Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lessons from HPAIR Part I

The Harvard Project for the International & Asia Relations (HPAIR) Asia Conference 2010 was co-organised by Harvard University and Singapore Management University and was held on 20th -24th August in Singapore.

So what got a pharmacist interested in attending a business conference? While I graduated with a pharmacy degree, I have always sought out opportunity to further develop my interest outside my discipline. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry is a global business itself. The launching of a new drug requires extensive market research, SWOT analysis, targetting, position and differentiating the drug from that of the competitor's as well as a good marketing plan. Given the sheer size of a pharmaceutical company, it is no surprise that the management and organisational challenges are manifold.

There were several plenaries for selected delegates to choose from during our application, spanning from political,economic, and business to social and cultural. I was given my first choice: Business Strategy and Management. In the afternoon, there were seminars on various topics from which we had the freedom to select (before the capped number of people was filled and you had to go for your second choice, third choice etc.!!) On field trips day, we visited ExxonMobil and 3M Singapore PTE Limited.

I was truly enriched with the inspiring and interesting pearls of wisdom from the business leaders! It is impossible for me to put down in words but here are some snippets of their sharings.

Business Panel: Session I-Leadership
Distinguished speakers:
Mr. Gerald Chan, Country Head & CEO of UBS, Singapore
Mr. Eikoh Harada, CEO of McDonald's Japan
Mr. Tsun-yah Hsieh, founder & chairman of Linhait-Group

From Left: Ms SuiLin yap (moderator), Mr Gerald Chan, Mr Eikoh Harada, Mr Tsun-yah Hsieh

-The challenges to Mr Gerald:
'How do I motivate and galvanise the engagement of people?'
'How do I build up a management team that is able to capitalise on managerial skills of some people and gelling it with the entrepreneur spirit of some people?'

-The root of crisis is uncertainty. Because of uncertainty, the management learnt in school is not useful; it depends on one's
quality (judgement, creativity, courage), not skills or knowledge in coping with crisis.

-Most colleges teach you knowledge, a bit of skills, but none on quality.

-There is a universal qualities of a leader; every progressive company put in time and effort to pinpoint what kind of
quality they are looking for (not looking at which schools you graduated from). These qualities (to Mr Hsieh) are:

1. Operating skills
-make things happen
-e.g. set up 100 stores in China

2. Business Development
-You may have the best business plan, but do you know how to launch it?
-Do you know how to make a deal?
-How good is your network?
-Do you know how to originate?

3. Organisational Reform
-Large corporations have one universal characteristic-they have been around for centuries hence a lot of 'cobwebs' (complexities)
-In order to move forward, need leadership talent to 'simplify' process
-Leadership is about moving out of comfort zone and do things that people otherwise won't do

-It is always beneficial to have some perspective in the global market you will be operating in, but it is not critical. The criticality of your success lies in your personality.

-Mr Harada on leadership: leadership is about how to manage myself so that the team can be optimised?

-In order to be a global player, understand your own culture first.
Think local before global.

-Has the economic crisis ended? We have relatively little control over those things; a better question to ask will be,
'What do you do now, so that when the cycle picks up, you are 2-3 steps ahead of your competitors?' It is important for one to build the innate ability to look around, to know what is around the corner [well, this reminds me of the lessons learnt in 'Who moved my cheese?]

-The constant compression of time and space brings about challenges (e.g. epidemic-spread from one country to another) and opportunities (e.g. ability to make the world your market place)

-The top management are looking for people who are comfortable with
making decisions with less than perfect information.

-Sometimes, you need to
slow down. When you are so activity-driven, can you really see the opportunity?

-Important asset to a company: someone who is adaptable to change and instinctively looking for a change

Business Panel: Session II-Global Strategy
Distinguished speakers:
Mr Emirsyah Satar, CEO of Garuda Indonesia
Mr Richard Pond, Global Candy Category Director, Kraft Foods
Ms Christina Ventura-Steinemann, Regional Retail Director, Prada
Mr SD Shibulal, co-founder of Infosys Technologies Limited

From left: Ms Suilin Yap (moderator), Mr Pond, Mr Satar, Mr Shibulal, Ms Ventura-Steinemann

Mr Satar
-We are in the travel service sector, not transport business

-Consumer's choice of airline is based on safety and value-for-money (not the cheapest airfare)

-Fuel: around 40% of operating cost; 20% of fuel price increase can be passed on to customers, the company has to find ways to reduce cost (for the other 20%), e.g. through utilisation of aircraft and create network to optimise utilisation (Garuda worked with local government to increase operating hours for airports-used to close at 6 p.m.)

-Airline is a long-term business; e.g. an aircraft ordered now will only be delivered in 12-18 months, hence need to think of where the cycle of business is then

-Don't see low cost carriers as a threat but complimentary to Garuda as they open up market: 60% of Indonesia are connected by air or sea, Garuda's job is to get people who have flown once with low cost carriers to fly with Garuda

Good is not good when better is expected; you should never be satisfied as people expect more of what you have achieved

Mr Pond
-Kraft Food operates on skilled centres of excellence complimented by local sites (have small R & D groups within business e.g. flavour development in local group but big scale product development is kept similar is all countries)

-Food market that will be doing well is one that adds nutritional value or tackles nutritional issue (Kraft to reduce sodium content in one of its products)

-Global trends that will change the way you do business: Health & wellness, sustainability

-Take risks, you will learn from your mistakes

Ms Ventura-Steinemann
-China is top 2 buyer in the luxury product market; will be top 1 in 2014

-The average age of consumers in China is 20 years younger than that in USA

-Can target customers well as system can tell how many, what type/colour of the product that the customers have bought

-Need to ensure customers have different experience in stores (in the business of 'delivering dreams')

Have a
purpose in whatever you do
Passion makes the difference
Positive: right working attitude with the team
Persistence: be dedicated, your team will follow

Mr Shibulal
-In Indian schools, students are trained to be individual performers; in company, need to convert them to be team-based performers

-His company adopts a collaboration index to measure collaborative rate of a team through a 360 degrees feedback (everyone rates you, rewards will be given) to send a constant message across that teamwork is important and will be rewarded

-Need to customise product to local market; cites an exmaple of shampoo sale in India-shampoos in bottles didn't sell as people could not afford them, hence shampoos in sachets were marketed

Business Plenary: Session III-Creative Capitalism
Distinguished speakers:
Ms Karin Finkelston, Director of East Asia & Pacific of the World Bank's International Finance Corporation
Mr Kawahar Kanjilal, Global Head of Ovi Life Tools
Mr Sunny Verghese, Group MD & CEO of Olam
Mr Jack Sim, founder of World Toilet Organisation

From left: Ms Suilin Yap (moderator), Ms Finkelston, Mr Kanjilal, Mr Jack Sim, Mr Verghese

-Ovi Life Tools tagline: inform, involve, empower

-If you want to create something of value, it has to be something of daily use: agriculture, healthcare, education

-Charity doesn't help because when it stops, everything stops; need to solve problem via business model [Mr. Jack on the founding of World Toilet Organisation]

-The 'keyword' is
OP: Other People: Use other people's money! Use other people's network!

-What blocks you are your ego and the government (addicted to status quo)

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