Saturday, February 21, 2004

This weekend is studious. I worked on my Macro exam until 2am last night. However, I do not see this frantic race around me. Perhaps because this time, we have only two core courses. We are far away from the tensed nights of P1. People are studying, jokingly. We are all meeting tonight for drinks with the National Week crew. I am also planning a final dinner with the people heading back to Fonty on Monday night.
A few people took a break to go to the pool and enjoy the reassuring tropical warmth.

All in all, a very pleasant weekend. I will do the practice exams, read up my IPA notes and try to get some sleep before Monday.

These exams might be the last two exams in my short existence. This has got to warrant a drink somewhere.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Ok - Here is my vacation plan

- Bangkok and palace of the King + Thai massage and Thai Food
- Angkor Wat in Cambodia for three days
- Ancient Thai Capital and more Thai temples

Tickets are booked.

But for now, I am deeply buried in exchange rates, money markets and labor laws as I am studying for my Macroeconomics exam. Polished my Asia Pac paper and sent it off to my partner in crime for the project so that he can finish it up.
There is a dinner tonight, at some Spanish place in Chijme - apparently very good. I am keeping the address but I won't have time to go.
I am sending Thank You notes to all the people we met in Shanghai. Sounds like a place I will return to. I am also making plans about learning Chinese, studying some more the business environment - looks like a very exciting place to work - Asia's the most dynamic market in the world right now.

Must also book a hotel in Thailand. In the end, I am heading off to Thailand and perhaps also Cambodia for the break.

Back to exam fever when some others that I know are off to play Flipper the Dolphin in Malaysia.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Just received an e-mail for an IESE Sports Event in April, in Barcelona. It was addressed to all Sports Captain. I didn't know that I was a captain. Better figure out which sports it is for.

Ok - my guess is that it is not Volleyball because I could see the name of one of the other guys on the list. So it could be sailing.

Sounds cool, although I will still be in Singapore. Perhaps I could arrange to split the extra cost with the other team members and go anyway.
I have handed in my Power and Politics paper and I have finished my part of the Strategy for Asia-Pac paper. I have also learned that I can actually hand in my Self Assessment after exams/break, so I can now concentrate on catching up with exam revisions. It looks like I can get to bed early today! It is just past midnight! Yeppeeeee!

On Wednesday, something very spooky happened. I was so tired that I completely miss my morning classes, even though I did look on the schedule and I spent all the morning at school working. The information just does not seem to have registered anywhere in my brain. I also have complete blanks as to what happened on that morning. There are certain moments that seem to have vanished from my memory.

Tonight was our last day of our excellent OB class. We all met up by the pool for drinks with the professor, who got a big round of applause. Cheerio.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

On Friday night all night: add Self Assessment Paper...

Since I am likely to get home around 5am - here is my plan for tomorrow - I really have no time for writing this but I find it therapeutic

- 8.30am: get up
- 9.30am: Power and Politics Class - hand in assignment
- 12pm: meeting for my Change Project with co-consultant
- 1.30pm: meeting for feedback on narrative with OB professor
- 2pm - 3.45pm: prepare for OB Class
- 3.45pm - 7pm: OB Class
- 7pm - 8pm: Drinks with OB Class and Prof
- 8pm - 8.30pm: food
- 8.30pm - 4am: finish off Strategy for Asia Pac paper

Friday all day and all night: Macroeconomics
Saturday am: Macroeconomics
Saturday pm: International Political Analysis
Sunday all day: International Political Analysis
Sunday night: last Macro past paper + last IPA past paper
Monday morning: 2 hrs of sleep
Monday daytime: exams
Monday night: end of period BBQ and party
Tuesday am: off to mystery vacation location

I can totally do it.
For people who are not aware of my workload.

- I must finish my Power and Politics paper tonight, some 10 pages excluding exhibits. I have written and must now incorporate the feedback that I have received. I must hand it in tomorrow at 9.30am.
- I must finish my Strategy for Asia Pac paper, some 20 pages. We have already written about 14, but we still have some new information coming in. This is due early next week.
- I must start and write my Self Assessment paper, some 35 pages, due early next week.
- I must start my MacroEconomics review (or learning for the most part actually) process. Exam is Monday. I have 4 past exams to go through.
- I must start my International Political Analysis review process. Exam is Monday or Tuesday. I have not checked yet about the number of exams I must work my way through
- I have drinks tomorrow with my OB classmates by the pool, with the professor.
- There is a dinner organized on Friday which I will miss.

It is 10.30pm on Thursday night

I just went to dinner to Holland Village, to some Northen Indian place with my two housemates. Since I have been going home in the early hours of the morning, I have very rarely seen my housemates at home. We set aside some time to enjoy one evening together. Food was super nice (they bake extraordinary naan breads in this city) and I am so full that I wasn't sure that I'd fit in the cab on the way back. We swapped notes about our Singapore experience. We called the city: a laboratory, some sort of antiseptic place where people breed efficiency, safety and curtesy.

Shanghai in comparison, was chaos, energy and initiative, booming with life. But even disorder when it does not go as far as being dysfunctional is charming. A perfectly organized life lacks character, uncertainty sustains interest, desire, motivation. I actually like the amusing hiccups in Fontainebleau.

A couple of other anecdotes:

if you ever go to Shanghai: become a house owner. The property market is fairly healthy right now, and does not show any sign of slowdown. You can borrow up to 70% of the cost of the property - say an appartment would sell for about US$100k - at about 5%, then get a 9% return through rental, or a LOT more (I talked about a BOOMING city) on sale of property. No need to be a genius to understand that this is a good deal for a US$20k initial investment. In fact, one of the alumni that we met was about to buy his 5th home. His wife was spending all her time redecorating them to make them more attractive for the rental market.

Most of the customers purchasing goods in the high end stores were extremely wealthy Chinese. They could buy a watch for 1m RMB (yes you heard me, this is equivalent to about US$120k). Some stores did not display prices. Every salesperson could try to exercise as close as possible to a perfect price discrimination.

In contrast, the fake or copy market was full of foreigners - and was posing a major challenge to the leading brands.
Shanghai, the city’s on the water, is fabulous.

The trip did not start too well as we had to wait for a couple of hours in Singapore airport between midnight and 2m to catch our red eye flight. Without any proper seat, it was difficult to indulge in a nice little nap. Everything else went very smoothly.

We got to Shanghai 5 hours later, landed early in the morning, hitched a ride to our hotel. We first reached the Renaissance Yangtze, before realizing that it was to a different Yangtze Hotel that we were staying at, close to People’s Square. In class, we had heard about the Chinese screwing everybody. Yet, on a couple of occasions, our taxi drivers stopped the meter if they made a mistake. On these occasions, our share of responsibility in the mistake was fairly high.

The hotel was very nice, sort of old-fashioned building, with a huge restaurant and a small business center. Everyone spoke English and was extremely helpful. Chinese do not queue. They pushed you aside and take your place. Apart from this, everything was fine. Did I say that Shanghai’s fabulous already?

Shanghai is not quite the most typical representation of a communist city.

There seems to be more private initiative in Shanghai than in the whole of Europe!

16 million people. Construction work everywhere. Very stylish skyscrapers, old colonial buildings, large shopping avenues, high end elegant shopping malls, neon lights a la Picadilly circus, small Chinatown-looking streets with push cars. The city is buzzing with life, with shops, with bars, music, restaurants, shows, cinemas…Buses, cars, bikes, mopeds, motorbikes, cabs everywhere. People people people…

In the end, we had too many people to meet so there were a few phone calls that we did not make. We managed to meet a lot of INSEAD alumni, and senior managers that other people had recommended to us. The haste with which people were willing to help us was amazing. CEOs of firms were too busy to meet but were organizing meetings with their staff. We got phone calls from people who did not know us, and about whom we knew nothing about offering up their evening to meet us. I am not sure that I have seen this in the West. Some people were expat. Some people were Chinese. We were stunned at such diligence to support our visit.

The reason for our visit to Shanghai is a case study that we are writing for our Strategy for Asia Pac class. We have selected a Chinese Private Equity firm based in Shanghai and we had decided to go and meet the company.

On that Sunday, we started with a nice brunch at a Cantonese Dim Sum place, extremely trendy, across the road from Qu Bei Carrefour. The whole place was crowded with Chinese people and everything was in Chinese. I tried to order vegetarian or fish only dishes: the version of a Vegetable Dim Sum featured pork slices ;-)

We then hopped across to People’s Square, and strolled around to take advantage of a lovely sunny afternoon – with an extremely pleasant 15 degrees Celsius. All of the sudden, a crowd of well over 20 people surrounded each of us, pressing us with questions, in English. We were very surprised to first hear that everyone in Shanghai spoke English so well, and second that we were so famous. This reminded me vaguely of my photo taking experience in Prambanan, Indonesia. After we explained our origin, name and what we were doing in Shanghai, the next question was: how did you heard about the English Speaking Corner in People’s Square? Turns out that these people all study English and meet up every Sunday afternoon to practice. We were obviously the main attraction of the day, since they could practice their English with foreigners. We left with a letter for George Bush, somebody’s picture and somebody’s business plan.

