The final week in China

In the final week of our in-country experience, we consolidated the information that we had collected over the time we spent in China, specifically in Shanghai and Beijing. From the primary marketing research, there were some interesting results. Our Chinese experts on the team mentioned that the Chinese tend to trust foreign brands more than local brands when it comes to health conscious products such as air purifiers. They also hypothesized that the Chinese have huge trust, perhaps the greatest trust, in US brands. However, when asked on the survey, we learned that the Chinese do trust foreign brands, but that the US comes in third on the list after Germany and Japan in terms of air purifiers.

Another interesting research fact was the consumers’ choice of place/brand for purchase of replacement air filters. This choice is different from the mindset of Americans. Air purifiers are somewhat of an expensive investment, therefore, the Chinese are highly cautious when replacing the air filters. They want to make sure that the filter does not damage the purifier and will not void their warranty in any way. Therefore, they go to the same retail outlet through which they purchased the air purifier originally and also go for the same brand as that of the purchased air purifier. There is also the issue of education/product knowledge. In fact, 75% of the respondents were not aware that the air filters need not match the brand of the air purifiers. This was shocking to us. In order to break into the Chinese market, we would have to change the perception of the consumers and make them more open minded towards purchasing generic filters.

Furthermore, we learned that consumers do not really trust any government standards for the filters, but depend more on word of mouth from family and friends or blog posts from trusted sources. Analyzing this information, t became clear that our client had to establish a presence in China.

From these insights, our main conclusion is that in order to gain market share in the Chinese market, our client would have to first, educate the consumers on the usage of filters, and second, promote their brand extensively. Consumers need to be more aware of the performance and compatibility of our client’s filters with the existing air purifiers and make the brand more acceptable among the Chinese consumers.

A Potpourri of Regulations

There you go! Out comes another one of China’s efforts to lure MNCs. This time, it is patents and trademarks. About a fortnight ago, China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The purpose was to promote the recognition of a system for the international registration of trademarks. Not even two months ago, the government had released and implemented a new regulation called Cai Guan Shui 18 reclassifying aWIPO logoll e-commerce sales as part of general trade as opposed to the hitherto usual classification of cross-border trade coming under Parcel Composite Tax. A list of “eligible” import products was also    issued. Businesses whose products were not on the list made up their minds to pack up.

In less than six months, over 60 circulars have been issued to promote trade and e-commerce. In such a constantly changing environment, international companies may sometimes feel at a loss as it is difficult to predict how long-standing a regulation will turn out to be. Formulating business strategies becomes difficult as a result.

It all started about four VAT in Chinayears ago. A tax reform started with the objective of replacing Business Tax (BT) with Value Added Tax (VAT). The argument was that BT was an ineffective system that taxed businesses at each stage of a supply chain regardless of whether or not that stage added any value to the product. The VAT system was supposed to remedy this problem. VAT has gradually covered all cities and provinces in mainland China, as well as multiple business sectors.

An effective recourse, then, for American companies looking to do business in China is turning to agUS-China Business Councilencies such as US-China Business Council (USCBC). This non-profit has had a presence in China for over forty years and keeps abreast of all the relevant regulations, as well as the Chinese market. Over 200 US based companies are members. Alternatively, consulting companies such as PwC and E&Y can be consulted. In addition, products can be sold through “bonded ware-Bonded Warehousehouses” as opposed to non-bonded ones. A product stored in the former is still considered “in transit” and hence no taxes are paid on it until it is shipped out to a customer. The bonded warehouse provides a great advantage: international companies have a quick “out” in case unexpected regulations pop up and continuing business becomes unfavorable.


Logistics in China: what is good to know before you start your research

Our GAP project is to analyze the feasibility of a US-based company entering China’s market through the e-commence channel. This project involves three major aspects: marketing, logistics, and legal. This blog is the third in the logistics series. The first blog discusses China’s logistics & transport infrastructure. The second blog covers the process of meeting international and local logistics. In this third blog, I will share my experience about conducting logistics analysis in China. I hope theses three blogs will be helpful to those working on future projects based in China in the area of logistics.

