A Week in Korea in retrospect

Korea is more than the companies we visited, Korea is a small country that is making contributions far beyond its stature. Whether it is in international business, fashion trends, music, or food the whole world is listening. As part of Chazen, we got to experience these trends first hand. Whether it was me trying on my first face mask (which left my face feeling silky smooth) or all of us listening to the top hits in K-pop, it was hard to deny the coming Korean Wave. Everyday of the trip started with conversations about how this cool Korean thing needs to make its way over to the states or how Koreans are way ahead of the curve. I mean Seoul is going to house a building that will be taller than the World Trade Center! That is a statement to the whole world and we got to see it first hand.

As much as Korea is changing the world it still faces real problems which were violently highlighted in the news today. North Korea and South Korea exchange fire, that is the headline I woke up to this morning. A little over a week ago I was standing at the border making jokes about the North Korean tunnels into South Korea. But the relationship between the two countries is anything but a joke. Any second this wonderful experiment that is South Korea, that is Seoul, can be stopped by the actions of another. This trip has made me care and want to devote time to learning more about the struggle between these two countries that occupy a little peninsula together.

This trip was also a chance for me to meet 40 other amazing individuals. I got to meet second years, who this Chazen was part of their last hurrah in business school, and first years who I am excited to get to know even more. We are already planning reunions to K-town and the bottles of soju we will share. Two weeks ago these people were just faces on a trip roster and now they are individuals who I will always remember sharing a great journey with.

Chazen was more than I could have expected. It gave me a spring break to remember and friendships that will hopefully last much longer than school.

So thank you to the organizers, to the companies, to our faculty adviser, to the Chazen staff, and to the amazing alumni of Chazen South Korea 2015

~ Slava Druker Chazen South Korea 2015

Final Thoughts on GIP Cuba

It has been a week since our class returned from Cuba. Back to the world of cell phone connectivity, credit card machines, and long lines at Starbucks. While I can’t say that I miss being disconnected from the world, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed my one week of limited connectivity! It certainly gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in the program, and to fully experience the Cuban culture, people, and business environment.

I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our experience there, and I have been sharing my thoughts with others who have asked about my trip. Talking about Cuba with people who have never been there has forced me to collect my thoughts, and to attempt to articulate what it is like to live, work, and conduct business in Cuba.

The short answer: it’s not easy. Although Raul Castro has committed to many, important reforms, Cuba still has an incredibly long way to go before it will be able to attract regular, meaningful foreign investment. Infrastructure, support systems, and a skilled, domestic labor force will be required to entice other countries to come to Cuba and do business. These initiatives will require cohesive, transparent efforts on the part of the government, and partners who are willing to roll up their sleeves and invest in Cuba’s future success.

Private enterprise also has a long way to go. The number of private businesses is growing, and these businesses are creating jobs, fostering innovation, and increasing consumption. But more must be done! Cubans must be incentivized – and enabled – to establish private businesses that will positively impact the society and economy.

In short, Cuba needs an infusion of public support (from the government) and private enterprise to propel it to the next level. All of the resources are there – incredibly strategic trading location, powerful domestic industries such as alcohol and sugar, and the passion and drive of a younger generation. Cuba’s task will be to set conditions for future success, and to provide the current generation with the tools to succeed in the future.

I cannot close this series of blog posts without commenting on the state of US-Cuba relations. While there are countless factors to consider, I would submit the following, general opinions:

1. Current US-Cuba trade and political relations are (mostly) based on events that took place more than 50 and should most definitely be revisited and reconsidered.

2. Cuba must be prepared to make concessions, if it wants to bring the US to the negotiating table. The Cuban government has much to gain from the restoration of diplomatic and trade ties; sacrifices may have to be made in the short term, to secure long term gains.

3.  Cuba’s current status as a “State Sponsor of Terror” will continue to effect US-Cuba relations. Recent alignment with authoritarian regimes (North Korea, Russia) will continue to have negative impacts on the restoration of diplomatic and trade ties. Cuba would be wise to avoid such partnerships.

I could go on, but will stop there. I look forward to watching Cuba’s progress over the years to come, and hope to pay another visit to Havana at some point in the future.

Katie Horgan ‘14

All great trips come to an end

Day 6:

Our last company visit is probably to the company that represents Korea the most, Samsung. Samsung is involved in every business imaginable, electronics check, construction check, shipbuilding check, life insurance check… the list goes on. The start of our visit is to the Global Strategy Group which is the internal consulting group for Samsung’s foreign operations. Though we were visiting the GSG it seemed more like a CBS reunion. There were about 12 former CBS alums working at the GSG and they shared their experiences of working abroad across various business units. After a brief presentation and panel we headed down to lunch with the GSG group at the Samsung cafeteria. Lucky for us there was a Western section, many of us needed a break from Kimchi at every meal.

