But also the incomparable dimension and variety of the supermarket were stunning. As an example, you may also find some Swiss products there, like Wernli-titbits.

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After I showed my colleagues the superstore, we went to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum subway station. However, we didn’t visit the museum, rather a huge Market which takes place in the underground. At this place you can buy faked gadgets or fashion articles of well-known brands. As soon as we entered the market, the retailers plagued us to buy their ‘good but cheap’ commodities. Despite this fact, they also sell smartphone covers and other popular items. Some students tried their negotiating skills and were succesful in buying iPhone covers for a little amount of money.

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Eventually I guided my small group of classmates to Xintiandi, located in the French Concession of Shanghai, where the first congress of CPC took place (Communist Party of China). This area was rebuilt as a village with little stores, bars and restaurants. Some of us ambled through Xintiandi or just enjoyed a drink or a coffee. Closing we had a delicious dinner in the famous Taiwanese restaurant, named ‘Din Tai Feng’, offering Dumplings, also called ‘Xiao long bao’, as their speciality.

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Day 7 – Shanghai – Chinese Lesson

Ni Hao! The plan of today was to spend part of the morning getting some insight into the Chinese language. After two interesting hours of Chinese language lessions, also called Mandarin or Han-language, the gained knowledge will certainly provide a valuable asset for the rest of our trip. The most fascinating topics of the lecture were the history of the Chinese language and how they use symbols to express certain things or names. However there were also challenging things about learning Mandarin for example the difficult pronunciations.

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After the lession we had the option to visit the beautiful and traditional Jade Buddha Temple or spend the rest of the day individually to explore the city. Some of the students chose to visit malls or doing some sightseeing. I and a couple of other students visited the famous Shanghai World Financial Centre – the second highest building in the world. At the observation deck on the top of the building we enjoyed an amazing view over the whole city and surrounding area, which no one of us is likely to ever forget.

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Day 6 – Shanghai – Huawei / Autoneum

In the morning after the first night in Shanghai we went to the headquarter of Huawei. Our visit started with a warm welcome and a group photo in front of the reception. Next we were given a guided tour through the Shanghai MBB Experience Center where we received an informative and impressive insight into Huawei’s products. In reflection it can be said that the future will bring us a better connected world through almost invisible and more powerful mobile network cells.

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After our visit at Huawei we once again experienced the Chinese lifestyle. According to a lack of communication our bus was not allowed to drive to Autoneum Taicang Plant as it is located in another province and our bus had no licence to drive there. Thanks to the great flexibility in China, a visit at Autoneums Asia headquarter was arranged. This event again states that flexibility in China is more important than planning. One thing that needs to be highlighted about Autoneum is their impressive aim to grow 20% every year which is a perfect example of the company’s ambitions and culture.

Beside our visits at Huawei and Autoneum we always explore the Chinese lifestyle as already mentioned above. Another issue related to this is that we cannot understand why there are so many Chinese people driving a car which seems unaffordable for them. The simple solution is bank loans. This again shows a big difference between our way of living and the one in China.

After a long day full of impressions everyone is looking forward to our optional dinner at the five star restaurant Shangri-La.

Day 5 – Hangzhou – Alibaba / West Lake

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The main reason for visiting the city of Hangzhou was the invitation from the e-commerce company Alibaba. In the headquarter of Alibaba we received a warm welcome from our hosts Albert and Violet. During their presentation, which took place in a modern conference room, we were all impressed by the amount of information we received. On a huge screen they presented their data-dashboard where many “real-time KPIs” such as the current number of buyers and trades were shown. Albert and Violet made clear that providing platforms for trading goods (as some might believe) is not the core business of Alibaba. As a result of the enormous service they provide to their customers, Alibaba collects an incredible amount of data from their clients. The collection and usage of the so called “big data” is their real core business. Within a few years they defeated their opponents such as e-bay in the Chinese market in an impressive manner. Today, 350 million people are using the platforms of Alibaba in order to buy or sell products. Comparing this number to Switzerland, Alibaba has almost 44 times more customers than Switzerland inhabitants.

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Still impressed by the presentation of Alibaba, we headed over to the West lake, which is an “UNESCO world cultural heritage”. After a traditional Chinese lunch and a walk along the lake we finally took the high speed train to Shanghai. In the evening some of the students went to the Bar Rouge where we had a welcome drink as well as an incredible view of the skyline of Shanghai.

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