MIM Asia Trip: Shanghai

By Gayathri Selvaraj

After Tokyo, the MIM students went to Shanghai. Shanghai is one of the biggest cities in China and is highly more westernized than most parts of China. In Shanghai, we stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel. The hotel was one of the best that we stayed at during our Asia trip. It was located on Nanjing Road, making it very easy to travel around the city. In Shanghai, we visited four multi-national companies: Caterpillar, LG Electronics, Shanghai General Motors, and APCO.

Our first company visit was to the Caterpillar corporate office. We were given a presentation about the company’s business model, strategy, and growth drivers in China. It was very interesting to hear about their R&D activities in China and the emphasis they put on developing their employees. The next company we visited was LG electronics. Here, we were exposed to some of the challenges they faced in terms of competition, talent, and innovation.

On our second day in Shanghai, we visited Shanghai General Motors. The company is known for selling more cars in China than in the US. Here, we saw their flexible production line system, which can produce any model of car with any color. We learned about their business strategy in China and about the intense competition they face with other car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen. The last company we visited was APCO, which is a consulting firm that helps multinational companies enter the China market and helps them work with the Chinese government. It was really fascinating to learn about all the challenges and media regulations that exist in China. For instance, the government controls the use of the Internet and restricts access to many social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Overall, the main business challenges in China seemed to be 1) Finding and retaining talented employees (language was a huge barrier while trying to recruit talent), 2) Relationships are emphasized in China (making it important for multinational companies to have good relationships with the government), and 3) Issues with counterfeit (the infringement and patent laws are not implemented strictly).

The people in Shanghai seemed to be very friendly and outgoing. English was spoken commonly, with more people eager to practice English by talking with us. There was some chaos, especially with the traffic, which is common among all the big cities.

One notable place we visited in Shanghai was the Bund, from where you can see the famous Oriental Pearl Tower. The tower gets lit with many LED lights in the night and sparkles amongst the other buildings forming the Shanghai Skyline. We also visited Yuyuan Garden, Jing’an temple, and Tian Zi Fang. Tian Zi Fang is a great shopping area, lined with many small shops selling everything from souvenirs to teapots to Qípáo, which is the Chinese dress for women.

Shanghai skyline

Some of us went to Suzhou, a town close to Shanghai, on our free day. We visited the famous Imperial garden in the old part of the town, experimented with Suzhou food, and drove around the new part of Suzhou. It was interesting to note the stark differences between new and old Suzhou. While the new Suzhou was filled with constructions, malls, and skyscrapers, the old Suzhou reflected a city that has frozen in time.


Overall, the visit to China was very enjoyable. We visited four multi-national companies and gained a lot of insight into their business and operations. We learned a lot about the Chinese culture, people, and food. We had a fun time visiting tourist destinations, trying out different types of food, and shopping.


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MIM Asia Trip: Tokyo, Part 2

By Megan Nelson

The next stop on the MIM Asia Trip was Hino Motors, which is the trucking division of Toyota. Hino currently has manufacturing plants around the world, with over 10,000 employees. The focus for Hino is on service, then sales, as they want to provide a safe and reliable vehicle for their customers.

Currently, Hino is focusing on environmental technology, with clean air emission systems, pre-crash safety, and continuing to be the world leader in fuel-efficient vehicles. Hino Motors manufactures vehicles based on the Toyota Kanban system of production. Within this system, Hino is pursuing a lower cost through waste elimination in order to increase profits. Kanban is used as a tool for Kaizen, which is improving the motion of workers and eliminating waste time. It was interesting to see a plant with completely different manufacturing practices from Nissan, and it put the differences of global manufacturing into perspective.

We then visited the Bridgestone Museum. Bridgestone, “Your Journey, Our Passion,” opened their first plant in Tokyo in 1960. Bridgestone designs, manufactures, and sells tires for cars, trucks, buses, construction vehicles, and aircrafts. They also create products for everyday use, such as bike tires, sporting goods, seismic isolators, eva film for solar panels, conveyer belts, etc. All of their products are made with rubber technology, which is developed in their state-of-the-art R&D centers.

