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McDonalds Thailand

Adam Galea – McDonalds Thailand

We had the opportunity to visit with the McDonalds Thailand, a franchise company that owns and operates all of the McDonald’s restaurants and food outlets in Thailand.  This visit gave great insight into how an American rooted company adapts to franchising in another country.  Additionally, we learned of some obstacles and challenges experienced when adapting an American product to the taste of a local culture and business practices while remaining true to the original product.  As well, we got a glimpse into how an overseas franchisee conducts business with an iconic American brand.

Cohort 11 - McDonalds Academy in Bangkok, Thailand

Cohort 11 – McDonalds Academy in Bangkok, Thailand

Each culture around the world comes with its unique dietary tastes and popularity of specific food dishes.  Thailand is no exception with its strongly seasoned flavors, heat and demand for seafood based products.  What stuck out to me was how the McDonalds franchise was able to address these demands through ingredient changes and additional product offerings such as congee for breakfast or noodles during the day.  It was shared how this variety is needed to not only attract the younger generation but also encourage the entire family to come.  Even with the local specific menu adds, the familiar core items such as a Big Mac, french fries and chicken nuggets are still well represented.  Staying true to the core brand, this franchisee often has to import key ingredients which are subjected to import taxes.

In our meeting we learned more about the business challenges these international franchisees face.  Specifically in Thailand, one challenge faced is the need for low cost items to meet the income levels of his consumer while balancing the increase in expense from import taxes, resulting in the highest cost products for the lowest priced items.

McDonald's HQ Thailand - Corporate Offices

McDonald’s HQ Thailand – Corporate Offices

With all of the challenges a franchisee faces overseas there come some liberties that domestic franchise owners may not have available to them.  The ability to test products and promotions to expand business and stay competitive are often driven by corporate offices.  What was clear to me was how an 11 hour time difference and half the world in distance allowed this franchise owner to pilot different promotional items and even expanding beyond the food industry with the McDonalds name.

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Business in Thailand

Hugo Escanuela – Business in Thailand

Throughout our previous course, International Business and Finance, we spent a great portion of our time talking about culture and how it pertains to doing business in the foreign market. When dealing with different cultures it is important for one to know what is appropriate. Our business visits were all unique and offered a variety of valuable takeaways, especially the ones that took place outside of the board room. It isn’t uncommon for business to occur outside of the workplace, and often times it is important to partake in cultural activities to show trust and respect with your business partners.business_in thailand

The real side of business in foreign countries depends on building a relationship with your future business partner. The trust that is developed in these types of relationships can sometimes only be formulated outside of a professional setting. As a friend once said, “Down the hatch.”

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Culture in Thailand

Hugo Escanuela – Culture in Thailand

On our final day in Bangkok we got to experience what truly makes Bangkok such a unique city to visit. From the temples and intricate river canals to the magnificent rooftop views, Bangkok is beautiful in its own regard. Our day started off with a visit to various Buddha temples, including the famous Reclining Buddha. The respect that individuals show to these temples is awe inspiring and it presents a whole new outlook on life and religion.

temple_hugoBangkok offers such a wide variety of sight-seeing, one being the cruises through the various rivers and canals. Referred to as the Venice of Asia, Bangkok relies on canals as a source of transportation and business. However, these canals also show you the underbelly of Bangkok and the poverty that many of its inhabitants live in. As we traveled throughout the canals one would take note that the city of Bangkok had a strong emergence in its infrastructure, however many buildings, bridges and river walls are left uncompleted.
river_hugo

A city known for its rooftop restaurants and bars, Bangkok certainly offers some magnificent views. Our stay in Bangkok wouldn’t have been complete without partaking in some of the views, so what better place than Moon Bar and Vertigo on the 62nd floor. A night accompanied with close friends and faculty, our farewell dinner from Bangkok was truly memorable.

Vertigo and Moon bar roof-top restaurant

Vertigo and Moon bar roof-top restaurant

 

 

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Final Day in Bangkok

Wendy Lowe – Our last day in Bangkok

 

Bangkok Flower Market

Bangkok Flower Market

Our final day in Bangkok started with a morning walking tour of the Bangkok Flower Market which is supposedly the largest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. We then did an extensive tour of the city’s most famous landmark, the Grand Palace which is a combination of beautiful temples and buildings with amazing architecture. For lunch we dined on a river boat and then enjoyed a relaxing cruise

Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat buildings at the Grand Palace, Bangkok - Thailand

Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat buildings at the Grand Palace, Bangkok – Thailand

down the Bangkok canals getting an up-close view of several monasteries, picturesque canal homes, and  saw how many provide for their families by fishing and selling canal side gifts. We also learnt that the people of Bangkok depend on the waterways to transport their merchandise, especially rice considering the canals link the rice fields. During our canal ride we stopped and fed hundreds of fish that swarmed our boat. We enjoyed the beautiful relaxing scenery of the Bangkok canal tour.

