Chemtax Industrial Co. Ltd.
The theme of our Emilia Romagna field trip is "La Dolce Vita" (the sweet life) which we explored while we were in Italy.
Major corporations visited
We cannot talk about Italy without talking about her food. Ferrarini is best known for its parma ham and parmigiano reggiano cheese. Orsi is committed to biodynamic agriculture and producing wine with vines that are not fertilized or irrigated.
Over 80% of Italian companies are family businesses. They are the mainspring of the Italian economy and labour force. We visited Gucci, Furla, Ferrari, Acetaia Picci, Pagani, and Max Mara – all had been or are still family businesses.
Two persons stood out and impressed me most during our company visits in Emilia Romagna.
Marco Picci, the second-generation owner of Acetaia Picci, talked enthusiastically about the company's balsamic vinegar. It must be the hundredth time that he was introducing the production and products to visitors, and yet he showed great patience when explaining everything and answering all questions. He is proud of his work and passionate about the company and its products.
Laura Lusuardi, the Fashion Director of Max Mara, has been staying with the company since 1964. She does not speak English but exudes an aura of respectability. She has an abiding passion for fashion (especially coats), for Max Mara, and for life. Laura lunched with us after we toured the Max Mara fashion archive. She is still working very hard because she wants to continue inspiring others and sharing her passion with young people.
Italians build companies and brands around the things they love. Enzo Ferrari's passion for racing and the spirit of the prancing horse are embedded in every Ferrari product. Max Mara celebrates its signature coats for women. Horacio Pagani's pursuit of perfection is reflected in his meticulous designs. Marco Picci shares his love of the dark and glossy, sweet and sour traditional balsamic vinegar. That is part of the secret to "La Dolce Vita".
We were given a warm welcome and VIP treatment at a few companies in addition to gaining fresh insights and new knowledge, especially at Max Mara. The memory of this trip will certainly last a lifetime.
Laura Lusuardi, Fashion Director of Max Mara, shares her passion for fashion
Sunny Chu (left) and Ian Griffiths, Creative Director of Max Mara
LO Wing Han, Henrietta
Senior Merchandising Manager
The Club, HKT Limited
Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is the country's centre of finance and commerce. Apart from low corporate tax, the National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship contributes to rapid increase in the number of business births and a lower rate of unemployment.
Major corporations visited
We first visited the Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC) where the programme manager introduced to us Ireland's Industrial and Enterprise Development Policy and explained how the centre empowers entrepreneurs to start and scale, develop and sustain their businesses. At the Centre, we also met two young CEOs from new start-ups, Go!21 and BeeInstant, who recounted their start-up journeys. They told us how GEC acted as a catalyst for their business growth.
We met three more start-up companies at Dublin City University on another day — Chasing Returns, Aylien, and HealthBeacon. Chasing Returns provides tools (PlayMaker and GamePlan) for learning how to improve trading discipline and create better trading habits. Aylien makes use of four key processes: Sentiment Analysis, Categorization, Extraction, and Processing to generate optimal hashtags for social sharing. For eight years, Aylien has been using artificial intelligence to collect, analyse and understand huge amounts of text content, and give recommendations to their clients. HealthBeacon demonstrated how their smart tools managed medication and recorded patients’ medication journeys.
There are some traditional businesses in Ireland. We visited Waterfall Farm which has been in the Keegan family for around 300 years. The farm is owned by full-time sheep farmer Michael Keegan who runs the sheep farming business on his own together with two shepherd dogs.
Pharmaceuticals and chemicals are key industries in Ireland. On the last day of our trip, we visited the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT). This Centre is so unique; it provides training and research solutions for the global biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry. The training centre offers different kinds of training, making use of its up-to-date facility. In 2018, they served 4,300 trainees through over 100 courses.
Brexit poses a risk to all businesses in Ireland. We attended a lecture at Trinity Business School for a better understanding of the country's historical background, its social enterprise structure, and the potential impact of Brexit. Together with Trinity MBA students, we did a case study of peacebuilding organizations in a changing context, their missions and identities.
It was a valuable experience to talk face-to-face with CEOs and learn from their journeys of entrepreneurship. We came to know that the Irish government has been very supportive to young entrepreneurs in terms of providing resources, in particular special funding for woman entrepreneurs. Apart from that, we became aware of the similarities between Ireland and Hong Kong, including the fact that both of us have a colonial background. One difference is that Ireland will be directly influenced by Brexit, probably causing changes in business and the economy.
YUEN Tuen Wai, Teri
Associate Brand Manager
AstraZeneca Hong Kong Limited
Major corporations visited
Sustainability is an emerging topic in this decade. While more and more companies are looking into ways to be more environmentally friendly, changes have been small and limited to daily life such as recycling paper and improving interior design to make use of daylight. Can we do more for the environment? Can we create a larger impact on our planet? Amsterdam, a city that gives priority to sustainability, inspired us on living more sustainably.
The first company we visited was Madaster, which introduced the circular economy concept into the construction industry. Madaster believes that most wastes are useful if people know how to utilize them in the right way. Creating material passports makes reuse a lot easier and is a first and critical step for the industry to contribute to sustainability.