As mentioned in the first blog, China’s logistics market is fragmented. Basically, the value chain of logistics can be divided into three kinds of third party logistics companies: freight forwarders, warehousing agents, and express companies. On one hand, many of the freight forwarders are usually international companies. They are big players and have higher MOQ demand. Despite of the higher costs, these international companies are usually equipped with strong English communication ability. Furthermore, they usually have offices in the US, which provides flexibility and reduces barriers to working with US companies. Many of them actually provide integrated services that cover all three parts of the value chain, which also reduces management difficulty. On the other hand, warehousing agents and express companies are usually based only in China. One can easily find a lot of Chinese companies in these areas. As a result, the costs are quite competitive. However, given that they are based in China, they cannot provide the same flexibility as international freight forwarders can. The language barrier is also a problem. They usually do not speak English fluently, which increases management difficulty. You can learn more about our meetings with those 3PL in the second blog.

The ability to integrate different information systems is also a key point. It is very important to understand how the third party logistics company handles the information flow. A good 3PL should have their own ERP system that is able to connect with your E-commence platform, so that when a customer places an order on the platform, the 3PL can get the information automatically. In addition, companies with their own ERP system are able to monitor the timely inventory level through the ERP system and adjust their logistics plans at any time.

It is also good to know that in China, cities are classified into tiers based on economic and development levels. Tier 1 cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, which are usually considered the most advanced cities in China. Many 3PL have different rates for the same service in different tiers of cities. Usually, in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, services levels are higher and the costs are lower.

The concept of bonded warehouses is also crucial for importers who want to sell their goods through e-commence channels to understand. The second blog explained the benefits of using bonded warehouses. However, it is also equally important to know the restricts of those warehouses. Since bonded warehouses can only be set up in free trade zones, which are only located in certain locations, the locations of bonded warehouses might not be the best location for you. Moreover, since the number of the bonded warehouses are limited, 3PL usually charge higher service fees. Despite this drawback, by using bonded warehouses, companies are not required to have a legal entity in China. Bonded warehouses are a good option for importers who are not sure about their market demand in the initial introductory phase.

The Great Wall Experience

The majority of our final week in China was spent in Beijing. We reached Beijing in the afternoon, and, after we checked into our hotel, we worked on our project. We planned Friday of that week to visit the Great Wall, so it was important that we finished as much work possible. I was really looking forward to this visit to The Great Wall. It has been on my list of places to see for some time now. I’ve heard so many things about it, such as you can see it  from space! It turns out this was a myth. Think about it: There are no lights surrounding the area; therefore, you won’t be able to see anything from space.This point was highlighted by another traveler when we visited the area.

We visited a section of the Great Walls situated 70km from Beijing. The area is called Mutianyu. It is less touristy than the other parts of the wall that are located closer to Beijing and this worked well for us. We left the hotel around 8:30am accompanied by two additional local friends of Xiaoran and Lucy.

The drive to the Great Wall was fascinating to see. We drove through small towns, almost village-like places along dusty roads. It was very cool to be exposed to a different environment than the cities where we have been living. We reached the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall in an hour and a half. We took cable cars up to the wall area, and the minute we reached the top, I was in awe! You can see the wall in both directions with rolling green hills surrounding it and many watchtowers are still intact. These watchtowers served as an observation area for the military back in the day. We spent two hours climbing and walking in the area. There was one area that was so steep and had so many steps, that once I reached the top, I felt as though I had just completed an intense session of a StairMaster workout! But, the views were stunning.

The whole gang. :)
The whole gang. 🙂

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Visiting the Great Wall exposed me to more of the historical side of China, the side that I didn’t get to experience much in Shanghai and Nanjing. We wrapped up the day with an afternoon visit to the Summer Palace located near the famous universities of Beijing. The Summer Palace was equally beautiful to The Great Wall. We headed back to proper Beijing in the evening, exhausted but thrilled by the experiences we had during the day.

London Diaries


“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”. This quote from Samuel Johnson captures the essence of my experience with London. The beauty of this city cannot be expressed in words; it has to be felt and experienced. I have never been in more love with any city. For me, London was love at first sight.

We were so mesmerized by the city that we drank it all!


Some of us even tried to take a bite out of London!!


The view of Thames during the night is breathtaking. The iconic Big Ben and glowing London Eye leave you speechless.


Even if you are scared of heights or giant wheels, the London Eye is still the thing for you. It moves so slowly and smoothly that you barely feel anything. Riding the London eye gives you the sense of being on top of the world, and the landscape is just amazing.


