So how many countries can you boast of having you visited in two weeks? Ask the guys of the 4S Winterim. Participants of this particular Winterim visit 4 key cities in 4 Asian countries in the span of just two weeks! From video conferences at Cisco to attending meetings in “casual” wear, the 4S have truly rocked it, Gangnam Style! Visit Seoul, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore through the eyes of Patrick Mah, 2nd Tri Traditional MBA student.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul has the highest internet penetration in the world (95%+). Companies use the blog space extensively because consumers trust their peers. Ford is the first foreign automaker to take advantage of blogging for publicity. Many of the youth want to work in the Chaebols (Chaebols are typically global multinationals owning numerous international enterprises, controlled by a chairman who has power over all operations), though arguably the Chaebols represent non-diversified government investment that is subject to risk in the international business sphere. Koreans like foreign brands (especially European and Asian), but if a foreign company fails in Korea, it’s difficult to come back.
The Chinese use the internet as an effective means to spread information to nearly all corners of China through computers and more recently smartphones; Chinese smartphone application developers have realized the latter and are creating products for those needs. Online shopping is the norm in China since it is so easy to return faulty or incorrect products. Companies create relationships with micro bloggers all the time in order to promote their products. There also exists a “Shai” culture: the display of material goods to express vanity and a commercial sense of happiness. Businesses realize this fact and use “unofficial” Shai models to model their clothes in order to spread throughout the online community. A challenge for China will be to maintain development while balancing the health of the environment, which translates into business opportunities for organic food, water purification, air purification and recycling.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The Vietnamese government is attracting FDI (e.g. the IT industry) with tax incentives, so it is easy for locals to open a business but difficult to get a license. Thus operating a business in Vietnam can be more complicated than operating in China. The money and FDI is already in Vietnam, but there exists a need to now bring in infrastructure (there is talk to build a subway system in Ho Chi Minh). Consumers, while being value conscious, are also aware of foreign brands for quality and prestige. Luxury brands such as LV, Hermes, Gucci and Channel are all in Ho Chi Minh. Large luxury hotels are already located in Ho Chi Minh and more are on the way including MGM Grand and Vegas-style casino. So what about the food here? Food is inexpensive, light and tasty and the French influence is evident in the bread, baked goods, and cafe culture.
Singapore is the intellectual hub of SE Asia adding intellectual capital at the upper end of the value chain. The government attracts MNC with tax-incentives and a labour force that is highly educated and familiar with Western business practices. Singapore creates an excellent climate for an entrepreneur where the first 100K is easy to secure from government grants. On the cultural side, a mix of culinary aromas from around the world has created a fusion of cuisines from India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Thailand. Hawker stalls are phenomenally cheap which means most people eat out for every meal instead of purchasing expensive groceries and heating up their houses from cooking.
Is the West ready to compete against Asia? At least from a Canadian perspective the answer is no. The fact that the average Asian is hungrier, is willing to work longer and harder for less pay; and the fact that many Asians speak more than one language, begs the question how can someone like me compete? When people in the West are concerned with ideas of “Not in my backyard”, Asia realizes change needs to occur at neck-breaking speed to benefit the entire society. Innovate and change or die. If the West maintains its current course and does not see itself as a complementary piece in this global puzzle, it may become an endangered society.