Team Flowers: A Flower Market Tour of China

Written by Leah Finn, Mary Harty, Anne Kramer, Laura Smith, and George Panagiotakapoulos

A hydrangea greenhouse at Kunming Hasfarms

A hydrangea greenhouse at Kunming Hasfarms

Agripacific Holdings is a holding company that owns a number of cut flower farms and distribution centers across Asia, including its two main growing sites, Kunming Hasfarm in Yunnan, China, and Dalat Hasfarm in Dalat, Vietnam. For our IBD project, our team (a.k.a, Team Flowers) partnered with Kunming Hasfarm (KMH) to develop a marketing strategy for selling cut flower crops throughout China – at the moment, most of KMH’s flowers are exported to Japan, while the domestic market is primarily served through a small scale of imports from Dalat Hasfarms. As Chinese incomes rise, a growing middle class is spending more money on luxury home products like flowers, creating a promising market. KMH tasked our team with helping them strategically scale their domestic sales of cut flowers by considering the optimal target customers and sales channels.

For our in-country visit, KMH planned an itinerary that would give us a thorough look at the flower industry in China by visiting six cities – Kunming, Beijing, Shanghai, Hungzhou, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong – to tour flower markets, interview wholesaler customers, and even visit the farms of several of their competitors. Luckily for us, this meant we got to experience a diverse range of Chinese cultures, food, and sights as we learned about some of the nuances of each local market.

We began the trip in Kunming, a small (by China standards) city of 6 million in the western Yunnan province. We spent two days touring KMH’s greenhouses and learning about the processes of growing carnations, green wicky (a fuzzy green flower described to us as “soft, like a panda’s face), and hydrangeas. We also visited the Dounnan Flower Market, one of the largest flower wholesaler markets in China. The coolest part about this was the flower auction: an enormous warehouse full of lower-quality flowers (mostly roses) and a huge room to the side where wholesalers gathered to bid on them, Dutch auction style while smoking heavily and doing business on cell phones. It was quite a sight!

Flower auction in Kunming

In Beijing, Shanghai, Hungzhou, and Guangzhou, we visited KMH’s largest wholesaler customers and the Shanghai-based distribution center for the import business. Through our many interviews, we learned that KMH has a strong reputation as a high-quality grower; most of their wholesaler customers would buy more flowers from them if not restricted by supply. Since the China-based farm already had plans to expand growing, we saw an opportunity to organize their Shanghai- and Beijing-based sales teams to begin selling domestic product in those regions, rather than solely managing the import business.

Another powerful opportunity we recognized for KMH is the meteoric rise of e-commerce that has taken place in the past few years, impacting all industries. In many ways, China has surpassed the US in its use of technology in commerce: for example, rather than credit cards, nearly everyone pays for things by scanning a QR code on the item with an app on their phone called WeChat. In the flower industry, many startups have innovated by offering weekly flower delivery services through a subscription model, and several wholesalers have shifted all of their operations online. We had the chance to interview several contacts from these companies to learn about their innovative models. A key question we investigated for KMH was how they could incorporate technology into their business model, and how far down the value chain they should reach to implement it – that is, whether to switch from B2B (selling to wholesalers) to B2C.

Team looking over Beijing with 2 of KMH’s staff acting as our tour guides

The trip concluded with a trip to Hong Kong, where we delivered our final presentation at Hasfarm’s office there. In addition to recommendations about reorganizing their sales force and adopting a technology platform to track customer data, we discussed the trend we observed of new flower companies, particularly in the eCommerce model, shortening the value chain (typically grower to wholesaler to retailer to customer) to increase margins and lower prices beyond the offerings of their more traditional competitors. We encouraged KMH to pay attention to competitors adopting this model as the market grows.

Overall, we were incredibly impressed by the hospitality provided to us by our clients and associates in the industry. After nearly every interview or market visit, we were taken to an elaborate meal, treated to a tea ceremony, or toured around sights like Tianenmen Square by members of the KMH staff or their wholesaler clients. We feel lucky that this experience introduced us to the warmth, beauty, and diversity of China.

Updates from IBD China – Team Thermo Fisher

IBD Team Thermo Fisher (Ramya Babu, Lisa Becker, Scott Crider, George James) worked with the China division of Thermo Fisher, an American multinational company, on a growth strategy project for its environment / water analysis segment.

