China, Logistics, Maglev, Me and…. Woweee

Driven by increasing air pollution in China, as well an increasingly demanding industrial and retail sector, an e-commerce air-filter opportunity window has opened for the Columbus based air filter manufacturer Columbus Industries. My GAP team is visiting China to conduct a feasibility study for this new opportunity. The logistics and legal aspects are important and complicated pieces in the assessment of a go-to-market strategy for an imported product such as air-filters in China. 

I am a member of the Logistics team. Logistics is a totally new arena for me as I come from a technology background. However, a series of meetings and research regarding logistics in China has given me a huge amount of information I’d like to share in this blog. I would like to give the disclaimer that there isn’t a multi-step process for this understanding and “acing” of logistics in China. Rather, it is pure experience and one key asset – a native knowledge of  Chinese. Tadaaa!! Yes, it is very important to be fluent in Mandarin – writing and speaking. We set up most of the meetings in China via communicating in Mandarin.

I visited three logistics firms: SanXun (small scale), Kerry Logistics (medium scale) and FedEx (Large scale). Although the three firms differed in scale and presence, there was one common theme: all of the firms displayed a great willingness to analyze our needs. Many times the representatives shared a great amount of added information and gave us helpful suggestions. It was through one of these conversations that we learned about the two types of warehouses that can be employed for our client’s business needs. What is a warehouse? It may seem simple in theory, but I learned there is much more to it in practice.

Warehouse – A place where all the goods/products are stationed by the logistics firm and are under their authority and supervision.  There are basically two types – Bonded and Non-bonded. The bonded warehouse treats your product as if it is ‘in transit’. Therefore, the taxes are levied only when the product/goods are sold. In the event of uncertain demand or some assembly processing needed, bonded warehouses are recommended. The bonded warehouses do not have economies of scale on higher SKU’s in stock.

To our astonishment, the representatives at all the firms shared a huge amount of information on two other fronts as well: marketing and legal. It helped me learn a lot more and clear a myth – It takes a lot of meetings to do business in China. But with the right tools: a “nee-hao”, a Chinese-speaking friend, scale of business, and 60 minutes, you learn a lot.

I now know that the logistics industry is the backbone of the Chinese economy and this country truly exhibits its prowess in it. What else could explain the Maglev train (they whisk by at a speed of 300 km/hr, no kidding), the other amazing trains, and, to an extent, the budding logistics firms here. I have appreciated how the logistics industry in China is structured and delivers. In essence, it is just how they greet you when you go to meetings – no troubled waters here!

logistics blog pic

From the Operating Room to the Brewery: Ethiopian Team Professional Post #1

Hello friends, family, and world at large,

Welcome to the best (though probably only) “Ethiopian-One Health-Ohio State MBA student blog”. For those who might be unaware, our team of six OSU MBA students has partnered with the nonprofit organization One Health to analyze the operations of Ethiopian factories and facilities. The ultimate goal of this project is to better understand how these facilities impact the surrounding people, animals, and environment. One Health’s overarching goal is to improve health and environmental wellbeing in developing areas. For this specific project, we are concentrating on hospitals, pharmacies, and factories that directly handle food or animal products.

The final two weeks of our three week trip will be spent in Addis Ababa because of its large population and industrial presence. However, now we are in Gondar, a smaller city in the northwest region of the country. We are working closely with faculty from the local university, who have been instrumental in arranging our visits to the various facilities. Our first day was spent touring the only hospital in the city, which is operated by the university.

On the first day of our trip, we met with our Gondar contacts at the University of Gondar campus and finalized our itinerary for the week. We made plans to visit the University of Gondar hospital, Dashen Brewery, a local glove manufacturer, and local pharmacies.


