That’s a Spicy… Bullfrog Leg?!

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.54.30 AM

Soon after final exams were finished and the first year of the MBA program came to a close, the Columbus Industries team was on the way to Shanghai!  We arrived in country on Saturday afternoon — some came directly from the U.S. while others were able to spend some time with family and friends in India and China.  Needless to say, we were quite jetlagged upon arrival, and it took some adjustment.

We decided to have our first team meal together on Sunday afternoon.  Our resident Shanghai expert (Hong) suggested that wScreen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.54.21 AMe check out Xin Xiang Hui in People’s Square.  We ventured up to the 4th floor of the building, and Hong got us into our own private dining room!  The experience was “family style” in nature — we all chose a dish which we shared by using the rotating wheel (Lazy Susan) in the center of the table.  Of course, we enjoyed typical cuisine such as beef, pork, tofu, veggies, rice, and noodles and everything we ate was quite spicy.  One of the more interesting (and delectable) choices that we tried were the bullfrog legs!  The best way I can describe the taste and texture was that bullfrog legs are similar to ….chicken, but better.  Did I mention that everything was spicy?

Overall, it was a great dining experience in an authentic Chinese restaurant.  After many hours of preparation and planning for our journey, it was nice to have all twelve of us sitting around the table enjoying lunch together.  I can’t think of a better way to start off our time here in China!  Next up — pork brain!  We’ll save that for another day.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.58.47 AM

CHINA: A Country with unique paradoxes

CI 2 Legal TeamAs we move forward on our GAP project in China, we can clearly observe multiple paradoxes in this beautiful country. Wealth and poverty walk side by side, as “almost ancient” scooters, fixed with tape, fight for space on the street with more Porshes that we can count. The gracious ancient gardens and buildings located next to modern construction show this same contradiction, but also the coexistence of differences.

When we look at the legal business perspective, the same duality can be observed in Shanghai. Although this is a Communist Regime, this country clearly is trying to become an open economy under free market concepts. Free Trade Zones are well established in Shanghai and Beijing, and China is also changing its taxation as a way to incentivize MNCs to keep investing in the Chinese Market.

Additionally, they are currently creating some tax incentives for R&D. Companies can deduct up to 80% of their R&D costs if this investment happens in country, and as long as the IP is deposited in China.

However, while I can sense great changes coming to increase international business around China, such as SAT 1000 Enterprise Program, VAT Reform and R&D incentives, I also learned that, just this month, MNC`s are having issues repatriating their profits to the US. Another paradox demonstrating that China is still a highly unstable economy and supporting that concept that the government issues circulars to change current regulation almost weekly.  

Even though there are challenges in place, China is moving in the right direction, and the size of their population itself represent a great incentive for investments for consumer goods in general.

Columbus Industries Legal Team

Shane, Manish, Rob and Conrado

China, why don’t you speak my language?

It is so difficult to travel in China! Given that Chinese and English do not have a common alphabet, getting around is a challenge. While most signs here in Shanghai have the English version of the word underneath it, this translation does not always help. I can look at a map application on my phone, but I cannot type in an address that can be found by the application. Having the English name of the place I am trying to travel to does not work. Only by having the Chinese address will a taxi take me where I need to go. With the advent of Uber, transportation should be easier. Uber recently came to China, and the app is easy to navigate, but it does not work with a non-Chinese keyboard. I cannot point to a spot on a map in order to get there. Given these factors, transportation has been my biggest challenge. Navigating the metro is easier, since there seems to be English and Chinese writing for all stops. The metro is fairly simple to use, and is clean, but not the most convenient. It is not like New York City where there is a metro stop almost every block. Trying to meet with businesses is also challenging especially when trying to make it to an appointment on time. Having Chinese-speaking team members has helped, but with our large team, they are not always available to assist.