Moving Fast

Shanghai is not what we expected it to be. Even George, who had already lived in this city before was surprised by how modern and western Shanghai has become. We stayed in Pudong, aka “Pu-Jersey”, a 45-minute subway ride from the famous skyline of Shanghai. With nearly 25 million in habitants, Shanghai is currently the largest city by population in the world.

View of the Lujiazui skyline from The Bund, a large, public walkway in Puxi

View of the Lujiazui skyline from The Bund, a large, public walkway in Puxi

The most awe-inspiring thing to behold is the speed at which China is developing. Mega structures that did not exist a few years ago now tower over older buildings. The pace of growth and notion of limitless possibilities in China, and especially in Shanghai, is quite remarkable.

Food to Die For

Upon arrival, we acquainted ourselves with the area around the hotel, home to many expats. The local businesses cater to this population and thus there are many non-Chinese restaurants, with prices not much different from those of the Bay Area.

We sampled many traditional Chinese meals with our Thermo Fisher hosts, including lunches at the company’s business park cafeteria and dinners at Shanghainese restaurants.

The IBD Team with Thermo Fisher. From left to right: Zheng Xin (Thermo Fisher), George James, Ramya Babu, Scott Crider, Lisa Becker and Lily Lei (Thermo Fisher)

The IBD Team with Thermo Fisher. From left to right: Zheng Xin (Thermo Fisher), George James, Ramya Babu, Scott Crider, Lisa Becker and Lily Lei (Thermo Fisher)

One of our favorite meals was la mian, huge bowls of noodle soup for around 12 RMB (or $2 USD). Other favorites included xiao long bao (soup dumplings), Da Dong’s Peking Duck (Beijing’s most famous dish) and, of course, the local pijiu, Tsingtao.

La mian

La mian

Xiao long bao

Xiao long bao

The People

We encountered a variety of people in the new, cosmopolitan city of Shanghai: cab drivers from the provinces, coworkers from Beijing, and foreigners from every corner of the globe. As different as they are, these people all share something in common – the pursuit of opportunity. From the rich to the poor, Shanghai represents the growth of China and the opportunity that a booming economy can create.

The people we met were very open to meeting foreigners, especially those who are interested in Chinese culture. George fit in well with the locals and made friends with the Chinese who appreciated his interest in Chinese language, arts and history.

Taking a quick nap on the subway after a long and jolly conversation: George James (left) and Shangainese local (right)

Taking a quick nap on the subway after a long and jolly conversation: George James (left) and Shangainese local (right)

Culture and Business

Interacting with businesses in China was quite eye opening. There were several conflicting characteristics that we observed. The most prominent are embracing proven ideas, struggling to adopt new ideas, and moving fast. As we spoke with our client and their customers, one idea was repeated throughout: the use of best in class practices combed from all over the world are representative of “Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics”. The sheer thirst for knowledge that has been proven was astounding to observe.

In direct contrast to the assimilation of proven ideas is the struggle to adopt cutting edge ones. We used design-thinking processes that we had previously learned in the Problem Finding, Problem Solving class. Our client struggled to understand the value of diverging from common practices to flush out insights. This was especially interesting given that the client is a large multinational corporation based in the United States.

The IBD Team with Thermo Fisher grouping insights from customer interviews. From left to right: Lisa Becker, Lily Lei (Thermo Fisher), and Ramya Babu

The IBD Team with Thermo Fisher grouping insights from customer interviews. From left to right: Lisa Becker, Lily Lei (Thermo Fisher), and Ramya Babu

We are truly grateful for the hospitality shown by the city of Shanghai, a constantly evolving city that everyone should visit at least once in his or her lifetime.

Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team SVB in China

Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang and Orian Williams are Part-Time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Shanghai, China with Silicon Valley Bank.

Enabling Entrepreneurship in China

Did you know that Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) helped Mark Zuckerberg with banking when he was just a little-known hoodie-wearing startup entrepreneur? SVB has been helping entrepreneurs succeed by providing unique financial products and services in the US. Our team is here to help them succeed in China.

Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang, and Orian Williams are EWMBA students working on an International Business Development (IBD) project in Shanghai, China. The scope of the project is to study credit quality in China for Silicon Valley Bank, specializing in banking with startups.

On our last day in the iLab at Berkeley before departing for the in-country engagement, we went through a brainstorming exercise with Frank Schultz, our IBD faculty mentor. We were glad that he was still smiling after all the hard work we put him through.