London has such iconic structures with such rich history that one can only wonder about how much effort and imagination went into creating them. Tower Bridge is one such example. This engineering marvel, built a century ago, is still functional. The blend of old and new is a constant theme throughout London. Tower Bridge is no exception; it overlooks office buildings reflective of modern age architecture. Talk about having a view from the office!


The Tower of London is another iconic structure which stands tall to this day. It is also the houses the world’s most famous diamond: the Kohinoor. Growing up in India, I heard stories about Kohinoor being discovered in India and making its journey into the Queen’s crown. Knowing the history of this rare gem stone, seeing it was a thrilling experience. For all of the Indians out there, don’t worry, I have struck a deal with the care taker. You can expect the Kohinoor to be returned soon via Royal Mail.



If you were the Monarch of a first world country, how grand would your residence be? While you think about that question, here is where the Queen lives. The palace contains 775 rooms and has a garden 40 acres in size. It is also the world’s largest working palace, but they turned down our request to use one of the rooms as an Airbnb. Sigh!!!


In London, you can indulge yourself in learning about history, science or modern arts through various museums, which are all free to the public. Woohoo London- you just increased the homework for school kids due to field expedition reports. Just kidding!! Seeing wildlife specimens, cultural artifacts and ancient paintings leaves you wanting to learn more about the past, and to make sense of where we are heading now. This picture is from the National History Museum. Right at the entrance is a life size specimen of a dinosaur.


Inspired by the experience of our classmates visiting wildlife safaris, we also spent some time closer to nature and took pictures climbing a tree. After all we evolved from monkeys.


Some of us even tried to get too close to the wildlife. It was dangerous, but Dave is a brave soul. No animals were hurt in taking this picture.


London, you will be dearly missed. If only I could turn back the clock and return. Oh wait! I can!


Final London Project Update

We find ourselves at a very comfortable position moving into Week 3 having accomplished our goals of conducting the focus group surveys, hitting the target goal of 1000 respondents via Qualtrics online survey and also performing the shipping study as requested by the client. We most certainly realized entering Week 3 that now is the time for the required data analysis on the information gathered through our market research (both Primary and Secondary) in order to generate insights and recommendations for our presentation. We have established really good co-ordination among our teammates, and this has helped us significantly in putting in longer hours or scheduling meeting/work times with everyone.
Based on each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we divided the group between presentation work and the data analysis piece which needed to be done as part of our final deliverable. The shipping study is also being conducted and compiled simultaneously. We aimed at providing several revisions of the presentation to the client, as well as our Faculty advisor Prof. Gray, and were able to do the same. We received several valuable insights on our presentation drafts from both the Client and Prof. Gray on both versions of our draft presentation. (We sent two versions of the draft presentation before finalizing it.)
We gleaned some really great insights that we realized were not exactly part of our statement of work; however, after speaking with Prof. Gray, we learned that it is always good to “over-deliver”. Therefore, we will be providing the client with the bonus insights about returns and customer preferences. We decided as team that the most convincing presentation and recommendation must backed up by real data. Therefore, our presentation has been designed to keep strong balance between the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the eCommerce apparel industry in the UK.
We will be presenting our findings to the leadership at Abercrombie in their Headquarters on May 31st. This is a very valuable opportunity for us and we are very excited about it, especially as we are passionate about the market research we did in the UK and have spent hours among ourselves to discuss, analyze and sketch the recommendations that can be most valuable to the client in the long run.
We are planning to meet next week on Monday (May 29th) to further refine and practice our presentation delivery before the main presentation on Tuesday (May 31st). In addition to the presentation, we will also be providing a packet including our insights on each Focus Group performed in country, raw as well as analyzed data analysis of the online survey results and the shipping study folder (containing excel spreadsheet of shipping study insights and images taken of the packages received with each order as per the guidelines provided by the client).

Hard at Work in Ethiopia

This week was a whirlwind end to our time in Ethiopia. We had no time to be sad that we were leaving as we had five site visits and a trip to the College of Business and Economics all packed in to three short days.

