Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Singapore

The Three Blind Men and the Elephant

Or what we learned on the first day of being in Singapore

Professor Matta had told us a story about the three blind men and the elephant. To summarize: the story was about three blind men wanting to experiencing an elephant because they hear several locals talking about it; they want to experience it for themselves. When they are actually put in the same room as an elephant, they each discovered the elephant to be only one part of the animal. One experienced solely the trunk, another, the legs, and the last, the tail. When they all tried to describe the experience, they all argued about what part of the elephant was “actually the elephant”. Because they only experienced one section of the animal, they assumed the entire animal was the area that they “experienced”.

This was very similar to our first day in Singapore. Because we had only read about Singapore and not really experienced it first hand, we each assumed different facts that we had learned summed up the entire experience of being in Singapore. When we actually started walking around to the different regions, all of our preconceived notions were blown out of the water.

Hasika, Daria, and Prof. Matta recreating the three blind men and the elephant
Hasika, Daria, and Prof. Matta recreating the three blind men and the elephant

Little India

The Tamil Nadu away from Tamil Nadu

The Mustafa Centre is a huge supercenter in the Little India area in Singapore. You can buy anything at this supercenter, from gold watches to tasty Indian snacks. It is four stories high and each floor is completely filled with products. The amount of stock on the shelves was a huge surprise. For example, in the cereal section, each different cereal had over 20 boxes deep. This seems to stem from the fact that the turnover in the store is extremely high. When walking through the store at 11 p.m., the store was completely packed. Every single floor was crawling with all sorts of people, thus navigating the store was very difficult to say the least. It is important to note that around this time at night (11 p.m.) is when most people go out to do their shopping since it is so very hot during the day in Singapore.

The last trip of the day was a visit to Little India. While Singapore was owned by the British in the 1800s, they wanted to bring cheap labor over from other countries. Tamil Nadu was the closest state to the coast, which is where most of the workers came from. They have now set up their own community which is bustling and thriving for tourists and locals to come visit. As soon as we stepped into the first shopping area, it was as if we had stepped right into India. Storefronts lined with henna tents, traditional Indian clothing, and beautiful gold jewelry populated the sidewalks. For dinner, we had traditional Indian cuisine including palak paneer (a spinach and Indian cheese dish), aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato curry), naan (Indian flat bread), etc.

little-india

Marina Bay

Prior to coming to Singapore and researching it in class, we really had no expectations of the Southeast Asian island. We had presenters from Singapore and a presentation from Ohio State’s coordinator, but we couldn’t conceptualize the paradise-like Island. The first full day in Singapore included a variety of experiences – from nature to recreation to cultural ceremonies, we had the chance to experience a slice of life in Singapore.

Our first stop bright and early was the gardens by the bay. Being a tropical paradise, Singapore is the ideal destination for a beautiful array of tropical plants. A large structure of 18 fake trees called “sustainable trees” stood a few stories high. These sci-fi fake trees were designed to help with energy in the city. We had a chance to go up in these trees, connected by bridges and have a Birdseye view of the gardens.

Our next stop involved one of the most recognized buildings in Singapore – the Marina Bay Sands. Built in 2011, the hotel was designed to be family oriented to attract many guests. The Marina Bay sands cost 5 billion dollars to build, but drew in an astounding $400 million dollars in its first quarter. The Marina Bay Sands is so successful not just because of the beautiful aesthetics, but because of its unique offering – guests have an all in one hotel complete with a mall, casino, and restaurants. Guests can have a variety of options without ever having to leave the comfort of where they are staying. Not only are there all these amenities, but take the elevator up to the 56th floor and visit the observation deck, or take a dip and cool off from the 90 degree weather in the beautiful infinity pool, which overlooks all of Singapore. For those who aren’t guests of the hotel, they are free to visit the casino, shop, or purchase a ticket to view the sky deck. The Sands also hosts entertainment such as music events and plays. CATS is currently playing now, with Beauty and the Beast debuting in March. It perfectly captures all types of people. After spending an exhilarating day at the Sands, everyone is invited back in the evening for the last light show the Marina Bay Sands displays every single night.

This one of a kind resort, spa, casino, and world-class shopping is every tourist’s dream.

This one of a kind resort, spa, casino, and world-class shopping is every tourist’s dream.

