Sunday, June 14, 2009

International Learnings - Page 2 ("China Growth")

One of the great things about MBA programs is the opportunity to learn, fail, make mistakes and be humbled without too much loss of political capital. It's even better when you get almost immediate feedback on an area where you missed the mark, or visualize the concepts in the context of the bigger picture.

A couple days ago, I wrote about my initial thoughts about China's Growth and their ability to sustain it over the next couple of decades. Much of it was based on our experiences from our company visits on the China trip, and multiple discussions with classmates on the subsequent bus rides around the country.

Much of class yesterday, in International Business, was focused on analysis of New Ventures and Corporate Expansion into foreign markets. So I went back and looked at some of the analysis models and compared them to what I had written. Needless to say, much of my initial thoughts were predictable and did not look at the connectedness of the bigger picture. Let's highlight a few of them:
  1. Demand for Goods, Worldwide - I said, "...they pay their workers in Mexican plants $13/hr, but pay their workers in Singapore/Taiwan/Malaysia $0.21/hr, so it's hard to make the math of the stimulus work unless people in the US wanted to start paying $200 for a pair of blue jeans." This is a classic mistake of looking at just one element of the end-to-end supply chain for bringing this textile good to market. Stepping back to look at the bigger picture, I may have found that shipping costs from Asia to the US have risen dramatically, or that new plants in the US are taking advantage of tax incentives to educate out-of-work furniture laborers, or some other element that could have made the overall business model work. But instead, I allowed myself to be fixated on a single, seemingly tanglible (and easily understandable) cost element.
  2. Failure to Consider Shifts in Capital & Investment - Nowhere in my analysis did I look at the possibilities that Chinese investment would flow directly into the US to take advantage of low-cost workers, or better environmental conditions, or attempts to gain a foothold within the country like Honda, Toyota, Mercedes and BMW did with plants in the US.
  3. Failure to Consider Shifts in US Opinions - I mentioned that in "Made in China" sometimes carries a stigma, especially when child safety issues arise. But I failed to look at attempts by Chinese companies to reduce any backlash towards a foreign company or brand.
Those are just a few misses. Needless to say, there is a lot that I still don't understand. But the good news is that the learning is in an environment that encourages mistakes. Now it's up to me to figure out when to ask question, what questions to ask, and when to realize when I don't know what I don't know.

This is going to be a fun semester.
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