By Gayathri Selvaraj
After Tokyo, the MIM students went to Shanghai. Shanghai is one of the biggest cities in China and is highly more westernized than most parts of China. In Shanghai, we stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel. The hotel was one of the best that we stayed at during our Asia trip. It was located on Nanjing Road, making it very easy to travel around the city. In Shanghai, we visited four multi-national companies: Caterpillar, LG Electronics, Shanghai General Motors, and APCO.
Our first company visit was to the Caterpillar corporate office. We were given a presentation about the company’s business model, strategy, and growth drivers in China. It was very interesting to hear about their R&D activities in China and the emphasis they put on developing their employees. The next company we visited was LG electronics. Here, we were exposed to some of the challenges they faced in terms of competition, talent, and innovation.
On our second day in Shanghai, we visited Shanghai General Motors. The company is known for selling more cars in China than in the US. Here, we saw their flexible production line system, which can produce any model of car with any color. We learned about their business strategy in China and about the intense competition they face with other car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen. The last company we visited was APCO, which is a consulting firm that helps multinational companies enter the China market and helps them work with the Chinese government. It was really fascinating to learn about all the challenges and media regulations that exist in China. For instance, the government controls the use of the Internet and restricts access to many social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Overall, the main business challenges in China seemed to be 1) Finding and retaining talented employees (language was a huge barrier while trying to recruit talent), 2) Relationships are emphasized in China (making it important for multinational companies to have good relationships with the government), and 3) Issues with counterfeit (the infringement and patent laws are not implemented strictly).
The people in Shanghai seemed to be very friendly and outgoing. English was spoken commonly, with more people eager to practice English by talking with us. There was some chaos, especially with the traffic, which is common among all the big cities.
One notable place we visited in Shanghai was the Bund, from where you can see the famous Oriental Pearl Tower. The tower gets lit with many LED lights in the night and sparkles amongst the other buildings forming the Shanghai Skyline. We also visited Yuyuan Garden, Jing’an temple, and Tian Zi Fang. Tian Zi Fang is a great shopping area, lined with many small shops selling everything from souvenirs to teapots to Qípáo, which is the Chinese dress for women.
Some of us went to Suzhou, a town close to Shanghai, on our free day. We visited the famous Imperial garden in the old part of the town, experimented with Suzhou food, and drove around the new part of Suzhou. It was interesting to note the stark differences between new and old Suzhou. While the new Suzhou was filled with constructions, malls, and skyscrapers, the old Suzhou reflected a city that has frozen in time.
Overall, the visit to China was very enjoyable. We visited four multi-national companies and gained a lot of insight into their business and operations. We learned a lot about the Chinese culture, people, and food. We had a fun time visiting tourist destinations, trying out different types of food, and shopping.