The second part of our day included what most people expect from Samsung, tech toys, tech toys everywhere. We got to see the latest in Samsung technology and I really wanted all of it. We got welcomed into their innovation center with a wall of screens with the CBS logo. During our tour we got to see a TV that with 3D type glasses can switch between two different programs, I can finally watch sports in peace 24/7. We also got to see the latest in semi-conductor technology which is near and dear to every CBSers heart. Following our visit to Samsung we had some time to sight-see which I spent on Insadong street.

Insadong is sort of a combination of old style tea houses, antiques, and amazing street food. It was cool to see some authentic Korean arts and crafts, it was interesting how close it seemed to other Asian countries but still had a unique feeling.

Fast forward a few hours and we all find ourselves in one of the hottest clubs in Seoul, Octagon. We have a set up of 3 tables and basically take over a whole section of the VIP area, because anything else would not be CBS. After a week of traveling together we feel comfortable dancing it up and cracking jokes all night long. The night goes on and we start wondering how in the world we will wake up tomorrow…one option is to just not sleep. But we all settle on relying on each other to get us to one of the coolest and most unique places on Earth…the DMZ

Day 7:

For most of us the 1 hour and 30 minute bus ride to the DMZ is passed in a haze as thick as the fog that covers Seoul in the morning. The trip to the DMZ starts feeling real when we are about to enter the zone and a dead serious ROK (Republic of Korea) Soldier enters the bus and demands to see our paperwork. Let’s just say it was a very sobering moment. We wind our way through the check point and get to the first sight on the trip, the 3rd tunnel. We take a little train down to a tunnel built by North Korean troops to try and invade South Korea below the DMZ. They painted the tunnel in coal in order to make it seem as though they were digging for coal and not creating a secret tunnel. The key learning from the tunnel is that North Koreans are like munchkins from Oz. Most of us could barely fit in the tunnel without being fully bent over and even then we hit our heads every 5 feet. We go from the tunnel area to the freedom bridge followed by getting into the UN base.

After a somewhat politically incorrect briefing regarding the size of flags we are ready to actually step into North Korea. First we get to stare the North Korean Soldiers down. Our US military escort informs us that though there is only one North Korean outside that the window next to him is taking pictures of us and that there are probably 30 more hidden in the building behind him. The South Korean soldiers look like wax figures, they don’t move and there bodies are so tense it feels like nothing can move them. We enter a meeting room that straddles the border and get to walk around. Without realizing most of us had entered into North Korea which is one half of the room. After taking more pictures than I can count in the room and with the ROK soldier it was time for us to go.

No one got kidnapped and no one ran away so I think the trip to the ROK was a success.

Getting back to the hotel allowed us all to crash from both the exploits from the night before and the intensity of the days events. The crash is short lived because we have to end this trip the right way by going to one final amazing group dinner filled with Apple Soju from Apple Cups and creative takes on traditional Korean dishes.

The dinner and the toasts were the perfect way for this amazing journey to the country of the Morning Calm to end. I cannot wait to go back to South Korea to explore it further and I feel as though I have made so many friends who are willing to hop on that trip with me

The Exploration Has Only Just Begun. Thoughts on Japan from Over the Pacific.

Sadly, this will be my last blog post from this trip to Japan. I’ve greatly enjoyed writing these posts, which have helped me take stock of this 10 day extravaganza. Hopefully they’ll also serve as a collective memory for all the trip participants and as entertainment for those that stumble across it on the web. Amusingly, I’m also writing it from an ANA flight bound for NYC—something that is much more meaningful after meeting with the company’s head of strategy in Tokyo.

I think I speak for all of my fellow travelers when I say that we have only barely scratched the surface of what Japan has to offer. In a whirlwind 10 days we met with 5 companies, visited 4 cities (Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo), spent 1 night in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), and sang karaoke more times than I can count. We couldn’t have done any of this without our fantastic trip organizers Ryota-san, Yoshi-san, Mari-san and Ken-san. For those that aren’t familiar with how CBS Chazen trips work, 1st and 2nd year students from Japan (and other countries, respectively) actually organize and lead each of the trips for the benefit of their classmates. The effort our peers spent on this is a labor of love that all of us will remember for years to come.