University of Gondar Campus; First meeting with local client contacts
University of Gondar Campus; First meeting with local client contacts

As you may have guessed, there are some noticeable differences between an Ethiopian hospital and one found in the United States. What they lack in technological equipment and training, however, they attempt to make up for with resourcefulness and resiliency. For example, while the newly opened cancer treatment facility has no oncologists or cancer drugs, doctors provide a place for patients to bring outside drugs and have them administered. In the operating room, surgeons work through mid-surgery power outages without even a momentary lapse in concentration.

Arguably, the most unexpected aspect of the visit was how honest and non-defensive the hospital workers acted towards us. They were not ashamed of admitting issues and pain points in their operations; they genuinely wanted feedback on how to make the hospital better.

While our GAP team was amazed at how they could do so much with such limited resources, there were still some startling observations during the visit. For example, the bio-hazard waste from the cancer treatment area had not been disposed of since the facility opened over a year ago, and was piling up in plastic bags in a small outdoor area directly behind the building. Many areas (such as the ICU and some operating rooms) held multiple patients with no barriers between them, while those not currently being attended to were often laying on the ground outside of rooms. There were also several waste management issues, such as liquid waste being discharged directly into a nearby stream.  In contrast, the hospital pharmacy had a very robust process for monitoring its prescriptions using a foreign inventory management software.

Team in front of Dashen Brewery

These are just a small portion of the observations (both positive and negative) our team collected. The accommodating nature of everyone we interacted with enabled us to learn more than we ever anticipated, but we also saw an opportunity for future teams to perform more in-depth analysis of the hospital’s operations.

Our second site visit in Gondar was the Dashen Brewery. It provided some much needed contrast to the somber nature of the hospital tour. When we arrived, we were immediately impressed by the sophistication of the factory. It was extremely clean; there were numerous automated processes; and, they tracked key performance metrics such as bottle breakage and percentage of under-filled bottles. We still identified areas of improvement, such as better worker adherence to protective equipment guidelines and enhanced lighting in areas where manual labor is required.

Our final site visit, to a glove factory, was cancelled due to permission issues, but we were able to visit two local pharmacies and observe their processes.

The team has been able to collect an immense amount of information in just the first week, which has caused us to place even greater emphasis on developing a final report that is well-structured and succinctly articulates our key findings.

Looking ahead, we will begin working in Addis Ababa on Monday. We are currently in contact with the local university there to schedule facility visits, but unreliable internet poses a significant challenge. Our last email took 35 minutes to send!

In the meantime, we are preparing for our next site visits, enjoying a few Dashen beers, and wondering what happened on Game of Thrones last week.

Check back next week for another update!

Last day in Bangkok

I can’t believe our GAP experience is almost over. The last three weeks have been such a great experience. I have learned a lot about team work and professionalism, as well as Thai people, Thai culture and why they are so much better off than Vietnam economically.

Now heading back to my internship, I hope that the lessons I’ve learned from this trip will help me in my new position. Thank you Fisher for this wonderful opportunity, thank my friend for helping me during the project, and to Thailand: แล้วพบกันใหม่ (see you again).

Some random memories:

Most professional photo
Most professional photo
Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.
Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.
Free live music in a shopping center
Free live music in a shopping center


This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.
This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.


Last meal in Bangkok, cooked by my girlfriend, taste like home. So delicious.
Last meal in Bangkok, cooked at home. So delicious.

A Farewell to You

The past three weeks have been a fulfilling and humbling experience. I could not have asked for more or less. It was the ups and downs of working/traveling that I was looking for. The research project we’ve been working on has come to a close. This research could help make better lives for some of the women and children I’ve met during this trip. I’m optimistic that this research project could help them. It was a great pleasure to work with my team, Akshay, Jake, Santiago, Molly, and Ryan.

I’ve come knowing only our GAP group, but I left Kenya with many friends…


An Ode to You

It’s time to say goodbye

I know I’ll be back soon
Though, I don’t know how soon
It was easier to say hello
than goodbye

Now, the bus is leaving
I have to catch the last one, out of town
Until we meet again

Kwaheri, rafikis


DATA is a Four Letter Word

For seven weeks of Strategy class, all we heard about was how we should appreciate the case exhibits and how difficult good, clean data would be to get in the real world. Well, the real world done slapped us the face. Our project is to find real, total, landed costs of parts in a global supply chain, and compare them to quotes received from suppliers based in China.