Uber ChinaDon't Play Water

On the other hand, shopping and eating have been surprisingly easy. Most restaurants have pictures on their menus, and some even have English menus. Prices are labeled, and it is fairly easy to know what you are going to get. While I want to buy some souvenirs, nothing yet has jumped out at me as something cool I want to purchase. The marketplaces tend to have low quality knickknacks, but I am sure in the end that I will have a bronze dragon or something that is unique to China.

Meat Products

As the end of the first week in country approaches, I will continue to explore the cultural and business aspects of the country. Expanding my global competence will benefit me as I continue my education at Fisher and ultimately move into a multi-national enterprise.

China Industry overview: Focus on Logistics & transport infrastructure

China is the second largest economy in terms of nominal GDP and the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity, with a very robust infrastructure system in terms of its roads, sub way and railway networks. China has a very heavy focus on manufacturing and is the largest exporter of goods in the world. Industry contributes around 40% of GDP with around 30% of the labour pool employed in industry. The Service sector contributes around 50% of GDP and the remaining contribution is by agriculture. With a population of around 1.36 billion, China has the world’s fastest growing consumer market.

Among the various industries, machine building and metallurgical industries have been given the highest priority and together they contribute around 30% of the gross industrial output in China. The Chinese focus has been on increasing production capacity or utilization and thus, innovation has suffered greatly, particularly quality and sophistication of its manufacturing systems. For example, China produces a lot of commodity steel products, but imports a significant quantity of specialized steel products. In the consumer goods segment, there is a high focus on textile and apparel industry: Shanghai is an important textile center.

China’s logistics market is fragmented, with the top 20 transportation companies accounting for less than 2% market share. The majority of the logistics companies are small and medium sized enterprises, and they mostly operate in the nearby cities. There are a few foreign-owned enterprises such as DHL, FedEx & UPS in China, as well as other state owned and private logistics companies. In 2013, Alibaba group launched “China Smart Logistics Network (CSN)”, a platform to be implemented in the next few years. CSN aims to support seamless information transfers between vendors, online operators and logistics providers.

Overseas companies are not able to dominate the logistics segments in the heavily regulated rail transportation, pharmaceuticals and the emerging e-commerce businesses. The state owned logistics companies operate smoothly in the regulated industries, whereas the private players operate more efficiently and are able to offer better prices for the price sensitive customers. Thus, the private logistics firms dominate the e-commerce market in China. The annual growth rate of online shoppers in some provinces, such as Henan, Shanxi and Xinjiang, is more than 100% and this fuels the rapidly increasing logistics industry in China.

Shanghai-huangpu river

Our first destination for our GAP project is Shanghai, a transportation hub with the world’s busiest port, located on the east coast of China.

Our team visited a local logistics company in Shanghai for a meeting regarding logistics and warehousing solutions for our project. The executives welcomed us warmly and were very enthusiastic about our project. They even involved someone from their office who could understand English which made things much easier for us. The company specializes in warehousing, inbound and outbound logistics operations. Currently, their major business partners are from the F&B (Food & Beverage) and cosmetics industry. The meeting went very smoothly, and we accomplished our set agenda in less than 30 minutes. Unlike popular perception that business meetings in China are slow and you cannot expect much out of your first meeting, I had a completely different experience. Things moved way faster than I expected!

China: New Beginnings

Nee-Hao from China! Sitting in the apartment in downtown Shanghai is an experience in itself. The China market seems interesting and starkly different from what I have experienced in India or America. The sheer amount of focus on brands and advertisement is amazing. There are progressive advertising banners on set intervals between the stations, which looks like a video ad when the train runs (imagine pictures coming to life in a flip-book!). There are huge billboards everywhere, and everyone seems to be in a hurry. The food is surprisingly different from the Americanized Chinese food that we get in Columbus. It is slightly sweeter everywhere in Shanghai, apart from the spicy Sichuan food, of course! The retail stores are single-brand owned stores, and there are no superstores that sell multiple brands. The apartment that we live in is comfortable, but we faced a few issues with our internet connectivity in the first few days. The weather is pleasant- misty rain almost through the entirety of the days as this is the plum season. My team members are diverse with their experiences. Xiaoran has been setting up very helpful meetings through his contacts, while Lucy has been a great translator, bridging the gap created by the language barrier.