In the morning, we received the first piece of bad news: the English speaking person that we were supposed to meet refuses to see us.

First thing we see when getting to the crowded Shopping Mall area was McDonald’s, Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Dior, etc.., etc…
We then moved onto the Citic Center, close to Place/Square 66 shopping mall to meet with a consultant who used to work for another consultancy firm and who had worked on the deal. In Singapore we had already met with an investment banker who advised on the deal, which is three years old. Great quote from the meeting: “this acquisition can be an example of companies sharing the same bed, but not the same dream”.

As soon as we left the building, we put a call to the head of the alumni association in Shanghai – who invited us for a cup of tea at his place. His place was literally 20m across the road. Spooky. Eric was extremely kind (and I am very jealous of his apartment) and helped us tremendously. He is full of contacts and resources and offered it all to us. Interestingly, he told us that the high end shopping malls were full of Chinese and the fake copy market was full of expat. We spent a couple of hours with Eric before heading to the Fake Market.

This is a crowded little place, full of small shops offering fake Nike t-shirts, fake Reebock shoes, fake Oakley shades, fake Lancome fragrances at very low prices. We started off negotiating for a couple of t-shirts, and ended up paying 60rmb each. Next stop was to buy a pair of gloves which went for 5rmb. We got ripped off on the t-shirts. We bought some other probably useless items, for next to nothing and enjoyed very much the process of arguing the price down. Funny: a pair of jeans started off at 200rmb, and was at 280rmb the next minute, as soon as we opened our mouth. We brought it down to 150rmb, but I am quite sure we could have got it for 80. DVD copies are illegal, even in China. However, people approach you and offer some to you. If you show interest, they take you to the back of the shop, lift up a stack of shirts, or open up a seemingly empty suitcase that was on sale and unveil a whole series of fake DVDs. Some of it are movie theater quality: meaning that someone turned up at a movie theater and filmed the whole movie. Sound quality is appalling and you get to see the heads and arms of the people sitting in the row in front of you.

We stayed there until our next appointment, with a Corporate Finance Manager, a HR Director and a Marketing Manager of a US firm operating in China. All of them were either from Singapore or from Shanghai, all based in Shanghai. It started to feel like we were spending all our time drinking and eating with people. The finance sector in Shanghai did not look too developed. Most transaction were through borrowing and private equity. Hedging’s illegal in China so there is no space for a hedge fund (but then satellite broadcasting is illegal and I have counted twelve operators so far). I managed to hand over the Valentines’ gift that I had brought from INSEAD for a student’s wife. She was very surprised as she certainly did not expect some weirdo looking foreigner to carry chocolates all the way from the tropics.

Next stop was with an American friend of a friend’s who took us to a phenomenal Shanghainese restaurant, in the middle of nowhere, before ending up in the Xintiandi (or New World) district. This area is restored, in the style of Shanghai in the 1920s and is full of the most exotic and trendy bars and shops. A design furniture shop caught our attention, there was a jazz bar, a McCafe, a Latinos cafĂ© – where we ended up drinking cocktails and dancing salsa for most part of the night.

Exhausted, we grabbed a cab and returned to the hotel for a well deserved night’s sleep.

On the Monday morning, after a copious breakfast, we got ready for our first appointment of the day. We were going to visit the private equity firm that we were writing our paper on. We had gotten the name of the General Manager of their investment arm and had just written an email to the guy, indicating that we wanted to talk to him. As we reached the luxurious office building (worth all I have seen in Silicon Valley), we did our best to look very important and professional and requested to be shown in. The receptionist sent us to a meeting room, where he might never have turned up. Fortunately, someone redirected us to his office where he was about to send us a reply, indicating that he had no time for us. Fortunately, a quick glance at his timetable indicated an hour slot had just freed itself up just now. So we sat through a very comprehensive powerpoint presentation and gathered a lot of information for our project. Interestingly, there were at least 10 slides with pictures of government officials (including Jintao himself) visiting the company, or meeting senior executive. In the West, this would have looked very dodgy, here it seemed part of the standard marketing pitch. Quanxi – relationships do seem to truly matter. Their ambition was simple: to become a Fortune 500 company within 3 years. They currently owned over a hundred private firms and controlled over 15 public companies, mostly in China, but with a couple of investment overseas.

Having accomplished our mission, we headed back to the hotel for an Asian curry with a British alum, with a fantastic little story – like all the alumni that we met.
We then took us to the Grand Hyatt, near Pudong area (where the private equity firm happened to be). This is meant to be the tallest hotel in the world, with 88 floors, a very avant-garde design and a stunning view over the city and the river. The 88th floor was closed until 6pm but we reached up to the 86th floor which I bet gives you a very similar impression. The first 55 floors are leased to companies. The rest if the Hyatt. Even though, our fruit juice was just as expensive as our whole lunch, it is worth a stop.

We then crossed over to the Bund, in order to see the old Shanghai, with centuries old building on one side of the river, packed with traffic, and the new Shanghai, city-like skyline, with very advanced and personal designs. We stopped for another drink at the Peace Hotel, and old colonial style building, with wooden ceilings and draperies, facing the Grand Hyatt, on the other side of the river, before heading to Nanking Road, Lu, for another shopping spree.

I was traveling with someone who was learning Chinese. Or so I thought. We got into this taxi and tried to pronounce the address of our next date. So much for Mandarin lessons, we ended up on the highway heading for the airport. My friend could not say Wait, Stop, Hold On, Please Go Back. Apparently, he could ask for stamps, tell the time or the day of the week, fairly useless phrases in our situation. We managed to have the cab turn around on presentation of our hotel card, stopped at some random hotel and called the Mauritius-born alum that we were meeting. She directed the taxi driver and greeted us with a much appreciated glass of Merlot at the Cottons Bar, near the French Concession. Fantastic conversation with a female entrepreneur who decided to just kick off a business in China because she did not find the jobs she was getting on the open market – and who has been extremely successful since. She helped us find our next destination: a high end expat residence in the French Concession and we headed for a spicy Chinese dinner and delicious Pumpkin Doughnuts with custard. I have never eaten so much in my life! The INSEAD alum that we talked to had started work in Shanghai after graduation. She was also extremely helpful, showed us around her apartment, gave us loads of hints and tips, offered her help in the future and lent her mobile phone so that we could call our next date.

The final date of the day was a friend of one of our classmates. Both of them are Chinese. She is not quite your traditional Chinese woman. Young, strong-headed, independent and busy business woman, she takes us back to the river to the trendy Red Dot for a coffee. Great view over the shopping area, Nanjing Road and the Peace Hotel, illuminated. We joked around a few rounds of drinks until the early hours of the morning. As we left the park, the gates were already closed. We reached the hotel completely exhausted but full of happy memories.

Did I say that Shanghai was a vibrant 24hr city? Even the construction workers right next to our room did not stop. My friend woke up enquiring about what the pounding noise that made it all the way into his dreams could have been. Well, this pounding noise kept me awake the whole night.

We missed two days of classes in order to participate in this discovery. We feel so privileged. Now, there is still a paper to write, which I must return to…

Traveler of the seven seas, do stop by Shanghai. It is well worth it.
Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
In our strategy for Asia Pac class, we are back with Mr Evans! The first time we met the guy, he was in Thailand and he had a big problem on his hands: he was supposed to give feedback to a star performer, while implementing the Western style evaluation system (previously, everyone was getting an A - whereas in the West, only about 5% or 10% of the workforce would get an A. A C which is a very good and standard performance wasn't accepted). Mr Evans is now back in Thailand and we had to deal with his in-tray. Should he attend the Wedding and Mr So'n'So? What should he do about corruption to get business with his customers? How can he implement the new quality and safety measures when none of his managers seem to consider these items top priorities? How come most of the people they are wanting to hire have either found work with another company - and just not bothered turning up on their first day of work - or are running a business on the side, then switch to this more profitable venture? What can be done about the lack of talent around?

How would a Western manager handle the in-tray? How would an Asian manager deal with these issues?

Saturday, February 14, 2004

A quick note posted from a free Internet terminal at Singapore Airport...