IBD-SVB Team + Frank

Week 1

The temperature in Shanghai was noticeably cooler than normal. This was a pleasant surprise and we took it as a good sign for our two weeks stay in Shanghai.

Our team of four arrived at Shanghai on three different flights. Contrary to the typical hours-long flight delays at the Shanghai Pudong Airport, our flights were all surprisingly on time. The first thing that struck us was the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Oftentimes, two moving parties were just centimeters apart while moving in different directions at high speeds. Just when it seemed like a collision was unavoidable, miraculously both parties maneuvered out of each other’s way. It was like two partners on a dance floor moving around swiftly without stepping on each other’s toes. This city seemed to thrive in harmony, without needing any verbal communication.

We met our sponsor, Arman Zand, from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) for dinner the night before we officially began our work in the SVB office in Shanghai, China. In the Chinese culture, business and social gatherings are often conducted around good food. This occasion was no exception to that. Over several dishes of the local gourmet, we shared bits and pieces of our personal stories.

After dinner, our team kicked off our first official in-country working session in the hotel lobby to prepare for a meeting with the CEO the next day.

svb2First In-country Work Session

On our first in-country day at work, we put our knowledge of the Chinese culture and language to work immediately. We met our first interviewee, a startup incubator, at a building that provided office space and support to about 20 startups. Unlike the typical cubicle setup, each “office” was a 2’x4’ desk space which barely provided enough room for a computer, a cup, and a few miniature personal items.

svb3Startup Incubator in China

It almost caught us off-guard that our first meeting was conducted exclusively in Mandarin. It sure put some of our team members’ Mandarin to practice. A full hour of interviewing in Mandarin along with the writing of some names and terms in Chinese made our first in-country interview a very productive one.  As we found out later, the interviewers spoke more freely and provided more information if the meeting was conducted in Mandarin.

svb4Starbucks at Client’s Office

Did you know that a cup of Starbucks coffee is more expensive in Shanghai than in San Francisco? Our team discovered this because 3 of the 5 meetings on day one were at Starbucks. We were beginning to wonder if Starbucks was also where startups pitched to VCs, but that was not the focus of this project.

On day two of the in-country portion of our IBD engagement, our client helped arrange meetings with several well-known venture capital firms to better understand investor behavior in China. We tooled around the city in a gently used mini-van with our team of four plus our handler provided by the firm, and our driver. The weather was a lot warmer than in the Bay Area so thankfully we left our woolen clothing at home. We had one more meeting to go before having dinner with our sponsors’ team at a local Shanghainese restaurant.

Our itinerary had been non-stop since our arrival, but the team was eager to perform well.  The experience was amazing, but this first week had certainly tested our stamina.  This was one of the few IBD projects
with a public company this summer and so we all considered ourselves quite fortunate to have such a practical consulting experience.

svb5Local Breakfast

We decided to go native and got breakfast from a local vendor outside our hotel. Nothing too adventurous, just some steamed pork buns, although one of us did ask for a spicy one.   We also found a dry cleaning place that would wash dress shirts for one-tenth of the price that the hotel was charging. Did we mention that we love China?

We had a few more external meetings left over from earlier in the week and then some internal meetings to help us collect our thoughts. Performing internal and external interviews for the client gave our team twice the consulting experience.

svb6PFPS Exercise

To draw insights and align our observations from our interviews and observations from the last three days, we applied what we had learned from Problem Finding and Problem Solving (PFPS) class.

Our client invited us to their World Cup themed team-building event.  We were told that fun team building activities are not common in Chinese company offices and definitely were new concepts to SVB local employees. SVB tried to build a more collegiate and social culture in its office, and we saw that everyone was able to build off the energy and make the rest of the day more productive.

svb7World Cup Fun

At night, we met up with one of the EWMBA Seminars in International Business (SIB) classmates and we hung out at Nanjing Road.  Nanjing road was an interesting blend of old and new Shanghai.  Most of the original architecture and building fronts were kept but large billboards had been raised over them.  We also took the subway for the very first time.

svb8Nanjing Road

Over the weekend the team took the opportunity to recover from the late nights during the workweek. On Saturday we visited the Tianzi Fang district and the Yu Garden. The highlight of the day was our dinner at Lubolang, one of the best restaurants in Shanghai. We saw a photo of Hilary Clinton who had previously dined there. Their Xiao Long Bao (soup filled dumpling) was excellent.

svb9Best Dinner

On Sunday the team traveled to the outskirts of Shanghai for the local alumni chapter event held at the Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental.  We met Ann Hsu, the Shanghai alumni chapter coordinator, and her husband Tom, who used to work in M&A. Tom said he knew Professor Goodson – small world.