After a full cultural day, we rested and prepared for a memorable Farewell Dinner at the Vertigo Sky Bar,  one of the most famous  and sophisticated rooftop restaurants in Bangkok with stunning view of the city. The company, restaurant atmosphere, and food were all top-notch. The skyline views were breathtaking from the 59th floor, high above most Bangkok city structures.  As we dined, reflected on our week of business visits, the bonds of the cohort were only strengthened.  Associate Dean, Yiorgos Bakamitsos provided an encouraging toast as the Executive MBA students venture into their final 7 courses of the program and the homestretch.  We return home to the US tomorrow with lifetime memories, business application ideas and strategies, and even stronger friendships.

Farewell Dinner at Vertigo Grill & Moon bar - Cohort 11

Farewell Dinner at Vertigo Grill & Moon bar – Cohort 11

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Keith Henry – Cohort 11

The first impression I had of Thailand was that this country was very developed. As the bus travelled from the airport, the towering skyscrapers were hard not to miss. These buildings elegantly towered into the clouds with their artistic designs, signaling Thailand’s financial might. Due to the sheer size and the quantity of these buildings I immediately assumed this country was wealthy and its citizens must enjoy a high standard of living.

Bangkok, Thailand 2014

Bangkok, Thailand 2014

However, as we continued our journey, I could not help but notice poverty. I saw children sleeping in the streets. I saw beggars; I noticed a sign to beware of pick-pocketing in the holy temple. I saw children swimming in water that did not appear clean.

I am of the opinion that government has a responsibility to its citizens. And just as how they might be focused on developing the business sector in Thailand (which it appears they are doing a good job at), they should also put a priority on the citizens and ways to elevate their standard of living. This disparity was most obvious to me during the boat tour. Looking straight ahead I was able to see these majestic skyscrapers, but turning to my immediate left or right, the slum houses cried for attention.

Views from Bangkok Canal Tour & Rice Barge Cruise

Views from Bangkok Canal Tour & Rice Barge Cruise

 

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Keith Henry – Cohort 11

I was surprised to see how widely scooters are used to get around the city of Taipei. I later found out that Taiwan has approximately 1.5 million scooters in use. By studying this course and learning how different government regulations can affect how products are utilized, I can now appreciate how companies with new technology have to do additional work with various governments in order to influence acceptance.

Scooters in Taipei

Scooters in Taipei

Asia Pacific Fuel Cell is one such company. If their technology is implemented successfully, it can lead to cost savings to the consumer because the estimated cost to refill the tanks will be $1 US Dollar (compared to $34.79 NT per liter). The cost savings can then become disposable income that can be used for other purchases.  Another big benefit of the new technology will be the environmental impact – zero CO2 emissions and a reduction in noise pollution as well.

 

 

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Leaving for Bangkok

Leaving for Bangkok

The first few days in Taipei went by very quickly with so much to experience in such a short period of time. Cohort 11 is now embarking on their next phase of their educational journey – a trip to Bangkok, Thailand. They are all so excited to learn more about the Thai culture and the way business is conducted in Bangkok.

Cohort 11 leaving for Bangkok, Thailand

Cohort 11 leaving for Bangkok, Thailand

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Antonio Caldas – Cohort 11

IMG_0701Taiwan cannot be considered one of the most unequal societies in the world. In 136 countries ranked by income inequality (Gini coefficient, CIA, 2013), Taiwan is in 46th place. As a comparison, US is in 96th and Brazil in 118th. My perception though, confirmed by many locals, is of a disproportional penetration of foreign global luxury brands among Taipei’s retail business.  Local people love markets in general, and vertical shopping centers in particular. I had the opportunity to visit three in downtown Taipei, and in all brands like Rolex, Longines, Dior, Juicy Couture, Prada, Chanel were present.