The week began with a visit to the Addis Ababa University, College of Business and Economics, to meet with Dr. Mohammed Seid, the Chairman of the Department of Management. We learned about the programming and partnerships the school has developed with various international universities and local industry. We are very excited to follow up with Dr. Seid and the OneHealth partners to start a formal relationship with the business school for future phases of our project. As we were enjoying a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony with the chairman, he was explaining that every married couple would have a traditional coffee table in their home that they would use to serve guests. During this discussion, he was shocked to found out I am not married and as we were all saying goodbye he turned to me and said “please marry.”

Group photo with Bayou and Dr. Seid outside the College of Business and Economics
Group photo with Bayou and Dr. Seid outside the College of Business and Economics

Unfortunately, our previous vehicle and driver were unavailable, so Bayou borrowed a pickup truck that would accommodate all seven of us. To arrange a site visit, Bayou must prepare an official letter detailing our intentions. Next, we go to the site and the team waits in the vehicle while Bayou delivers the letter. He then works to schedule the visit, ideally for sometime the next day. Our team really appreciates all the hard work Bayou put into following up with various companies, fitting them into our schedule, and acting as our driver this week. (Thank you Bayou!)

The group packed into the pickup with Bayou
The group packed into the pickup with Bayou

This week, we were able to visit the National Alcohol and Liquor Factory and observe their entire process. The woman who gave us the tour offered us a freshly produced bottle of local Ouzo. We were grateful for the gesture, but politely declined. We also visited a plastic manufacturer; however, the power was out when we visited so we enjoyed a tour but did not observe the process in action. Our final site visit was to a tannery that exports leather hides around the world. We observed their sheep hide process, which is most commonly used for golf gloves and dress gloves. This visit allowed us to witness OneHealth firsthand, as a tannery is the epitome of where animal health, human health, and environmental health collide.
Throughout our time in Gondar and Addis, we learned a lot about how business is conducted in Ethiopia, how various manufacturing, healthcare, and pharmaceutical companies operate, and completed our environmental health and safety survey at fifteen locations. We would like to thank the University of Gondar, Addis Ababa University, and our OneHealth partners for this incredible opportunity and experience!

Saying goodbye to Bayou
Saying goodbye to Bayou

Hakuna Matata

Our Sunday started with the chirp of wild birds and some frogs still croaking. It was a beautiful morning in our tiny hut in the middle of the jungle, and we were ready for a full-day game drive. After a long seven-hour drive, we reached our weekend safari trip destination to see the big five (aka the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo)! Below is a photo of us on a break from our car drive.


We saw four out of the big five (we missed the rhino), which was more than we expected and was surely a surreal experience. We were lucky enough to watch a pride of lion hunt and then tear away a warthog for breakfast (Yum?!). We also saw giraffes, zebras, impalas, cheetahs, topi, baboons and even several hippos, which came with a very scary warning sign. Additionally, we were very shocked when a monkey broke into our car during a pit stop and stole Carrie’s crackers and Kyle’s wipes! We were really happy that the monkey didn’t steal anything truly valuable.


Below are some of Kyle and Kelly’s selfies with the elephants that certainly made us laugh while on the tour.

Elephant Selfie

But the best was the peaceful sunrise just before we left for Addis Ababa. There is something extraordinary calming about watching the sunrise in the wilderness.


Back in Addis Ababa, it was a very action packed week. On Tuesday, we visited Sabahar, a local textile company promoting sustainable growth in silk manufacturing in Ethiopia by using local artisans who are primarily women. It was started by a Canadian woman. Her Marketing Manager, Sophie from Colorado, gave us a tour of the plant. (Kelly was the happiest to meet a fellow Coloradan and was instantly best friends with her.)


After visiting Sabahar, we tried one of Addis’ top restaurants on TripAdvisor, called the Four Seasons. This was NOT a five-star hotel… It is actually an Asian and Thai Restaurant and the food was delicious- a must for anyone visiting Addis. We liked it so much that we had lunch there a second time the day we left Addis.

Also, during our three-week trip in Ethiopia, we documented all the places where we were served Ethiopian coffee. It was an internal competition to find best place for coffee in Ethiopia. Having read about a coffee shop called Tomoca as one of the best places to get local brewed coffee, Kyle and I decided to give it a try. Such a disappointment! As of today, our last day in Ethiopia, we have declared that out of the 15 different coffee places we have tried, our unanimous favorite is the Nigatu Hotel near the University of Gondar Hospital. It was amazing, and we enjoyed the traditional ceremony.