Me showing all the data we need to find

SPOILER ALERT: Getting the data you need is hard!

It’s not that they don’t have data, it’s just not what we need. Without access to their IT systems, you have to constantly rely on others to get data, and, in other cases, estimate costs to try to complete the picture. It pretty much reminded us all of this:

Who doesn’t love a nice Zoolander reference? Anyway, on top of all of this, people are busy, and asking them to find time to help students comes in a less than close second to their day-to-day duties. This is not their fault, as their jobs are important, but it is a hindrance.  All in all, we are making progress and are using some methods we learned in Operations class to find some of the data ourselves.  We are confident we can find what we need and provide a strong end product for CVG.


First day in Marsabit

Thursday May 14

After a relaxing rest at St. Stephens Church guest house, we woke up to an early breakfast before heading out into Marsabit County to treat children infected with chigoe fleas, more commonly referred to as “jiggers”.  The fleas live in the ground and burrow into their host’s feet (and sometimes hands) to nest and lay eggs.  Besides being incredibly painful, the parasites can cut off the blood supply in toes and cause gangrene. To combat this menace, we split into four teams comprised of OSU students, faculty and students from Mount Kenyan University, Partners for Care (PFC) staff members, and members of St. Stephens Church.  The PFC staff members led each group and explained how to treat jiggers.  First, you wash the infected child’s feet and hands before soaking them in a potassium based solution to kill the fleas.  After soaking the hands and feet, they have to be dried and covered by petroleum jelly or Vaseline.  PFC also had BOBS provided by Sketchers for us to distribute afterwards. These shoes will protect the children from reinfection.

The entire group ready for day 1.
The entire group ready for day 1.

I teamed up with Andrew, Molly, and Santiago to travel to the remote village of Parkishon. We hit the ground running and our group leader, George Okell, got everyone into place. Twenty-three children and one adult from the village came out for treatment.  After finishing in the village, we moved on to the Parkishon primary school and treated another twenty-one kids.  The school used to be 90% infected until Pastor John Hirbo from St. Stephens began working tirelessly in Marsabit County to eliminate the jigger infestation.  Senior PFC staff and faculty from Mount Kenyan University visited the County hospital in the afternoon and were told that the government is almost prepared to declare Marsabit County jigger free.

John checks hands in Parkishon.
John checks hands in Parkishon.
Santiago and Molly treat kids from Parkishon Primary.
Santiago and Molly treat kids from Parkishon Primary.

It was a long and tiring day, but this was a truly amazing experience to see different groups come together to combat a serious public health issue with a methodical and sustainable plan.

Molly outside of Parkishon Primary.
Molly outside of Parkishon Primary.

Visit to Coca-Cola Kenya HQ & Mount Kenya University, May 11

On Monday, we had a meeting at Coca-Cola’s Kenya headquarters with Bob Okello, Group Execution Manager for EKOCENTER in Africa. EKOCENTER is a Coca-Cola initiative to provide solar-powered centers in the most rural parts of Africa so that locals can enjoy amenities that people in urban areas take for granted such as electricity, WiFi, and TV.

Greif Kenya GTM & PD, with PFC staff and Bob Okelo at Coke Kenya HQ
Greif Kenya GTM & PD, with PFC staff and Bob Okelo at Coke Kenya HQ

Mr. Okelo shared many great insights about the unique characteristics and challenges of marketing and distributing Coke in Kenya. Coke uses Micro Distribution Centers (MDC) for the “last mile” distribution. In this system, a Kenyan owns a MDC and is responsible for purchasing and distributing Coke products to about 120 retailers (or kiosks) in their geographic area. Coke has “Key Accounts” staff who call on every single retailer/kiosk in their area at least once a week to verify stock, check on the kiosk’s relationship with the MDC, ensure that merchandising and displays are to Coke’s specifications, etc… It is amazing to me that Coke account representatives visit every single, tiny kiosk in the whole country on a weekly basis.