Local population seems to love specifically American global brands. Some American icons experience huge brand loyalty, leading to performances frequently superior than what they experience in the US domestic market. Starbucks operation, for instance, has 308 stores in Taiwan and are more profitable than they’re 256 stores in the United Kingdom, a country with three times they’re population and with much more cultural affinity to US.

Antonio Caldas

Antonio Caldas

Reasons for that seem to be diverse. Taiwanese love for innovation, often associated to American brands, is one of the most important. For me, one of the most significative examples of that was the inauguration of the first Krispy Kreme store in Taipei. Although an increasingly successful brand in US, nothing can be compared with they’re launch in Taipei. The first store is located in one of the most prestigious locations in the city, and attracted lines the rounded the block in the first day. Since I’m a Krispy Kreme lover, I decided to visit to research the reasons. Intelligently, the store is clearly up scaled compared to the domestic ones, and is clearly targeted to the emerging young upper class, innovative focused. I’ve never seen such traffic in a Krispy Kreme store in US, and the classic donnut tasted even better than most of the ones in US.

American global companies should definitely keep exploring this trend in Taiwan

 

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Ford Lio Ho Motor

Cohort 11′s third business visit was to a Taiwanese automaker, Ford Lio Ho Motor which began operations in 1972 in Taiwan and is 70% owned by Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Company. Its vision is to provide sustainable transportation that is affordable in every sense of the word: socially, environmentally, and economically. Their vision drives the development of product CO2 strategy, which targets at least 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2015. For example, urbanization, congestion, high fuel prices, and other trends are putting safe, affordable transportation out of reach for many Taiwanese.

Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies

Cohort 11 at the Ford Lio Ho

Cohort 11 at the Ford Lio Ho

The fourth visit was to a successful local company, Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies which was founded in March of 2000 with a core team of engineers, scientists and other related experts. APFCT is the most advanced and recognized world leader in the successful application of PEM fuel cell power generators to 2-wheel and 4-wheel light electric vehicles. Its corporate headquarters is located in Hsinchu Science Based Industrial Park, Chunan, Miaoli County, Taiwan. The company has a branch located in California, USA. Their mission has been to advance Polymeric Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell technologies and to focus on promoting the commercialization of fuel cell power for scooters and other similar end product applications. Through attaining these mission goals, they hope to make a significant contribution to a cleaner environment with pollution and CO2 gas reduction, higher utilization efficiency of earth’s resources and to act as a critical agent in the sustainability of renewable energies.

Cohort 11 at the Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies company

Cohort 11 at the Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies company

 

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Wendy Lowe – Arriving in Taipei

Cohort 11 finally arrived in Taipei, 42 hours later! Spirits remained high despite the delays in our travel experience.  We left luggageOrlando on Friday and arrived into Taipei mid-day on Sunday after an unexpected extended layover and stay in Tokyo where the cohort received a few extra stamps in their Passport.  The cohort utilized their extra travel time to prepare for their business visits on our weeklong international trip, and growing their strong personal and professional relationships as they experienced interesting Asian cuisine, beverages, and lodging experience at the Tokyo Niko Narita Hotel.

Exploring Taipei

Ready to take on Taipei, we spent time exploring the famous Yong Kang Street where typical Taiwanese food (noodles, fried rice, shaved mango ice, pancake with egg, meat, cheese filling, Vietnamese beer) was enjoyed by street vendors and family operated businesses. The atmosphere was extremely friendly and welcoming to us. We were amazed by the cleanliness of the city and how safe and secure we felt as we traveled about on bus and foot.

lobbyWe visited the National Palace Museum exhibits and the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall where we observed the traditional changing of the guard.

The Welcome Dinner was held at the popular Shin Yeh restaurant in Xinyl. For over two hours, traditional Vietnamese meats, vegetables, and spices tantalized our taste buds. Those adventurous in dining and even those not as much sampled new items, served family-style, and learned to appreciate the food combinations and the cultural reasons why some food items are eaten to benefit ones health.

C11 at the Memorial Hall

C11 at the Memorial Hall

A quick stop at the local street market was an excellent way to culminate the first day in Taipei.  Amazing to see the vast operation that went on for blocks including food, vegetables, clothing, jewelry, and toys to mention a few.

The entire cohort was anxious to get some uninterrupted rest, recover from jet-lag and prepare for the business visits tomorrow! Many students and sports fans were setting their alarms early to cheer on USA in the World Cup vs. Portugal, a benefit of our time change!

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