Marketing to a different culture

Personally, one of the most exciting challenges of this project was developing a marketing strategy for a culture that was entirely different and new to me. As business students and marketing majors (myself included), we have a tendency to think we have it all figured out: run a Five Forces, do a SWOT, NPV, find the competitive advantage, differentiate, add in some other random b-school buzzwords, and poof! You’re done! Looking back, it is hilarious how off-base we were in our analysis and our approach to our analysis while doing our preliminary work back in the US.


In country, we quickly realized how much of what we knew (or thought we knew) about business- marketing in particular- was not useful. How do you market a product to someone who has very little disposable income (and a high month- to month variance on what disposable income they do have), no television, no computer, and limited mobile capabilities? On top of all that, how do you reach consumers who have a completely different perspective on consumerism with different priorities, characteristics, and personalities, and entirely different outlooks on life, culture, and sense of self than what we we know as Westerners?

It has been a humbling learning experience to apply our knowledge and test it against an unfamiliar market.

Last team dinner at a Shanghai restaurant in business since 1800

Two days before our final presentation, we decided to have a last, team “fancy” dinner at Renhe Guan, an Old Shanghai style restaurant in Shanghai.


Education time: Old Shanghai style is actually a mixture of Chinese and Western style dating from the 1930s. Originally a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew to importance in the 19th century as a result of its favourable port location and status as one of the cities opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. The city flourished as a center of commerce between East and West and became a multinational hub of finance and business by the 1930s. Old Shanghai style developed during that era. The decor and feeling of the restaurant is a perfect example of this Old Shanghai style. The restaurant plays the music of the 1930s (soft and emotional) and the posters on the wall feature many famous female stars living in Shanghai during 1930s.


IMG_3883_副本—old Shanghai beer ads post

Now, food time! Listed below are Shanghai specialities.

1. 烤麸(kao fu): steamed gluten + mushrooms



2. 酒糟毛豆 (jiu zao mao dou): preserved soybean with wine


3. 花生梅子 (hua sheng mei zi) preserved peanuts and plums



4. 陈皮鸡 (chen pi ji): chicken with dried orange, SWEET!!!




5. 红烧肉 (hong shao rou): braised pork, one of the most famous Shanghai dishes. The fat melts in your mouth!


6. 蟹粉拌面 (xie fen ban mian):  crab noodle without soup



7. 四喜丸子 (si xi wan zi): giant Meatball


8. 碳烤猪颈肉 (tan kao zhu jing rou): BBQ pork (nape part)


9. 渝麻鸡(yu ma ji): chongqing spicy chicken, super spicy but so good!!!


10. 荠菜虾仁双菇汤 (ji cai xia ren shuang gu tang): shrimp, veg and mushrooms soup


And after dinner, we all had “Rich Kids Ice Cream”—光明冰砖 (Bright Ice Cream). When I was in primary school, Bright Ice Cream was a luxury to poor kids. (Normally, poor kids bought a 10RMB ice stick because the Bright Ice Cream was 50RMB).  Bright Ice Cream was first sold in 1915 and is a Chinese “time-honored” brand. It is still one of my favorite things in the world, and I think it is even better than Haagendazs! (There are so many good memories about childhood!)


Now, they have an even more upscale product- a “One Polar Bear”! I will have one tomorrow!


Finally, I love my team!!! We have had such an amazing time together in China. We have been through rush hour in Shanghai, we tried different foods, we got lost together! I will always appreciate and remember these few weeks and my team.




(5-28-15) Burning the midnight oil

With one day left until our presentation, we received some final feedback and could update our slides.  In order to polish our slides and add the final touches to our appendix, we had to order takeout food and burn the midnight oil.


We even changed conference rooms two times.


I’d write more, but today was all about the office and the presentation comes first.


Meanwhile, enjoy this gif:

We’ll be done once the puppy gets on his feet

Stargazing in Africa

By Carlos Garcia

One thing that has absolutely blown our minds is the astounding number of stars that you see at night in Africa. The nights had absolutely no clouds, fully exposing an incredible array of stars that would normally be hidden. We used Google Sky Map to identify the constellations that are not visible from the United States. It is a truly humbling experience to see how many stars are out there. We spent a good amount of time admiring and trying to capture the sky’s beauty with our cameras. The trick was using a tripod, timer, and extra slow shutter to capture as much light as possible from the stars.

Attached are the results from this mind-blowing experience.

The open sky in Tanzania

The open sky in Tanzania

More stars

More stars

A lightning bug passes in front of the lens

A lightning bug passes in front of the lens


Conflict Management in Action

By Carlos Garcia

Heidi expertly stated “the honeymoon will last about a week” during the final debriefing of the GAP class. She may have overstated the week. As expected, with six guys living together every second of the day and night, slight differences eventually accumulated and resulted in conflicts. Not “Real World” material, but certainly situations more intense than the tender interactions that take place inside the confines of Fisher.