Singapore: The Waterways of the World

During the team’s time in Singapore, we could not escape the fact that Singapore is a global hub surrounded by water. Everywhere we went, we saw the ocean, whether in a beautiful beach landscape, in a breathtaking view from the Marina Bay Sands hotel, and even in the assortment of prawn and crab in our dinners. Singapore’s connection to the ocean has caused the nation to become a global hub that draws the world to its sunny shores.

Even though Singapore is a tiny little country, its location and connection to the ocean have made it a very strategic area. It is why the British, led by Sir Stamford Raffles, sought to acquire the land to set up a trading post. It is why the Japanese invaded the country during World War II. It is also why several world-class companies have set up operations in the country. On Friday, the team visited Mead Johnson, a company located in the heart of the financial district of Singapore. This company creates infant baby formula and serves many markets in the region. During the company’s presentation, it was fascinating to learn about the differences between various countries and how the company must approach marketing to these markets in different ways.

Beyond drawing companies, Singapore also motivates people of various countries and cultures to come. Throughout the trip, the team saw this. We learned how to properly and politely make tea at a Chinese tea ceremony. We witnessed a religious ritual at a Hindu temple in Little India. We dined on the finest of Chinese and Malaysian cuisine at the Blue Ginger. And finally on Friday, we attended an Ohio State alumni reception. It was interesting to meet several different individuals whose paths took them from snowy Ohio all the way to Singapore. One individual was B.C. Tan, a relatively recent graduate of Ohio State. After the reception was finished, he took a group of us to the restaurant that he owned. (This was just his night job; he worked in the risk division of a company by day). It was truly fascinating to hear his story and his take on the culture of Singapore.

Finally, on Saturday, the Ohio State team got to truly experience the waterways that have drawn governments, companies, cultures, and individuals. Early in the morning, we arose and lathered on our sunscreen. In the sweltering heat and sunshine, we set out on a boat over to Pulau Ubin, a small island near Singapore. We then kayaked around the island and explored a lagoon. Even though this trip was the first time that many people had kayaked, thankfully no one tipped over. On the trek, we saw the island, massive mangrove trees, local fisheries, and massive ships going into the Singapore harbor.

Singapore is a fascinating little country that has drawn the world to its shores. If anyone desires to see a beautiful amalgamation of cultures and experience an oceanic paradise, look no further than this island nation.

Here are some pictures:

A view of the waterfalls in the Gardens by the Bay

A view of the waterfalls in the Gardens by the Bay

This is a picture of Pulau Ubin, where we went kayaking.

This is a picture of Pulau Ubin, where we went kayaking.

Another view of the ocean from Pulau Ubin

Another view of the ocean from Pulau Ubin

A group of the Ohio State students on the kayaking trip

A group of the Ohio State students on the kayaking trip

A segment of the Ohio State team at the alumni reception

A segment of the Ohio State team at the alumni reception

The MBAs on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel overlooking the Singapore harbor.

The MBAs on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel overlooking the Singapore harbor.

Hidden gems in Singapore

For most students on their first travel outside of the United States, the hardest part of adjusting to foreign territory is the language barrier. But for students traveling to Singapore, adapting to the country is significantly easier because the official business language of Singapore is English. Not only is it easier for Americans to adjust, but Singapore is extremely safe with one of the lowest crime rates in the world. If you’re still not sold, Singapore has been ranked by World Bank Group as the number one country for Doing Business in both 2014 & 2015.

Dollar Deals

Singapore’s climate has 3 seasons; hot, hotter, and hottest. As we neared the 11 o’clock hour the sun blaring & temperature reaching 88 degrees, little beads of sweat started to pour from everyone’s face. We found ourselves in the colonial district of Singapore. As we crossed the famous Cavanagh Bridge, we had no idea of what we would encounter next. As we approached a line nearing the end of the bridge, our curiosity arose. We come to find this line was a cart selling ice-cream sandwiches. But no ordinary sandwich. The ice-cream was hand sliced and then delicately placed in between a sweetened colorful bread. The sandwich was refreshing. And the best part of the ice-cream sandwich is that it is only 1 Singaporean dollar!

Creativi-Tea

Traveling through Singapore via the MRT & bus system is easy to maneuver. As we made our way to Chinatown via the number 80 bus, we got caught in a down pour. We ventured our way in our very touristy outfits (ponchos) to Tea Chapter. We came to learn and appreciate the Chinese standards of preparing and serving tea.