I went sailing today and my nose is quite red after the experience. The wind was fairly strong and we had mostly novices on board so we did not do anything too sporty, like launching the spinnaker and multiplying the gybes. We had a nice little sail to a tropical island and back on a J24. At some point, one of the ladies announced that she had made a chocolate cake. This was enough to justify a heave-to manoeuvre to make the boat drift while we all enjoyed a well-deserved bite.

I am now off to Shanghai, zombie on a red eye flight. I am supposed to be meeting loads of people that I don't know. It is strange how networks work. You e-mail somebody whose number was given to you by somebody else that you met once at a cocktail party. This person replies that he is away on a business trip but gives you the cell phone number to someone else. After a long string of e-mail, someone has time to meet you and can help you. You have lost the connection to your original contact, you don't know the title of the person you are going to meet, the company, position, etc...All you have is a name, a phone number, a place and time to meet...

We are also supposed to visit this company that we are writing a paper on and meet some of the employees. However, somehow, it is possible for everyything to miserably fail...But do I really care?

Friday, February 13, 2004

MBAs are sometimes considered adolescent. Put one in a student environment and one will act as a student.

This might well be true.

One of the professors teaching in Singapore has a strong preference for blue shirts. Yesterday, all his class turned up with light blue shirts.

The Januaries decided that the campus should get a more tropical flavor and everyone turned up with Hawaian shirts.

I remember our P2 section mustache contest...

The sky looks increasingly cloudy tonight. I now have nothing planned to do since my trip has just shited by an entire day. My classes ended early since they were cancelled to allow us to meet Tom. I will be meeting a friend, we will walk over to some small food place, enjoy some Murtabak or Nasi Goreng before I head back to campus to finish off my Power and Politics paper. When I look at all the naive mistakes I have made in the change process that I have decided to analyze, I wonder how I could have been successful at bringing change. The pool is way too tempting at the residence so I often opt to work from school. I am getting to know the night guard quite well, as it is not uncommon for me to leave the premises well after midnight.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!

I took Power and Politics to work on my influence tactics in view of this important event but I guess that I am running out of time now ;-) Next period there will be only TWO women from the September promotion on campus. MAJOR bummer.
Tom - MTV Founder and CEO was awesome. He has been with MTV since its ineption (1980) and CEO since 1987. This is quite a rare feat by all means. And he strikes me as someone who still possess such a strong and clear vision for his company. Like most great business leaders that I have come across, you might or might not agree with them, but there is one thing that you must admit: they are truly inspiring and larger than nature personalities.

Tom had a great sense of humor: well, when I first heard about putting music on TV, I was unemployed and very much looking for a job so I would have gotten excited about anything really.

and is a visionary:
of course, we see digital content and it is a problem. I don't have the answer but I am sure that there is a bunch of them. We will obviously be playing online but I don't want us to become just a store, just like Virgin Everyone can do this. We are still in the entertainment and the media business. I want someone to stay with us and hang out in the store. Perhaps make up their own show, as they can select the content but we need to embark on a journey together. That's how we can be different

and a realist:
so to answer your point about the lack of sophistication of our music: our target audience is 15 - 25. Actually, this is a clear choice that we have made. This means that we accept that our customers just go through us. When someone reaches 28, we expect them not to like us anymore, to perhaps turn back and look at us with a smile. Their taste will evolve until 25, then be fixed for the rest of their lives. We have done a lot of research on it. And the tastes of the 15-25 segment is fast changing and unsophisticated. I wish there were an MTV channel that aired the music I like! But I am a little over 25...Actually, this personalized choice will happen. Online.

and a good leader: planning for the long term and acting short term
We have a strategic intent to be in China - with 2 bn people, this is not a market that we are not going to at least look at. However, in China, we are patient. We have a very low key approach. We went in, locally. We played with some local and regional cable players. We are learning. We learned that the Chinese wanted some sort of reciprocity so we have become also the distributor of the chinese-in-english-news channel in the US. We are not highly profitable but we are hugely profitable in the US and in Europe, so we can afford to start off small ventures here and there. Another continent that we are looking at - but it will take a lot of time is Africa. We want people to say that MTV is truly global INCLUDING Africa.

and not afraid to change
- in Europe we started as a Pan-European channel blasting english speaking content all over the place. Then small local players started to do the same thing, in the local language and with local content. A lot of people at MTV Europe thought that we were too big, that this wouldn't be serious competition. Meanwhile, they were killing us. It is dangerous to be complacent when you get too big. So we broke up MTV Europe into 17 different channels, pretty much one of each country. In fact, now worldwide, there are so many channels, I am sure that we must be getting close to one channel per person

and honest
- Marketing shock therapy? well, it is not quite something that we plan ahead. It can really backfire. I mean, I am in trouble right now. I don't know why a 37-woman would want to show her breast to hundreds of million of people. Maybe I understand better Justin Timberlake ...Anyway, we don't all meet up one day and say: let's have some sex shock therapy. It'll happen on such and such a day, etc...

Delicious moment. Thank you INSEAD.
Our strategy for Asia-Pacific class today featured two speakers:

A Mexican lady, entrepreneur, who has lived in Mexico, the United States, Europe, Switzerland, Indonesia, Malaysia and now Singapore. An Indonesian businessman (on the board of Electrolux Indonesia, founder of PwC ?, and various other ventures...), INSEAD alum, and trained in the West.

They were both fantastic. They came to share what you are not taught at school, namely the little hints and tips that are useful to know when you do business. Faithfully reported.

- The Western culture is very individualistic. Everybody is in for himself and expecting everyone to show how good and intelligent they are. It is a culture that is very conducive to business. The Eastern culture is very participatory, everyone is concerned about harmony, so conflicts are avoided at all cost - it is a culture that is very conducive to social equality and integration.

- Beware of status symbol. My chauffeur resigned on me because I did not let him carry my suitcase. He interpreted this as a lack of trust on my part. He was doubly unhappy because he was seen like an improper chauffeur. It took me two or three chauffeurs to learn that.

- If people mess up, even though it is their fault, do not lose your temper over them. This is what they will expect you to do. Stay calm. State your problem and invite a solution from them. They'll fix it somehow.

- The concept of face is very important in Asia. You do not need to justify your decision if you are the boss. You are the boss so you are expected to make a decision. If you want to criticize somebody, do it in private in order to save face.

I just wish we had a lot more time for questions. We kept the first hour of the class for the case discussion, and I would have much preferred to see an extra half hour dedicated to Q&As.
Just received the following e-mail from the organizers of the MTV CEO talk:

Dear All,

First of all, I’d like to thank everybody that attended the GLS event with Tom Freston this afternoon, and helped to make it a success!

I would also like to extend a big Thank You to the administration, staff and faculty, who helped to make the event possible – particularly since we had to bring everything together at the last minute!

As you may know, Tom kindly gave us two tickets for the MTV Asia Awards tomorrow night, literally the last ones available. I organised a random draw (two witnesses, if anyone cares). The winners are:

Congratulations, guys – I’m sure you’ll have a great time!
Well, the travel agent messed up our plane reservation and we are postponing our Shanghai trip by one day. Fortunately, we did not have any meeting on the first day, which is good news. Incidentely, I am also carrying a Valentines' gift from one of the Chinese students here on campus, to his wife who remained in Shanghai. Unfortunately, I will be unable to meet her on Saturday now, so I will have to hand over the present on Sunday.

I am going there with a New York banker. I don't think I have ever been on a trip with a banker - I will be discovering two cultures: the bank and China.

Anyway, I met with the various Chinese people, got hoodles on tips about the city, too much for my little head. I also contacted the alumni association. We will be missing their drinks session by two days but we will probably be able to go out one evening with three or four of them. They have been extremely helpful and responded immediately. I will also be able to meet with a HR person, a high tech manager and a corporate finance person from a medical device company.
Perhaps also - if I get lucky - an investor and a consultant and a retail manager. All of them asked me to call back later today, during the weekend or on Monday morning. The primary reason for my going to Shanghai is really to visit the company that we are writing a case study on. It looks like we will be able to also meet two or three people familiar with the case, and we will be turning up at the company to be shown around the various offices.

Today, I am planning on finishing up my Power and Politics paper and tomorrow I will be working on my 35-page long self-assessment paper. This is not an easy job. Maybe I should just copy and paste this journal.

