Spring 2014 IBD Team YY (Brandon Cato, Justin Harnoss, Peter Garai, Simon Yoo) worked with Chinese social media company YY in Guangzhou, China.
Our team spent three weeks in China working with social media company YY.com, identifying growth opportunities for the firm. We had a fantastic experience, coming away deeply impressed by the people we worked with, the Chinese internet industry and the country’s culture.
YY is a Chinese internet company listed on NASDAQ with a market cap over $3.5 billion. They provide a live p2p streaming product and have been wildly successful in attracting amateur performers and their fans to their platform but also have services in a number of other verticals, including dating and education. While we already knew some of the impressive numbers associated with our client and the Chinese internet industry during the semester, our in-country experience really opened our eyes on how advanced their products and services are. We were blown away from the smart people we worked with, the state-of-the-art technology and the advanced monetization models we saw at YY.
One particular business practice we thought everyone should immediately adopt is quite simple though: after lunch, employees are permitted to take a nap until 2pm! Some of them have serious gear with them: foldable beds, eye covers, noise-cancelling headphones help turn the otherwise buzzing office into a silent snooze fest in the early afternoons.
After three weeks of work, we capped off the project by presenting our recommendations to the management of YY. While we don’t know yet whether any of them will come to fruition, we definitely gained a lot by learning about how the hottest industry works in the largest economy of the world!
Guangzhou may not be on everyone’s radar as a top tourist destination, but the third largest city in China with a population of 11 million is growing at a blazing pace. The downtown area is already full with impressive skyscrapers, lit up in bright colors at night, and everywhere we went we could see at least 3-4 new ones being built. The growth was also represented by the Aston Martin, McLaren, Lamborghini dealerships located within a few blocks from our hotel, and their products on the road.
The huge size and growth are accompanied with crazy traffic, as 5-6 lane roads slice through the city everywhere, and the local driving style left us with a couple of scares each time we were cabbing around the city. We quickly learned that pedestrians here are at the bottom of the food chain and one should carefully look in all directions even on a pedestrian crossing with a green light in a one way-street!
Weather-wise the time of our visit was less than ideal, the rainy season greeted us with showers, high humidity and temperatures around 90 degrees almost 24/7. Luckily, air conditioning was available everywhere, but the weather certainly did not encourage long walks outdoors.
The city has less expats than the others we’ve visited (Hong Kong and Shanghai) and thus is a bit tougher to get around for foreigners, but we didn’t have major problems. The language barrier was the greatest hurdle, but colleagues at our client and the hotel staff were always very helpful, and our sign language skills have definitely improved during the three weeks, while thankfully almost every restaurant had picture menus. Speaking of food: exploring the Cantonese cuisine was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. On occasions we had dinner with our clients who recommended us the best dishes, otherwise we just leaned on our awesome picture analysis skills to figure out what we are ordering (and what we definitely do not want to order).
During the weekends we visited Hong Kong – which is only a 2 hour train ride away – and Shanghai, were we met with Team Galderma. Both cities were phenomenal and we really enjoyed exploring the different faces of China. Unsurprisingly Hong Kong was the most “international” of the three, Shanghai showed its heritage as China’s most cosmopolitan city while Guangzhou made the impression of a city that at its current pace of development may very well present a picture much more similar to the other two in five years. We’ll have to check it out again!