China - Design + Weird Corn Edition (Hassell)

Hi. Me again. 


Since I've been here I've had this urge to watch Shanghai Noon. 


Awesome movie. If you're 12. Which I was, when I was obsessed with it, so yeah. I have an excellent taste in the cinematic art. 

Just realised have already failed in keeping this blog clean, sophisticated, educational and drug-free, and I think I said "shit" before in a previous post, so there's that as well. 

Oh well. 

Let's be honest, I'm procrastinating. While you let the shock of that sink in, I'll remind you that this blog is contributing quite a to the actual assessment for my subject here in China, though I now concede that I'll now probably have to use this more as a reference and write it up all properly later, due to the aforementioned drug use and "shit"s.

Point being, my blog is actual work now, as opposed to just hurrr, pretty pictures, here's my dog, here's me drinking a lot, hurrrr. 

BUT you know how to get to the point where you've finished your work? BY DOING IT. This is the valuable lesson my higher education has taught me. 

Let's go. 

I'll let you know how these will go from now on. 

My study group (20 kids and 3 mentors) all go to the site of a company and listen to a presentation from a top-level person at that company, and afterwards we have the opportunity to ask questions. By top-level people I mean mainly managing directors, senior consultants, presidents, and individuals who just generally own everything.

The point is primarily the fact that these are people the average person would never get access to, especially students like us looking to start our way in the world.

We're set up in groups of 4 or 5 to do a research project regarding marketing in China, and the idea is to use marketing theory along with what we'll find out and experience on this trip to develop an insight into how people can conduct their business here.

My group is made up of Bec (redhead), Joanna, Kim and Wai Sin....and I don't think I have a photo of all of us together yet, but you'll see them throughout. 

Our topic is about whether China has developed a unique approach to marketing, as opposed to what we've learned at university with all its Western constructs.

Interesting to some (me), but not to others, I suppose. 

Additionally! Chester, our official group photographer, has taken some good photos at every visit, with the speakers and all of us, so we've got a little deal going on where he gives me those to put on here. He edits them for me and everything. Now I think on it, I'm not sure what he gets out of this deal. Maybe I'll promise to not put my photos of him making silly faces up on Facebook or something. I dunno. We'll work it out. Point being, his photos I've decided shall henceforth be hashtagged #Chester. 

I'll be working in dot points for most of this, because it's easier to read, especially when I'm being more wordy and less photo-y. Basically what I've learned from each company, along with general things I've noticed and experienced from being in China in general. There'll also be more photos from what's been happening outside company visits, so back to normal at some points.



Yi + Nina. It's another lovely can't-see-much-in-front-of-you kind of Beijing day.
Monday, July 1st - our first company visit. Everyone was a bit nervous, I believe. We didn't really know what to expect. The main point however, was that it was the first time we'd all been dressed up in our corporate gear, so we all looked smashing

The first company was Hassell, an Australian design firm which had entered the Chinese market. Our speaker was Sherry Zhang, a senior project manager, an extremely lovely and inspiring woman who was very open about her work. 

In every company so far, we get greeted by the speaker or their representative in the front lobby/reception area, and are led to a conference or meeting room, usually with lots of comfy chairs and bottles of water around; it's all very fancy. Hassell was no different, and set the standard from what we were to expect from the visits.

The office in Beijing (photo from website).
Things of Interest (or to skip):
  • As they expanded into China, Hassell took advantage of the knowledge and expertise already accumulated from the existing Australian offices.
  • A lot of their success in China stems from the country's extraordinary growth (aka lots of construction and projects) - they're even at the point where they can support their brand by rejecting projects they feel don't suit them as a company, with about a 40% knockdown rate. 
  • For reference, it's said china will build over 50 000 skyscrapers in the next 20 years; that's over 10 New York Cities.
  • One of Hassell's core values is their buildings' sustainability, which is also quickly becoming an important investment for Chinese cities.
  • They've had to manage the difference between being a very well known and regarded brand in Australia, to being virtually never heard of in China.
  • They understand that building relationships with various Chinese governments is important (unshocking fact: this is important for every company that wants to be even slightly successful).
BHP's Brookfield Place in the Perth CBD  (it's the massive one) - was actually kind of excited when I found out they did that one, I noticed it last year when I went over after I hadn't been there for nearly a decade.

  • Cultural differences:
    • Always the possibility of miscommunication, beyond simply language barriers. 
    • In China, it's often about what people don't say, rather than what they do. 
    • The Chiense are conservative and not very direct; Westerners the opposite. 
    • In China, the concept of guanxi is important: about creating and maintaining personal relationships in business - it's the idea that the rapport comes first before any talk of business, products or sales is even mentioned. Again, Westerners are the opposite.
    • 2013WAF_02
      The Palm Island project north of Chongqing.
    • For example, Ms. Zhang recalled a meeting with a potential Chinese client which ended with them going, "yes, we'll have dinner, we'll work with you, we have this and this project going, it'll be great". Her Western colleague was all excited, but she just shook her head. She know that was the end of that relationship.
  • They have an entire section of the business dedicated to just market research. Understanding the industry, their environment, clients both current and potential as well as competitors is key, especially while their reputation is in the growth stage. 
  • Consistent branding in all forms and across all geographical regions.

At the end of the presentation, we gift the speaker with a certificate of appreciation and a bottle of Australian wine. 
Ms. Zhang, Steph and Whitney. #Chester

Smile! #Chester (Chester's the one on the far right. Hi.)
Now that we had this visit for reference, we could start working out more what kind of questions we wanted to ask, and how to start collating the information into our projects, to try and get a start on the large, complex issues we're to address.

It's a lot harder than it sounds. [sound of all 19 of them nodding as they read this]


That night a few of us went out for dinner down the road from our Beijing hotel. Remember how it was a bit of a dodgy area, but I think we found something pretty good, after having convinced Whitney to just go with it after finding the bad smell in the restaurant lobby and being about to bail. 

Turned out to be a BBQ place - skewers of rat lamb and pork, as well as mushrooms, salad, garlic scallops, edamame and escargot. All for about 30RMB (eh, about AUD$6). 



I don't even know what was happening, it had this texture completely unlike every other corn ever; all hard and chewy and bizarre. DAMMIT, CHINA, HOW CAN YOU SCREW UP THE CORN.

Anyway, outside and surprise! Hot rain! Beijing streets turned all wet and messy and smelly.

Running in the rain. Not my fault.

Got a snack from one of those Asian bread places - coconut cream bun. SO INCREDIBLY GOOD. So good, it was a terrible idea to get one. 

Anyway, that's one down, at least. Many more to go! But many more adventures in between as well...

Say hi to your mum for me. Have a drink with a mate, but not too much. 

Until next...

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