Conducting business and entering the market here is easy and difficult at the same time. The brand name sells. No matter the material or the utility- if the brand is big overseas, the product will sell at a huge premium (~200 %!). The market is huge which means that there will be buyers for any product that you can get out there. There are 25 million people in Shanghai alone. There is a big possibility that someone will like your product!

But how to enter the market is the big question. How can our client enter the market with a mid to premium segment product in a country that is known for its notorious piracy and duplication? The answer to this question is our team’s challenge. We are hoping for some insightful days ahead that will help us learn how to conduct business in this mystic land of dragons.

In the Heart of Shanghai

Our first week in Shanghai has been a great experience. I was very impressed with the house that we rented, although, from the outside, it looked less than inviting. Overall, the amenities have been very good, and basically what I expected (and what I would expect in a country of China’s level). The neighborhood where we are located has been interesting as well. It is close to the large shopping areas, the old French colonial quarter, and the famous Shanghai skyline. The biggest surprise for me with our house (and buildings here in general) is the lack of centralized AC in a place that has proven to be relatively humid. Most buildings rely on fans, or nothing at all. In fact, there have been several days where the outside temperature has been a lot more pleasant than the air inside due to the lack of ventilation. This tends to give me the impression that I am outside and exposed to the elements regardless of whether I am outdoors or not. Overall, this isn’t a huge issue, but something that strikes me most times that I leave the United States.

One other surprising thing I’ve noticed is how little English the locals speak. Is not that I expect people to speak English in the countries where I travel, but it has been inevitably true in most other places. And, I don’t mean that  speaking English is meant purely to cater to Americans, but English more generally acts as an intermediary language between most international travelers that I have encountered. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, and in most business settings, it still seems like English is understood and accepted. However, it does act as a reminder to not expect anything when travelling abroad, and to be as well prepared as possible so that you are not left fumbling in the event of a minor road block. In other words, it’s important to consciously plan for all the ancillary day-to-day tasks that are outside of the strictly business-related activities that we are here to work on.

More generally, this boils down to the importance of being flexible – something that I have grown to embrace during my time at Fisher in general. It has been the most noticeable when working in groups and trying to coordinate schedules with teammates who all lead busy lives. A big part of adjusting to this has been limiting procrastination, which has been a common indulgence of mine in the past. By doing work immediately as it comes up, it is a lot easier for me to be flexible with meeting times and project deliverables because most of my preparation is complete ahead of time. And, that takeaway continues to serve me well both in the classroom and outside of it.

Madrid, Spain- Here I Come!

As he prepares to depart for his very first time traveling outside of the U.S. on the semester-long Students Exchange Program, Gregory Smith shares his excitements and goals for his time in Madrid, Spain.

Hello, my name is Gregory Smith and I am looking forward to my future Student Exchange Program this upcoming autumn. I will be attending Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain. I am currently a sophomore in Fisher College of Business and I will be majoring in Logistics Management. I feel like I am well suited for this program because I am the kind of person who enjoys new challenges and being far from home for long periods of time does not bother me much, it can actually be quite refreshing. I have never been outside of the United States of America, so this is a big jump for me, but I am looking forward to going to Europe .

Everyone in my family speaks Spanish and a lot of my friends also speak Spanish but I do not, and I wanted to change that. I have always wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country to learn Spanish, because learning Spanish is one of the biggest goals that I have always wanted to achieve. This is why I chose Spain as the place where I will be staying for a semester. This way, I can truly immerse myself in the language. I also chose Spain because of their culture, music, and food. I plan on living in a home stay with a family that only speaks Spanish, so I can really immerse myself in the language and force myself to practice in order to survive. I am worried about finances but hopefully I can make quite a bit of money this summer by working. One professional goal I have is to become eligible for an internship in Puerto Rico for Cardinal Health. I need to be bilingual in Spanish and English to be eligible for it so this program will definitely increase my Spanish speaking skills. After the internship, I hope to be offered a job with Cardinal Health, so this experience can really help me achieve my future dreams and earn my dream job.