We enjoyed an all you can eat brunch buffet with mimosas. Some of the team members even took a dip in the pool afterwards. It was a nice opportunity to get some fresh air in the countryside, but we wanted to get back and work on some additional analysis for the project.

svb10Sofitel Alumni Event

Week 2

During Week 2, the Seminars in International Business (SIB) class visited the SVB office. The CEO gave a presentation about doing business in China and how SVB positioned itself as the model for innovation banking in China.  We even let them hang out in our cell.

svb11IBD Met SIB at SVB

Week 2 was an intense workweek as the team prepared the final report and presentation to the CEO. On Thursday and Friday, we made our final presentations to the CEO and SVB credit team.  We knew our work had paid off when the client told us that they finally have some tools to play with in China.  We celebrated our success at our client sponsor’s house over drinks and barbecue.  Thanks to Haas and Silicon Valley Bank, another great IBD project!

 

Updates from IBD China – Entering the Largest and Fastest Growing Market in the World

Spring 2014 IBD Student Joseph Kim shares his IBD team’s experiences in Shanghai China.

Our team is working in Shanghai, China for a large lab equipment distributor to improve the partnership and product selection process.  We had the chance to interview current customers from top research universities and leading multi-national companies while in Shanghai.  Although the project was challenging at first, as none of the team members had scientific backgrounds, the team pooled its collective experiences together and delivered clear process recommendations that will be implemented both internally and externally.

When we found out that we would be working for a lab equipment distributor, we looked at each other in bewilderment; first, we weren’t entirely sure what the company did, and secondly, we weren’t sure why they had selected a group of MBA’s all with finance backgrounds instead of a group of scientists in white lab coats.  Upon doing some company and industry research, we quickly learned that the company was a mature, industry leader in a growing Chinese market but that the U.S. parent company wanted to continue to grow its already large footprint.  It became clear that given our backgrounds we could help analyze the market opportunities and introduce processes that would increase success in product launches and finding new relationships.

 

tf1Rickety, pedal-powered wagons share the road with luxury vehicles on newly paved roads

Although the team was prepared to conduct a lot of analysis and have customer interaction once in Shanghai, we underestimated the large culture shock, especially for the members of the team who hadn’t worked overseas before.  Shanghai and its 24+ million citizens kept us on our toes and there wasn’t a dull moment that passed by.  Whether it was being hoodwinked in expensive cab rides or trying to find a restaurant that met all four team members’ dietary needs, we quickly realized that working in a developing country would be challenging even if our surroundings appeared to be developed.  Luckily for us, there were two other Haas IBD teams to share travel and experiences together.

tf2Even the chefs wanted to join the three Shanghai IBD teams at the world renowned restaurant, DTF – Din Tai Fung

Even with the language barrier, our best insights about the business came from interviewing customers.  We learned how culture can affect so many aspects of a business.  For example, one customer pointed out that Chinese workers prefer opening windows instead of turning on the A/C like her French counterparts.  Albeit a subtle difference, the smog and dust accumulation from opening a window affected lab results given the sensitivity of experiments, leading to opportunities for our client to introduce more durable machines.

tf3Overcoming language barriers and Questioning the Status Quo by feeling the sign loudly

Overall, IBD was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We had the chance to put our MBA core learning to work from start to finish and had a blast while delivering recommendations that we know will make a difference.

tf4PFPS invades Shanghai

IBD Updates from China – Team SAP Business One: Parts I, II & III

Team SAP Business One aka “Shanghai Knights” Andrew Hinton, Oseyi Ikuenobe, Ryo Itoh and Yavuz Alkan– worked with SAP in Shanghai to help with the launch of a new software product in China and the United States. They were located at SAP Labs (the innovation and development organization of SAP) in Shanghai’s Technology Park at Pudong.

