Tag Archives: Singapore

Singapore, China: Excites, Adventures and More

Guest post by Xiaoyuan Su (TMMBA Class 2012)

As a native Chinese, this International Study Tour to Singapore and China is special to me, as Singapore is a nation with a majority of population as Chinese ethnically, and China is my homeland.

The trip was exciting, and I think it is different for each person. When I did a survey during the farewell dinner in Beijing, a majority of the non-vegetarians think the most exciting portion of the trip happened in Singapore. However, as I observed, ISTers spent more money in China, especially in the jade market and tea store. For Westerners, Singapore is more comfortable and China may be more interesting (Quote from Lisa). While some classmates especially like the Singapore guide Lim’s comments during her guidance for us, I am not a fan of Lim, who kept complaining that Chinese from mainland China are willing to take jobs at lower salaries etc.

The company visit to GE Water was great. As we had a case study of GE in our leading organization change course, we were well prepared to the culture of the company. At the same time, the director of GE Water gave us a high-profile presentation and Q&A. Singapore Airlines was fantastic, the onsite experience of emergency handling training field, the pilot room, and the first-class cabins were all exciting. I hope there were not too many of us got offended when the presenter of A*Star stated that only a few students there know UW as more go to MIT to pursue higher education. As I learned from a friend of mine who is working for A*Star, Singapore students have multiple sources of funding so that they can get admitted by elite universities without the need to get sponsored by scholarships there. It’s interesting to mention that three of the four presenters of our company visits in Singapore were from foreign countries and all of them apparently work and live there happily.

I might miss a lot of fun in Singapore during the free time on March 14. I gave a talk on recommender systems (which is my research topic) at Nanyang Technological University. I was 15 minutes late due to a series of episodes, and found a group of young researchers sitting in the room waiting for me, each having a representative paper of mine in his/her hand. I got many good questions during the talk, and I used the TMMBA professors’ (especially Bigley and Ali?) favorite answer to handle the questions: I will get back to this question soon. After the talk, the hosting professor asked me to attend a research meeting with his graduate students.

What’s the buzz in China? Is it shopping? I hope not. Telling the truth, I really don’t know what the true values of the jade works are, even if they are authentic, jasmine+gold, and whatever; and I don’t have a close estimate of the sales margin of the fancy teas. I bought 50-yuan rose tea from the market Jack (the popular Chinese guide) led us to and none for jade as I have many jade products at home already. So I hope the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Hotong tour are much more interesting to my classmates. Otherwise, eating out for Peking duck, drinking at night bars, massaging, exploring the street at night are also fun.

Wait. Did we visit any companies in Beijing ? Yes? at least Amazon. The supply chain management principles are applied well in the Amazon fulfillment center in China. The purchased products are efficiently dispatched to ordering customers there. We visited the office of US China Business Council, which made our trip to China appearing official. The TEDA visit happened in Tianjin, another big city in China. The port city appears dusty everywhere, which is a reflection of China: the factory of the world develops fast at the cost of environment. TEDA administrates a big economic and industry zone of the city of Tianjin as it hosts foreign companies, JVs, and incubates startups with attractive policies. We also visited two foreign company-controlled local logistic companies, one with a small conference room, one was presented by a less-than-fluent English speaker (where TMMBA turned to be PMBA in their greeting display in the lobby).

Almost an adventure in my homeland. I extended my stay in China to visit my parents and other extended family members in Suzhou, a neighbor city of Shanghai. I spent an afternoon and evening for our high school classmate reunion, a special reunion for me. During the dinner, when I tried to show off my recently acquired US green card to my classmates, I found the one in my wallet was something else (I took that by mistake due to a hectic pre-trip rush). The mistake forced me to stay two more days in China as I have to hold my own green card to get out of China and return to USA. I therefore had chance to spend more time with my parents, my brothers and their families, and my friends in my hometown. As I was lucky enough to get timely help from a Chinese lady who was returning Shanghai from Seattle and took the green card to me, I did not get stranded aboard because of my insanely careless mistake. However, I had one more problem: I got a cold during the two days beyond schedule.

TMMBA visit to A*Star in Singapore

2012 TMMBA International Study Tour guest blog by Ben Morales & Stephanie Casey

Similarities and differences to a company visit in the US

We would compare the A-star campus visit to a company visit in Silicon Valley.  Silicon Valley is home to many of the world’s largest technology corporations, and known for world-class engineering and product development.  A-star is similar to Silicon Valley in that it has a focus on research and development for biomedical sciences, physical sciences, and engineering and has established itself as the premiere research institute in Southeast Asia.  Dr. Seng was able to paint a broad landscape of how A-star fits into the global view of premiere institutes such as Carnegie Mellon, but also zero in on how it is influencing Southeast Asia and its role in Singapore.  This perspective was unique to Singapore and very different from a company visit in the US.

A*Star’s global mindset

In my observation, A-Star is key to the Singapore government’s strategy on how it will continue to grow its economic engine—via bio-tech and high level engineering activities.  That said, the mindset of A-Star is to recruit and partner with the best minds and companies around the world.  They recruit heavily from all over the world, and even though they lose some of Singapore’s brightest minds to Stanford and Harvard, Dr. Seng works diligently to bring those students back after their education.  Additionally, Dr. Seng pointed out that Singapore is within a six-hour flight of two-thirds of the world’s population.  This statistic was incredibly powerful as we realized China and India account for a majority of the world’s population, and that an organization like A-star can have an even greater advantage when they are geographically positioned so close to these burgeoning populations.

