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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

In Singapore, Bath and Body Works

Limited Brands

Wednesday consisted of multiple business visits in the beautiful Island of Singapore. Starting bright and early, we traveled to Ion Mall to visit shops owned by Limited Brands – a company that has an ever-growing presence in the United States. We visited three stores: Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and La Senza. Each store had a unique story about how the entered into Asia and what they do differently than the United States.

Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie and beauty product powerhouse in the United States was our first stop. The unique part about the Victoria’s Secrets in Asia is that they do not carry any lingerie or bras – only beauty products and accessories. Despite this, the stores are wildly successful and have plans to open 7 stores in China this upcoming year.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of knowledge picked up was Limited Brands advertising strategy – they don’t use one. At first the thought sounded odd, as we are so used to seeing advertisements plastered all over the television. Their annual fashion show is known worldwide and serves as their main marketing platform. When the stores initially opened, customers who had heard of Victoria’s Secret in the United States eagerly flocked to the stores in anticipation.

Bath and Body Works was a different story than Victoria’s Secret. Aside from carrying retired scents, Bath and Body Works offers the same products as in the United States. They are able to successfully cater to the needs of the Singaporeans without having to change tor adapt their product lines. Their most popular scent world wide is the Japanese cherry blossom, which is universal because it is well balanced in its fragrance – it is not too strong or too weak.

La Senza was the last Limited Brands store we visited. While they do not have any stores in the United States, they have a large presence in Canada and other parts of the world. They specialize in lingerie products marketed towards the 23 year old age bracket, however, their customers range from 14 to past 60. They have a few notable marketing techniques used to bring in customers. Like many other stores, they offer loyalty cards, which can be purchased to receive discounts. They also have special deals, such as 1 for $9, with a minimum purchase of 5, which encourages customers to purchase multiple products. One thing we found interesting is that they also have launch parties for the release of new product lines. This helps create excitement and draw customers into the stores. They also took part in the unofficial American holiday, Black Friday for the second time this year and drew in lines so long they had to close the stores early!

Qian Hu

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We later visited Qian Hu Fish Farm – a family owned business who is one of the largest suppliers of ornamental fish to companies around the world. Kenny Yap, the executive chairman, actually happened to be an alumni of The Ohio State University. While giving us a history of his business, he reminisced about his days at Ohio State and shared his favorite memories.

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Qian Hu fish farm has mastered the art of logistics – nearly 100% of deliveries are on time and he guarantees a 97% survival rate of fish when being shipped. The fish are not fed for 2-3 days before shipment, so Kenny understands the consequences of a delay in the transportation process. This visit made us think back to the DHL presentation from Tuesday, as they specialize in efficient processes that Qian Hu uses. An interesting topic that came up is that there is not yet an efficient way to count the fish – fish are often miscounted and thousands are lost every year due to this and they still do not have a system to count the fish.

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American Influence vs. Singaporean Rules

During our five days in Singapore, American culture has been unavoidable. From live music in bars and radio tunes in cabs to fashion and entertainment, one can almost feel as if she is in the good ole USA instead of thousands of miles away. However, we’ve been learning from our wonderful tour guide, Agnes, about the many restrictions placed on Singaporeans that make life very different from the lives we have in the U.S.

Today we visited two iconic American retail stores – Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. BBW was very much the same as the stores we see in our local malls in Columbus, with the exception of being smaller. The same familiar products, such as shower gel, lotion, and fragrance mist, were still present in classic scents like Japanese Cherry Blossom and Warm Vanilla Sugar. Pop music blared through the sound system and associates in familiar aprons helped potential patrons find their perfect items.

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Bath & Body Works Ad in Marina Bay Sands – Looks (and smells) just like home!