I also must decide about my holiday destination. Any suggestions is very welcome as I am - a rare event - running out of ideas.
Mallika and Bipin

Yesterday in our OB class, we read/watched a case about a famous Indian actress/dancer/publisher. She had been interviewed by INSEAD while she was acting in a Peter Brooks' play in Paris. Imagine the classical image of a beautiful Indian lady.

when asked about the possibility to be successful in more than one career, she replied
- "you know, to all these people who ask me to choose between acting, dancing and my publishing business, I say: this is like asking me whether I love my father more than my mother."

when asked about the key success factor in her career, she states without any hesitation
"- the fact that I did not have to worry about making a living"
(she was born into a very wealthy family)

Interestingly, in our Power and Politics class, we studied the Pedro Almodovar clan - and how Mr Almodovar tightly control everybody in his close world (and anyone who disagrees does not belong in there) in orer to bring his unaltered vision to the world. These two sessions were incredibly interesting and quite a change from the traditional business.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Here is the bio for tomorrow's speaker

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, MTV Networks

Tom Freston is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MTV Networks. He oversees the management of the company, which owns and operates seven television programming networks -- MTV: Music Television, MTV2, VH1, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, TV Land, TNN: The National Network, CMT; The Suite which consists of nine music and children’s programming services specifically designed for the digital universe; the MTVi Group and Nickelodeon Online, a portfolio of leading Internet properties.

After beginning his career in advertising, Freston moved to New Delhi where he established a textile and clothing business that he ran for eight years. He then returned to the United States and joined Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment (WASEC), which was the predecessor to MTV Networks, in 1980. A year later, as one of the founding members, Freston helped launch MTV: Music Television. As the head of marketing, Freston oversaw the breakthrough “I want my MTV” campaign which helped propel the channel into what is now the world’s largest global entertainment network.

From the early days of MTV until today, Mr. Freston has held a succession of positions, culminating in his appointment in 1987 as Chief Executive Officer. Since then, he has successfully driven MTV Networks into new markets both domestically and overseas. Under his leadership, the MTV Networks brands are the strongest and most successful they’ve ever been each experiencing record ratings, revenue and reach. In addition, the company has successfully extended its brands to launch a variety of ancillary businesses, including film, books, magazines, toys and host of other consumer products.

Current programming initiatives like Nick Jr.’s “Blues Clues”; “Rugrats” on Nickelodeon; “Total Request Live” on MTV; TNN: The National Network’s new original programming slate; “Behind the Music” on VH1; “Hit Trip” on CMT and classic tv on Nick at Nite and TV Land reflect the ongoing commitment to the development of unique franchises across all media platforms.

Tom Freston earned his B.A. from St. Michael’s College and holds an M.B.A. from New York University.

MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom International Inc. (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), owns and operates the following television programming services -- MTV: MUSIC TELEVISION, MTV2, VHI, NICKELODEON/NICK at NITE, TV LAND, TNN, CMT and THE DIGITAL SUITE FROM MTV NETWORKS, a package of nine digital services, all of which are trademarks of MTV Networks. MTV Networks also has licensing agreements, joint ventures, and syndication deals whereby all of its programming services can be seen worldwide. In addition, MTV Networks operates the MTVi Group and Nickelodeon Online, a portfolio of leading Internet properties built to address every interest of today's music fan and Internet-savvy kid.
Has anyone ever felt like they possessed a secret that was too heavy for their shoulders?
Yet, it is quite impossible to unload this knowledge onto anyone?
Hey hey.

MTV CEO is coming to campus tomorrow (he is town for Asia MTV Awards). Now THAT is pretty good. More later.

And I am off to Shanghai for my Strategy for Asia Pacific project. We hope to be meeting with the company that we are writing a case on. I have also managed to arranged some meetings with alumni and other professsionals in town. Most of them will take place over the weekend. Now I have also two papers to finish up over the weekend and a buzzling city to visit. This will not be easy. We are taking some Red Eye flight and I can easily imagine that we will be two zombies when we get there.

Never mind. I don't think that I have had a good night's sleep since my first tooth.

And I think that the world is conspiring against my holiday plans: Sri Lanka was the latest destination to date but the president just kicked out 39 ministers out there. I don't really want to be caught in the middle of a potential civil war, so I will change my plans, again...

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Sailing with an international crew

You hear
- I think that we can take care of the jybe now
- no you can’t gybe now, the jib is still up
- Sorry, I mean we can take care of the jib now, we can take the jib down

You hear
- some more wang please
- what’s that a “wang”
- well, the wang, the thingy at the bottom of the boom, the kicking thing
- oh, the vang

You hear
- do you see the boy?
- What boy? You are looking at boys now?
- Well, the mark, the thing we are heading toward
- Oh, yes, I see the buoy

You hear
- please release the guy, I can’t trim the spinnaker properly
- which guy? Did we have a prisoner?
- the guy is the line that goes through the pole on the other side of the sheet
- What sheet? Is this a talking blanket thing?
The only cup that I have nearby right now is a hot coffee.

Anarchy: You have two cows, although no one has clearly recognized any property rights. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbor tries to kill you and take the cows. There is no definition of fair and you don’t know who your neighbor is.
Tonight I went sailing. No, tonight I went racing with an all INSEAD crew on a J24 out of the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. We probably had the crappiest boat of the fleet. We had to drag our outboard engine all the way as there was no system to lift it up completely but the weather conditions were perfect. Our first leg was already a spinnaker leg and we had never sailed all together but we did incredibly well in terms of team work and team spirit.

There was the usual shouting, the usual unclear order ("Help Me" insead of "Release the guy"), the usual bruises, the usual accent confusion (you can take care of the "gybe" now - no, we cannot jybe now, the jib is still up - sorry, I meant, take the jib down now). We all enjoyed our beer at the bar after the race. We do not quite understand the club's handicap system but it looks like we finished second (or first if there was a proper handicap system). Anyway, all in all, it was a lot of fun - and it feels SO good to be on the water again.

Today Singapore

Tomorrow the America's Cup

It is good to dream sometimes...

Now, back to my Power and Politics paper
Today, we heard the Singapore Minister of Foreign Affairs who came for a lecture to INSEAD. After the US and French ambassadors, it is the third time that we are hearing about the top three problems threatening the world today. Interestingly, Irak and weapons of mass destructions were high on the US agenda but nowhere today. The three main sticking points were
- North Korea
- India and Pakistan over Cashmere
- Taiwan and China over the independence of Taiwan

The talk was absolutely excellent. The Minister was truly acidic "the problem with the Japanese is that they tell the world that they want to participate more on the international political scene but they don't have a clue about what their stance is: - "The common security policy of the European Union is a joke". He gave a very balanced view of the forces at work in the world - and painted a very accurate pictures of the various motivations agitating world leaders. According to him, despite the fact that we were taught that China really did not matter on the world scale because it was just a poor country with a lot of people - each day China adds the population of Australia: 20 million heads - he believed that in the future, it is potentially the only country who could counter-balance the current hegemony of the United states.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Heard in class and faithfully reported:

- So it was about this problem with a girl -OB student
- You mean, a woman - OB prof
- No, it really must have been a girl - other OB student
We had an interesting case in our Asia Pac class - it actually won an award!

It was about a State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) being taken over by a CE (some collectivist structure) which had already been taken over by a charismatic manager. The CE manager need to change the culture - fairly lazy as people were busy producing items that no one would buy and would not really care about quality - so they introduce drastic measures and shock therapy. Among other treatment, they have a Yellow Feet humiliation when people really screw up. In the end, because people suffer too much and see their employment threatened (it was guaranteed as part of the SOE) and go on strike - the French way!!! In fact, even more so! They break everything they can get their hands on in the office building and beat up the middle managers.

The questions for us (and we had to advice the big boss) was about what to do. here is a compilation

- I mean, we can change the yellow feet if they don't like it. We can put a different color.
- We can guarantee employment but not income
- Mr Professor, do you think that the use of force would be considered inappropriate?
- Actually, I am really in favor of using force. Can we call up the military?

I am glad that our group identified the key success factor for short term management of the crisis

- fire workers who caused violence to show that you do not tolerate such a behavior
- go to local government and get them on your side to ensure that you are credible before you talk to the workers
- talk to the workers. Whoever's in is in, whoever's out can walk away.

The only thing different was that we were ready to compromise on the yellow feet. The actual management didn't.

Tonight was such a coincidence. I e-mailed a friend whom I knew was spending a lot of time in Asia to let her know that I was going to be in Shanghai this weekend. She replied telling me that she had a better offer: she was going to be in Singapore tonight!

With this !@$)@%)&(& (and I am being polite) class until 10.30pm, we ended up meeting up for dinner at 11pm but hey!

First of all - it is of course very nice too see a familiar face and have the opportunity to spend time with someone that you both respect and genuinely like. Second, it is refreshing to hear news of the real world, the world of dirty realities, hard work, real people, real products, real customers. And real money.

