Singing the praises of Singapore

You will have to all have to forgive me since I am writing this post offline, so if I repeat myself, sorry.

We visited with the US Foreign Commercial Service in the US Embassy. I must say that the embassy looks like a huge fort. One has to go through two different gates to get in, and the outer walls a quite thick. The representatives we met spoke of the great synergy between the United States and Singapore with trade. While Singapore is highly regulated, it is quite conducive as a center of trade throughout the world. It currently has the largest port in the world, with massive amounts of goods being shipped to Singapore to be worked on, and then shipped out. I was also surprised to learn that Singapore is also home to one of the largest oil refinery operations in the world. Crude oil comes in to this small nation to get processed. The people of Singapore have made the ease of trade of operations their competitive advantage. This became more apparent with our visit to Lucent. Through our presentation, Lucent seems to be well positioned in Singapore to operate the whole Asiatic region.

Supply chain management is a powerful tool for today’s businesses. In our first meeting with Intel in Shanghai, we were introduced to the idea of virtual factories. A prestigious alumnus from Thunderbird was gracious enough to talk about the companies he has worked for in managing companys’ supply chains. This involves a fluid method of producing goods, by chartering freelance factories to make goods at the lowest price while maintaining a high quality standard. This is a great insight, that while Asia may be the hottest location for cheap/high quality labor today, it might move to another locale anywhere around the world. If a company has invested in building a factory in a once-hot location, it becomes hard to migrate that asset to maintain cost-efficiency. With a virtual factory, production can be re-located almost overnight thereby maintaining cost efficiency.

Beautiful locations attract people. Singapore has this down to an art. This environment conduces companies to set up operations. Another alumnus from Intel met with us, and talked about how Intel has set up operations in Singapore for their Innovation Center.

On the tourist front, I was able to walk around Singapore and a smaller island – Sentosa. The views are fantastic, and the weather is great. We all went to a night safari which was quite unique and had an astounding fire-breathing show. I certainly wish I had more time to explore the city, but we were here for studying… This was certainly true of India…

I’ve been hiding

Well actually the internet access in India was a pain, and time was short, rather we had pretty full days. The official class is done, and I’m now in Phuket, Thailand. Did a quick dive this afternoon, and now heading out to dinner. This hotel, likewise has an annoying internet access system… I’ll try to get some of my thoughts on Singapore and India in the next day or two…

now where was I?

So the schedule we have has been quite busy. Let me ammend that, Singapore has been a bit more relaxed as far as official presentations and such, but I’ve been going out with friends exploring the city. This is the first chance I have had to sit down and write.

In looking back at my posts the last thing I was talking about is Suzhou, and how immaculate it is. Well, I got to see a very different side of the town a couple of days ago, when I went on my own by train to the town to explore. What I saw was what I was expecting to see in China in the first place. The town certainly has more of a feeling of a lesser developed country, though there wasn’t any outright major poverty.

On the last meeting day in Shanghai, we met with another Thunderbird alum who has almost singlehandedly brought NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese cell phone company, to China. He talked about the challenges his company has in setting up operations in China, but also how the opportunity is there to make a profit. We also had a fascinating panel of alumni where we learned about the challenges about living abroad in China. I could see there are a few parallels from my own experiences growing up. Having been raised in foreign countries, I feel that I have a better mindset than most people in the United States. This is what is great about Thunderbird, just about everyone at the school has this global mindset and see it as an advantage. The panel also discussed the challenges Westerners have in managing Asians. There are very distinct differences in styles which one has to be aware of in order to be effective.

We are now in Singapore which I have alluded to. Yesterday we met with an alumni who is helping run a training program in Malaysia. He discussed the differences of learning within Asian countries, which added on to what the panel had to say a few days earlier. I’ve never been a huge history buff, but a very good brief overview of the region’s history has gotten me interested in possibly learning more. Singapore has been a central point in international trade for a long time. Although it is a tiny island, with very strict rules, a lot of goods pass through the city nation with destinations around the world. The United States certainly has a vested interest with this nation, as we learned today at the US embassy.

Well I’m starving, and need to iron out a few more details for my Thailand portion at the end of this trip, plus send a few things back stateside. While Shanghai was bitterly cold, I now find myself in tropical climates, as Singapore is quite close to the Equator. The airlines are also very picky about the weight of luggage, and I have heard that they may even block you from travel if the bags are too overweight.

In Singapore…

Howdy y’all…

I know, I need to update with the rest of Shanghai, and I’ll probably get to that tomorrow afternoon when I have a chunk of time. I just wanted to let you all know that we are now all in Singapore. The flight over was amazing. I must seriously agree with all my friends… Singapore Airlines does treat its customers VERY well. We were all in Economy class, however the way we were all treated was akin to Business Class in the USA. While Shanghai was freezing, it is in the mid 70’s and humid here in Singapore, so I don’t need my winter clothes anymore. Anywho… my eyes are heavy, and I have an early-ish morning tomorrow…

More details about the end of my Shanghai trip tomorrow, plus more initial reactions to Singapore.