The company culture

Given its engineering and scientific focus, the A*Star culture appears to be an entrepreneurial one.  One in where there is a high level of collaboration, experimentation and risk taking.  That being said, there is a lot of pressure to produce.  A lot of money is flowing through the institution so it’s imperative that they launch or license products and file patents to sustain the organization.

Doing business in Asia

It appears that doing business in Asia is less complicated than I originally perceived.  The economic growth in the Asian market (at least in Singapore and China) appears to be fueled by big brands entering these markets without hesitation.  Initially these companies entered these markets through joint-venture licensing deals and evolved to wholly owned foreign entities (WOFE’s).

The growth potential and relative immature nature of the China markets has some companies (i.e. Godiva) making significant investment plans based on performance of like brands vs. the typical quantitative analysis usually performed in other mature markets.

GE – Singapore Water – Technology Centre at NUS

One of the companies we visited in Singapore is GE – Singapore Water. The National University of Singapore (NUS) and GE launched the new Singapore Water Technology Centre back in June 22, 2009. This is GE Water’s first collaboration with a university in Asia-Pacific located on NUS Kent Ridge Campus with S$150 million (US $100 million) investment. The vision is to develop and test technologies in areas such as desalination, water reuse and generation of ultra-pure water for the semiconductor industry.

We wanted to capture a couple of things with the picture below. First, we had our picture taken with the GE logo outside the building as they don’t permit any cameras inside. The employees are very adamant about not letting anything leak out of this research center. In other words, this is a very secure environment to work in. It’s also a very hot and humid environment to work in! Singapore is located just one degree north of the equator. So the climate is very tropical. We were all soaked in sweat once we stepped out of air conditioned space.

The company culture

Our speakerwas Dr. Adil M. Dhalla, who is the director for the Singapore Water Technology Center. Dr. Dhalla has a master’s degree in chemistry from Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay. He earned a doctorate in chemistry from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Dhalla has co-authored 16 issued U.S.

We identified three major themes to take away from our speaker: innovation, global career growth, and global footprint.

Innovation – GE continues to innovate on products and services that solve big problems around the world. GE understands the global needs, both private and commercial for clean, potable water and is hard at work to develop ground-breaking solutions to meet those needs.

Global Career Development – We were excited to learn about GE’s heavy investment and focus on employee career development. This aligns with the GE case study we covered in the leadership class. Opportunities abound for GE’s employees that show promise and drive.

Global Footprint – It was amazing to learn about GE Singapore Water’s vision to produce clean and reusable water not just within Singapore, but wherever it is needed at a global scale. GE has offices, technology research centers, and plants on every continent. Adil showed us a current map of GE offices, and they covered the globe. They coordinate their efforts with video, phone, email, messenger – virtually any medium you can think of to stay in close communication. This allows them to pursue projects virtually anywhere in the world.

We were very impress with GE’s culture to innovate, ability to grow employees at a global scale and change the world with its product and services, and we thank Adil for his hospitality during our visit

International Study Tour – Singapore Airlines

Guest post by Jessica Efta, Class of 2012

Our visit to Singapore Airlines started with Hank from Public Affairs giving us an overview of the company, beginning with the following mission statement: “Singapore Airlines is a global company dedicated to providing air transportation services of the highest quality and to maximizing returns for shareholders.” Two core components of the company’s culture can be seen in this mission statement, “global” and “quality.”

As a global company, Singapore Airlines flies approximately 17 million passengers per year.  Pretty impressive, considering Singapore itself has only 5 million citizens. The airline now flies to 63 destinations in 34 countries.

Singapore Airlines is known as a higher end airline, and a very strong culture of quality and customer service pervades the company.  Artifacts of the company culture for high quality can be seen in the entryway, where the flight attendants’ attire is proudly on display behind glass.  We were told that flight attendants receive double the amount of training compared to the industry average.

This strategy of providing high quality seems to be working quite well for the company.  Singapore Airlines has never posted a loss in its 40 year history.  A smaller airline, it ranks 16th in terms of traffic size, but it is the most profitable in terms of RPK (revenue per kilometer). In FY10, group revenue was reported as $14.5B with a net profit of $1.1B.

We then took a tour of the building, where we got to learn more about what high quality at Singapore Airlines’ really means.  We went inside a demo plane and see a water tank complete with a wave-making machine designed for emergency landing training purposes.  Next, it was explained to us how Singapore Airlines trains their flight attendants.  Our guide explained that the flight attendants must memorize each piece of silverware, glass pairings for wines, and every other detail for the food service (including which glass to use for Dom Perignon champagne). They also must learn the appropriate way to deal with all kinds of passengers—kids, elderly, moms, businessmen, etc. An interesting (and I would assume, effective) approach to “empathy training” is to send their attendants to nursing homes to know how to deal with elderly passengers. They even attend classes on how to fix their hair and apply makeup.  After learning this, I could see why the attendants received double the industry average on training!  For the grand finale, we got to tour the first class and business class sections of the latest plane models, where the value of high quality could be experienced. Seats were wide enough to fit at least two people, and each seat had a footrest and a flat screen TV!  Perhaps one day with my MBA degree I’ll land a job where I can afford such luxury! ;)