No matter how exciting this year has been - and how important it is to create a safe environemnt for us to learn in - I miss the real world. I like operations, customers, deal making. I like the excitment, the uncertainty. I like the people, the effort, the satisfaction, the frustrations. I like going to work every day with the knowledge that I will do something.
Now, when I work, I miss studying and formal learning - but this friend had a great lesson for me: she had to brush up some of her managerial accounting skills for her job so she decided to apply for a Managerial Accounting certification programme.

My friend was so passionate and enthusiastic about her job that I could have signed up with the company here and then. First of all, the job had everything one could dream of - it sounded so good that I was wondering if it wasn't a school case study.

It is a small and fast growing firm - extremely successful and strategic. Already, it has some of the elements that would appeal to a lot of entrepreneurs not desirous to put up with the huge mess at the very beginning but in search of a spirit of novelty and renewal.
She has a fantastic boss who gives her plenty of latitude. She sets her own objectives and freely discusses priorities. She has people to supervise and the great satisfaction to grow them into fantastic contributors. She enjoys 200% growth level. She likes operations and she does operations. She gets a superb appartment in Penang for her business trips to Malaysia. And she is rewarded by loads of happy customers, both internally and externally, a successful products and the knowledge that what she is producing is actually being used!

I am SO happy for my friend. She is extremely smart and full of energy and I am sure that all this has been instrumental in her success. I am not surprised in the least to hear about her success stories (by the way, she holds an MBA too, but not from INSEAD).
She is good with numbers, fast thinking, organized, motivated, with an acute business sense - and committed to a team to get the job done.
Her true passion for the company and the people that she works for and with is communicative. The industry needs a lot of these people who can really enthuse and inspire.

I am going to be in touch. I need to find out about opportunities over there, this sounds way too good to be true. We also have made plans to meet in Malaysia in a few weeks. I will fly over for a weekend so taht we can do some sightseeing together.

Good luck to you!
Ok - I am now looking at Sri Lanka for my break destination. Quite fancy an elephant ride.

I am soooooooooooooooo late with everything, including job search. I have Power and Politics paper left to do. Self-Assignment Paper (35 pages) left to do. I have macroeconomics to study and International Politics to read about.

I also have my case study to write on a Chinese company for Strategies for Asia-Pac which has given me a very nice excuse to fly off to Shanghai for 4 days. I went to the embassy this morning to get an express visa.

And I have a job to find.
I have a double session on China for my Asia-Pac class from 7pm till 10.30pm. It is extremely kind of the professor to spend his entire evening with us lot. I have to say that at times, I condemn excessive zeal.

But then, I am going racing tomorrow.
Heard in class and faithfully reported

"- I mean men and women are different. For example, women go to the bathroom together, for them, it is a social thing. Men don't, it is a functional thing" - student in Power and Politics class
"- no! don't laugh, this is actually a very important comment!" - prof in Power and Politics class.

Monday, February 09, 2004

I am always amazed at how rude people can be. I was happily working away in a cubicle, focused on a paper that I must do for my Self-Assessment class. A group of people rushed into my cube, started to speak out loud, sharing data, etc...
After about 10 minutes, I realized that they were engaged in group work - which from experience can become fairly agitated.

The rule is quite simple, groups have priorities over individuals in the closed meeting rooms, then in the various working cubicles. I am not sure that this group checked the meeting rooms but whether they had a right to be there or not is irrelevant. I am just arguing over the process. Wouldn't it be simple to let me know about their intentions and politely ask me to move out? I would have gladly obeyed. Instead, they were quite oblivious of my existence and very effectively disturbed my work. I just moved out to the cubicle across the corridor.

Huntington might put it down to civilization crash. I call it blunt disrespect.
Super strange. Exams are scheduled in a couple of weeks and I do not feel this frenetic wave of revisions around me at all. Projects are being worked on. I am looking into visiting a company in Shanghai for my Strategies for Asia-Pac project. I am very much working hard to finish off everything else to free up time for that but it just does not feel the same. Past the mid-point, everything looks brighter - although it should be scarier. The real world awaits. Out there.
Heard in class and faithfully reported

"- there are some people who are prepared to make some sacrifices during their working lives so that their children inherit a better economic environment" - Macro prof
"- what children?" - Macro student
"- W., try harder!!!" - other Macro student
There is a simulation game that we can run in Macroeconomics. It is called the Presidential Game. We basically are the President of the United States and we get to run the economy. We can play with interest rates, government spending and taxes, and stay in office for up to 12 years, if we are not impeached by the opposition party for messing up so much with domestic affairs - no pun intended ;-)

Then we can see how well we performed Vs actual presidents.

Anyway, we tried a couple of totally irresponsible moves, created record levels of unemployments, sky high inflation rates, completely unstable financial markets and disillusioned citizens which led to an impeachement after 5 years. Yet, we scored third. LBJ topped the list.

Message from the staff and addressed to the Fashion Show organizers, after the Fashion Show - this is probably the funniest e-mail I have received in years.

"I'm not sure if you guys know about this - someone borrowed toilet seats, covers and brackets from maintenance for the Fashion show. The toilet covers were found on top of some lockers but the brackets are missing.

Can you please arrange for the brackets to be returned as soon as possible to maintenance?"

This was directly forwarded onto the Talking Toilets.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Heard in class and faithfully reported:

- Central banks are really cool. Often, they just use the open market to control the flow of money in their economy and to maintain steady interest rates. They will either buy or sell government bonds. So imagine you are selling a government bond to the general public, some commercial bank will buy it and give you money for it. - Macro Prof
- But a bond is a liability, at some point, you'll have to pay back right? - Macro student
- The government will have to pay back, not the Central Bank. Go after the government... - Macro Prof

Saturday, February 07, 2004

I have just selected my electives for next period:
- Applied Corporate Finance
- Negotiation Analysis
- Realizing Entrepreneurship Potential
- Transational Business Governance and Societies

And I'd like to add a mini to this: China

All in all, I think that I am bidding too high as there won't be that many people on the Singapore campus next period - I am staying for two periods. However, three of these classes are classes that I do not want to do without and the professors have all received fantastic reviews so I must somehow find a way to take these classes this period. We shall see. I still have some time to revisit my choices.
I am utterly disappointed with my Power and Politics class. In my opinion, the professor is too nice and I would revisit the format completely: I would reduce to 20 minutes the case discussion and propose a much more participatory style to train the student in using influential tactics in role plays. This is certainly the feedback that I will be giving.
During Chinese New Year weekend, since we had a long break, that is 3.5 days, I went off to Indonesia. One must appreciate rarity.

I headed off to Central Java, Indonesia for what is going to be my last journey this period. I thought that I had booked a trip with a friend but soon found out that 15 other INSEADers were going to the same place. We ended up in the same hotel and on the same volcano.

Actually, I found it difficult to be with so many different people so loosely organized. Inevitably we had to wait, not everyone’s interest was identical and I quite welcome the opportunity to actually get to know more a few of them, which is impossible in the midst of a whole troop. Some members of the group displayed evident signs of selfishness and what I call bluntly disrespect. Call it a cultural thing if you will, but I was brought up with the idea that when one travels in a group, the needs of the group and its other members influenced your behavior. Not the other way around.
I have found some of the group member also plain arrogant. Asking a bus driver to turn on the radio would be ok. Then realizing that it is a local song, which hurt the delicate senses of the listening party and quite forcefully request that the music be turned off might appear too colonial. Even staying in a nice hotel, with an extremely pleasant and professional staff does not warrant inconsiderate behavior. It is good to remember how fortunate one is, how much of it is one’s doing, how much of it was external factors. It is humbling to realize how inter-dependent we all are, and how much everyone else can teach us, before deciding about the tone of voice which with we address a third party.

Fortunately, not everyone displayed such an attitude and overall the trip was very enjoyable.

The volcano climbing trip was much better – from my personal point of view – since we all had a clear bus schedule and we could climb in smaller group, thus really get to know the people we walked with. For the rest, we went away from the rest of the group and met up for a dinner, as we were staying at the same hotel.

Yogyakarta (pronounce Jogjakarta) is a buzzling intellectual city close to the Southern Coast of Indonesia’s most populated island. It is noisy, disorganized, polluted and cheap.

The hotel was a magnificent three star hotel, with a pool and outrageously expensive food. I must say that I was not in the mood for such luxury. I came to Indonesia with the desire to see Indonesia and not end up in a Western cocoon. My friend and I escaped to local food courts for a 3000 rupiah meal, took public buses, bike taxis, walked around in dusty streets. I wanted to get a feel for the environment most Indonesians find themselves in, day after day. Indonesia is one of these countries where the large majority of the wealth generated within the country is held by a very small number of people. Indonesian millionaires buy real estate in Singapore and Hong Kong. Most of them have Chinese origin and intend to be ready to quickly flee the country, should the situation turn sour.