Fashion for Good is a company that aims at transforming the industry. It operates a museum where visitors rethink how their fashion consumption impacts the earth. It invests in innovative technologies and business models that can transform the fashion industry.
Starbucks – The Bank is a concept store built according to strict Leed® sustainable building guidelines to reduce impact on the environment. It makes use of sustainable materials like the repurposed Dutch oak and antique Delft blue tiles. This store holds coffee pairing every day to promote coffee knowledge and attract coffee lovers at the same time. This allows it to stand out from thousands of cafes in the city.
We also visited a fintech company Ebury, fashion giant PVH, and a medical technology company 3ega. Ebury is one of the fastest growing fintech companies in the world that provides an innovative and unique platform for payments, risk management, foreign exchange and trade financing. PVH introduced to us their digital showroom that would soon be available at Tommy Hilfiger outlets around the world. The company 3ega explained their vision and the progress of changing the life of people with depression. These companies in different industries have a common feature – innovation.
We attended a lecture at Utrecht University, one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands, on the topic of neoliberalism and gentrification. It helped us see changes in society from a new angle, and at the same time, reminded us to treasure the remaining sensory landscape of our city.
Meeting the founders and management of different companies enabled us to get updated and first-hand information about the industries. Apart from knowing more about the application of business theories and frameworks in the real world, we could feel the speakers' passion. Despite facing challenges, they are still passionate about their business, as well as making changes in the world.
TANG Ho Fung, Horace
Business Development Consultant
Hoover Industrial (HK) Ltd
Major corporations visited
The field trip enabled us to understand more about the business role of China in Poland, one of the greatest supporters of China's belt and road initiative (OBOR).
We were introduced to three of the largest capital groups in Poland, PKO Bank Polski, PGE, and Poczta Polska. They are leaders of the banking, energy, and logistics sectors and they are aggressively expanding their business through horizontal integration.
Poczta Polska have been operating postal service in Poland for over 400 years. From the 1990s, they have expanded into Finance & Banking, Telecommunications, Insurance, Security technology and Digital postal service. We witnessed a memorandum signing for Hong Kong – Poland cooperation and various OBOR projects especially in relation to logistics. We also had a useful discussion about business environment, mode of operation, capital investment, and the cultures of Poland, mainland China and Hong Kong. It was a rare opportunity for us to understand more about the differences between the two countries and learn the skills needed for Eastern and European enterprises cooperation.
In the next stop, we met with senior management of Bank Polski, the largest retail and commercial banking system in Poland, to know about their core business and get insight about OBOR cooperation. We were briefed on their latest technology and development, including one-stop retail banking, as well as how they increased market share by means of technology integration. ZenCard combines payment card systems and loyalty programmes. BLIK enables users to pay, withdraw and transfer money without a card. IKO is a popular mobile banking application in Poland.
Before the trip ended, we visited Delphia Yachts to see the different stages of production. It was a memorable experience knowing how a 60-feet yacht could be made from a piece of wood, glass, and other materials.
We were inspired by the Poles' marvellous and innovative business ideas, strong execution power, and ability to balance between risk and opportunity. Every executive we met was optimistic about connecting the country with OBOR. We agree that working right and working well are important criteria for a successful entrepreneur.
Geographically located in the middle of Europe, Poland will continue to play an irreplaceable role in connecting China with the continent especially in terms of logistics and infrastructure development. The country has demonstrated support and desire for boosting business with China.
We met with the managements of international enterprises to understand more about the problems they have been facing. Their experience and views are really useful for helping us to foresee and deal with challenges in the fast moving business world.
CHUNG Pui Wing, Phoenix
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Major corporations visited
In Portland of Oregon, we visited a winery, a start-up company providing drone operation solutions, an urban development agency, a natural food manufacturer, a sportswear company, a sustainable coffee trader and a brewery.
At the five-year-old start-up, we learned how it transformed drone from a “toy” to a commercial tool and how this innovative enterprise grew from a small business into a rising star in the field and succeeded in raising funds.
At Columbia Sportswear, we had a fruitful meeting during which we learned how a family business went global. We were impressed by how the company delivered its value via product characteristics and its persistency in maintaining product quality. The tremendous advertising and marketing ideas were certainly valuable to us. Columbia’s CSR team explained how the company has been conveying its beliefs through contributing to society. It joined HERproject to empower low-income women with health and financial knowledge and to reduce family violence.
Portland is a small thriving city with aspirations and openness. It has great potential for commercial development brought by tax advantages but needs to tackle social issues such as homelessness of immigrants.
The trip was a meaningful conclusion to the MBA programme. We witnessed the application of business concepts to real life. In-person meetings and conversation with professionals and executives helped us understand the challenges and opportunities in US business settings.
PUN Yuen Ching
Major corporations visited
It was a memorable trip to Seattle, a beautiful city. We visited the first Starbucks Store, international corporations, such as Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, and the 50-year-old Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery.
These visits complemented our classroom learning with an understanding of different management styles and corporate cultures. Sightseeing and touring places like Pike Place Market, Space Needle and Washington University let us know more about American people and their style of living.
At Forte Artisan Chocolates, we learned that the company has been trying to extend its network and go for overseas expansion. The owner invited us to continue communicating with them and think about collaborating with them in the future.