I am also very excited on how my resume will look when I can put “Proficient in Spanish” and that can talk about how I took part in this program. I think that this will help me do better in interviews, because I will have the experience that a lot of students do not have. This program will show employers how I can handle difficult situations and how I can go above and beyond to surpass my peers. I am very much looking forward to experiencing the culture and the great experience of traveling to Europe. Hopefully I will be able to dance by the time I leave.

The feelings of shock and awe have not hit me yet, because I still have so much to do, such as classes and a summer internship, to get through before I leave, and honestly, the trip feels like its light years away, because I am so busy currently. Although I am making sure that I prepare myself financially, learning bits and pieces of the language, thinking about where I will live, and plan my travel expenses to prepare for the experience.

I am overall very much excited that I am having the opportunity to go to Spain and participate in the Student Exchange Program.The most most MOST exciting thing about all of this is going to a Spanish-speaking country! I am very excited to start learning the language in the country that they speak it! I am ready for this adventure.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life to escape us”  – Author Unknown

About the Author: Gregory Smith, Sophomore, Logistics Management, Student Exchange Program-Spain

I Promise I Study During my Study Abroad

Want to know what the university experience is like at Thammasat University in Thailand? Learn from Melanie March’s point of view as she enjoys her time as a full-time student there on the Student Exchange Program in the “Land of Smiles”.

Just to clarify, I really do go to class here in Thailand! My parents confirmed this last week when they dropped me off for class at Thammasat University. I am taking a variety of classes here that includes International Marketing, Marketing Analysis, Operations Management as well as Beginner’s Thai.

12524403_10206075955282853_7719325744664660311_n

These classes have been interesting and very different than my classes back at Ohio State. One of the biggest changes has been wearing a uniform to school every day. This has been very convenient in the mornings where you wake up and don’t have the energy to decide what to wear for the day. It also means that I have to wash it every day that I wear it because I sweat through it just walking to class. It’s about a 30 minute commute by foot and I get to take a ferry in order to cross the river to Thammasat.

Once we get to class we have fifteen minutes once class has started to sign in. Most teachers don’t start the class until after this sign-in period and then we have a 15 minute break in the middle of class to break up the three hour time frame. I wasn’t so sure about the break at first but it is a great time to stretch our legs or get some coffee. There is also an hour break in between classes that gives students plenty of time to get lunch at the pier or in the cafeteria on campus.

12565376_1241511335865956_1844587354745078690_n

My favorite part about studying at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been the students that I have met here. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are very willing to get to know you. Exchange students are welcomed with open arms and staff and students alike are very helpful with any problems that we have had settling into Thailand. Most of the students have gone to international schools when they were in elementary school so they have been speaking English for many years. A majority of students also study abroad at some point in their high school or college career that allows them to have been in our shoes so they know what it’s like to be in a classroom and know very few people.

In the classroom, Thai students are extremely bright and some of the most motivated students. Many participate in international business case competitions that has taken them all over the world. They also go above and beyond on every task that is assigned which has shocked me because so many people only do the bare minimum in order to get by. Thammasat students are quick thinkers and only want to succeed and work hard to do so. It is motivating to see students my age doing so much and becoming the next generation of business leaders in Thailand.
12573709_1241511272532629_1163249868574369464_nIf any person decides to study abroad, I highly recommend taking a language course. It really gives you the chance to learn the language as well as learning about the culture that you will be living in. It’s crazy to think there are people who lived here years without ever feeling the need to learn the language when I can see the usefulness in my everyday life. We just started learning the Thai alphabet which has been really exciting but also challenging. Thai is a tonal language which means that a word can have many different meanings if you say it with the wrong tone. As Americans we tend to have a rising tone when we are phrasing a sentence as a question which can be a hindrance since many times people will not understand you because it sounds like you are saying a different word than you are trying to say. I was trying to ask a taxi driver to take me to Thammasat but I kept phrasing it as a question using a high tone. When I say it with a mid-tone that does not fluctuate, taxi drivers will immediately know what I’m talking about.

