Wharton | San Francisco Student Reflects on China Trek

Each year, second-year Wharton EMBA students spend a week abroad examining how businesses develop and implement strategy in a competitive global context. While that trip is the culmination of their International Seminar, it’s not uncommon for students to organize additional treks to gain further insight into the economic, political, social and cultural factors that influence business in other regions.

Last month, a group of 21 students from Wharton | San Francisco participated in a trek to Beijing and  Shanghai. We asked second-year student Hari Kannan, a technologist at VCE in the Silicon Valley, to share some highlights from the trip. Here’s what he had to say:

“In 10 days, we visited 14 organizations in the areas of technology, government, media, energy and venture financing, discovered the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, and saw a glimpse of 5,000 years of history.

“Arriving in Beijing, we started our company visits at Tencent, Baidu, and Bain Capital. It was obvious that China is thriving in this new age of change. There was a quiet confidence in the way our hosts all spoke about their past successes and their voices eagerly anticipated the next set of challenges. They had figured out a way to beat Google, Facebook and BestBuy in China – not an easy feat.

“That evening, we attended a reception hosted by Wharton Executive Education that featured a talk by Prof. David Bell on success strategies for the Internet market. We also had a chance to meet local Wharton alumni at the event who had come in large numbers to hear one of their favorite professors. Not surprisingly, the alumni all held influential positions and they shared with us their insights on everything from the economy to the latest trends.

“The next day, we visited the China Huaneng Group, Innovation Works, and the Beijing Information Exchange. By the end of the day, we had further solidified in our minds that the new China was built to succeed.

“On our last day in Beijing, we met with Northern Light Ventures, established by Feng Deng, an alumnus of Wharton’s executive MBA program in San Francisco who has an entrepreneurial background and sold a technology company to Juniper. That was followed by a visit to the Foreign Affairs Office of the Zhongguancun Science Park. It was clear that innovation is thriving in China and entrepreneurs are actively seeking ways to address the needs of the local and global market place.

“Moving on to Shanghai, we met with executives at Coca-Cola, China Business News, Dianping.com, Nike, Shanghai United Assets and Equity Exchange, SHSTI, and AdChina. The $300 billion of privatization every year and the general opening up of the economy have ensured that opportunities are aplenty for entrepreneurs and investors alike.

“Coke and Nike introduced us to the consumer mindset in China. Unlike other multinationals, these companies had been tremendously successful by adjusting to the local culture and needs. Dianping and Adchina on the other hand have thrived by adopting novel monetization strategies in the Internet and mobile age.

“Looking back, this was one fantastic trip! It was a truly unique experience in the medley of new and old that makes up today’s China. Making the experience even better was the bonding and deeply forged friendships that we will all cherish in the years to come.”