понедельник, 25 июля 2011 г.

SKOLKOVO MBA Corporate module: "It is not easy to win the trust of Chinese partners"

We continue the series of our MBA students’ stories about their recent module in India and China. There they had all the opportunities to feel the peculiarities of work in emerging markets, develop new skills and learn to speak the same language with people of different cultures.

We are talking to Igor Korotkiy about his experience of a project in China. His team members were Alexander Kosenko, Manuel Ponce, Ekaterina Dolgosheeva, and Arevik Sahakyan.

- Igor, could you please tell us about the project in general? In which sphere did you work?
- We worked in a computer industry, for a large computer manufacturer. We developed a price monitoring system for them, i.e. an automatic system for market price tracking. Actually, we were to develop software but we didn’t have an IT specialist in our team. When we explained that we won’t be able to create a fully automatic system, the client asked us to conduct a market analysis and gather all the data for that industry in various countries. We conducted a large market research and compared our client’s positioning against their competitors in 13 developing countries. We gathered all the relevant information about the company’s positioning, its edges and weak points, studied trends and price readings. It was a desk market study. Basing on that data we built charts, constructed a model and gave some recommendations. Whereas the client needed the system that would do the same analysis automatically. So eventually we engaged an IT person for creating the system, and came up with the result that was needed.

- How was your work estimated?
- The client was really pleased with the result; I would even say that we have exceeded their expectations by giving them the system ready for work. The client assured us that our system will be employed for pricing strategy development.

- Great! And what about your own personal growth? Did you get any new knowledge while working on the project?
- The most valuable experience I got from the environment itself which was absolutely new and unusual. When communicating with the client we felt all the faces of cultural differences; the most vivid contrast was seen especially against our experience of working on public projects in Russia. The main feature of working with Chinese partners is that their trust level is zero – in the beginning. In due time though they start trusting you. For example, they even didn’t give us all the needed information about the company; but step by step, when they saw the results of our work and understood that we were really helping them and not spying – they gave us more and more data and materials.

- Did you have an informal meeting with the client, for building-up the trust?
- Yes, we did have the informal meeting, but surprisingly not in the beginning of the project. Usually it works like this: they invite you for the dinner, entertain, give to eat and to drink, and then try to draw the information from you – why you are here and what you really need… That is what we read in the books, but with us it happened the other way. All the relationships and meetings were always formal, and they didn’t invite us anywhere till the last day. But just the day before our presentation they invited us for a dinner. First we went to a restaurant, had a great evening, very nice talk, and then they invited us to continue the evening in a different place – and they took us to a select club at the central square. We stayed there till midnight (it was the day before our presentation, don’t forget). That was a wonderful night! And we didn’t have any business conversations, only friendly talks on general topics. All in all, we became friends with the clients.

- How was your presentation?
- It was very successful. Moreover, the client was so inspired that he helped us himself: in the middle of the presentation he stood up and said: “may I now try to explain what you wanted to say…” So he himself was telling his colleagues, what he sees in our project and how it can be helpful for the company.

- Did you keep all the contacts?
- Sure I do. I am sure that we can use the contacts freely and call or e-mail them if needed. We had very good relationships with everybody in the company, to say nothing of the client’s assistant, a Russian girl, who had been working in China for 4 months by that time, and who was our major help with the communication.

- Did anybody else help you in the project?
- Yes, sure. We had a Chinese project manager from Ernst&Young, who looked through our intermediate reports and gave very useful recommendations. But she was more an American than a Chinese person, of an absolutely Western mind. By the way, the call such people “bananas” – when they have yellow skin, but are very “white” inside, meaning that they have fully adopted Western, European and American, culture, but have Chinese look.

- Were you more independent and self-sufficient here than during the public project?
- Yes, we definitely had more independence here, and we were headed to that from the very beginning when Sam Park told us: “Guys, try to do everything by yourselves, make independent decisions. If you find any problems – we will always help, but try to communicate to the client personally.”

- Did you have a chance to walk over some Chinese streets?
- Yes and a lot! We visited everything we could. Some of us even went to Hong Kong, to Shanghai, and to the Great Chinese Wall. We went to the seaside that is not too far, only 4 train hours. The project let us do our job and have some personal time as well.

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