We managed our differences expertly on an individual basis, as well as in full blown group interventions. The individual conflicts were, of course, easy and quick. “Hey, I’m tired of this…” or “I really think that you should stop doing…” were not uncommon. After the small shake downs, everything was fine. However, the small superficial brushes covering the underlining differences could not keep the boat afloat.

The sit down session and throwing everything out there was the solution to the conflicts. As is the case in the work environment, conflicts have to be dealt with in a group setting while formulating solutions to the problems at hand. Our session was not excessively long, nor devastatingly harsh. Shortly after the heated exchanges, we were laughing again and playing poker. Poker become our bonding time. Nothing settles the annoyances of the day better than bluffing the other party out of a good hand.

All is good and we all survived. Cheers.

Exploring Water Usage in Villages around Dodoma

By Mike Sargent

While spending the week at the University of Dodoma (UDOM), we were given a presentation on a recent water study conducted by the College of Natural Sciences. Prior to our visit, they had visited four nearby villages to study the water channels and quality of water used. The methods – and village health – were drastically different from each other.

Although we had little time remaining, we chose to squeeze in a visit to see first hand the best and worst villages. At each village, we searched and searched for the village chief before proceeding with our tour. We quickly learned that village chief buy-in is a critical step in gaining approval and avoiding an unfriendly confrontation.

Starting with the first village, we found poor levels of agriculture quality and deep water holes that had very little water around six to eight feet below the surface. One astounding aspect was the extremely positive attitude the villagers displayed. They were clearly happy we had an interest in visiting and helping. One woman collecting water proudly slurped a gulp of what appeared to be mud. Although we recognized her pride in her village, we very much wanted to reach out and stop her.

Limited Dirty Surface Water at First Village Visited

Limited and dirty surface water at first village visited

Christian interacting with villagers collecting water at first village

Christian interacting with villagers collecting water at first village

Villagers go to great depths to collect surface water

Villagers go to great depths to collect surface water

This village was equipped with a windmill to power a bore hole that was designed to pull clean water up from the water table. Unfortunately it had been inoperable for over a year with no clear problem defined. in addition, sand had been taken from the river bed, which limited the potential to collect larger amounts of ground water.

The second village we visited was a night and day difference. The crops were in bloom, kids were playing a full scale soccer game, and there were multiple water sources that the villagers were able to access. The collection points in the river bed were full of water and a a fully operational diesel powered bore hole was jointly owned by 60 families. Compared to the first village, this one was definitely thriving.

Diesel pump and bore hole at second village

Diesel pump and bore hole at second village

Water storage for irrigation purposes at second village

Water storage for irrigation purposes at second village

2048 – Download Now!

By Mike Sargent

2048 is one of, if not, the best app I have ever downloaded. Elliott introduced us to this game, and it has been like crack. The basic premise is to move tiles around in a 4×4 grid combining them in powers of two until you obtain the coveted 2048 tile. After each move, a new tile appears until you cannot make anymore combinations.

The elusive victory screen

The elusive victory screen

We have hardly noticed the extended waiting times and slightly inefficient culture as we simply grab our smart phones, open 2048 and swipe away. Whether it’s someone meeting us an hour late, others taking tea instead of sticking to the schedule or a three hour wait after ordering food in a restaurant, 2048 is always there to make the delay pass in a flash.

A little mid-safari 2048 action

A little mid-safari 2048 action

Although strategies are shared, a stiff competition has evolved with significant bragging rights for top score. Carlos thinks he has the highest score, but considering his app was created by a separate developer and appears to be much easier, he has been excluded. Equally impressive is Elliott’s low score of 44, which, counter-intuitively, requires significant skill.

We have also had intense debates as to the possibility of scoring a zero in the game. Although theoretically possible, most of our team believes it could never occur.

Mike's remarkably low score.  Is 0 possible?

Mike’s remarkably low score. Is 0 possible?

I urge you to get this app ASAP, especially if you have a bunch of time on your hands. Yes, Kenya teams; I’m talking to you.

A Study on Tanzanian Handshake Etiquette

By Nick Ward

After spending two weeks living and working in Tanzania, the most difficult adjustment for me by far has been figuring out handshakes. There is a wide variety of styles, and going into a greeting, I never know which one to use. The following list is just a small sampling of the handshakes on display in Tanzania:

The Single-Grip: This is the standard handshake in the United States. Eye contact, firm grip, two to three nice vertical pumps—this is my comfort zone. I can execute this one with my eyes closed. Unfortunately, the Single-Grip is not nearly as common here in Tanzania as in the US. The Single-Grip has a market share of 30% in Tanzania.