The VS concept was somewhat different than the U.S. in that the store format was significantly smaller and the SKUs much fewer. This was a strategic decision by L Brands to launch a VS Beauty & Accessories concept as its first foray into the Asian market as opposed to the traditional larger format we’ve come to love in the U.S. VSBA only offers beauty products (primarily fragrances), accessories (wallets, purses, etc.), and panties. There are no bras, lingerie, or loungewear. Representatives from each store told similar stories about the launch of these two powerful brands in Singapore. Very little marketing was needed because the customer base already knew the brands so well (the VS Fashion Show, for example is wildly popular). The brands are aspirational for Singaporeans. VSBA launched 5 years ago and has been expanding throughout Asia ever since. BBW launched just last February and has plans to open four new stores in the next several weeks. Overall, business is quite good, and the influence of American culture has played a major role in that success.

However, all of this American aspiration and influence is quickly countered by the realization that Singaporeans live under a litany of regulations from the government.  For example, cars are high-priced (S$80,000 for a Kia; over S$300,000 for a BMW) and highly taxed.  Citizens have to apply and pay a large fee to even earn the right to bid on a car as the number of cars entering the market are restricted.  Gasoline is very expensive at nearly S$8/gal and also carries heavy taxes.  All of these measures are an effort to incentivize citizens to avoid driving and creating congestion on the roads.  Housing is also regulated.  In order to become a homeowner (read: apartment owner, as 80% of the population lives in apartments), one must be married or be older than age 35 if single.  As another example, citizens are required to pay a S$100/day or S$2000 annual fee to earn the right to gamble in the Marina Bay Sands resort.  To further discourage this behavior, the government allows family and friends to place a block on their loved ones to prevent them from gambling if they become addicted.

So many of these regulations and restrictions just wouldn’t fly in the U.S. There would be massive outcry. Some rules clearly infringe on the personal freedoms we Americans hold dear, even though these rules are for the greater good in many cases. There is so much American influence here, but as we learned today, the freedoms are not quite the same. It’s eye-opening that we had to travel around the world to get a better appreciation for things we take for granted every day back home. But, it’s this kind of knowledge that can sometimes only be gained first-hand rather than being taught in a book.

Here are a few more pictures from today’s events.

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Words to live by – Insights from Kenny Yap, Chairman of Qian Hu fish exotic fish farm (an OSU alum!)

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Singapore’s History at the National Museum – Posing with Indian soldiers

Traveling Smart with Your Smartphone

I have publicly rebelled against having a smartphone since high school, when all of my friends made the transition. I did not believe they were worth the expense, but when I decided to spend a semester abroad, I realized there could be some advantages. Most notably, having a smartphone gives you access to a GPS which is extremely helpful when you’re lost. Additionally, there are many moments when you’ll need to look up things you wouldn’t have expected, such as the opening hours of a restaurant or store. Internet isn’t as widespread in Europe as I was used to it being in the States, so having a data plan was essential for me to manage my time effectively. I found my data plan to be cheaper than the one in the States, however I did have less data, which required me to be selective with my access. I recommend getting the proper simcard and plan in your host country as soon as possible. This will also be good when you meet new friends at orientation and in your classes, as you can swap numbers right away!

There are also a lot of very helpful apps. Here are a few that I used while abroad:

Word Lens
Worried about getting to a restaurant and not knowing how to order in another language? This app translates the words of any picture you provide, offline. It’s extremely effective when you want to translate a whole paragraph instead of having to type each word individually, and also a lifesaver when you don’t have internet access. I would also recommend getting another translator app with audio, if your phone doesn’t already come with one.

