- Student Journal 1
After a long but not too unpleasant trip, we arrived at our hotel in Hong Kong. I was pleasantly surprised. On top of that, Ed and I apparently lucked out – our room was massive and smelled clean, especially in comparison to the tiny room Eileen and Tanya were stuck with. So far, so good.
After getting some rest, we went for a group dinner at a restaurant recommended by Greg – good food and a much needed beer.
We had a 6:15 wake-up call, though jet lag had me up at around 4 am. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we got on our way to our first company visit – HK Disney.
We met with the GM who talked to us a little about the Walt Disney Company and HK Disney. Some notable things about Walt Disney:
- Creativity and technological innovation are of prime importance, and the firm runs on high operating leverage.
- Parks and resorts make up 27% of Walt Disney’s revenue and 17% of operating income
He also discussed “first pass” at HK Disney which is in place to increase two metrics: “excellent overall experience” and “intent to return”
Factors Disneyland considers when evaluating international expansion: population, tourism, income, economic and political stability, brand affinity and potential investment partners.
After our meeting, we spent a few hours enjoying the rides at the park – great fun, though I had to buy a pair of Mickey Mouse flip flops since I brought a change of clothes but forgot to bring my sneakers.
After Disney, our next stop was Victoria’s peak. It was foggy and misty but nevertheless, the view was still stunning. Later that night, we went out for drinks at one of the highest bars in the world with a friend of Dan’s.
Today we visited the HK Chamber of Commerce and met with Chief economist David O’Rear. He gave us some interesting insights on what’s happening in Hong Kong and China economically. His presentation was jam packed with charts, graphs and statistics, but he complimented it with a lot of humor. All in all, it was an excellent and informative presentation.
Later that day we visited SSGA and met with a BC alum, who manages investments, and a couple of her subordinates. She told us quite a bit about her background and how she got to where she is. She also gave us some do’s and don’ts for success working in Asia. Her colleagues talked to us about their functions and how they ended up in Asia. One was Eastern European and had an interesting background.
In the evening we took a ferry to the other side for an alumni dinner with quite an impressive turnout.
- Student Journal 2
After almost 36 hours of smooth air travel including a layover in New York, we arrived in Hong Kong. We arrived at the Royal Pacific and to say the least I was very satisfied with the Hotel amenities. Our first order of business was to get ready for our first group dinner. The restaurant of choice was unable to accommodate our massive group size (we had an incredible group participation rate) so we had to ‘call an audible’ and relocate to ‘Fook Youn Seafood Restaurant’.
Upon arrival, our group leader and wonderful professor Greg Stoller, with a nice hand from Winnie (our tour guide) successfully had us seated. The food was then brought out and placed on a lazy susan. The waitresses brought out delicious beer (Tsingtao) and delightful food. Some of the entrees included a delicious spicy eggplant stir-fry which we placed on crisp fresh lettuce leafs and topped off with some delicious sprouts and soy sauce. The walk back to our hotel was well lit as if we were near times square except with all of the writing in Chinese characters and narrower roadways. It was at this exact moment that my jetlag stepped aside for a moment to let me realize I was on the other side of the planet. Welcome to Hong Kong!
HK General Chamber of Commerce
On May 17th, 2011 we headed to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce to be briefed by the Chief Economist, David O’Rear. Mr O’Rear proceeded to give an extremely compelling speech about how Hong Kong’s economy is positively correlated with trade and also discussed current and future challenges for Hong Kong. His explanation on how Hong Kong became what it is today and one particular slide which showed some key economic metrics for Hong Kong were of high interest to me. His final comparison of China to the United States in the 1920’s (wild west, no IP protection, open markets) with the caveat that the great depression has already past, was thought incredibly thought provoking. After his speech, Mr. O’Rear fielded our questions and walked us down to the lobby fielding our questions the entire way. The level of access we were given to Mr O’Rear was amazing and I felt honored to be a part of this event.
- Student Journal 3
Monday, May 16th
Hong Kong Disneyland
The day started early with an MTR train ride …. Next stop Disneyland! Our group met with Michael Moriarty, CFO. Mr. Moriarty gave us a detailed overview of Hong Kong Disneyland operations, expansion plans and special events planned to mark the park’s fifth anniversary. He also discussed the primary focus areas of the overall Disney organization such as Creativity and Brand Development, Technological Innovation and Global Expansion. In addition, Michael mentioned initiatives and challenges associated with monetizing creative efforts and expanding the target demographics to include young adults and teenagers in addition to traditional visitors such as families with young children. After the presentation, we spent a few hours walking around the park, taking pictures and testing the rides – Space Mountain was by far my favorite!!!
After an exciting morning and lunch with Pluto (no kidding) at Disney, we went to Victoria Peak – the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island and home to the wealthiest residents of Hong Kong. I very much enjoyed the ride to the peak on the historic tram. Unfortunately, the rain didn’t allow us to enjoy the panoramic view of Hong Kong from the peak; the afternoon sightseeing plans were cancelled due to the bad weather. After a much-needed stop at Starbucks we boarded the bus and started making our way through rush hour traffic back to Kowloon. Later, I spent a couple of hours walking around the local shopping district. We concluded the day with dinner at Taiwan Beef Noodles restaurant – great place right across the street from the hotel – and a drink at the Ozone Bar at Ritz Carlton – the highest bar in the world that despite the rain offered an amazing view of Hong Kong at night. Great first day!