We could not wear long pants, nor tank tops, despite the heat. Even men have to be fairly decent, although pants reaching down to knee level was accepted for a man, not for a woman. Indonesia is the second most populated muslim community, and the first one outside of the Arab world.

The city and its surroundings offer three main attraction points, which we could all visit:
An old Buddhist temple, Borobudur, an old Hindu temple: Prambanan and the Sultan palace, with a lively city protected by its walls, quite different from the rest of Yogyakarta.

I visited the Buddhist temple with the rest of the group, which meant that we left with a 45 minute-delay, rushed to find a guide, ran through the visit. I was always standing too far away from the guide to hear anything about what he had to say. I noticed that nearly all of Buddha’s statues had their heads cut off and I felt the appeasing power of the edifice on my senses. The surrounding landscape resembled Vietnam, or Cambodia and the elephant screams in the distance certainly contributed to this impression of being in a remote sacred place, protected by the jungle. The mountains were half covered in mist, refuge of spirits and other mystical forces. The whole place felt very surreal.

The next morning, we visited the Sultan palace and witnessed a puppet theater, Chinese style (using rear light and shadows). The instruments were gongs, percussions and some sort of iron and steel pants. There was no visible conductor and the perfect coordination between the numerous musicians still puzzle me. There were male and female singers to tell the story. The guards were wandering about with large knives on their back, a la Touareg. The palace displayed a lot of pictures and presents from all over the world received by the Sultan. Most of the official rooms of the palace had a ceiling supported by four columns, representing the four elements – of the four cardinal points…

Around the palace is a small city, with narrow streets and low white houses, inter-connected by pedestrian passages and small squares. On one of them you can see the Sultan’s elephants. The mother had just died and Father and Baby were the only one left. I heard that the Sultan was rather unhappy with the vet. Streets were full of merchant life: all sorts of crafts were being sold, colorful and flamboyant fruits, screaming monkeys and flashy tropical birds. If you find yourself walking in the street of Kraton (the Sultan palace city) and wish to ask for direction (every street looks the same), do not ask merely for the palace. We ended up several times to the Water Palace, which is another interesting monument to visit, but which is not included on the entrance ticket to the Sultan palace…

The Sultan is acting as a governor and plays an important counseling role. He is also a revered figure and his opinion weighs a lot in the local community. The new government in Indonesia was elected, even though it created a lot of discontent.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Hindu temple. Instead of paying a lot of money for an organized tour, with everyone else and a car for the day, a small portion of the group opted for the public bus approach. We took a taxi-bike, sort of Indonesian-Chinese push bike, to the public bus terminal, giggled our way to the Prambanan yellow public bus and round ourselves en route to the glorious 9th century temple.
If anyone finds Borobudur humbling, you will be absolutely stunned by Prambanan. The palace is truly beautiful. One is quickly reminded of the fact that the Indians have built the Taj Mahal. I hope that the Prambanan architect did not get his hands cut off after his feat. The palace hosts several temples, each of them dedicated to a Hindu God or Goddess: Shiva, Vichnu, etc…I am unfortunately not versed in Hindu mythology and I cannot share with you any insight with respect to the temple, its history, its meaning, etc…The place was packed with local tourists. We seemed to be the only one from abroad. It was noted as we became the center of attention of the palace. Everyone wanted to take a picture with us. My short-lived stardom...

On the way back, we took another public bus and ended up at a different terminal. We then tried a city bus to get back to our starting point. It took us well over an hour as we basically went around the whole city…Beware, when buses tell you they go somewhere, it might not be the most direct way to get there…

At 10pm, we were leaving for a night climb of the most dangerous active volcano on the island of Java: Marapi. Close to 3000m high. The climb was difficult because the terrain was very slippery, or made of unstable volcanic rocks and most of our flash lights died within 20 minutes. This is where you realize that your balance is largely visually based. I was walking as fast as a snail on a complicated puzzle. The heat and humidity was lessened at such altitude which was quite a relief. In fact, we reached the top about 1 hour before the sunrise and it was truly freezing cold. I had lent my Goretex jacket to my friend, and survived with a fleece. Fortunately, we remembered that we were climbing on an ACTIVE volcano. In many places, the rock was boiling hot, with light sulfurous vapors or just plain steam. Some sort of free sauna. Little islands soon formed around these pockets of heat and everyone became happier. We could see the crater from the top and from time to time, lava. We also walked past rock in fusion on several occasion, outside of the crater. This is quite scary. Yet I felt no fear, nor imminent danger.
The sunrise on the volcano, the neighboring inactive volcano, covered by green patches and reminding me of the French Massif Central and the tropical plain unveiling its secrets in front of our eyes was truly magical. What a change from the city. What a change from the MBA programme. It was well worth the climb.

The way down was much more painful. I waited for a friend who had hurt her knee and walked very slowly which was hard on my own knees. As we reached the village, I turned down the offer to finish off the last kilometer with a car. I walked down the street, greeting everyone in Indonesian. And everyone came to the gate with an amicable greeting, everyone offered me some water, a hand wave and a smile. Even the poultry was energetically greeting me. This experience was worth to me much much more than a night in a five star hotel.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. We went back, slept for the rest of the afternoon, which was quite necessary after 10 hours of walking and spent the evening in Djarkarta – which struck me as a very clean and modern city.
I have just realized something horrible: I was really disappointed at my not being able to travel to Thailand during the break because of the chicken flu. This is awful. Who am I to be so selfishly concerned about a holiday destination when people are so crucially affected by the disease?
For me, the consequence is just that I will be going to Brunei and to the Phillipines instead. For them, the consequences are much more dire.

I must not forget that I belong to a very special group of people on this planet and be considerate of others' misfortune.
The link between faculty members and MBA participants seem to be a lot stronger and informal on the Singapore campus. I have just exchanged quite a few e-mails full of jokes and puns with one of the entrepreneurship professors. It all started with a simple question on electives. The guy's extremely witty - which is a trait that seduces me greatly - and, although a very renowned prof, very easy to talk to, extremely helpful and responsive. He doesn't seem to take himself too seriously and participates in student-led events, adding much to the fun of each event.
He is not the only one. There were quite a few professors at the Fashion Show, Wine/Cheese/Crepe event and even at the French party. People just turn up, are officially invited and share a lot more of their time with the participants. This is great. The faculty at INSEAD is brilliant, varied and full of a knowledge that just cannot be transferred during a period. We are all privileged to be around such fantastic minds and I am glad to see that there seems to be no barriers between participants and professors.

Friday, February 06, 2004

huh oh...Sailing tomorrow for me is cancelled, which if I look at the bright side is great news as I will be able to get some work done. I still have this twilight race on, on Wednesday night. Life's looking bright. This week has been very productive in terms of organizing a national week but has been rather poor in academics participation. I did everything that was required but have not progressed much on longer term paper and project, apart from one, which I managed to complete 5 days ahead of the deadline. Never mind. I will work for another 45 minutes or so, then shower and get changed to a Blue White and Red theme and head off to the French Party and BBQ on the East Coast.
English Democracy: you have two cows. They produce loads of milk which can't be sold because milk is produced much more inexpensively in other European countries so you decide to sell your cows but you can't because there's a total ban on british beef. You decide to open up a Cheese Farm and re-brand your product The Laughing Cow.

Today I am officially beginning my Job Search. I know. I am late.
He he he...On Wednesday Night, I am going RACING (yacht sailing)! Some twilight race. I haven't raced for ages, basically since I left home to go travelling, then to do an MBA. We will defend the colors of INSEAD!
- this complicates matters as I must now find some other time to work on Macroeconomics...
Tomorrow, I am going SAILING!!!! On a 41-footer with an INSEAD crowd. Can't wait.
Actually, in the past three weeks, because of all this panic around National Weeks, I was so busy and mostly kept indoors. I now feel that I could sleep for a century or two, since I organized stuff during the day, hence did my academics work from 10 or 11pm until 5am. I also feel like I need a big bowl of fresh air. Sailing will be just perfect.

Tonight's Ze Mega Party for French Week. 2.5 euros for bus, barbecue and entrance ticket is not much! The French have downloaded thousands of French songs to introduce them into the music mix. Very Club Med like. Should be great. Can't wait. Won't help much with my sleep depravation though.
IPA professor came up to me last night (he was at the show and the Buffet Campagnard) and told me that our IPA "performance" was great. It is nice to see a token of appreciation when you have put a lot of work into a project.
Last night was awesome. First off, there was the Fashion Show, Ze L'Oreal Trophee, or Ze Cat Walk, and your opportunity to be Ze Star of Ze Day.