Wendy’s Wednesday

On Wednesday’s we eat Wendy’s. As a native of Ohio, Wendy’s originated in 1969 by Dave Thomas. Now Wendy’s is a global QSR (Quick Service Restaurant). Wendy’s believes its global business lies within its partners and 80/20 product rule. The 80/20 rule is consistent across all Wendy’s globally while keeping 80 percent of the core Wendy’s products and adapting 20 percent of the product to local taste. Wendy’s intrigues Singaporeans by offering quality meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Recommendations in Singapore:  Kaya Toast, Frosty Cone, and Chicken Sausage and Egg Burrito. A must-see destination to uncover!

Branding Singapore

Our mission on this journey through the Fisher College of Business was not only to immerse ourselves in Singaporean culture, but it was primarily a chance for us as business students to experience marketing in a global context

However, our exposure to global marketing was not confined by the corporate walls of the companies we visited and presented to. In fact, the most fascinating and prevalent example was arguably Singapore itself and how the country is strategically marketed for both visitors and residents.

uniquely

Below are a few of the key attributes we have identified that constitute a brand that is truly “Uniquely Singapore”:

A hub for business: both global and local

Singapore has become a global business hub, mostly thanks to its location. At the southern tip of Malaysia, it is easily accessed by sea on all sides. This is a big reason it is one of the busiest cargo ports in the world. Also, due to the strict laws and regulations in the country, Singapore is very stable. The risk of doing business there is very low, which is why several multinational companies have established permanent offices there. This brings about another point as to why Singapore is such a global business hub. The presence of large multinational companies there attracts a lot of talent from various countries throughout the world. Thus, a sizeable portion of the population in Singapore is comprised of ex-pats—something you notice walking around any part of town.

While Singapore does have a very global feel, it also maintains a local flavor in business. Some businesses cater to tourists from around the world, selling little trinkets for souvenirs. Other businesses are much more authentic. Singapore has areas throughout the city that cater to all different ethnicities; in Singapore, there exists Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street, to name a few. This fact was made more salient when a couple of the people in our group went into a shop on Arab Street that was selling authentic Indian silk scarves. We talked to the shop owner and learned that his grandparents moved to Singapore from India in 1908, and that his parents began their cloth business in 1972. He has worked there all his life, making it a truly local staple. The shop imports its goods directly from India, adding to the idea that even local businesses in Singapore take on a global feel. Hawker Centers (buildings with stalls and stalls of different Asian food offerings) are another excellent example of local business thriving in Singapore since many of the owners have been running their stalls for their whole lives.

hub cloth

A Shopper’s Paradise

As we learned on this trip, malls in Singapore are everywhere! One day the group spent time shopping at three different malls… while this was fun, it seemed a little excessive, and made us think: What’s the deal with all of these malls? It turns out Singapore uses its malls on the one hand to appeal to tourists, because who doesn’t like to treat themselves while they are on vacation? On the other hand, Singaporean residents have a lot of spending power—especially since many are ex-pats—and are also quite on-trend when it comes to what is new for the biggest brands.

Malls in Singapore are not simply constructed with a “build it and they will come” mindset. Rather, malls and the stores within are often strategically designed to appeal to the exact customer they want to come into their store. The mall at the Marina Bay Sands is a perfect example of this. The Marina Bay Sands Casino is strategically placed next to storefronts for the most expensive watch brands. Also, the entrance to the mall from the neighboring science museum features stores that appeal to mothers and children in an attempt to fully take advantage of the foot traffic from the museum. This is just another example of how everything in Singapore seems to be strategically planned.

shopping

A Melting Pot

Due to the different countries that surround Singapore and due to the fact that it is such a global city, the diversity and opportunity to learn about such diversity while living in or visiting the country is immense. In Singapore, many different cultures have a strong presence (such as those of India, Malaysia, and China) that even travelers like ourselves who are there for a short amount of time cannot help but notice. Even though we only visited one country on this trip, we learned about the culture of so many others, and as a result had a truly enriching experience. Having these cultural experiences has added to our global understanding of culture and has improved our cultural sensitivity, both of which will translate into the workplace environment.