Learning about Japanese business was one of the principle goals of this trip, and I think we got a great view of Japan, Inc.—from storied companies like Toyota to rapidly growing global behemoths like Fast Retailing. The message I took away from this is that Japanese companies are adapting to the aging of Japan by looking abroad for new markets and, on occasion, ideas. Going “global” is a process that many Western companies started a while ago, and some Japanese companies have done with great success (Toyota, Sony, etc.). But every company we spoke with wanted to aggressively ramp up its efforts on this front (including Toyota). Further, I think our visits with Rakuten and Fast Retailing demonstrated a profound desire to change the “norm” of how business is done in Japan by moving quickly and focusing on being a global—rather than strictly a Japanese—company.
The cultural insights were important as well. We saw old Japan in Kyoto and modern Japan in Tokyo, although the distinctions aren’t so clear cut—the traditional and modern often co-exist right next to each other, with modern buildings located adjacent to Shinto Shrines. Beyond the historical monuments, however, it was the little things that stuck out. In most countries nowadays, many people speak English (or at least a derivation of English) as it is the basis for much of global commerce and culture. This is simply not the case in Japan; many people spoke a few words here and there, but it is not widespread. Despite this language gap, our large group saw nothing but friendly faces and a profound willingness to help us make the most of our trip. This ranged from help as we stared, befuddled, at maps written entirely in Japanese or at restaurants where we resorted to pointing and body language to order.

I think my experience the last day of the trip epitomized the Japan I came to know over the past week. A few of stayed an extra day in Tokyo to wander around the city a bit more. Separately, we spent the day exploring exquisitely sculpted public gardens and the hustle and bustle of Shibuya and Shinjuku neighborhoods. It is a bit cliché, but in the evening we started with a drink at the New York Bar in the Park Hyatt Hotel. Sound familiar? It should; this was where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson met in Lost in Translation. Regardless of it being a tried and true tourist spot, it was magical. Fabulous views of Tokyo’s sprawl in a swanky setting as we sipped on Japanese whiskey and listened to a jazz band play in the background. From there, it was off to the Golden Gai area. This tiny area, only a few blocks wide, is indicative of what Tokyo was like before the boom of the 50s and 60s—narrow alleyways housing dozens and dozens of bars in an incredibly compact space. Each of these bars only holds 4-5 people, an intimate setting for conversation. We chose one strictly on a whim (they had a good oldies playlist) and sat in front of our server, Mai. She spoke a bit of English, and we chatted for a few hours over drinks as she cooked gnocchi and told us her life story. Before parting ways, we took a series of photos together and received an impeccably hand-drawn map of where to eat. It was a small restaurant, buried in the back of a nearby building that clearly had not seen many tourists. The food was great, and when we told them Mai had send us the staff lit up. We had to leave fairly quickly at the end of the meal to catch the last train home, and were shocked to discover we had left too early—the staff had brought dessert (green tea ice cream and green tea Kit Kats) on the house. As we parted ways for the last time before heading back to New York, I looked up to see the bright lights of Tokyo (think Times Square, but for many blocks) and realized that I’d be back again. After this trip, I think the vast majority of Chazen Japan 2014 participants feel the same.

Thanks again to our fantastic trip organizers and my fellow students for making this trip a blast. It simply would not have been the same, or as great of an experience, without each and every one of you. And thanks to all of you in cyberspace who have followed along.

Sayonara, for now.

Jonathan Robins
Class of 2015

 

 

 

Built-Up Beijing

It may be just a few hours away by plane, but Beijing feels vastly different from Hong Kong. I can’t read the street signs and just ate pigeon off a stick in a market. Now THIS is China!

Anyone hungry for starfish?
Anyone hungry for starfish?

We’ve been incredibly lucky to enjoy some sunny, clear days here. The unexpected weather has made our site visits even better.

On Thursday, the folks at Swire Properties gave us a tour of their outdoor mall Taikoo Li, located in the Chaoyang district of Beijing. The complex consists of more than a million square feet of retail. The South side has stores that drive foot traffic, like Uniqlo, while the North side is all high-end retailers—think Miu Miu and Emporio Armani.

On the North side, it seemed like retailers had taken huge amounts of space for the amount of foot traffic they were getting. That afternoon, there were few shoppers in sight. Swire said that while shoppers might not be visible on the streets, celebrities who discreetly took elevators stopped by on occasion. In our meeting, Swire added that retailers mainly wanted a presence in Beijing and may start to think more about productivity per square foot in the future.