Part I – “Change is Gonna Come”

Prior to arriving in Shanghai we had several iterations with the client on the scope of our project. We oscillated between a validation of the launch strategy for China, and evaluation of possible launches in English speaking countries (including the US). We arrived in China with a clear scope in mind and armed with our “arrival presentation” we went to our kickoff meeting.  We hadn’t gotten through half of our slides before our project sponsor Robert Chu (EMBA ’06) stopped us to tell us something that would change the course of the next 3 weeks.

sapchina1“Shanghai Knights” @ SAP Office

He had decided that he was now a lot more interested in deciding between two courses of action for the product. SAP was trying to figure out if they should continue developing the product till it was complete or roll it out in a beta form and iterate based on customer feedback.  He also wanted to understand how this decision affected a launch in the US.

This was a shocking development, but we were prepared for a change and were delighted that we would be focused on something that would be meaningful to Rob. But there was more! Rob also mentioned that he would be leaving a few days later for 2 week business trip to the US – ironically spending a few days in the Bay Area. But wait, there’s more! Since the product was still in development, and there was a major release that week so most of the people we needed to talk to, would be too busy to talk to us until the following week.

So our first week was off to a rocky start but we were up to the challenge! To help deal with the pressure we spent most of our time outside the office exploring the sights of Shanghai and going on culinary adventures all over the city.

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sapchina3Hai Di Lao HotPot in Pudong

sapchina4Tai Di Fung with the two other Shanghai based IBD Teams

sapchina5The Bund (with a new friend we made)

sapchina6Nan Jing Road

 

Part II – Settling in

The bombshells dropped on us in the first 2 days seemed like an insurmountable number of hurdles, but all put together they actually gave us a chance for success. We were happy to have most of the first week to ourselves to do research related to our new scope – as most of the pre-work we had done was China specific. So we set about our task of researching and creating analytical models and lining up interviews.

We were surprised by how much we relied on what we had learned from our core courses as we began to piece together our analysis.  We used marketing frameworks from marketing and strategic brand management, entry decision strategies and game theory from our strategic management course, and problem framing techniques from PFPS.

2sapchina11Shanghai Knights @ Work

We had decided to reframe the questions we were asked by thinking about the real issue SAP was facing, ensuring that our work would be truly useful for SAP. True validation of our approach came at the end of the second week when after a presenting an update to Rob.

To celebrate our progress/success and to continue the tradition of exploring Shanghai through our stomachs we had some more great food and even managed to arrange a birthday cake for Ryo – thanks to expert usage of Google Translate (it pays to have the MBAA VP of Technology on your team) and smiles.

2sapchina2Ryo’s birthday at Di Shui Dong

We ended the week with an amazing trip to Beijing with members of one of the other IBD teams in Shanghai. We visited the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square the Forbidden City. We also got to enjoy a great dinner at a famous roast duck restaurant. Our trip to Beijing also gave us the opportunity to experience China’s famous sleeper trains and the high-speed train back to Shanghai.

2sapchina3Sleeper Train

2sapchina4The Great Wall

2sapchina5Summer Palace

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2sapchina8Tiananmen Square

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2sapchina10Forbidden City

 

Part III – The Home Stretch

By week 3, we had interviewed a Senior Director in SAP’s main office (with a spectacular panoramic view of Shanghai) on Nan Jing West road, the owner of the product we were working on, members of the customer engagement team as well as a product evangelist. We were struck by how passionate they all were about this new product and the fact that it was the first major SAP product to be conceived and built entirely in China.

3sapchina1The Jing ’An temple is across the street from SAP’s Nan Jing West Road Office

The highlight of our project was meeting with one of SAP’s customers in Shanghai. We got to spend several hours with them learning about their business and how SAP’s solutions could help them grow their business. It was amazing to see the impact that technology could make on small businesses.

3sapchina2Visit to Ryss – an SAP customer

The meeting was particularly memorable because they treated us to a feast for lunch after our interview was over. It was probably the best meal we had in our entire three weeks in China. Our lack of Mandarin or Shanghainese language skills were alleviated by two great SAP employees Bo and Yolanda who were great translators and guides throughout the customer visit.

Our time at SAP was rewarding as we feel we added value to a very important strategic area for SAP. We got to experience life as SAP Shanghai employees – complete with eating lunch in the cafeteria (and the local Family Mart), interacting with great people like Rambo who helped us with the temperamental AC in our team room (it was quite warm in Shanghai during the day).

3sapchina3Final Day at SAP (with Emily Tai)

We did our final presentation via conference call with Rob (who was in the US almost the entire time we were in Shanghai) and it was high fives all around when he ended the meeting by telling us we had done a great job and he was happy with what we had done – joking that he wishes he could email our professors to give us an A! We promptly shared our faculty mentor’s email address with him!