All of the above-mentioned items made visiting Singapore a truly unique experience. The visit was inspiring not only because of the attractions Singapore has to offer, but also because of the care with which everything—from riding the subway so it is as clean as possible to constructing covered walkways so that people don’t get wet walking around during monsoon season—is planned. Singapore’s ability to [intentionally] differentiate itself in all of these areas makes it a perfect case for studying marketing in a global context.

night

 

Team Wendy’s in Singapore

Finding the Perfect Work-Life Balance

As most of us are graduating within the next year or so, we will be (fingers-crossed) entering the workforce. Along with our new jobs and work lives, we will each need to find our own work-life balance. Our last two days were simply a blast and the combination of events between each of these days, and the prior events throughout the trip, were a great introduction to helping us discover what work-life balance means. From finishing up our business visits to meeting Ohio State alumni halfway across the world and on top of all, kayaking, there was no better way to end this successful trip.

Friday is for Business

Hands on Experience with a Global Tech Giant

Dell was formerly a fortune 50 company, prior to its recent privatization is one the most known technology companies in the world. The company provides software and hardware solutions, from servers to cloud computing, they do it all. Most of us were only familiar with Dell from their laptop and desktop offerings, most notably in the early 2000’s when they focused on a direct to customer offering.

We visited Dell in Singapore, and they tasked us Ohio State marketing students with a hands-on activity. We had all noticed Dell had switched their computer business from direct to customer model to the retail model, but what none of us knew was why. Our task presented by the company was to look at Dell’s business from a retroactive point of view and devise a plan for switching out of the direct to customer model.

Even when you can see the future it is sometimes difficult to paint the picture in between that leads you to that point. We all devised marketing plans and identified key drivers that changed the Dell business model. The Dell head of product management for Asia, sat patiently as we delivered our quickly drawn up plans. To her surprise, and ours, we actually identified many of the market drivers, and developed plans that were similar to Dells actual path! However, it was not all easy, some aspects we had totally missed the mark on or had not seen things in the same way the company had. The executives gave us feedback in terms of the past, but also in context of the future for Dell. We learned that taking a look into the past can often provide great insights, and each of us was happy to be able to get hands on global experience with executives in marketing from the other side of the globe.

Networking, Networking, and more Networking

After we finished the last of the company visits and presentations of the trip (allowing us to take a big sigh of relief), we were given the opportunity to network with Ohio State alumni now living in Singapore over some appetizers and drinks. We had the opportunity to speak with two individuals, Mark and Andy, both of whom have resided in Singapore over 10 years, with both their families residing in the country as well. In fact, Mark had actually met and married a Singaporean! It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to them, as they had lots of knowledge and experience regarding international business. We found it interesting to hear where they began their careers and how they ended up in Singapore. Andy, who was born and raised in South Korea, had intended to return back home after spending 5 years working in Singapore but lost track of time. This statement later raised the question, just how much of your life can you truly plan. The dinner was a nice segway from being work focused to a more relaxing and fun atmosphere after all our hard work throughout the day and week. We were able to fully enjoy each other’s company, which included teaching Professor Matta’s first-ever card game…a nice round of BS. But we didn’t stop with the cards there. Card games transformed into magic tricks which captivated a large group of all of us for a fairly large chunk of time. We weren’t sure if magic made the time go by fast or if it was because of all the fun we were having. They do say time flies when you’re having fun, but we like to think magic was also a part of it. Magic makes for a more interesting story anyways.

So from company visits to magic tricks we weren’t really sure if we could top where the evening was taking us, but a large group of us did venture to our stomping ground, Clarke Quay. This was a great way to celebrate our successes throughout the week and to dance off the pressure and worry each group was faced leading up to their respective presentations.

Saturday is for Fun

Island relaxation on Pulau Ubin Island

Island relaxation on Pulau Ubin Island

Pulau Ubin

We couldn’t believe this was our last day and what a better way to end this trip than with a small trip to Pulau Ubin Island to go kayaking…and not to mention a day off from “work” to enjoy the “life” part of the balance (although there was still some physical work involved in the kayak experience).  It was nice change of pace to get out of the city, experience some nature, and have a relaxing time. Fortunately, we were all able to stay afloat the whole time and even saw a heron family on top of the rocks. We learned that the sulfur smell in the air was caused by the abundance of mangroves in that area. We ended the morning in Pulau Ubin with a local lunch that offered fresh seafood where you could even see the fish swimming in tanks in the restaurant that they would eventually prepare. After all our hard work kayaking around the island, we treated ourselves with coconut water in the actual shell to quench our thirst.

We like to think we look like we know what we are doing, and no one told us otherwise.

We like to think we look like we know what we are doing, and no one told us otherwise.