Bridgestone acquired Firestone Tire & Rubber in 1981, in order to improve on the technology of their brand. They currently operate 178 plants in twenty-five countries. One of the most interesting parts of this visit was seeing the seismic isolators. This technology has revolutionized building in Japan because of the high number of earthquakes that occur there each year. This technology has helped to save a lot of infrastructure and lives throughout the country.

The final visit was to Kao Group, which innovates, develops, and sells consumer goods. Kao has received many honors, including being the World’s Most Ethical Company for seven years straight. They reinvest over five percent of their earnings to R&D and much more than that in marketing. One of their competitive advantages is in their marketing and research. A focus on consumer behavior, lifestyle, habits, and the surrounding market structure all go into the research and has helped the company be continually successful for over 120 years. Kao was a different type of visit because we learned a lot about their marketing techniques and how they leverage this competitive advantage within the market. It was not entirely focused on the supply chain and manufacturing aspects of the company.

For the last day and a half that the MIM students were in Tokyo, we had free time to do as we pleased. A group of students went to Mt. Fuji. It was an amazing experience, seeing this breathtaking volcano from many angles, playing in the snow at its base, and learning about the name. Fuji literally means “fire mountain.”

After the tour around the mountain, there was lunch in Hakone, near the hot springs. The food and the scenery were well worth the four-hour bus ride (round trip). Near the hot springs, it is custom to eat black eggs, which are said to extend your life for seven years, per egg eaten. The eggshells are black because they are boiled in the hot springs, where the sulfur changes the color of the shell. The day ended with a boat ride and a sunset view of Mt. Fuji. Other students wandered around Tokyo, visiting the Tokyo Tower, the Sky Tree, Asakusa Temple, the fish market, and many other locations. There is a plethora of activities to participate in and places to see throughout the city. Tokyo definitely has a personality all its own!P1010843 P1010870

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From Theory to Practice

By Ana Lia Barragán

Pursuing the Master of International Management degree at Portland State University has given me the opportunity to do an internship at the Business Outreach Program (BOP), allowing me to implement the classroom knowledge I have gained in the program in a real business environment.

The BOP was founded twenty years ago and is dedicated to helping businesses in the community achieve their potential while giving students the opportunity to work with and learn from these companies.

I started my marketing internship in this community-oriented organization in January 2014. The BOP serves clients from diverse industries and with diverse profiles, which has made every project very exciting. However, every new task is also very challenging. As an intern, you are not only reading about a problem in a case study for class, but also discussing real-world problems with clients. The challenge is to identify ways for the businesses to overcome whichever obstacle they may be facing, and this is when the training received in the MIM program becomes an immense resource.

From market research to marketing plans, every skill we have learned during the program is important and necessary. All the pain and hard work we go through is certainly preparing us for the real world. The concepts that I have learned in class have helped me think about problems analytically and find creative solutions to diverse issues. It is rewarding when I see how my education is helping businesses improve their performance.

Moreover, this position has given me a chance to experience what working is all about. I am now completely booked and flooded with emails. Balancing my studies, my work, and my private life has become a challenge. It is clear to me now why there is so much talk about work-life balance. Nevertheless, the experience I am gaining makes it worth it.

Having to work and study at the same time is both challenging and rewarding. You not only get work experience that will make your resume more attractive, but you also get the opportunity to implement the knowledge you have gathered in your studies. It is the best way to make theory tangible.

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Age of Pacific Lecture Series: Dr. William Bernstein

By Gayathri Selvaraj

Dr. William Bernstein is a doctor, financial advisor, and famous author of several history and economics books. Originally from Portland, Oregon, he began his career as a medical practitioner. He started his writing career with finance, but he was soon approached to write a book on the history of world trade. In 2006, he took this opportunity and wrote the book, titled A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World, which soon became one of his best sellers. On February 24, 2014, Dr. Bernstein visited Portland State University to give the Master of International Management students a speech on the importance of the history of world trade.

Dr. Bernstein started his speech with two vignettes from the seventeenth century. The first one begins in 1635, when the Spanish barbers in Mexico City complained about the presence of Chinese barbers. The second one begins in 1931, when a small boy walked on the beach in Western Australia and discovered a handful of silver coins, which were later found to be Spanish coins from the seventeenth century. They start searching for a shipwreck, but there is no sign of one. Thirty years later, fishermen find the destroyed ship, which originated from Amsterdam in 1655, and recover thousands of such silver coins. These stories make one wonder what the Chinese barbers were doing in Mexico City in 1635 and how a Dutch ship made it to Australia before the country was even discovered. To understand, we need to know about the three luxury international trade commodities during that period, which were spices, silk, and silver.