Thanks to SAP, IBD, and Shanghai for a great experience! Special thanks to Emily Tai who in spite of her busy schedule was our contact throughout the project and a great host!

3sapchina4Final Dinner on our last night in Shanghai

3sapchina5Goodbye Shanghai we’ll miss you!

Updates from IBD China — Team Galderma

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.

galderma1The “Team Who Thinks Together Stays Together” 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.

galderma2Lotus Hypermarket

galderma3Helpful drugstore floor product guide

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.

galderma4Private hospital lobby and floor guide

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.

galderma5Chris enjoying a high-class assessment

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.

galderma6The view from the top of the hotel

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.

galderma8There was literally no one behind this woman in line

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.

galderma9The Galderma team proving that California hasn’t made us soft

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.

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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.

galderma18The team showing that our skills are not just strategy-related

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.

galderma12Great times at the Great Wall

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.

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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.

 

Team Thermo Fisher: from the Great Wall to Giant Pandas

Team Thermo Fisher was in Shanghai recently, working with Thermo Fisher as part of our EWMBA IBD engagement.  During this time, Ashwin Baliga, Adrian Kok, Deba Mohanty and Riddhiman Ghosh, had an opportunity to learn more about China’s history through its many monuments.

China is a nation rich in history and sights.  From the Terracotta Warriors in Xian to the Great Wall of China, these renown landmarks offer a rich lesson in history.

The Terracotta Warriors were discovered in the mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, near the city of Xi’an.  Entirely man made, each statue is constructed with unique features.

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The Leshan Giant Buddha is carved out of a cliff and stands 71 m (233 feet) high.  We visited this sculpture in between customer visits at the nearby city of Chengdu.  Due to the floods in Szechuan, the team had to climb down the cliffs to the base instead of arriving by boat.

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The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, and a major transportation and trade route.  In Wuhan, the team admired the sunset over the river that flowed through the busy city.

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In Shanghai, we stood in awe of the soaring skyscrapers.  It iconic view of the Shanghai Financial Center from the Bund captures the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center (tallest building in China… for now) and the Shanghai Tower (under construction).

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In Beijing, the Temple of Heaven was built over six hundred years ago.  The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is one of the most ornate buildings, built completely with wood and no nails.

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Finally, we also viewed the endangered Giant Panda in its native habitat, near Chengdu.  There is no other animal more characteristic of China: it has appeared as the Beijing Olympic mascot and often featured in cultural exchanges with various nations around the world.

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Our last stop: the Great Wall of China.  Also initiated by the first Emperor, the 13,000 mile fortification has been extended over the centuries with an estimated 25,000 watchtowers by the time of the Ming dynasty.  Today, it stands defenseless against the horde of tourists that scale its walls by the thousands.

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Team Thermo-Fisher with our clients

Team Thermo Fisher is Ashwin Baliga, Deba Mohanty, Riddhiman Ghosh and Adrian Kok.  We have been working with Thermo Fisher Scientific in Shanghai for the last two weeks.  Before we wrap up our visit, we’d like to share some of the people we’ve met and places we’ve been.

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Our client, Thermo Fisher, is located in Pudong, which is west of the river (that bisects Shanghai).  The offices are located in a lush office park with a lake in the center and picturesque canals around it.  The park itself is set in a suburban area with lots of restaurants and bars around.

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Our client provided us with a spare office which was well appointed with lots of space and conveniently located next to the pantry.  Every morning, the bottles of water were placed on the table for our use.  We had everything we needed to be productive!  Well, almost everything …. the Wi-fi coverage that we took for granted was actually quite spotty in our room, so we were provided a 3G Wi-Fi hotspot to augment our network connection.  It made simple tasks like formatting Powerpoint presentations a bit of a chore (“why is slide 59 still in Calibri?”)  Can you spot the Wi-Fi router in the picture below?Image

But overcoming obstacles is what we do best (by questioning the status quo) – with a few nights of hard work and sweat (not from Szechuan hot pot!) we completed our final presentation to our client last Thursday morning.  Now we can’t really say how he took it, but we are fairly confident (without attitude) that he was pleased.

ImageFor full disclosure, our work was very much made possible with the help from the Thermo Fisher team as well: there are too many to list here (no, this is not an Oscars acceptance speech), so we must simply acknowledge their assistance,especially for the help with translating and providing us critical feedback on our deliverables.

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