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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.

Suzhou

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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