There was a stage, elegant armchairs for the jury, large posters from Ralph Lauren, Lancome and other various L'Oreal brands, a full-blown PA system, including wireless mics, and about 80 chairs. The whole set up looked extremely professional. French music soon started to overtake all possible noises. The jury was the Director of the MBA program, a star Finance Prof from France, a star Entrepreneurship prof from the UK (although given the way he talks French, one might entertain doubts about his actual citizenship) and a L'Oreal senior manager. The jury was being served Champagne and was comfortably seated.

Que le spectacle commence.

Two French guys, wearing a pre-historical style short, made up of Financial Times remains and a toilet seat around their heads started a provocative dance. They were the presenters of Ze Fashion Show. "Welcome to the Fashion Show - We are the TALKING TOiLETS". Then they started to introduce the various teams who were going to do their little catwalk. I remember

- Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz (pronounce Tom Crooooze and Penelope Croooooze)
- The Fontainebleau Rugby Team wearing a Paris By Night Street Worker outfit (including the men)
- The Versatile Man (who turned a man suit into a diving gear)
- Reverse Order: women dressed up as men in suits and men dressed up as women in evening dresses
- Marianne (symbol of the French Republic) and her boys: : three boys dressed up in Blue White and Red and three ladies wrapped in three pieces of Blue, White and Red Sheets, unrolled to make up the French Flag and doing a little fun choreography, as a suggested striptease on a "Deshabillez-moi" song (take my clothes off)
- Natural Costume: cellophane based costume for the French Adam and Eve: the natural protection was changed from a leaf to a Blue White and Red cocarde
- The French Chefs doing French Can Can

There were three winners, loads of prizes with L'Oreal, bottles of wine and French liqueurs. Interestingly, the L'Oreal person stood up on stage at the end of the show and said that he'd been very impressed by the quality of the show, and by the creativity displayed by the students (the costumes were truly truly excellent or absolutely HILARIOUS) and that he did not think that the prizes that he had already given would be enough to reflect the efforts that went into the show. He will be sending some more next week. This is the first time EVER in my life that I hear a sponsor publicy stand up and say: "I will be giving you more". He was grandiose. He stayed the whole evening to talk to the participants. Many professors and staff members came to the show, which lasted for an hour. It looked well-oiled, extremely professional and was truly hilarious.

Most sponsors of National Week are interested in recruiting at INSEAD and set up partner deals with the school.

I have heard comments that the show was remarkably well organized, there was no dead time, good flow, great music, cool costumes and it was one of the funniest event I ever participated in as an INSEAD student (am I won't be telling you which costume or team I was part of...I will let you guess)

What followed was also pretty good.

Grand Marnier based cocktails
Over 25 kgs of cheese in including Goat Cheese, Reblochon, Gruyere, Brie, Tome de Savoie and other variety
100s of bottles of white and red wine, and French aperitif
400 crepes for dessert
fruits, olives, lettuce, juices...

All this absolutely free, curtesy of a very successful French retailer: Carrefour...Hundreds of people turned up, including the Dean of the Asian Campus, happily shared all the Cheese toasts (on baguette, pain campagnard, pain aux olives, etc...) that the organization team spent the whole afternoon preparing.

Carrefour is very good at expanding internationally so it made a lot of sense for the company to talk to an international and culturally aware crowd.

I am not sure that this type of event would have been successful in Fontainebleau. The show took place in the middle of the campus, in a very central part. There was not much happening at the same time and there isn't a National Week every week, like in Fontainebleau, so the turn out for every event was high. After 10 minutes of serving them, all the crepes were gone. Professors and staff members participated in the event, mingled with the student body and everyone was very relaxed about everything. The sense of community is much stronger in Singapore and people really sign up to any community building event much more easily than in Fontainebleau. A larger portion of the student body has no relative nearby to visit in the evening. As a result their lives revolve more around campus-linked activities.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening.

I helped with cleaning up, then moved with the rest of the organizers over to Heritage to celebrate around what remained of the wine - not much...
It is actually Chinese Week in Fontainebleau right now and French Week in Singapore! A very timely exchange of cultures!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Heard in Ze French Ouik Cheese, Wine, Crepes, Fruits, etc...dinner, from an INSEAD professor who seems to have lived everywhere in the world.

- When people tell me that they have had a class in Finance already, I say: there is nothing like an INSEAD environment, where so many different opinions and attitudes will appear. Nothing like it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

It is 4.10am. I am still working - although I should be able to call it a day - or a night - fairly soon. Hopefully, an hour or so...

I have just met an old professor who enquired: are these your normal hours? They certainly are mine. Best time of the day to get anything done...
Heard in class and faithfully reported

- "Mr Prof, I think that the fact that countries have inflation targets between 0 and 3% is because they can always be on target - student bursting into laughter."
- "you must have something else in mind. I mean, is my flyer open? I mean when you have participants laughing so hard, it's the first thing you think about. It is a male professor's worst nightmare."
Macroeconomics prof
We did our little show in the IPA class. Returning home after many years of forced exile as a Fashion Model in France (tomorrow night is Ze French Ouik fashion show), to Petrolia, a country in turmoil, an adviser to the new popular Gal, who got into a leading position after a much awaited coup, comments on Petrolia, with its capital city: Shelea. We drew a picture of the country, using the World Bank at a glance format and got real pictures of real West-African states in disarray.
General D. just overthrew a cruel dictator who ruined the country, built worthless infrastructure with oil money. Gal d. wants to bring economic reform but hesitates to propose democratic elections before he stabilizes the economy. Petrolia's Finance Minister proposed three objectives to concentrate on. Gal D. asked for his old friends' opinion.
One camp argued vehemently in favor of early democratic elections while the other camp argued passionately against.
Gal D. ultimately made up his mind and energized the country. Overall, it was a lot of fun to be able to say

- I am in charge
- There must be a third point, Minister T.
- Gal D., this argument holds no water
- The whole judicial system is concentrated in a dead general
- Gal D., you are the only hope for the people of Petrolia, a liferaft for the country

Overall, a lot of fun, for us and hopefully for the class too!!!
Pretty good day. This visit to the Chinese factory was tremendously interesting.

The Chinese owner (second generation) didn't really want to tell us much and was full of contradictions:
- what tips could you give us about the Japanese market?
- well, we were not successful in Japan because of the Yen fluctuations

- you operate throughout Asia, in fairly unstable countries. Aren't you afraid of currency risks?
- we produce and sell for the domestic markets only, we have no currency risk.

The factory itself was a model of everything that we are taught never to do in our Process and Operation Management, yet the company is very big in the region, is ISO9001 certified and has been successful for the past 50 years or so. Clearly this programme is worthless ;-) No seriously, it is, as my prof put it, the next best thing we'll have beyond intuition.

Workers earn less than S$1000 a month, work 12 hours a day and 6 days a week...

The products were truly succulent, delicious. A palate delight.
My schedule for the day:

- 7.45am: Financial Times + first coffee of the day
- 8.15am: e-mail + post + coffee
- 8.20am: leave for Chinese family business visit. Cookie factory. According to the dress code (no sandal, no tank top, etc...) swimsuits are ok so I was thinking about wearing my latest bikini, very en vogue on Indonesian beaches
- 11.50am: return
- 12.00pm: eat lunch - try to catch a few minutes of the International Political Analysis lunch
- 12:20pm: coffee
- 12.30pm: group meeting to rehearse our "play". I am missing the IPA lunch and the Dean's Forum
- 1.30pm: one on one with prof 1
- 2:00pm: class 1
- 3.30pm: tea
- 3.45pm: class 2
- 5.15pm: one on one with prof 2
- 5.45pm: tea
- 6pm: off to city appointment
- 6.30pm: city appointment
- 7.45pm: dinner + hyper strong coffee
- 8.15pm: start evening work: Power and Politics Case Study, Self Assessment Homework, Personal Narrative contd
- somewhere around midnight: choose my electives
- somewhere around 2am: walk home
- somewhere around 2.05am: sleep

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Une pensee est comme un petale de fleur
Que la tourmente egare.
Elle se pose un jour, s’ancre ou repart.
Couleur de l’ame dans l’ecrin des coeurs.
We talked about the EU in our last IPA class

European Union Democracy: You have two cows. At first the government regulate what you can feed them and when you can milk them. then they pay you not to milk them. then they require you to fill in the forms accounting for the amount of milk produced translated into 11 languages. the following year, they decide that turns are to be taken as for which cows are to be milked, depending on their citizenship.
Our IPA prof has written ELEVEN books!!! Oaow...