Welcome to the Future

It is hard to believe that we are in a tightly controlled country at times. Particularly in Shanghai. Everywhere I look there are these jaw-dropping buildings that rival the best in the United States. Architecture is not the only amazement I have encountered. In meeting with various countries, it has become apparent that China is more than meets the eye. Opportunities abound here. NuSkin, a pharmaceutical company that focuses on skin care and natural suppplements has thrived here. The company basically sent in one person to start operations here, and it has grown into a massively successful operation. We also got an opportunity to visit a company that is in the nascent stages of setting up operations here. We got to meet a former Thunderbird who is the sole American who was charged to hire employees to make a component in water filtration. His role is basically the general manager at most times, but he also has to be the engineer and any other role in this small 20 person company. The flattening of the world in this small company became immediately apparent when he mentioned that US headquarters could monitor, and even assist in fixing operations via cameras mounted around the assembly line.

Along the lines of telecommunications we have also met with UTStarcom, where one of the founders took time out of his busy schedule in Beijing and flew down to meet with us. This American company is wildly successful by creating a wireless phone technology for the masses in China. They are now doing massive research and development on a very intriguing technology: ip-tv. Basically sending tv shows over the internet… ON DEMAND. Think TiVo but instead of just recording one show, all shows would be available at any time. And since it is all sent over the internet, one could watch the TV shows, in theory, all over the world! This certainly brings home some more flattening, with not just businesses, but in the media.

Just outside of Shanghai there is a town called Suzhou. In this town there is an unprecedented cooperation between the Chinese and Singaporan governments to develop an industrial park. The park is amazingly organized and is almost surreal. I almost believe that every last pebble found in the city has been planned and placed. Special tax incentives and infrastructure lure new companies to come to this special zone.

Let’s see what today has to offer to make us feel shorter in this flatter and flatter world.

Getting into the process of things

Day 1 of the Winterim was actually very interesting. The US Commercial Service gave us a great overview of doing business in China. They gave us some official numbers of population, GDP and un-employment. It was interesting to hear that the official un-employment number is about 4.5%, wheras our professor mentioned that un-official tallies list it closer to 20%. That is quite a jump!

Intel was very interesting. I enjoyed the walk from the main entrance to the conference room where I could quickly peek into some clean rooms where people are assembling the latest generation of processors and such. A senior executive talked to us about Intel’s structure around the world, and in particular what is being done in China. He talked to us about living as an expatriate, and shared some of the differences there are between Americans and Chinese. In particular, Americans are a bit more confrontational, and inquisitive whereas the Chinese are a bit more subdued in their ways in dealing with authority.

The trip to the local university was a lot of fun since we got to meet our counterparts here in China. They take all their classes in English, and it was nice to see that they experience the same challenges we do in their school work. I met several very interesting students, and have exchanged information with them to keep a dialoge open with them in the future.

Finally the evening was capped off by a reception where we were able to meet some alumni, and have some more laid-back conversations with our new Chinese friends, and each other.

Today is going to prove another busy day which will be exciting.

They’re here!

Well yesterday marked the arrival of more people of my group, and we ended up hanging out together and meeting up with another classmate’s friend who lives in Shanghai. Daisy was kind enough to show us around and help us out with some hardcore shopping negotiations. Without her, we would have been paying double or even triple for some items we bought. In the afternoon we went to a fantastic Chinese restaurant where I ate croaker, or something similar sounding. It is basically a whole fish on a plate that gets the pleasure of watching you eat it. It actually was quite tasty which was nice. Later on, I went to get my suit fitted, and went to see another temple: Jing An. This temple has a strange, but pleasing mix of old vs new architecture and design. In the evening Daisy took us to a Chinese tea house where we sat for hours talking about what we do and how we all got to where we are today.

Well, it is about 6:20 in the morning here, and breakfast opens at 6:30. The whole group is officially meeting at 7:15 to head off to our first event with the US Commercial Service, later today we get to visit the Intel campus, which is one of the events I am really looking forward to. Later on tonight we meet with the Jiatong University to learn about their MBA program, and finally we have a welcome reception with alumni and friends from our school. I’ll bring my camera, though I am unsure when pictures will be allowed. 🙂

…and so it begins

well actually it began at 3:45am this morning when I woke up to get to the airport. I am now in LA waiting patiently for my Tokyo Flight. JFK has a new terminal which was nice looking, though the line to get checked in was still quite inefficient.

Let’s see how I feel when I get to Asia. I’ll try to check in when I get into Tokyo, and if my laptop works. Seems like it has decided that it wants to be cranky and needs rebooting every so often…

The short bounce home…

Well here I am in Connecticut for a short short stay. I arrived only last Friday, and I’ll be leaving at an ungodly hour on Monday morning, the day after Christmas. My flight leaves at 7am, which means I have to wake up at sometime like 4am in order to be ready to go. My flight itenerary takes me first to LA, then to Tokyo, and finally Shanghai. That is a lot of air time, even for me. Fortunately I’ll be happily entertained. Upon the recommendation of my professor I’ll be reading “The World Is Flat” by Thomas Friedman. So hopefully by reading this book, the geography of Earth will change, and the flight will become shorter 😛 . In a very interesting coincidence, I am an avid reader of National Geographic Traveler. It seems like everytime I am travelling somewhere, NG Traveler decides to run special articles on the place(s) I am to visit. It just so happens that the most recent issue has a city profile on Singapore… and the previous issue had a good profile of Thailand. Freaky ain’t it? 😯 Maybe I should be better coordinated with NG 😆