Tuesday, May 17th
Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
Our host was Mr. David O’Rear, the Chief Economist of HKCC. Mr. O’Rear started with brief overview of the history of Hong Kong and proceeded to discuss the economic situation in Hong Kong and China. Interestingly, Hong Kong plays a major role in Chinese economy by providing significant investment capital. Mr. O’Rear highlighted one of the growing concerns for the Chinese economy: changing labor policies and demographics.
Our group met with Ms. Ting Li, Managing Director and Head of China Market Development, and two of her colleagues. Ms. Li provided a brief overview of SSgA: the largest institutional asset manager in Asia with over $100B AUM. One of State Street’s objectives is to derive close to 50% of total revenues from international operations; growing Asian market is the major driver of international revenue. Ms. Li also shared the details of her impressive career at SSgA Asia and told us about her client relationship building and market development initiative in China.
Alumni Dinner Event
We took a ferry across the harbor to Hong Kong Island and walked to the China Club for the alumni event. BC alum turnout was impressive and I got a chance to talk to a few of the alums. It was a fun evening at an impressive venue with great food and an amazing view of the city.
- Student Journal 4
Hong Kong Disneyland
This morning we went to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. The CFO of Hong Kong Disneyland, Michael Moriarty, gave us a presentation about the company, its strategies, and future plans to grow in the continent of Asia. I was surprised by the importance that this company gives to the brand development and creativity. Additionally, he explained to us that technological innovations is key for them to keep improving logistics and the total experience, thus improving customer satisfaction in the park and increasing customer willingness to come back to the park in the future.
Thai Asahi Glass (AGC Glass)
This was a very interesting visit, and for me, that I am not an engineer, learning about the whole process of making glass was surprising. I understand now a little bit more about the different type of glasses and how they are chosen. For example, the laminated glass is the safest glass in terms of the braking pattern, as it does not scatter away, it maintains the previous shape. Another type of glass is the tempered glass, and this one offers 3 times more strength. The reflective glass offers that reflection due to specific raw materials and to a coat that is placed over it. Different types of glasses are used in different situations: buildings, cars, airports, etc.
Finally the factory tour was amazing. We were able to see how they make, cut and wrap the glass to ship it. The attention received was incredible personal.
I was totally impressed by this city. I felt like being in New York (which for me is an impressive, cosmopolitan, up to date city), but with incredible cleanness and overwhelming presence of Chinese population. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the city and the excellence on services that it offered. However, you can still capture the difference between China and Western countries in standards of hygiene and personal space in general. For example, elevators were a tough place for us, since we could not believe how many more people were coming in when we thought the elevator was “full”.
I also felt the need to understand the local people, those who do not know English to have deeper understanding of the city and its meanings. We visited some of the modern parts of the city, but also the shopping areas in the more traditional houses. We also had time to watch one of the acrobats shows, which was really impressive and exciting. It was the city that I liked the most.
- Student Journal 5
Visiting Southern China, the Factory of the World.
Early in the morning on the 18th of May, we put ourselves on the bus leaving Hong Kong for Guangzhou. We were scheduled to visit Mainland China two times on this trip. The first visit was to Guangzhou, in Southern China, which attracts a number of companies from all over the world with its affluent and cheap labor forces. When I told some Chinese classmates that we would visit these two places, Guangzhou and Shanghai in China, they all said “you will see two faces of the emerging market, China, then.” Today is the day that I might see “China, the Factory of the World”, which is hidden behind the spotlighted, “New superpower, China” in the world trade and world economy, or which made “The China” possible. To step into Guangzhou from Hong Kong is not a simple process. It required a few hours of driving and completion of some administrative processes, like passport and baggage checks before we actually got there.
The two companies we are supposed to visit today, are all located in Shenzhen, Guangzhou. After another long-hour drive after the passport control on the border (precisely speaking, it is not the official border between countries, though.), we had finally reached the town where the second company is located. Now the bus is driving on an unpaved road, bare without asphalt, and the city-view has changed from multi-story offices and apartments into two-to-three story low and old buildings. Young people who look like workers in this town are standing and talking at the bus stops, waiting for a bus. Construction workers are passionately putting something under the ground at a dust-blowing construction site. A father giving his son a piggyback ride and a young lady dressed up with a pinky, frilly blouse are walking through the dust fog of the construction site. The hearts of fathers toward their children and the fashion of girls seem to be the same everywhere in the world. Workers are staring at the bus full of foreigners with eyes full of questions. Clothes are hanging around the balcony of apartments that look like the accommodations for workers of this town, like colorful flags. All the scenery here makes me realize that we have just stepped into a snapshot of everyday life for some people, a life where the past, the present and the future are fast intercrossing.
Our time for learning about the past and current change of Chinese business environment through an industry of “watch manufacturing” was just like a case study in class, full of real, vivid and interesting stories. In particular, the management of the company emphasized that Southern China, the place famous for affluent and cheap human capital, is suffering from the decrease of labor and an increase of income level. Behind the change, there is a double increase of income for Chinese workers and a strengthening of corporate welfare policies, recently executed by the Chinese government.