Thammasat University is a school that has immediately made me feel at home. Although frustrating at times, I am so happy that I chose to study in Thailand where the people are welcoming and kind. It really is the “Land of Smiles.”

12710770_10153951505781306_9098114440669916346_o.jpg

About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!

Hong Kong: One Student, Two Schools

David Drummond shares his highlights in Hong Kong, as he studies there for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. From the mixed culture, accessibility, and the many ways to spend your free time, he points out what makes Hong Kong a special place to live in.

35aebbe5cbccda54483e73752a0b008e

Hong Kong really is one of the must-see places in Asia. The tourism board touts it as “Asia’s World City” because of how many different cultures can be represented in one city. It is also one of the safest, and I think by far, the most accessible cities in the world. It has to be the easiest of cities in Asia for westerners to integrate into because of how much English is both spoken and seen. Since my arrival, here are the major highlights so far that have helped form my picture of Hong Kong:

  1. Highly accessible. Hong Kong’s transport system is extremely easy to get to know and get used to. The MTR (subway) service stretches across most of both Hong Kong island in the south and Kowloon in the north. It is easy and cheap, especially with a student discount, to travel anywhere in the city. If you cannot get somewhere by MTR you can find a double-decker or minibus to take you closer. All of these options usually cost less than 10 HKD (about 1.3 USD) and take the Octopus card, the most effective tool of mass transit EVER! You can put cash on this card just about anywhere through 7-11’s or McDonald’s or at any station and can even use it to buy food at many restaurants. If you’re in a hurry you can take a cab, which only takes cash, but still are fairly cheap compared to big cities in the U.S. and you only have to worry about them understanding you (Often speak no English). For such a big city, over 7 million, it hardly feels very crowded.IMG_9271
  2. Take advantage of good weather. In Hong Kong it rains a lot or the fog rolls in and you can’t see much. I’ve been told that the summer can get very hot and humid. But when you get, every other week or so, a stretch of sunny days there’s so much that you can do! From beautiful views over the city in high rises or the peak, to hiking the many trails and hills of the island and country parks, Hong Kong has much more than a city can offer. Around 70% of the land in Hong Kong is outside the city and much of it is easy to get to by bus. Spectacular views await as you hike on down to the sandy beaches in the southern reaches of Hong Kong Island and spend the afternoon eating Thai food and drinks! I’ve climbed mountains, met monkeys, and traveled to far away fishing villages all within a short trip away from downtown or campus. Campus is only about 45 min away from downtown and less than one to two hours away from the best beaches, hikes, and scenery it has to offer.
    12672046_1688147931398704_4422961549694076207_o
  3. Vibrant nightlife. Like any major city, Hong Kong has its nightlife district. Lang Kwai Fong is where people young and old congregate around a few blocks to enjoy the night, but head on up to SOHO and you find streets lined with unique restaurants with every taste you could be looking for. This is much more for the expats and young professionals where you can find any kind of cuisine of your choice. There’s always a new place to explore. The food scene is incredible. With so little space to work with, there is a huge variety of unique restaurants with food from all around the world. If you love to eat you’ll fall in love with the city. I have yet to get really into any music scene here but I have seen a few jazz clubs about.12697096_1688147988065365_273820927109159395_o
  4. Cultural crossroads. With the English no longer in control, Chinese culture may be becoming more dominant, but there are sizeable western expat communities and Hong Kong will always try to be the place to bridge East and West. British is no longer the upper-class standard, but you can find the influence still. I’m reminded of this when I see signs in English and walk past elegant western-style facades. There are definite pockets of the city which cater more aesthetically and culinarily to expats. However, when you walk through the markets with hanging fish and roasted ducks, see people chatting over a bowl of hotpot outside of a small dai pai dong, or walk through the crowds of Filipino domestic workers relaxing on their day off in Statue Square, you are reminded of the unique Asian cultures here. The little things also stand out, like having your card handed back to you with two hands or occasional subpar customer service (tipping is not very common). It’s harder to feel out of your comfort zone here, but you experience enough of the local and mainland Chinese culture to keep you interested to ask questions.  12697494_1688148098065354_2853886174183624221_o
  5. Shop till you drop. And you thought consumerism in America was the world standard? There are literally malls EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong, attached to the MTR and major buildings. Markets, with street food, abound. It’s definitely fun to wander through the malls and down the back alley stalls and wonder, who all buys this stuff? It is a city that only exists because the British wanted to sell things, mostly opium, to the Chinese. In Tsim Sha Tsui, the downtown of Kowloon you’ll find a lot of premier shopping and lots of mostly Indian men looking to advertise watches, suits, shirts, coats, bags, etc. I am really curious how many people respond well to being followed and touched by these guys asking if you like nice watches over and over! Shopping is definitely in the culture here. I heard from my roommate that a local girl mentioned that her usual holiday was going to a mall and just spending the day walking around and getting little bites to eat at lots of vendors. She didn’t understand why he would go on vacation and go windsurfing or water skiing!