This is all from Addis for this trip. It has been a delightful experience, and I am sure all of us will remember it for years to come. Ameseginalehu!!!!

Reflections on China’s Business Culture

From a business perspective, there are a few things that I learned about the culture of China that I would not have immediately expected, as well as some things that really made the China portion of our project much easier.  To begin, similar to most everywhere else in the world, much of the business that is conducted is extremely relational.  This means that it would take multiple sit-downs with potential distributors and partners to really work out whether a deal could be done for the long-term.  Why? Businesses in China want to ensure that there can be a long-standing relationship between the different companies, founded on a trust that cannot be built or determined through one or two meetings before moving ahead.13239115_1633755823615606_1461617674719669404_n

Additionally, the importance of relationships to setting up meetings and moving them along quickly was massive.  I did not expect the fact that simply because the former co-worker of one of our teammates, who knew someone at a distributor, who worked with someone, who was in our industry, would actually establish the initial trust in us as people, and in the business that we were representing.  However, that is exactly what it did.  We had many meetings based on these loose relationships that were accelerated because someone in the line of people connecting us to the distributor or partner had vouched for one of our team members.  This is in stark contrast to much of the work that I have done in other countries, and it really gave us a huge advantage in completing the project as a whole and setting up, what we believe, could be fantastic business opportunities for both our client and for the partners in China.  We were able to make these connections and set up these meetings because of loose connections to contacts. However, I know that other teams struggled to make these connections because the business culture of the countries that they were working in were not the same as the one that we saw in China.

Tackling Teamwork in Tanzania

As we’ve all come to know, group work inherently comes with peaks and valleys, high fives, handshakes and deep-seeded displeasure. Fisher makes a huge push for group work in the first-year curriculum. Whether it is the first-year core teams or this GAP project, group projects are part of every single class Fisher class. Fisher has adopted the “early and often” approach. We all learned about group dynamics throughout the year, formally and informally. Interestingly enough, we didn’t actually learn about it until second term, second semester in Dr. Tanya Menon’s Organizational Behavior course (not a coincidence, I’m sure). Most of the learning came from previous work experience along with trial and error from the first semester and a half.

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Our first week in Tanzania – still in the honeymoon phase.

Under normal circumstances, or in MBA talk – tons of homework, papers, projects, tests and group meetings, teams fall apart. It’s not what Fisher or any group wants, but it is reality. Take those normal stresses and toss in 24-plus hours of air travel, jet lag, culture shock and three weeks of close range, daily contact and you’ve got yourself a pressure cooker. The opportunities are amazing. The deadlines are strict. The potholes surround you (literally and figuratively).

None of us have traveled together, and you don’t really know someone until you’ve shared a bathroom (I’m sure a wise man or woman said that somewhere). Just like orientation period and the first few months of class, everyone is on their best behavior. No one wants to rock the boat. On one hand, it’s only three weeks together – we can do that, right? On the other hand, oh, crap – we’re here for 21 days, spending every waking hour together in a country we’ve never seen, eating food we’ve never had, talking to people who don’t speak the same language? Again, peaks and valleys, people.

Enjoying some traditional tea in a Maasai village.
Enjoying some traditional tea in a Maasai village.

All in all, we did just fine. We encountered multiple stomach ailments, a few cases of insomnia and jetlag, a deep-seeded desire for familiar food and reliable Internet, but hey, that’s nothing. As we work on the final critiques and edits for our final report, we can look back and say we successfully carried out what we set out to do from day one. We know the wealth of information we received will directly impact GWI’s efforts to better water access in rural Tanzania. The difficulties we encountered along the way are indeed potholes, but they’re also opportunities to grow as a team and gain insight into your teammates. When you strip it all away- the comforts of home and the familiarity of the routine- much more shines through than the buttoned up exterior many offer in class. I think I can confidently speak on behalf of all GAPers when I say, this is an amazing opportunity and an absolute must for future Fisher students looking to grow as business leaders in today’s global environment.

Our last picture before we went our own separate ways. Asante sana, Tanzania! Thank you, team GWI!
Our last picture before we went our separate ways. Asante sana, Tanzania! Thank you, team GWI!