I thought I really liked the IPA class but I don't anymore. It is all very controversial with loads of opinions flying around but it does not really take the debate to any satisfying intellectual levels. It is a bit like politics for dummies. You are left with the impression that you have just condensed in 1.5 hours what the Economist offers in dozens of pages over many years. It is not even about scrapping the surface. It is about pointing down at the top of the iceberg from a helicopter hovering at 6,000 feet. A lot of the classes in an MBA programme only make you hungry for more but this class is particularly frustrating.

One must also be careful about models. You cannot bring down the Japanese economy to a decision from the Central Bank, nor explain the recent success of Nissan on a allies/opponents/fence sitter/adversary quadratic model. All these models help you get a hand on a complex situation and highlight pitfalls or give good hints about how you can approach a problem. None of them contain THE answer - that's because there isn't any. None of them go anywhere near reality. However, no one helps us put things into perspective and realize where the model ends and reality begins. We must maintain an intellectual discipline to do so. No matter what you are taught at school, the answer does not lie in textbooks. Look up and use common sense. Remember your classes but don't restrict yourself to it. Trade is great but opening barriers in poor countries, while maintaining high tariffs on your homegrown agriculture will make African countries starve to death. Access to masses of cheap labor will also lead to exploitation cases, and countries in desperate need of growth might just overlook environmental matters. So be careful when applying MBA-taught concepts. Be human. And humble.
Here is my IPA assignment for Wednesday - that is tomorrow. We are going to have a very nice little play!
Actually, all of our other group assignments were done with one email from the genius in our group: "hi group, here is the answer. Please check the English". This one is the first real group work that we did and it was SO interesting! We all turned up with food and drinks, sat back in a large sofa in an even larger air conditioned room in a luxury residence and we re-did world politics for a few hours. There were representatives from Europe, North American and Asian continents as well as someone who spent the past few years working in Africa. Something unique...

Group 4:
Imagine that you are the military ruler of a hypothetical West African state—we’ll call it “Petrolia”—and have just come to power in a widely popular coup d’etat that has deposed the corrupt and violent former “emperor.” As the state’s name implies, the country has tremendous oil wealth, but it has largely disappeared in Swiss bank accounts and has been wasted on useless infrastructure projects and the purchasing of advanced military hardware. As a result, the country is in fiscal disarray and you must launch a major economic reform program. You are also committed to democratic elections—although you have not yet decided when they should occur. As a symbol of their confidence in you, several of your fellow citizens have returned to Petrolia from their self-imposed exile abroad, where they worked as economists for the leading international organizations and universities. This group of technocrats has now splintered into two warring factions, and they are giving you conflicting pieces of advice. The first faction is arguing that you must democratize immediately, before putting into place your economic reform program. The second faction is arguing the opposite: that you must impose your economic reforms immediately, and call democratic elections only once the economy has stabilized. In this exercise, your group will present to the class the arguments made by each faction, before telling us which approach the new president will ultimately adopt.
I have to write 25 pages. It is due in 3 days. I am down to 8 right now.
Anyone's got Superman's Mobile Number?
Right now, it is the rainy season in Singapore. It rained the whole of last week.
When I mean rain, I mean rain. Water. Drenched. Completely empapado, mouille. to the skin. Whatever you hold dear in the world gets destroyed in less than 1 seconds.

But the worst bit is that you have to wait for 7 minutes for a taxi due to usage congestion.
Heard in Class and faithfully reported

- Mergers and Acquisitions work pretty much the same way as relationships: you first decide about the rational for doing it, then you evaluate the fit and the competitive advantage that it gives you before moving onto implementation. You are bound to hit a culture clash and loads of trouble. Ultimately you might succeed in achieving high degrees of integration, but you might lose your soul in the process as you must take the best of both worlds" - Strategies for Asia Pacific professor

I am eagerly waiting for comments from people who have carefully planned their relationships

- goal: which market are we after? How does this affect our growth potential?
well, I know you like Paris and if we get married, you'd be eligible to work in France.

- strategic fit: where are you present? what are you good at? are our offerings complementary?
Well, you bring cooking skills and I can repair cars, looks like a good fit to me.

- complementary skills and resources across the value chain
You're pretty good at supply chain management with your Tesco Club Card, I can handle the design bit, with my IKEA background. Together we can share the marketing with the writing of wedding invitations and we can hire a cleaning lady and a babysitter for After Sales service. We'll be just fine

- Implementation:
Let's get a good lawyer

- Results:
John and Mary
Tomorrow is an IPA lunch, a company visit (Chinese Family Firm) in Asia Pacific and A Dean's Forum - all happening at the same time. All the other lunchtimes are free.
Who teaches PoM on this campus?
I went yacht sailing this weekend - on the East Coast.

Do not go. And I am not enticing anyone not to go because I don't want you to crowd our waters or gain any competitive advantage in the upcoming America's Cup. We are all very fairplay at INSEAD.

No, I am saying do not go because...

...The yacht club is very nice, elegantly built and offers a stunningly creative architecture.
All the boats are neatly arranged, all brand new, all empty.

Everyone is flashing around in the pool or lazingly enjoying a cold beer.

Everyone seems to be there to affirm their status.
We were there to sail.

So off we went. Sailing can be a very challenging sport. Especially, when there is no wind, which is exactly what happened to us when we left. It gets even more complicated when your outboard is not cooperating and when you find yourself in the imiddle of the main - and very busy - shipping lane.
Through wonders of navigation, we saved our lives and our boats, admired from very close the many cargo ships and container ships passing by, before resuming our course under light winds. We had to zigzag some more between ships as we were exactly at the cross road of two shipping lanes, with beautiful views over refineries on our left and right-hand side - or port and starboard side respectfully.

Things would have been ok, were it not for very dangerous reefs, which we miraculously avoided. I say miraculously because sailors replace wind by beer in order to past time, and we were in no state to spot the cardinal buoy marking the entrance of the danger zone.

Refreshed by the closeness of danger, we took advantage of a strenghtening breeze and hoisted the spinnaker for a well-deserved downwind run. the sky was pitch-black but for some reason it rained cats and dogs everywhere around us, but over the boat.
The captain played Titanic at the bow, sung out of tune and we all returned safely. We had to dock under sail since the outboard had not recovered. I guess that feeding it beer didn't help at all. I am not mechanical engineer though, so take with salt.

So, let me finish my sentence: do not go to the East Coast, go to the more pricey but the more exotic West Coast. Since all the sailable Coasts of Singapore are really South Coast, you'll be all right.

All in all, a very enjoyable evening at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club.
This week is ZE FRENCH OUIK!!!!

A very energetic Amphi Storming in which some French blue collar activists were coercing the INSEAD crowd into starting a strike to reduce the work week to first 35 hrs, then to no school at all - we then moved onto a very cheesy Movie Setting, with Jean-Claude and Jacqueline dressed up in their 20s Bords De Seine outfit, marvelling at how life is merveilleux, drinking champagne and making plans to get to Saint Tropez with a balloon. Things got worse as Jean-Claude asked Jacqueline why she could not love him: she already had Gerard, Guillaume and so many others...and her husband...her husband...It wouldn't have been such a great problem, were it not for Jean-Claude's wife spotting them!!! We then moved onto the defeated French Football team still hooked on their World Cup dream presenting a Fun Football event to which the Dean of the programme was participating. On Wednesday, two chefs worried that if they didn't get their act together with the souffle, their customers would end up eating American Beef and Thai chicken, invited eveyone to a French Dinner in an upper class restaurant nearby. Thursday was Fashion Day with two French models inviting everyone to participate in a Fashion Trophee, with 100s of $$ worth of prizes - and a French Kiss to the best performance! A Buffet Campagnard and Crepes was also offered for free on that evening. On Friday, a Blue-White-Red Revolutionary party is to take place and was offered by the King himself!!!
Basically, hundreds of free drinks and tons of free food is going to invade the campus for the days to come!

The whole presentation was orchestrated by a guy wearing some type of chicken hat, as a tribute to the French National Symbol. I now understand where the "running like a headless chicken" comes from: The French has a deplorable habit to behead their King, who was also their National Symbol.

On Monday night, they did things very well. The French ambassador kicked off teh week, following by an incredible presentation by Carrefour. The manager, with over 10 years of experience in Asia, setting up Carrefour store, was very inspiring! A friendly informal cocktail ensued, followed by the French Movies...

Compared to Fontainebleau: the restaurant price is decent (25 euros) for champagne, wine and a three course meal and the party ticket price is ridiculously low! 2.5 euros and this includes a bus ride and a BBQ!!!

Congratulations to Ze French Ouik team who put a lot of effort into getting this week organized!!!