Reflecting on Taiwan and Singapore

One of the biggest themes we saw on the Chazen Singapore/Taiwan trip is that connections matter. In Taiwan, we met with numerous prominent alumni who graciously hosted us because they wanted to grow the CBS network. We found ourselves being wined and dined in some of the top restaurants in Taiwan simply because of CBS or because somebody knew somebody who knew somebody…

This was particularly true in Singapore, where we visited two of the country’s most well-known institutions: Singapore Airlines and Marina Bay Sands. Both of these companies are quite private and rarely allow company or group visits, but because Jayburt Tsang ’17 (one of our fearless leaders!) spends a lot of time in Singapore, he was able to leverage his country connections and network for our Chazen group.
Singapore skyline at night

Checking out the Hainanese Chicken (local specialty) and other good eats at the Hawker Market!

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is among the largest 15 airlines in the world. Despite the fact that Singapore as a whole has no domestic flight market (given how small the country is), Singapore Airlines has grown to prominence globally, operating in all of the major hubs. Its brand is well-regarded for high quality, high customer service, and impeccable amenities. We met with Nicholas Ionides, the VP of Public Affairs who spoke to us about Singapore’s plan for the future and also gave us a private tour of the airline’s training facilities. One of the key takeaways is that Singapore Airlines if focused on quality aircraft and technology. Its fleet is very young compared to industry average, at an average age of 7 years, 8 months. This allows them to constantly ensure that aircraft are fitted with top of the line technology, boosting efficiency and customer satisfaction. It also means that they have strong relationships with aircraft manufacturers who are eager to work with a company that consistently cycles its inventory. They also have their own engineering subsidiary, which allows them to ensure quality control is managed in house. Another subject we talked about extensively is how Singapore Airlines is able to maintain market prominence despite heavy competition. In recent years, it has decided to take a portfolio approach, managing 4 major airline brands: Silk Air, Singapore Airlines, Tiger Air, and Scoot. This allows them to have both a full service and low cost position, and to serve both regional and longhaul markets.

One of the most exciting parts of our visit was a tour of the training facilities. Singapore Airlines is renowned for its extensive and high quality training requirements. They operate a mandatory 15-week cabin week training program (industry average is half of this). Their large training center has multiple mock simulation centers.

 

Marina Bay Sands


Our last stop was Marina Bay Sands, the largest integrated resort in the world. We met with Robert Harayda, SVP of Finance. The first thing we learned is the definition of an “integrated resort” – which the Singapore government actually defined when Marina Bay Sands was built. The resort encompasses a hotel, sky park, casino, convention center, theaters, museums, malls, event spaces, and much more. The government was keen to open this resort in order to bring business meetings and expos into the country to increase foreign tourism. Building the resort required a $5.6B investment, making it the most expensive resort ever built in the world. With rapid planning and construction speed, the resort opened in 2010 – only 3 years after they broke ground. In addition to boosting tourism (the resort has an average 95-100% occupancy rate every day across 2,600 rooms!), the resort also provides jobs for the local economy. In fact, 90% of the resort’s procurement happens through local vendors.

 The view of the resort complex from the Chairman’s Suite.

The resort’s “sky park” – we walked on those suspension bridges!

The resort’s famous infinity pool – instagrammed like no other by thousands around the world.

Shots from inside the private Chairman’s Suite (literally where the group’s chairman stays when he is in town).

In Summary

The biggest tip we learned for successful business development in both Singapore and Taiwan was that networking and your reputation matter. You can be highly skilled and business proficient, but if you don’t take care in forming the right relationships, you will most likely stagnate. We repeatedly heard that many of the business deals these alumni had were due to friendships they had cultivated over many years, and when the time was right, they could capitalize on a business opportunity. Furthermore, to tie this back to our very first company visit in Taipei (Franz Collection)…even your reputation within your company is key. The culture that you seek to foster among your employees is very important and should be based on a foundation that values everyone’s thoughts and contributions.

This trip marked the beginning of a new year (2017) but also the beginning of my final semester at CBS. In many ways, it was a great way to kickstart both of these momentous transitions because it has reminded me of the value of relationships. This semester is a perfect time for all of us to focus on networking and using our leadership roles at school (whether in classes, clubs, etc.) to really build upon the reputation we hope to have. In other words, we’ll focus on the soft skills, and remember that while we may forget some of the basics of accounting or corporate finance, we can always build upon our EQ as we enter the workforce.

Finally, I think all of my fellow travel mates in the Singapore/Taiwan trip will agree with me that our trip was extremely rewarding because it gave us access to so many things we never thought possible. Some of the students had never been to Asia before and this was a great way to be immersed in a new culture. Many of us were quite familiar with Asia (either because we had lived or traveled there), but we had never had the opportunity to look under the hood of Asian businesses until this trip.

Our trip has come to an end, but the memories will last for a lifetime! Our team has gone through a lot during the past 2 weeks, from visiting stellar companies, to dining with some of Asia’s wealthiest billionaires, to taking a night safari in Singapore (literally, a safari at night), to eating chicken testicles and fish uterus…we’ve done it all! And we are so excited for #ChazenSensAsians reunions in the future!

Signing out –

Melanie Chow ‘17

 

New year, new memories #whycbs

Our new year’s celebrations in Taipei were nothing short of epic.

Here in Asia we’ve learned that symbolism is everything. So on Saturday 12/31 before getting ready to ring in the new year, we spent the afternoon on Maokong, a beautiful hill in Taipei with gorgeous views and cleansing tea. It’s also a gathering place for families all over Taiwan.