Google Voice/Whatsapp
By now, most people know about Whatsapp. It is a free messaging app for anyone with a smartphone to connect. There is also an app called Google Voice, which works a bit differently. Google Voice actually gives you a vacant US number (if you set it up while you’re still in the States) and then allows you to call and text via this number to US and Canada numbers for free. Neither of my parents have smart phones, and a lot of my friends in the US didn’t have Whatsapp, so I used Google voice to text them. Once you set up the number, you can download the app and text them like you would normally, as long as you have access to internet. Then, you can call them via Hangouts which is directly connected to Google Voice. (Technically, you can call them via Google Voice as well, however if it is connected to your US # it will not work when you get a new simcard)

Duolingo
Instead of dropping hundreds of dollars on Rosetta Stone or an extra language class, Duolingo is a free website and app that allows you to practice a language in an easy and fun way. The app focuses on language you would actually use (for the most part, one exception was when it taught me how to say “I am a butterfly” in French), and goes at whatever pace you are comfortable. I would argue it’s not necessarily sufficient to learn the language totally, but as a beginner or someone trying to refresh their memory, it is a great tool.

CityMaps 2 Go
This app downloads maps of major cities (you get 4 free!) that you can access offline. It is perfect for traveling, and easily highlights tourist hotspots to visit. It’s much easier than carrying a map everywhere, and you can put a thumbnail on key locations (such as your hostel) on it as well, incase you get lost.

Kitestring
At the risk of sounding motherly, I strongly advice you to get this app for safety reasons. If you are going to a hostel by yourself, or on a date with someone you just met, or any other situation you are wary about, you can sign up for this app to check in on you at a designated time. If you don’t respond, it will alert your friends or other emergency contacts. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can sign up for this free service online.

Lastly, if there is some sort of Kill Switch you can download on your phone (Android and iPhone both have it), I recommend getting it. Europe is notorious for pickpockets, and I had the unfortunate experience of having my phone stolen. I called my parents immediately, and my phone provider got me a new phone within 6 days, making the process as painless as possible. Another friend of mine was not as lucky, and had to buy a basic phone to use for the rest of the trip. In the beginning of the trip, I found I was very vigilant over my belongings, but as time passed, I became more relaxed. My phone was taken when there was only a month left in my program. On a positive note, as I had personal information on my phone (from Venmo to Amazon), I was extremely thankful I could delete all of this information after my phone was taken.

Remember, the most important thing when you’re traveling is to be smart and safe. With the right Apps, your smartphone can make your travel experience that much easier and more enjoyable!

Spotted: Columbus Connections in Singapore

They may call it Buckeye Nation, but those who seek international experience discover that Buckeye pride expands past national borders. Although the first 4 days of our Singapore excursion have involved many new and exciting discoveries, we have enjoyed a few glimpses of Columbus along the way:

OSU alumnus business visit: Qian Hu Ornamental Fish Farm

Kenny Yap Kim Lee showed what unparalleled enthusiasm, hard work, and an OSU marketing degree can amount to. After graduating from The Ohio State University and having various corporate jobs, Kenny could not ignore his familial ties and passion for fish any longer. He currently operates one of the world’s largest ornamental fish farms, and we all greatly enjoyed touring the facilities and hearing Kenny speak.
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No bras in Victoria’s Secret?

As the group wandered into Victoria’s Secret to meet with a regional executive, we quickly noticed something was amiss…where are the bras?! We found out that when Victoria’s Secret launched in Singapore, the brand took a more streamlined approach by focusing solely on beauty, panties, and accessories. Although this left out signature offerings found in its hometown of Columbus (bras, swimwear, the PINK brand, etc.), we learned that the limited store space and brand recognition in Singapore have both been conducive to strong results throughout the region.

Good news- Buckeye Football does not go unwatched

We are proud to represent Fisher in Southeast Asia and are looking forward to spotting more connections between Columbus and Singapore while we are here. Go Bucks!

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Tradition and Business in Singapore

Ties to Eastern Nations

Singapore today is one of the most advanced and developed countries on earth. A majority of the architecture and infrastructure is state of the art, and the country reports very little crime. Although it has modern routes and is one of the most westernized countries in Southeast Asia, there is still a major presence of its oriental and eastern roots. In fact, any investors that propelled economic growth in Singapore come from eastern countries such as Japan and China.

