Spring 2014 IBD Team Galderma (Abbey Breshears, Serena Cheung, Chris Eckersley, and Marlon Quintero) is in Shanghai working with the cosmetics company Galderma.
The lucky four on Team Galderma can say that their IBD project is the definition of a “winning strategy”: interesting problem to solve, engaged and supportive client, great office and hotel locations in Shanghai and the added bonus of a Mandarin-speaking teammate to ensure the most authentic experience possible in China.
The Galderma team has been tasked with developing an innovative “win strategy” for the Chinese market entry of two lines of skin care products. Given how much China has been changing in recent years, our client, a Frenchman from Galderma headquarters in Switzerland, wanted us to learn as much as possible about the Chinese CPG and cosmetic marketplaces.
On our second day “in the office,” three Galderma team members escorted us on a full day market tour of five retail stores around Shanghai, which also offered the fab foursome a great walking tour of downtown. We took a few moments to reflect on our strategic progress on Nanjing Road.
From cosmetic giant Watsons to a drugstore to super suspicious employees at Sephora (“NO PHOTO NO PHOTO!”—counterfeit products are a huge problem in China) to the eerily Walmart-like Lotus Hypermarket, the team learned much about consumer shopping habits in China.
On our second day, we received a tour of a public hospital led by a former dermatologist who now works for Galderma. A visit from Vladimir Putin had shut down most of the city, leaving the hospital with only about a third of its typical patient volume. Even so, the hospital was incredibly crowded, filled with lines and patients milling about (apparently) aimlessly. Dermatologists in public hospitals typically see about 100 patients per day. Conditions in the patient rooms were cramped and dirty, with four to five beds per room and no differentiation between diseases: people with contagious ailments were bedded down next to other patients, virtually ensuring the spread of disease. For even more fun, each specialty has a government-mandated limit on patient stays. For mobile patients, that could mean checking out and checking back into the hospital, a lengthy and pointless exercise; for non-mobile patients on respirators or other life-saving devices, that could mean major fines for the hospital and doctors on staff. Additionally, Chinese families mourning the deaths of patients have been murdering doctors in recent months.
In short, we were not surprised our Galderma contact decided to leave the field.
The private dermatological hospital we visited the next day was a different world, more reminiscent of a Western high-end spa retreat than a hospital. Private hospitals are restricted to the super rich in China and the posh atmosphere proves the point.
Chris even got the chance to have a full skin assessment done on his face. Turns out that Chris’ 24 year-old skin is much more sun damaged and wrinkly than your typical rich Chinese woman’s. Good thing we learned about some great products to help solve his problems.
Supplementary meetings with our client’s Marketing, eCommerce, Key Accounts and Finance teams as well as outside meetings with their digital agency, a brand manager from Unilever, a market research consultant and a principal from Bain all helped set us up for project success.
Outside of the office, our team has the pleasure of staying in a ritzy area of downtown Shanghai where stores like Cartier and Burberry and cars like Maseratis and Aston Martins are frequently spotted. Our hotel’s eerily deserted 41st floor shows off a pretty fabulous view and our central location.
Because no trip to China is complete without a visit to the Great Wall, the team took a high speed train to Beijing the first weekend of the trip. Waiting in line for train tickets, Abbey got to experience one of the great joys of Chinese-American relations: the differences in perceptions of personal space.
While in Beijing, the team packed in as many historic sites as possible, largely thanks to Serena’s knowledge of the must-see local attractions. The team kicked off the trip with a rainy visit to Tianamen Square—and apparently were the only tourists who didn’t think that full-length clothing, coats and umbrellas were really necessary in the 75-degree weather.
After deciding against checking out the display of Mao’s embalmed body (true story—Serena has already seen it), we headed into the Forbidden City, where a helpful English-speaking automatic guide told us all about the few rulers and many concubines who had lived in the massive space.
Male lion guarding one of the buildings and the Hill of Accumulated Beauty
The afternoon was spent touring the Temple of Heaven, where the team enjoyed some peaceful walkways and hobbit doors that allowed the team to diverge and innovate their picture taking technique.
The next day, the team traversed the Great Wall, successfully attaining the mythical jumping picture after many attempts with confused Chinese and foreign tourists. After walking up a nearly infinite number of stairs to get to the top of the Wall, Team Galderma was only too pleased to take a luge ride back down.
While the team has been very focused on delivering strategic recommendations for the skin care marketplace, we’ve also realized an as-yet untapped, billion dollar business idea: spelling- and grammar-checking for Chinese signs and menus.
Some of our favorite sign and menu fails
In short, the team has been having a fabulous time, learning a ton and will hopefully provide an excellent (and excellently researched) final project to our Galderma client.