Mr. Okelo provided some good insights into a possible model for our PackH20 project, especially because tracking the packs and ensuring proper training and monitoring of end users is so crucial to verifying that the packs are serving their purpose as a health product. He also touched on the importance of incentivizing MDC owners to serve far-away and tough-to-access locations to ensure that a Coke is always “within an arm’s reach of desire.” Similarly, PackH20’s vision is for everyone in the world who needs a pack to have one, so it will be useful to explore an incentive structure to ensure that even the most remote and marginalized people in Kenya are able to get a Pack.

Both Greif teams and PFC with Mount Kenya University students and lecturers on MKU main campus
Both Greif teams and PFC with Mount Kenya University students and lecturers on MKU main campus


After we left Mr. Okelo, we went to the main campus of Mount Kenya University to meet with some lecturers and students in the nursing and MBA programs. We paired off and took tours of the school.



Mount Kenya University main campus
Mount Kenya University main campus


Mount Kenya is one of the largest universities in the country, and is set up somewhat similar to OSU, with satellite campuses to serve students in other communities. While their MBA program only has 8 or 9 students, their nursing and doctor of medicine programs are much larger.



Church in Nairobi, Kenya, May 10

The trip so far has been a whirlwind. We’ve been moving nonstop since we landed, starting with our first meetings at 8 or 9am, followed by dinner meetings at the house with local NGO and business contacts, and wrapped up by daily debriefings and planning sessions that last until at least 10pm. Things may wind down a bit as the trip progresses, though, based on our calendar.

Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting
Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting

We’ve front-ended most of our local meetings so that Connie, the PFC founder, could attend these before leaving for the US at the end of this week. One of the biggest time sinks is how long it takes to get anywhere. Traffic is crazy in Nairobi! Imagine when people are jostling to get to the front of the crowd at a concert, but here everyone is in a car. Miraculously, no one seems to actually hit anyone else.

On our first Sunday morning in Kenya, five of us walked with Justus (one of the PFC staff living in the house with us) to his church in the village a half-mile away from the house to do some cultural exploration. Church was what I expected- very lively with lots of singing, dancing and excited praise. This was a combined service, holding both members who usually attend the Swahili service and those that come for the English service because the pastor was announcing his 5-year plan for the church. This service was held in English with a Swahili translator, and the choir sang both English and Swahili songs. The corrugated tin building held around 350 people, and about 80 children.

"Hibari!" - Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market introducing our team to the Church congregation
“Hibari!” Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, introduced our team to the church congregation

The kids were very excited about seeing foreigners. Our seats were perpendicular to the kids’ rows, and just two feet away, so the kids were all clambering to high-five us and shake our hands when everyone was instructed to greet and welcome their neighbors. I winked at one little boy during a quieter part of the service, and from that point on, every time he caught my eye he’d close his right eye and smile at me, holding his right eye shut. It was so cute.

Alison from Greif Kenya Team Go-To-Market, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church
Alison from Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church


The pastor had invited a singer from his old church to come sing for the congregation at this service. At one point, she pulled three people from the crowd to come dance on stage to “break the barriers” between her and the crowd, and then she walked over and pulled me up on stage! I felt like Kenyan “Idol”, because at least a dozen Kenyans jumped up from their seats to take a smart phone picture of the white American girl dancing on their church’s stage. It was a really neat experience.

Eclectic Toronto


Keith Jones in Toronto
Keith Jones in Toronto

(Written by Keith Jones) 

Being our last morning in Toronto before we head to Ottawa, it’s worth reflecting on how eclectic this city is.  There isn’t just one culture here in Toronto — there are many, gathered from every point on the globe.  I learned this fact early, when I was pulled aside for extra interrogation at the customs checkpoint in the airport. (Apparently, I look very suspicious).  There were very few similar ethnicities among those of us waiting for an interview with a customs agent, and I heard requests for all kinds of translation, including Cambodian!