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OSU Students look learn and observe about Singapore in WWII through an educational version of shoots and ladders.

Asian Tradition

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Beneath the Gates Towers the water and the wind mix together to create the concept of Feng Shui

Singaporean business is still representative of business conducted in neighboring eastern countries. This is evident in the construction of the Gates towers in Singapore’s Financial District. The towers are constructed with a sharp point on the western <look up actual direction> sides in order to represent how the business tycoon who built the building intends to cut through his competition. The tour guide from our trip explained to us that the buildings were built keeping in mind the Chinese traditional concept of “Feng Shui”, which translates to wind and water. In China, the mixture of water and wind is representative of wealth and prosperity. The building reflects this in its design with several water features, including a large fountain in front of the two towers.

The power of feng shui caused other businesses in the area to act superstitiously. We asked the tour guide about the empty lot that sat opposite of the sharp points of the Gates Towers. She informed us that the lot had sat empty for over 20 years because many feared building there would be bad luck. A little further in the distance sits the recently built Park View Square that took into account the Feng Shui by building special statues to counteract the evil. We were surprised to find out how things that may seem superstitious and silly to us back home in the U.S. could be so important here in Singapore.

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The Parkview Square Building built with idols on the top to ward off the power from the Gates Towers.

Business and Singapore’s Geography

Despite its small size (only 50 Square Kilometers), Singapore commands a lot of attention from the international business community. The country has very little natural resources, which means they must be focus on the service sector of business. It should come of no surprise that the country is a hub for finance and marketing businesses. In essence, Singapore’s greatest resource is it’s people– which we found to be quite knowledgeable and kind from our experiences interacting with blue collar and white collar workers alike.

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At Changi Prison students walk around at the alter where prisoners had once been.

A History of War

Singapore is now one of the most peaceful countries on earth boasting a crime rate of only 4.3% and an army the size of 72,000. When we were told we would be going to the war museum many students had a look of disbelief on their face. We were all shocked to find that Singapore had been involved in WWII. It turns out that the Japanese attacked the island and occupied it for two years. We explored the prisons and visited the Old Ford Factory. We learned a great deal about the hardships of war and left the tour being appreciative and thankful for how lucky we are today.

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Students rub elbows, literally, with some of the biggest names in global marketing. A team of students presented well received business insights and opportunities to DHL’s head of marketing, Ross Balyntine.

Visiting a Global Logistics Juggernaut

The rest of the world is recognizing Singapore as a global business hub. As a result many companies have moved their APAC or ASIA headquarters to Singapore. We were lucky enough to visit one of these companies, DHL. DHL is the largest contract logistics company in the WORLD! Our fellow students presented key insights and opportunities for DHL in the logistics business. It was a great experience for, us students, to be able to network with top executives in a global setting.

DHL executives talked about their business, and gave us career advice. Ross explained to us the importance of logistics and how it touches every aspect of business and what we do in our everyday life. We were lucky to have him discuss his career path and get some inside tips on success.

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The razor sharp edge of the Gates towers poised to cut through their competitors in business.

DHL Presentation Day

A humid, starless night shrouded the hotel v lavender and a shy breeze rippled the pool on the fourth floor- this was our practice field. We sat removed from the water, huddled round a small table. In the middle sat Kellie’s MacBook, displaying the 12 slides we’d spent the weeks leading up to our trip preparing.

We travelled to Singapore for many reasons: the architectural wonders, exotic food, and tropical weather. But this presentation nuanced the trip as more than a sightseeing vacation. Through our 7-week class, Global Marketing, we were connected with DHL Supply Chain. They tasked our group of 4 students, three senior marketing majors plus a junior finance major, with researching the automotive manufacturing market in Asia pacific. Since their Supply Chain business unit serves automotive manufacturers with 3PL, aftermarket, and other logistics needs, our focus was directed towards forecasting production and consumption trends in the area’s different markets.