Hong Kong offers a beautiful and vibrant experience where safety, accessibility, and comfort bring you back, but from where you can travel to a wide swath of nations in Asia with ease. Over my first two months here, I have experienced a beautiful and unique city which bridges East and West. In some ways it is struggling to hold onto its Western identity as China tries to gain influence, but I have gained a great appreciation for how the two cultures can work together in interesting ways. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting to learn about a multicultural Asian city with many of the comforts of home. It really is a the perfect location as a home base to see the diverse nations in the region. Asia is your oyster, and Hong Kong is the pearl.

About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong

A Love Letter to South East Asia

More than the beautiful buildings and the breathtaking landscapes, Melanie March says that the highlight of her time in Thailand is the people she met while on the Student Exchange Program. Find out what is so special about the people in Thailand, South East Asia, and how it has become a life-changing experience for her.

I have been many places since coming to Thailand. I have been to Cambodia where I was taught that the problems I face daily are nothing compared to what others face everywhere in the world. I have been to Khao Yai that has shown the natural beauty of Thailand as well as the destruction that humans have caused. I have also spent hours in waters more clear and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I have been in the mountains of Laos that are slowly being taken over by tourists and backpackers but have also given me some of the best views of places untouched by foreigners.

What has really amazed me most here are the people.

The people that you meet in Southeast Asia are some of the greatest that you may ever have the opportunity to meet. Every person has their own story to tell and their own reasons for traveling here. Some are soul-searching and trying to figure out what to do in life and others just need a change of pace. I’ve met people who “just felt like doing something new” and other that weren’t happy with where their life was going so they decided to take a break and throw themselves into Southeast Asia.

I can hardly express my gratitude to these people and what they have taught me. From the exchange students who all have their own unique background to the Thai students who have been more welcoming than I could ever have imagined when I left months ago.

I have met people during my two months here that have changed my perspective about this world. These people have shown me kindness that is often unseen in the world nowadays and I believe the friendships I have made here will last me much longer than the trip.

So what I am trying to say that this experience has been life-changing. Asia will humble a person and remind them that there is more to life than just collecting objects. There are people out there to meet, conversations to have, and memories to be. It is just a waking reminder to live each day to the fullest so you can look back on life without regret.

About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!