We were lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve at a rooftop venue overlooking Taipei 101, which was also one of the companies we visited.  The design of the building consists of 8 “boxes” shaped like rice boxes since rice symbolizes good fortune. The building also has 101 stories – one beyond perfection. So it’s only fitting that we rang in 2017 with Taipei 101 with fireworks exploding off the building!

 


On January 1, we participated in another long standing tradition in Taiwan. We drove to Shifen to release lanterns for the new year. We each wrote our wishes for the new year on the lanterns and then sent them up into the sky!

 

Melanie Chow ’17

Jam-packed days in Taipei!

The last few days leading up to the new year have been jam packed with activities for the Chazen crew in Taiwan. We all landed in Taipei on Wednesday December 28th, and while it would be impossible to share all the moments of our trip so far here are some key highlights.
12/28: “There is a Chinese saying that the best boss is like a servant” – CEO of Franz Collection

According to Forbes Magazine, the fourth most desired item for young Chinese is fine porcelain: vases, tea ware, decorative ornaments, etc. Our first company visit was to Franz Collection, a company founded in 2001 that has quickly risen to prominence as one of the best suppliers of luxury fine porcelain. Their mission is to bring the beauty of ancient Chinese porcelain to the modern world. Their designs focus on highlighting the beauty of nature and Eastern symbolism. All items are handmade and even most of the “simple” items may take 3-4 months to produce.

We had the opportunity to speak with the founder and CEO who not only shared with us his ability to grow the business over the past 15 years but also how he aspires to maintain an open and non-hierarchical work culture. Two key facts:

  1. They believe technology and innovation are key for maintaining their competitive advantage – for years they have perfected their own 3D printing technology that allows them to build molds and designs more quickly and with more delicate elements that can then be translated into a handmade collectible
  2. Their employees are part of a “roundtable” – they don’t have hierarchical titles and all employees have a seat at the table. This encourages innovation and respect

12/28: “Our chefs are trained for 2 years so they can perfect their dumpling folding” – Din Tai Fung, top restaurant chain known for their soup dumplings (xiao long bao)

 


12/28: Taipei 101

Our second company visit was to Taipei 101, the most iconic building in Taiwan and home to a shopping mall, offices, and observation deck. When it was built, it was the tallest building in the world and has won multiple awards for its construction and green / LEED practices.

12/28: “Your biggest asset and risk is your reputation” – Stanley Ko, head of Hasmore Restaurant Group and CBS ‘99 alum

Stanley gave us insight into Hasmore – a family business started by his father that manages top restaurants in Asia. They partner with global chains like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, invest in new ideas and concepts, and build their own top-rated restaurants with Michelin chefs. He generously treated us to a 7-course dinner at Ryu Gin, an acclaimed Japanese restaurant led by Chef Yamamoto.


12/29: Morning cultural stop at the Martyr’s Shrine

12/29: Garage+ / Epoch

Epoch and Garage+ is a nonprofit that incubates startups and promotes entrepreneurship in Taiwan. The founder established the organization in hopes of finding a way to push Taiwan beyond cheap labor and manufacturing, which was its primary source of growth in the 1980s/1990s.

12/29: VR 

In 2016 HTC launched VIVE – their new virtual reality (VR) brand. We got to test out their games and take a tour of their beautiful building. We met with VR Chief of Staff Jimmy Feng and VP of Sales and Operations Victor Hu. They gave us insight into the future of VR and how it can be used not only in media/entertainment (e.g. Gaming) but also to improve healthcare (surgeons at UCLA use VR technology to visualize a neural MRI and CAT Scan before surgery in order to plot out the best entry site and incisions during the operation).

12/29: Alumni sponsored dinner by Shirley Wang (CBS alum) and Walter Wang (Formosa Group)

We sat around two large tables and each had our own hotpot set (traditional Chinese meal where you cook a variety of meats, seafood, and fresh veggies in a fragrant soup broth directly at the table)


And we haven’t even gotten to the “fun” stuff yet – more to come soon!

Melanie Chow ’17

Taiwan & Singapore – Kicking Off!

A lot of CBS students decide to join a Chazen trip to get insight into a new culture – they want to be immersed in a new language, new spices, new traditions that they have not yet experienced in their daily lives. And these are all excellent reasons!

But I decided to go a different route – to explore a culture I am immensely familiar with, but in a unique and exciting way. I am Cantonese and have traveled extensively through mainland China and Hong Kong, but have never been to Singapore or Taiwan. This upcoming Chazen trip, which kicks off in one week, will be a way to take a culture I love and see it through the eyes of my classmates and amazing trip organizers, Eric Yen ‘17, Evelyn Wuu ‘17, and Jayburt Tang, ‘17.

We’ve already had a taste of how great this trip will be from the kickoff dinner they organized for us a few weeks back. We went to Han Dynasty, a restaurant I’ve been to many times before. But while I often struggle with deciding what to order and properly pronouncing dishes I only half remember how to say with my elementary Chinese, Eric, Evelyn, and Jayburt quickly took the helm and ordered us a huge feast. They chose dishes that were mostly new to my classmates – things like chili oil dan dan noodles, beef tendons, double cooked pork with fermented greens, pickled vegetables, etc.

So what are we excited for?

  • Exploring Taiwan, from the startup culture to modern pottery to automated manufacturing to fine dining
  • Ringing in the new year while watching fireworks shoot off of Taiwan 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers
  • Visiting Singapore Airlines and learning about the luxury hospitality and real estate scene in Singapore at Marina Bay Sands, a 5-star hotel
  • Traditional Chinese meals from peking duck to local Taiwanese street food to multi-course meals in a palace museum…

and the list goes on…!

Melanie Chow ‘17
Singapore & Taiwan