And so sitting by the pool after a day of touring the botanical gardens and dining in little India, our focus returned to business. We split off into pairs to practice more repetitions and our MBA mentor also joined us to suggest a few pointers.

A few hours later in the morning, our time to present had finally arrived. We pulled up in downtown Singapore on a coach bus, feeling slightly like the Ohio State football team arriving at an important away game. But rather than tens of thousands of boisterous fans watching our performance, we were greeted by two welcoming professionals, the head of marketing and the head of automotive business for DHL Asia-Pacific. They started by spending time explaining how their business works around the globe, and then it was our turn to present. From start to finish it went the way we rehearsed, practice definitely paid off and was validated by our DHL hosts’ approval once we concluded.

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To wrap up, rather than linking arm in arm and singing the Carmen Ohio, we exchanged firm handshakes saying we hoped to cross paths again one day.

Collaboration/Networking

Any student at the University of Manchester will agree that the school is incredibly international.  In comparison to OSU, Manchester seems to emphasize group work and collaboration between students not just for presentations, but for essays as well.  In just one of my classes, our group consisted of two British students, two Americans including myself, a French classmate, and two students from Ukraine.  Several of my classes emphasized not just learning how to work in a group, but also learning how to learn from each other.  The typical weekly assignments or quizzes that is often present at OSU, did not seem to have a strong presence.  I believe that this situation is an accurate reflection of the diverse backgrounds that will occur in the workforce, and business students who do not have some sort of international collaboration training are woefully under prepared.

One of the greatest advantages to studying abroad is the opportunity to network with your peers from around the world.  Life long friendships were made and I truly appreciate the opportunity to have been able to study abroad.  For example, I had the privilege of spending Christmas at the home of a friend of mine in Strasbourg, France. Very few people will ever have the chance to not just travel to another country, but form global friendships and experience a different culture not as a simple tourist.

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Natale a Milano

 

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Natale a Milano (or “Christmas in Milan” for those not versed in Italian) is a very beautiful and busy time of year. Being the fashion capital of the world, Milan is known for its high-end stores and extravagant shopping experience. During the holiday season, this is especially noticeable from the crowds of people from all over Italy and the world.

Since I had already finished most of my shopping for gifts/souvenirs throughout the semester, I was able to enjoy the surroundings and decorations without the stress of checking things off my list. The city-center has a very large and well-decorated tree that looks beautiful next to the Duomo, and all the stores are festively decorated with trees and lights as well. There is also a Christmas market in the main square that’s full of fresh chocolates, nuts, fruits, and Christmas-themed gifts and trinkets from local producers in Milan. Thankfully it is not too cold here to keep people inside, because the large crowds and outdoor environment was a very nice experience for me :)

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Reflecting on Italy

It is hard to believe that my four and a half months in Italy has come to a close. While there were many ups and downs this past semester has been an incredible experience. I will never forget the people I have met, the friends I have made, the things I have learned or the places I have visited. As I think back on this experience it amazes me all I was able to do and experience in such a short period of time. I have done things I have only dreamed about doing and its hard to bring that experience to a close. Italy brought me some amazing memories and helped me to develop a new perspective. I traveled to some amazing cities and learned so much about so many different cultures.

I cannot believe I have just wrapped up my finals and have concluded my fall semester of studies. Schooling was very different in Milan than it is here in the states and that was something that was hard to get used to! My classes in particular had no homeowrk assignments, no quizes or tests and many of them came down to a final and a project at the end of the year. This made preparing for my finals very difficult, but I am happy I got through them!

While I have learned there is no place like home I know I am going to miss Milan and all my friends there so much. This experience gave me the opportunity to meet and make friends from all over the world includeing places like Colombia and Chile. I am so thankful for these opportunities. Saying goodbye last week to an incredible city and incredible friends was much harder than I expected. However, I am happy to be home and this isnt goodbye, it’s until next time Italy! Ciao!!