Spices were very valuable once. Everyone believed they came from the “Spice Islands,” and whichever nation controlled spice trade was considered to be very wealthy. Silk, which originated in China nearly 5,000 years ago, made its way to Europe, Persia, and India. The farther from China, the lower the quality of the silk. At the time, Europeans had silver, which the Asians wanted to exchange for goods. Although, the Spanish were responsible for discovering silver, which soon became the global currency.

Putting together the different pieces, Dr. Bernstein explained that the Spanish took the silver and shipped it to Manila, where they exchanged it for spices and silk. On the way to Mexico, the traders also brought a few Chinese people. The standard route westerners took was through the Cape of Good Hope, but it was important to know when to turn left or else they would crash into western Australia. In 1635, one such ship suffered that fate and was destroyed. The rescuers who dived to find chests of silver failed to find anything worthy, and instead, a small boy walking on the beach discovered the silver coins. Furthermore, Dr. Bernstein explained to us the role of transportation systems existing at the time: land and water. The availability of cheap goods and labor resulted in protectionist attitudes and was seen as one of the root causes for World War II. By the end of the nineteenth century, all the elements of globalization were in place—trade wars that culminated with the Smoot-Hawley tariff act.

Dr. Bernstein’s speech was very informative and educational. His descriptions of globalization and international trade were very helpful to understanding how important it is to learn history in order to recognize patterns.

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A Glimpse of Indonesia

By Clarina Andreny

Some of you may already be familiar with Bali Island, one of Indonesia’s top destinations. Here, I want to share some places that you may not know as well.

1. Batam Island and Bintan Island

Batam Island isn’t so big, but it’s known to have great seafood restaurants with cheap prices. However, Batam has very limited public transportation, so you may need to take a cab to visit places, and many taxi drivers don’t want to use their meters! Because of this, you need to bargain before you enter the taxi. Nearby, there is an island called Bintan. To get there, it takes about five hours on a boat. You can find star resorts with white sand beaches. Even though Bintan Island is located in Indonesia, many resorts and restaurants (only) accept the Singaporean dollar. At first I felt like, “What the heck? Why don’t we just use Indonesian rupiah?”. But then, oh well, as long as they still pay taxes to the Indonesian government it’s fine by me.

B5The poolside at Bintan Lagoon Resort

2. Aceh

Aceh is located at the top of Sumatra Island. The majority of the population is Muslim, so the local government highly suggests females to wear headscarves during their visits.IMG-20120504-00335Baiturrahman Grand Mosque

Aceh has great beaches with clean, white sands. Unfortunately, these amazing beaches don’t have sufficient accommodation, such as hotels, resorts, public transportation, etc.

B9Lampuuk Beach, Aceh Besar

The local food is also great. I liked Aceh’s noodles a lot. The noodles come with chicken, beef, or seafood. For those who dislike spicy food, Aceh is heaven!

3. Palu

Palu is a city located in the center of Sulawesi Island, one of the five main islands in Indonesia. This city has many beautiful beaches with crystal clear water and great, local food selections. One of the best dishes is Kaledo Soup, made from young sheep leg. You will find the pleasure of eating Kaledo Soup when you drink (yes, drink) the marrow from straws. Just make sure you don’t have a high cholesterol problem.


DSC_0271Donggala Beach

DSC_0200The Boat Trip

DSC_0290Sunset at Donggala Beach

Indonesia has so many great places for your next holiday destination!

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MIM Asia Trip: Tokyo, Part 1

By Megan Nelson

During the first leg of the trip, the Master of International Management students are visiting Tokyo, Japan. We are staying at the Grand Prince Takanawa in downtown Tokyo. It seems that the most exciting part of the hotel, for most students, are the toilets. It sounds funny, but the toilets in Japan have heated seats, deodorizers, built-in bidets, and sprayers—some might even sing to you! As you would expect, the rooms are small, but they are clean. And the toilets make up for the rest.