Flower Dome & Cloud Forest

The fun didn’t stop with kayaking though. The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest were more gems in this jampacked city.  The indoor garden was beautiful with a multitude of different plants and trees, each unique in their own rights. There was a traditional Chinese music ensemble practicing on a terrace overlooking the garden and it made for a relaxing and culturally stimulating experience. The Cloud Forest was quite the experience as well. The flora was stunning in both of these domes and it was cool to see that all the beauty could be paralleled with sustainability efforts.

Everywhere you turned in the Flower Dome, there was some opportunity to snap a beautiful picture.

Everywhere you turned in the Flower Dome, there was some opportunity to snap a beautiful picture.

Neat structure in the Cloud Forest, and not to mention a great place to cool off from the heat and humidity.

Neat structure in the Cloud Forest, and not to mention a great place to cool off from the heat and humidity.

The Last Supper

A little exhausted from all the fun that was had throughout the day, we freshened ourselves up and were off to a wonderful farewell dinner at Blue Ginger, a restaurant that specializes on creating a fusion of Chinese and Malay dishes. The food was outstanding and as the dinner came to a close, the group collectively gave our tour guide Agnes a card and Professor Matta gave a nice speech about the successes of the inaugural Global Marketing Trip. It was a bittersweet moment because we all knew the trip was coming to a close and in a day’s time we would be welcomed back the the US with temperatures in the teens and snow on the ground, but we all had such wonderful experiences and created memories that cannot be replaced. The last activity some of us decided to partake in was a light show at Marina Bay Sands. This show was very engaging as the technology was very advanced. A story was told on a wave of water that was created on the bay and it was coupled with laser lights. It was a great way to end the trip and enjoy the last time we would all be in tank tops and shorts for a long while. None of us would ever take back this experience and our time in Singapore. It was eye-opening, culturally stimulating, and a great opportunity to learn about global marketing while meeting top executives of companies. We were all able to learn what it truly means to balance your work and life, and it will be a trip that stays with all of us for a lifetime as we near graduation and kick-starting our careers.

The last hooray in Singapore was the light show with an amazing view of the skyline at night.

The last hooray in Singapore was the light show with an amazing view of the skyline at night.

 

Singaporean Paradise

The Day of American Consumerism and Singaporean Traditionalism

On Thursday January, 8th we started our day by going to one of the Wendy’s restaurants and sampling their breakfast menu. The Wendy’s executives started the session out by talking about the strategy and the menu adaptation strategy for Wendy’s in Singapore. We tried a plethora of breakfast options. My personal favorite was the Kaya Toast. It was a panini like sandwich that had a coconut jam spread in the middle. The location of the Wendy’s restaurant was in a very corporate area with businesses and gigantic post-modernist glass buildings all around. In the US, Wendy’s and other fast food restaurants are amongst the cheapest and lowest quality on the totem pole. It was interesting to see that many locals chose to go to Wendy’s for differentiated product offerings and to go to a place with more of a sit-down feel.

We then walked across the street to the American Club in Singapore. There, the Wendy’s team served us with more appetizers and beverages and proceeded to tell us more about their company and their strategy for Southeast Asia. It was probably the most informative session in terms of what a specific company was doing in terms of global entrant strategies. One of the biggest take away that was mentioned was the idea of finding a suitable global partner. Wendy’s decided to enter into Georgia, which is a very random country in terms of development for foreign companies, but they stressed that they had a very good local partner that was taking the Wendy’s name beyond what it has traditionally stood for in the US. The Georgian Wendy’s is the largest in the world and contains a full-fledged arcade.

The Istana Kampon

The Istana Kampon

Later in the afternoon, we went to Chinatown and went to the old palace of the Sultan, called Kampong Glam. In 1918 the British began their crossover into the island of Singapore. This area was of great interest of all cultures alike because of the several ports that existed (25,000) and lengthy coastlines. These ports allowed for easier trading of spices and gold throughout the South East Asian area. A beautiful home, the Masjid Sultan was built for the King of Johor, modern day Malaysia and Singapore as a gift from the British East India Company. About two decades later, the Istana Kampon was built by the King’s son. It was built for the remainder of the King’s life and then for the son. This is an expensive house, with several rooms throughout. The building stands as a beautiful tourist attraction in which, one must only enter shoeless.