The Triple-Grip: The most common handshake in Tanzania. Market share of 50%. It starts with the Single Grip. Then, each person rotates his or her thumb back towards him/herself and grips. Next, the hands return to the initial handshake position and make a third grip before releasing. This is definitely a cool looking handshake, so I can see why people here like it so much. However, it is very difficult to execute smoothly, as it takes a lifetime to perfect the timing and intricate motions of the three grips. I would advise those unfamiliar with the Triple-Grip to avoid it or risk intense embarrassment.

The Wild Card: Like the Triple-Grip, but with additional motions thrown in at random. Market share of 15%. The Wild Card is impossible to execute unless you have lived in Africa for your whole life. The Wild Card should be avoided at all costs.

The Pendulum: Relatively uncommon, but growing in popularity. Market share of 5%.  Preferred handshake when greeting foreign dignitaries or heads of state.  Start with a good firm grip and solid eye contact. Next begin swinging side-to-side in a pendulum motion. It is critical that the swing is smooth and not jerky at all. Maintain eye contact and a serious expression throughout. Discontinue when it becomes uncomfortable for both participants, but not before executing a minimum of six full back and forth swings. This handshake is definitely not as cool looking as the preceding ones, but it is easy to execute for novices, as long as they have nerves of steel.

Water Scarcity

By Elliott Ethridge

A primary objective for our team has been to build relationships with various academic, government, and private organizations working on clean and safe water sourcing initiatives. As a result of these efforts, we have begun to understand the gravity of the situation facing Tanzania and the neighboring countries.

Yesterday, we met with a woman named Thea who is heading up a branch of a Dutch NGO named Simavi. One of their ongoing projects has been to provide clean water sources to health clinics in the Dodoma area. Moreover, this NGO provides training on sanitation best practices for these health clinics. When asked about the current situation, we learned that a significant number of women in the area chose to give birth in their homes rather than at the clinics. The clinics don’t have water, have high infection rates, and are prone to a host of other problems including, of all things, bat infestations.

This information was entirely sobering, but not totally unexpected. Previously, we had traveled throughout the outskirts of Dodoma inspecting well (borehole) sites. These wells are comprised of a six inch pipe dropped 60 to 100 meters into the ground (depending on the level of the water table). Attached pumps are operated with either gas, electricity, or wind power. Water is pumped to elevated water tanks, which are then used to distribute water throughout the dry season. As we learned from the Simavi folks, these tanks are prone to contamination when not properly maintained.

The take away for our team was that the water crisis in Tanzania is a complicated mix of scarcity, politics and a lack of money and education. Simavi is doing an impressive job of carefully selecting project sites based on a mix of these factors. Once they’ve chosen a village, they research the situation more thoroughly and identify the best paths forward for securing clean, stable water supplies and educating the villagers on the best ways to maintain proper sanitation.

For our part, we were humbled by the gravity of the problems facing the people of Tanzania and eager to align departments at OSU in the efforts to help.

A Day Shadowing Simavi, an NGO Making a Difference in Dodoma

By Nick Ward

Today, Elliott and I paid a visit to a health clinic in the village of Kidoka in the Dodoma region of Tanzania. We were participating in a site confirmation visit with a group from Mkaji, a project being undertaken by the Dutch NGO Simavi in the Dodoma region. Mkaji is focused on improving the water and sanitation infrastructure of 100 rural health clinics in the Dodoma region.

The rural health clinic we visited

The rural health clinic we visited

One of Mkaji’s primary goals is to reduce infant mortality and mothers’ deaths from childbirth. Both are largely preventable if basic sanitation practices, such as hand washing, are in place. However, without the necessary infrastructure (such as hand washing stations) and training, it is very difficult for healthcare workers to provide sanitary care.

The Mkaji team we accompanied visited a clinic and pharmacy targeted for inclusion in a research project around sanitation and mortality. The clinic seemed quiet and out of the way. However, eight to ten births occur there every month, and there is huge potential for positive impact. We helped the Mkaji workers complete a detailed site survey, as well as a lengthy questionnaire about the clinic’s current water and sanitation practices.

A non operational rain water storage tank

A non operational rain water storage tank

The upgrades that Mkaji has proposed for the clinic include an elevated water tank, which will provide sufficient water pressure for a hand wash station, and a new bathroom that will be convenient for women after they have given birth. Construction will begin this year. In addition, a critical part of their engagement will be providing training. They will train the local healthcare workers and midwives on best practices for healthcare and sanitation. They will also train local technicians to maintain the new equipment to keep it in good working order. Finally, they will reach out to the local population and encourage them to come to the clinic with its good sanitation to give birth, as opposed to the popular, traditional method of giving birth at home.

It was a pleasure to shadow the Mkaji team and inspiring to see their dedication to helping improve the rural districts of their own country. Overall, it was a great opportunity to see an organization trying to make a real impact by improving both physical hardware and processes.

Nick and Elliott with the team from Mkaji

Nick and Elliott with the team from Mkaji