Thursday, June 23, 2011

Final Thoughts

The time I spent studying abroad in Taiwan proved to be one of the most rewarding, enriching, and enjoyable experiences of my young life. We had the opportunity to share camaraderie and build rapport with fellow students of similar academic disciplines, which was an added bonus atop of the significant lessons on East Asian business culture.  
 The Taiwanese companies we visited seemed to be people/employee-centered and their management styles reflected that reoccurring sentiment. They also seemed to create a profound and effective company vision and philosophy and managed directly from that strong value base.  These unique attributes, above all else, I plan to carry with me for the rest of my professional life.
I couldn’t have asked for a more relevant trip, considering my future career goals, and I would highly recommend participating in a study abroad program for every college student. I returned home with a comprehensive understanding of the country and its people.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Giant Bicycle

            Today we visted the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world: Giant Bicycle.  The story of Giant’s origination is inspiring. The company began when a Taiwanese eel farmer, King Liu, had his entire farming business destroyed by a typhoon. It is out of that adversity that Liu decided to pursue a new venture. This opportunistic and productive mentality should be learned from, especially in today’s uncertain and unfavorable economic environment.  
            The most impressive aspect about Giant Bicycle is their rapid growth and development as a company. They started off manufacturing for Schwinn Bicycles, even managing to pick up the production slack when Schwinn’s Chicago plant workers went on strike in 1980. By 1985 Giant had successful branded Giant as a desirable and separate entity, and the market was now demanding Giant Bikes. In 1990 Giant was officially the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world!
            I was impressed with Giant’s conscious and effective branding strategy. They view Giant as not only a bike company, but as a culture. They promote cycling as a lifestyle. Much of their marketing focuses on the activities, attitudes, and health benefits that biking facilitates as opposed to the bikes themselves.
            Consistent with many other Asian companies Giant Bicycle was adamant about being ‘green’ and utilized many environmentally friendly practices. Their vision, decision-making, and planning also seemed to be centered on long term goals, even as a detriment to short-run profits.

Taipei 101 - KPMG

We ended our day with a visit to the second tallest building in the world: Taipei 101.We went up 62 floors to the board room of KPMG Taiwan; it looked down on the bustling city of Taipei with scenic mountain ranges in the distance.  We sat at a long oak  table, the head of which stood a company executive who provided commentary on the current financial climate and KPMG’s role in it all. Their member firms are leading providers of audit, tax, and advisory services. With a global approach to service delivery, KPMG member firms respond to clients' complex business challenges with consistent methodologies and common tools across industry sectors and national boundaries.

ASUS Computers

Early that same afternoon we also had the opportunity to hear Cecilia Huang, marketing executive for Asus Computers, speak about the importance of branding and determining your target market. Taiwan is the second most competitive IT market in the world; making Asus, a Taiwanese based entity, an increasingly prominent player in the field. Asus is an emerging company that is in its early stages of branding. Huang emphasized how closely linked their target market is in relationship to their branding goals. Their target market (for the time being) is ‘techies’ or people on the forefront of innovative IT products. They are hoping that by appealing to these market experts it will have a sort of trickle down effect. She also shared with us a Chinese proverb, calling for internal awareness and improvement, a sentiment promoted at Asus: Wise man knows himself; brave man defeats himself; only when knowing himself may he defeat himself, and only then will he  be superior to others.

Ingredient Branding Lecture

My favorite day of the trip so far!  This morning we were able to sit in on two lectures on marketing and branding. We started our morning at National Taiwan Normal University where we listened to a lecture on ingredient branding and participated in a discussion concerning a case study on Intel. Walk through any supermarket, pharmacy or computer superstore and you'll notice an overwhelming abundance of ingredient brands. An ingredient brand is exactly what the name implies: an ingredient or component of a product that has its own brand identity. Well-known examples include PC computers with Intel Inside, diet soft drinks with NutraSweet, stereos with Dolby noise reduction, and Chevron gasoline with Techron.

Foreign Exchange Risk Management Lecture

Today we visited the beautiful campus of Tamkang University and had the opportunity to sit in on a Foreign Exchange Risk Management lecture. Foreign exchange risk management is designed to preserve the value of currency inflows, investments and loans, while enabling international businesses to compete abroad. Although it is impossible to eliminate all risks, negative exchange outcomes can be anticipated and managed effectively by individuals and corporate entities. Businesses do so by becoming familiar with the typical foreign exchange risks, demanding hard currency, diversifying properly, and employing hedging strategies. I found the lecture to be fascinating and beneficial. We are in an increasingly global market and it is important to be competent in the practical applications of foreign exchange risk management.

Meining Workshop, Inc.

Creating a coherent vision, passion, and sense of purpose within a company is something that managers are continuously attempting to implement. The spirit, perseverance, and shared community vision of the Meining Workshop, Inc. in Taishan, Taiwan was impressive and inspirational.  Once home to a massive manufacturing plant for Mattel Barbie’s™, Taishan’s local economy was left in ruins when Mattel moved their plant to China in seek of cheaper labor. It was in this adversity that Taishan’s people chose opportunity as opposed to bitterness and embraced a new and exciting venture in hopes of restoring their ailing economy and reviving the vigor of their discouraged community.  Meining Workshop, Inc. specializes in custom barbie dolls and elaborate, one of a kind, barbie outfits.