After walking around the museum, we had to get plastic ponchos from the front desk because it was raining so hard. We transferred over to a building in Chinatown that taught you how to do a traditional tea ceremony. The few of us that went to Japan before coming to Singapore, really wanted to do a tea ceremony in Japan, but did not have enough time. So it was awesome that we were able to do it in Singapore. The Chinese tea ceremony is about being a good host as well as the artistry. The tea master told us that Oolong tea was so popular because Queen Elizabeth II tried Oolong tea when she went to China. Each table had a tea master and to make a cup of tea that looked about the size of a shot glass, there were about 12 steps. Even though the tea tasted great, I will probably stick to my microwave!

Tea Master Extraordinaire

Tea Master Extraordinaire

The Day of Baby Food and Adult Beverages

The next day, we, the Mead Johnson had our presentation to the executive team in Singapore. We were both nervous and tired, as we had changed a large chunk of what we were going to say the night before. All throughout the bus ride, we were rehearsing anxiously to ourselves. Finally we had arrived to a large glass building that overlooked one of the city hotspots, the Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore flier. The conference space was so beautiful that I wondered how employees ever got anything done without being distracted by the picturesque view. The executive team presented for around an hour. The first presentation was about their strategy for the baby formula industry and the second was a more general presentation on the social media habits of the Asians. What I found very interesting was that the average Singaporean each had two to three cell phones, which seems excessive. I think the general preconceived notions are that Asians are often a step behind what is going on in the West. But actually, in some regards they are actually ahead. In terms of income, the often spend a higher percentage of their income on having technological accessories like extra cell phones and tablets.

When we presented, I was very impressed that we were able to provide solutions for them that they did not even know existed in the market place. Getting accolades from executives about our knowledge on the nuances of the infant formula market was definitely a great feeling.

Later that evening, we had a wine night mixer with some alumni that lived in Singapore. We went to Wine Bos and just had a great time talking with all of our classmates, MBA mentors and alumni. The highlight was definitely teaching Professor Matta magic tricks and card games. It was great just sitting on the patio watching the sunset with good food and good company.

View of Marina Bay Sands from Mead Johnson office

View of Marina Bay Sands from Mead Johnson office

Singaporean Culture

One thing about Singapore we couldn’t help but notice in the past few days in country’s lack of cultural tension and instability. Our tour guide Agnes told us that in the government apartments they intentionally split up Malay and Chinese families allowing these people to intermingle and become introduced to each other’s cultures and ways of life. Children of different backgrounds and nationalities grow up with the exposure to these different cultures leading to a life that is more diverse and accepting down the road. This idea of acceptance of other cultures is as far reaching as a pledge that all Singaporeans say.

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

This idea of equality and peaceful bliss among all groups within a nation can seem like a pipedream to some but by looking at how the Singaporeans have done it we can take some lessons home with us. The Singaporean model focuses on direct exposure to cultures of different regions. These people live with one another, they go to school together, the play at the same parks etc. By surrounding a young child with multiple cultures in a positive atmosphere, they will become more willing to understand and learn what their neighbors are doing and be mindful of traditions and cultural  nuances that come about.

So how do we reflect this model in life in the United States and in the Fisher college of Business?

With the changing environment of international business, it has become more important than ever that we understand different cultures of life in order to conduct business. To understand culture is to understand how to cater to different markets. Such as when conducting business in Asia, the culture is very high context and almost everything has a meaning to it. Gifts are often exchanged in a sign of respect, but never items such as a clock or an umbrella because they are symbols of bad luck.

In Singapore, we have learned the importance of family and how going into business with family impacts the values of a business. Kenny, the owner of Qian Hu, was so passionate about telling us his lessons for brilliantly weaving familial values such as teamwork with business senses. He taught us the meaning of passion and told us to work hard and to aspire to be a wise person versus a rich person which is an easier thing to do when you’re not looking at a $2,000 fish swimming in front of you!

An interesting thing about Singapore is the mixture of people found within the city. In every village, you find different groups of people in Little India and Chinatown and there is no tension between these people even though Singapore is a relatively small country with a conglomerate of different ethnicities and backgrounds. It truly is a country that fuses people together in one large cohesive group. Learning from the Singaporeans and their way of life could ease racial tensions that are crippling some parts of our country.

Hometown Heroes, International Icons

Bright and early Thursday morning we made our way to Wendy’s – that’s right, the same Wendy’s that happens to be headquartered right at Ohio States’s hometown in Columbus, OH, more than 9400 miles away. The Wendy’s executives challenged the Wendy’s at fisher to explore how Wendy’s can create value for its customers and compete with the local food centers, often referred to as hawker centers.