Our meeting with Soho China was equally fascinating. The developer says its niche is in prime office properties in Beijing and Shanghai. The company’s trendy offices—complete with open spaces and ping pong tables–seemed typical of a startup in Soho, New York.

The design and construction of the office complex we saw, however, was quite different from buildings in the U.S. Check out photos of the Galaxy below.

The building, designed by Zaha Haidid Architects
The building, designed by Zaha Haidid Architects
A close-up shot of the construction at Galaxy.
A close-up shot of the construction at Galaxy.

The trip to the Galaxy was our final company visit. That meant it was time for an acrobat show, the Great Wall and more dumplings.

The Great Wall!!
The Great Wall!!

This will be my final post before heading back to the U.S. I’m so thrilled I was able to experience this country through the lens of real estate. Seems like there is no better time to do it – I’ve lost count of the number of cranes and construction sites I’ve seen here.

See you all back in Uris and have a safe flight, everyone!

Anjali Athavaley ‘14

Lessons Learned – A Reflection on Spanish Business and Culture

It’s with a heavy, heavy heart that I write this post-mortem reflection on Chazen Spain from the confines of Watson Library in Uris. Without question the time spent in Spain exceeded every expectation that I had before leaving and much of that is due to the wonderful team at the Chazen Institute, our student leaders Miguel and Carlos, our facility representative Mauricio and last but certainly not least, my fellow CBS classmates. This blog will be a reflection of Chazen Spain, with a nod towards both cultural and business lessons that I flew back to New York with. Starting from the top –

Inditex (Arteixo Headquarters): Fast fashion is no joke and this visit was a lesson in how listening to your customers can be a competitive advantage if done well. Case and point is that when a store sells through an item, replenishments are not automatically ordered. The company first looks at changing styles, and leverages not only their sales team on the ground, but also direct customer feedback. With localized customer support and a highly efficient operating model, the company is able to adapt at lightening speeds.

Banco Santander: What surprised me most about Banco Santander is that the company performed well in the depths of the crisis and has continued to grow as the economy reverts to the mean. Much of this success can be attributed to the extensive risk procedures for loans (an independent committee reviews and approves each one), go-to market strategy and focus on innovation. Yes, you heard me, there is innovation in the consumer / retail banking sector. Dissolving the preconceived notion that the Spanish financial sector remains weak was the most important takeaway from this presentation.

Real Madrid Soccer Game: Our group received a real treat when we attended the Real Madrid v. Schalke soccer game. As an American that grew up playing football (not to be confused with futbol), I will admit that prior to the game I had little appreciation for how lucky I was to attend a game in person but walked away a new fan of the sport. The passion and energy for a league game rivaled any playoff or championship game in the states. It truly was unlike anything that I had ever seen or experienced and I now understand why club flags hang from apartment windows and fans dare not walk into a rival watering hole. World Cup anyone?

Telefonica: Given my undergraduate studies (economics) and pre-CBS profession, I was oblivious to the importance of customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs. True, first year marketing touched on the topic and introduced me to the variables needed to derive CLV, but this meeting really drove home its real world application(s). The global head of strategy spent ~20 minutes outlining the plan for the company to capture what was described as the ‘huge’ digital opportunity by reducing churn and growing CLV. Connectivity is addictive and their current business model is going to exploit this.

Vicente del Bosque, Spain National Futbol Team Head Coach: A former professional player and current coach, del Bosque offered up invaluable lessons on the important of human relationships, seeing the good in everyone and importantly, thinking globally by always being open to learning new things. When I asked him what is the one thing he’d like to learn, it was to learn how to speak English well. Afterwards, he challenged me to learn Spanish. Challenge accepted. My class starts next week.

H.R.H Felipe de Borbon, Prince of Asturias: It’s not every day, or really any day for that matter, that one has the opportunity to meet royalty. Our time with the Prince provided insight behind the formalities and thought behind meeting a figurehead of state. Everything was highly coordinated and choreographed with one person directing the group, another passing out waters and yet another placing us in the proper position for the group photo.

Flamenco: Defined as a style of Spanish dance and music, Flamenco shows remain popular throughout Spain. For me, seeing the performance was a look back in time. The traditional dress and beautiful music was a sharp divergence from the infamous Spanish nightlife some of us experienced firsthand.

Airbus Group: A global supply chain necessitates careful coordination and tremendous teamwork, especially when dealing with aircrafts and the various ancillary products produced by Airbus. Touring the facility gave me an appreciation for how much work goes into an aircraft and underscored the lessons learned in my Spring A Term Operations class. Bottleneck, lead times and utilization are no longer buzz words.