Here in Toronto, there are countless cultures, and we met many of them on a simple walk to the grocery store or a stroll through Eaton Place, Canada’s largest mall.  The food court there has restaurants for every palate, from Japanese to Thai to French, just to mention a few.  Of course, this being Canada, the longest line was at Tim Horton’s, Canada’s version of Starbucks.

Everywhere you go you hear French spoken, and often it is mixed with languages I didn’t recognize.  Toronto is truly a global city, and it will be interesting to compare it to Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, and see how they are similar or how they differ in the cultural mix.

Team Canada

The Final Delivery to DHL

At long last, after months of state-side preparation and three weeks of conducting interviews here in Germany, we’ve reached the end of our project with DHL. Wednesday was presentation day for us, meaning we spent most of the morning and early afternoon fine-tuning content, doing dry-runs of the PowerPoint, and of course, having the occasional last-minute freak out. Oh, and we also forgot to do a blog post amdist all of the final preparations (#SorryKurt).

Look at that sick VIRO model on my screen...
Look at that sick VIRO model on my screen…

Mike, Vince, and the rest of the DHL team invited us north to the company’s headquarters in Bonn one last time to deliver the final presentation. Through the magic of teleconferencing, our findings would be shared with not only the DHL executives in Germany, but also the US-based team back home. And while a few technical snafus delayed the start of the presentation, we delivered our best presentation yet over the next two hours. Each person on the team brought their A-game and was very knowledgeable on their own section and the entire presentation at large. Overall, our presentation was very well-received and will be a tangible asset for DHL to use when educating employees on the buyer behavior of automotive companies for supply chain services.

Team DHL Celebration Selfie
Team DHL Celebration Selfie

However, the success of the project would not have been possible without the incredible level of accessibility and time that each and every person at DHL gave us. Mike White, DHL Supply Chain’s Senior Vice President for the Global Automotive Sector was beyond generous with his time, working with us prior to the trip and on a daily basis once we arrived in Germany. Mike connected us with a wide variety of DHL personnel, including Vince, Scott, Markus, Frank, and Jan, who gave us genuine and transparent insight into the business’ current operations and what lies ahead in the strategic vision. We owe them everything for their genuine interest in our project and openness to share their thoughts.

We also felt very privileged to speak with many of DHL’s customers, some of which headed up multi-billion dollar business units. We greatly appreciated DHL’s immediate faith in us that we would represent our sponsors well in these meetings. As this project was very customer-focused, these client interviews were the backbone to our final findings, and without them, we would not have been able to deliver the true value that DHL was looking for when they brought on this project.

Road Trip!
Road Trip!

DHL also gave us the opportunity to see not just the city of Koblenz, but much of Germany itself. Over the course of the three weeks, we covered over 4,000 kilometers of traveling via the Autobahn (likely accumulating our fair share of speeding tickets once we found out that posted limits were legit and not merely suggestions) and saw much of the beautiful German countryside.

DHL Truck Selfie

Last night, we reflected back on the past year (our first year as MBA students) officially come to an end with the conclusion of the GAP program. It’s hard to believe that just nine months ago, we barely knew each other or where our experience at Fisher would take us. Since then, we’ve formed deep friendships, survived the competitive internship search, and broadened our business knowledge through the classroom. However, without question, the most memorable experience of the entire year will be the thrill of flying to an unfamiliar land to work on a pressing issue for a Fortune 100 company that will have a real and meaningful impact on their business. It was truly an honor and unforgettable experience to work with DHL over the last few months and we thank them for giving the six of us lifelong memories.

With that, we also thank you, the readers, for following our adventures over the last three weeks.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Team DHL at HQ