On our first day of company tours, we visited the Kewpie Mayonnaise Factory. After a brief lunch and introduction to the company, we were given a tour of their mayonnaise and salad dressing production lines. The Kewpie Goka plant opened in 1972, and it was the fifth Kewpie plant opened in Japan. It serves the area of Eastern Japan’s mayonnaise and salad dressing demands. Aside from five areas of product manufacturing, Kewpie owns their distribution system. Kewpie’s competitive advantage comes in the form of quality—this is the manufacturer’s main focus and the reason that they developed OITEC, a process control and traceability system, and Muda-Tori.

The management team at Kewpie was very friendly and answered many questions from the MIM students. It was evident that their employees were very satisfied with their positions and valued their work. We took many pictures with them, some students bought salad dressing and mayonnaise to bring home, and then we engaged in our first “waving ceremony” of the trip. All of the people with whom we engaged with stood outside of the door and waved as we drove away, and we waved back from inside the bus.

The second day, we visited the Yokohama Nissan Production Plant and the Ricoh Headquarters in Tokyo. The Nissan Oppama Plant opened in 1961 as a production facility. Today, this plant produces four different Nissan vehicles: the Leaf, Sylphy, Juke, and Cube. They also have a research center and logistics area, as well as a test-driving area called “Grand Drive.” There are 3,100 employees that work on a one-shift system, from 7:00 am—4:00 pm. Nissan has a flexible production system, meaning that they can produce any of the four vehicles, in any order, without changing the set-up or slowing down production.

Nissan also runs a sequence process called “Douki-Seisan.” This production process runs throughout their supply chain, in a just-in-time (JIT) format, but without maintaining an inventory. Nissan offers their customers timely production and delivery for any car. Production is based upon customer orders. Once an order is placed, it goes into the sequence for production, and the information is shared throughout the supply chain. Each area produces the parts needed for a particular car and sends them to the final production plant for manufacturing.

Ricoh has created and sold cameras, copiers, printers, fax machines, and more, but their core business and competitive advantage lies in the production and commercial printing sectors. Ricoh has continued to prosper in the areas of production and commercial printing, while maintaining a strong strategic partnership with Heidelberg of Germany. Their biggest competitor is Xerox. However, both companies maintain a large market share worldwide.

Ricoh is also focusing on building global leaders within their company through training and leadership programs. Their leaders develop attributes like adaptability, vision, global super-generalist, wide-open curiosity, aggressiveness, delegation, and growth. This is a fantastic company with amazing technology on the horizon, such as the Theta360 camera, which provides the user with a 360-degree picture.

Each of these companies has a unique perspective on business, but one quality that has stood out for Japanese companies is the focus on quality. This is very important and what drives most Japanese companies to become so sustainably successful. The trip has been a blast so far, and there is only more to come!


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MIM Panel for Japanese Exchange Students

By Megan Nelson

On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, the International Affairs Department at Portland State University sponsored a panel of students from the MIM program, who spoke to a group of approximately thirty Japanese exchange students. The visiting students are all current university students in Japan, who are determining their desire to further their exchange student experience and what they might do as a future career.

The MIM students, Terrence Donahue, Trimaine Belton, Megan Pardee, Hanyang Zhang, Christiano Lee, and Megan Nelson (me), served as “cultural ambassadors” for the students and offered information and guidance in the area of international business.

Many of the Japanese students were initially worried about their English speaking skills, but as the MIM students have learned, language isn’t a barrier to communication. After introducing themselves, the MIM “cultural ambassadors” sat down with small groups of Japanese students to answer questions in a more intimate setting. The exchange students were very interested in developing their English skills, learning about American culture, and enjoying the food. Some of them also had great questions about getting a job in the U.S. after graduating with an undergraduate degree, the merit of a MBA in the business world, how to make a good first impression, and why we change jobs so often in the U.S.

This event was very interesting for all parties involved. The Japanese students were able to gain valuable knowledge, form more complete opinions about the education system in the United States, and decide how they want to proceed with future exchange options. The MIM students were able to learn more about Japanese culture, which will help them as they prepare for the upcoming Asia trip, which commences this Sunday. These events are great recruiting tools for the MIM program, and they are solid learning experiences for the MIM students to engage in cultural activities and learn more about the world around them.

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