Real Madrid: Building off the momentum from the game a few days earlier, meeting the Real Madrid CFO gave new perspective of the economics behind the sport. A not-for-profit business, the team is the most profitable club in the world with multiple revenue streams that include the obvious (ticket sales, club membership, broadcasting rights) and the not so obvious (player earn outs, insurance payments). The team truly is global and is constantly looking for new ways to leverage the brand. If you have a mechanism for Real Madrid to expand to the US please let the CFO know.

La Moncola (Spanish Government Headquarters): After touring the grounds and seeing the office of the Prime Minister (aka the Spanish Oval Office), the group heard from Cabinet Members about the importance of further integrating the European Union in economic terms, creating more trade agreements between the EU and the US, and the potential opportunities for the carbon credit market.

CBS Alumni Event: Meeting with the CBS Alumni Club of Spain was a treat because we met with our future colleagues, and also heard from a Spanish economist on the forefront of shaping the tax code. What was especially interesting to me was that there is an option for businesses to not file taxes, but rather pay an estimated amount that is calculated by the government given a host of assumptions around revenue, traffic and costs. The resulting incentive problem exacerbates the current tax debate around a system trying to follow a US style code but offer a European style welfare state. At some point something has got to give.

DiverXO: I already posted about DiverXO in Lessons from the Kitchen, but to reiterate, this meeting afforded perspective on how business success is not confined to the boundaries of large corporates. There are copious lessons to be learned from businesses well outside of the norm and the teamwork, passion and resolve we saw at DiverXO was a testament to just that.

That’s all he wrote. Thanks for reading!

Nate Walcker ’15, Spain

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Photo Credit: Yumna Cheema

GIP Cuba Continues: Emphasis on Foreign Direct Investment & Foreign Relations

(Due to a lack of internet connectivity in Havana, this blog entry is backdated to Friday, 21 March)

GIP Cuba continues! The second half of our trip has had a much stronger emphasis on foreign direct investment and US-Cuba relations, two areas which are inextricably intertwined. We have heard speakers from all sides – government and private sector, Cuban & foreign – and the combination of their opinions are beginning to create a more cohesive picture of the business environment within Cuba.

Wednesday began with a trip to the US Interest Section (not to be confused with “Intersection”). We met with a Foreign Service Officer who handles logistics and manages the day-to-day operation of the Interest Section. In true State Department fashion, he was a bit vague about the state of US-Cuba relations, and how difficult/not-difficult it has been for him to do business in this country. However, we were able to learn that the Interest Section is technically located within the Swiss Embassy, and employs more than 400 Cubans. The Interest Section performs the vital role of assisting with the issuance of visas for those who want to visit the US, and hundreds of Cubans apply each day. Only 20,000 visas are granted, per year, which means that many are turned away without a visa.

On Thursday, we took a 2 hour bus ride to the coastal area that handles the majority of international tourists. This was a completely different side of the Cuba that we had seen so far (Havana): the resort that we visited boasted several restaurants, a golf course (the only one in Cuba!), pools, and luxury accommodations. Our visit was not, however, all work and no play. We listened to a lecture on the state of the Cuban tourism industry, during which the lecturer emphasized the importance of the US market. Following the implementation of the US embargo, he said, tourism rates dropped, drastically. The Cuban Government implement “The Tourism Plan” in 1990, to encourage recovery, but growth has been slow. In an effort to revive the industry, the Cuban government has made arrangements with foreign companies from many different countries. These foreign companies, such as the Brazilian company Barcelo, bear the brunt of the financial investment that is required to build and maintain these resorts. They provide a significant amount of the intellectual capital, as well.

Talk of foreign investment continued on Friday, when the class received a lecture on the construction of the Mariel Port. Oberbrecht, a Brazilian company, has financed 72% of the construction costs, and expects the port to be completed by 2014. The Mariel Port will be capable of handling the largest class of commercial ships, and has been built to allow for future expansion. The Cuban government, and private sector, are looking forward to the day that this expansion will be needed.

It has been fascinating to get a window in to the way that Cuba is currently managing – and attempting to expand – the level of foreign direct investment. All lecturers have admitted that Cuba must continue to find ways to make it easier for foreign countries to do business in their country. The Cuban government must put the infrastructure in place to support this type of investment!  I am anxious to see how the Cuban government handles this immense task, and to find out which countries will step up to help our neighbor to the south.

Our class heads to Havana Café tonight, to celebrate the successful completion of our trip. On Saturday, we will begin what is sure to be a long trip home.

Katie Horgan ‘14