Wendy’s graciously provided us with items off of their breakfast menu to start the day. While breakfast options in the United States did not take off, it is a booming business for the restaurants in Singapore. Due to the geographic layout and location of Wendy’s, they are able to capitalize on this. The group’s favorite was the sweet, Kaya toast, which tastes like a coconut jam between two pieces of bread.

Another interesting offering that Wendy’s does not currently have in the United States is a salad bar, which was reintroduced in their stores in the Philippines. These salad bars became wildly popular due to the digital era of social media. Consumers couldn’t wait to share their experiences with their followers and friends. While social media marketing can be difficult, Wendy’s has been able to capture the interest and can hopefully continue this trend with other food launches.

What we found most interesting is how Wendy’s is able to differentiate itself from the other fast food restaurants in the market. They paint a visual picture of their motto of “don’t cut corners,” with their iconic square burger. They also introduced the pretzel bun, which was designed to communicate high quality food with a fast food price. This idea of premium products for a value price can be proven by Zagat, a United States survey that has consistently ranked Wendy’s as the top fast food restaurant.

While Ohio State students in Fisher explored the idea of Wendy’s creating a value menu, it was determined that this may not be a good idea in this market. Customers here in Singapore view Wendy’s as a more premium choice than their competitors at hawker centers. Customers who come to Wendy’s are not looking for the same experience as they would at a hawker center. They are willing to pay a premium for the food, air conditioning, and dining experience that are not available in the hawker centers. As marketing students, we learned a crucial lesson that it is okay to tell the client we do not believe their idea is the best option and to explore more ideas. With this in mind, Fisher students researched the ideal customer and seasonal food options that Wendy’s can introduce to their menu to match the idea of “kiasu,” or, the Singaporeans fear of missing out.

The most exciting opportunity for Wendy’s is the enormous number of untapped markets in the world. They have only begun their expansion outside of the United States, and see potential in other Asian countries, including Indonesia, a country bordering Singapore. They have just begun expansion into Georgia, with beautiful new restaurant designs and an arcade option for children that has taken off with consumers.  We can’t wait to see what is next in the Wendy’s world!

Kaya toast - a Wendy's breakfast option in Singapore

Kaya toast – a Wendy’s breakfast option in Singapore

A Wendy’s frosty that has been adapted to meet the tastes of local consumers.

Would you like fries with that?

….Is not a phrase that you will hear in Singapore, even at the local Wendy’s. Though you may be asked if you would like to add some fried rice or green tea. When it comes to food and drink, Singaporean cuisines are, as expected, very different from the dishes you will find in the United States but have an unparalleled freshness and deliciousness. What’s even better? You can get a full meal for less than $5.

Today, we visited the Wendy’s Company headquarters for the entire Asia Pacific region, located in the heart of Singapore, to learn more about the brand’s international and marketing strategy. Although they have their signature offerings and retain their American image, they strategically develop products that appeal to local preferences in each country. For example, we were served a “Cendol” dessert, a famous ice cream dish in Singapore that they make with their world famous Frosty, as well as kaya toast, a breakfast staple. Brand consistency remains important but adapting to the local palate is key in order to be a successful American brand.

Though you’ll find many American brands in Singapore, due to its English speaking residents and promising growth opportunities, you are most likely to find the locals eating a meal at a Hawker Center. With over 100 complexes in such a small country, these dining destinations are both convenient and satisfying. We went to one of the most famous Hawker Centers in Singapore today, the Maxwell Road Center in Chinatown, and were pleasantly surprised not only by the high quality of the food, but also the extremely low price! These centers also have a plethora of vendors (fifty or more), creating an exciting variety for any occasion.

Variety, freshness and affordability make Hawker Centers an excellent dining option

Variety, freshness and affordability make Hawker Centers an excellent dining option

But don’t worry, if you’re in the mood for a nice, sit-down dinner with a folding menu and a server, there is no shortage of restaurants in Singapore. Some of the most popular dishes, which we have been fortunate to try this week, have been chilli crab, black pepper crab, chicken rice, Thai, hot pot, prawns, porridge, dumplings, and a full authentic Indian meal. The recommendations from the Singaporeans are endless, as everyone has their own favorite restaurant.

A night of firsts: OUR first Hot Pot experience, and our SERVER’S first time speaking English!

A night of firsts: OUR first Hot Pot experience, and our SERVER’S first time speaking English!

Giving the Singaporean food stellar reviews has been easy, but the drinks are just as good. From coffees to teas to juices, there are many different options to choose from. Today, we visited a Tea House in Chinatown and learned from a true “Tea Master” the art and etiquette of brewing tea. While sitting at tables on the ground, he taught us the Chinese method of brewing tea from loose leaves, smelling, and drinking the tea. However, if there is no time to make your own, you don’t have to go far to find a vendor selling flavored iced teas to cool you off in the 95 degree weather.

Becoming a true “Tea Master” takes concentration… and coordination

Becoming a true “Tea Master” takes concentration… and coordination

Sampling the exquisite food and drink has been enjoyable, but it has also served as a way to intimately experience the Singaporean culture. We have immersed ourselves by understanding the locals’ love of foods, drinks, and unique experiences – even with the occasional language barrier. Although we may return to the United States and purchase as many Singaporean cookbooks as we can find, we will likely still take comfort in our burgers and chicken sandwiches as these are as much a part of our culture as chilli crab and pork dumplings are a part of the Singaporean culture. And don’t worry, no matter where you go in in the world, Wendy’s will always serve their world famous Frosty.

No matter where you go in the world, Wendy’s will always serve their world famous Frosty.

No matter where you go in the world, Wendy’s will always serve their world famous Frosty.

Swimming in a sea of beauty

We can’t believe we are already half-way through the trip! It feels like we have been here for very long with the amount of activities that we did but at the same time we only have three days left.

L Brands

Today we visited… another mall! We first learned about the recent launch of Bath and Body Works (BBW) in the Orchard Ion Mall that has seen a lot of success in its infancy. We learned just how powerful globalization is due to the mass recognition of a company that has no widespread operations in any other Asian country. An interesting insight we learned from the BBW representative, Sona, was that many of the top mist fragrances transcend all cultures (e.g. Beautiful Day and Japanese Cherry Blossom).

trio

The great variety of the “Trio”: Shower gel, lotion and body mist.

After grilling Sona with a steady stream of questions and getting lost in the conversation, our group had to be retrieved by the VS representative, Vanessa, to head over to the VS store. Interestingly, they don’t have any lingerie in the stores but are slowly working their way to opening up a full-fledged VS store. As of right now, only beauty and accessories can be found in all of the Asian stores.

fragrances

VS also sells fragrances, although these do not cannibalize from BBW’s offers.

Interestingly, VS does not sell their famous bras just yet, as they want to perfect their positioning in new countries before launching.

Interestingly, VS does not sell their famous bras just yet, as they want to perfect their positioning in new countries before launching.

Hearing the VS and BBW brand division leaders talk about their extensive global careers made many of us very excited and optimistic about where our careers could potentially go. Sona was very inspiring to listen to because she helped launch BBW in Singapore and was heavily involved in the entire process. To be able to understand the Asian consumer, Sona made sure to work on the floor in the store to help observe customers’ habits and managed the social media accounts (which even included answering individual consumer questions). Very impressive!

Nothing Like a Trip to a Fish Farm

We then headed over to Northern region of Singapore and were able to meet another batch of inspirational people who owned and managed the Qian Hu Commercial Fish Farm. Kenny, who is the youngest brother of the family, spoke to our group and was a fellow OSU alum…how cool! He was such an energetic man full of a lot of useful information, and cracked quite a few unexpected jokes.

Ohio State Reunion with Kenny and our Professors!

Ohio State Reunion with Kenny and our Professors!

He gave us a few key takeaways: always be a learner, do not put all your eggs in one basket, do not be greedy, and wealth doesn’t happen over night. He also heavily emphasized the point of differentiation in order to succeed and remain competitive in whatever industry your company may be in.

Kenny is a very successful man and fulfills many roles at his company

Kenny is a very successful man and fulfills many roles at his company

Kenny provided us with specialties from Singapore: that ironically looked like a fish, too!

Kenny provided us with specialties from Singapore: that ironically looked like a fish, too!

We visited the National Museum of Singapore and learned about the past 700 years of Singapore’s history, which comprised of a lot of British, Australians, Japanese, Malaysians and Chinese people!

MBA3

We made friends at the National Museum of Singapore.

Now back to preparing for our group presentation tomorrow…we’ll all be dreaming of Wendy’s and value menus tonight.