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Leaving the ‘Paris of the East’ – Goodbye Shanghai! – Day Nine of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Doing Business in China, Dublin City University, Ireland, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Travel, World Expo 2010 on August 11, 2010 at 9:18 am
The DCU Business School Group pose one last time outside the Ya Fan Longmen Hotel, Shanghai.

The DCU Business School Group pose one last time outside the Ya Fan Longmen Hotel, Shanghai.

And so our Shanghai adventures come to an end.

We decided to spare ourselves the hassle of  negotiating the Shanghai transport system at 7am and rented a coach to the Airport – it took significantly longer than the MagLev! Unsurprisingly (1) we had more luggage leaving and (2) few people were awake to witness our departure through the outskirts of Shanghai. Checking in at Pudong International Airport was straightforward and only one person had to pay extra baggage charges!

Laurynas Binderis modelling a fetching pair of sunglasses at Duty Free in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai.

Laurynas Binderis modelling a fetching pair of sunglasses at Duty Free in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai.

Pudong International Airport is extremely modern and the range of shops and duty free goods is excellent. I think I did a good job avoiding the propensity to buy unusually large amounts of tacky souvenirs and bought what I thought my wife and kids would genuinely like (and for the record they did!) – a Shanghai Tang scarf for Niamh, a “genuine” Chinese ethnic doll for Aoife, a panda bear pillow for Jamie and last but not least, a Panda hat for Chloe. The Panda hat may be a bit big!

Ciara Dolan models Chloe's Panda Bear hat as Micheal O'Leary looks on enviously in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai. Stylish.

Ciara Dolan models Chloe's Panda Bear hat as Micheal O'Leary looks on enviously in Pudong International Airport, Shanghai. Stylish.

The flight home was a mixed affair. I got upgraded to Business Class so I was as happy as the proverbial pig however the group got randomly spread across the rest of economy rather than together and I think the BA crew could have been more understanding in relation to some specific cultural requirements some of our students had. Equally everyone was tired. The minor stopover at Heathrow, lunch at Giraffe and short hop to Dublin was not worth mentioning – everyone home safe and sound!

6,141 miles, 9 days, 24 postgrads, 3 support staff, one monkey, very little sleep – was it worth it? Absolutely.

The roll of honour:

Andrew Bonello (Research Assistant, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

Andrew Bonello (Research Assistant, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

Sarah McPartlin (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Sarah McPartlin (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Micheal O'Leary (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Micheal O'Leary (Teaching Assistant, DCU Business School)

Wafa AlMuhamma (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Wafa AlMuhamma (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Laurynas Binderis (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Laurynas Binderis (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Siobhan Buckley soaks up Shanghai on the Big Bus Tour

Siobhan Buckley (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Rosemary Clancy (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Rosemary Clancy (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Brian Connolly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Brian Connolly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Joe Cullinan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Joe Cullinan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Sean Cullivan (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Sean Cullivan (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Ciara Dolan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Ciara Dolan (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Sean Donnelly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Sean Donnelly (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Niamh Downey (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Niamh Downey (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Rob Elliffe (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business Sc

Rob Elliffe (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Martin Hennig (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Martin Hennig (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Dan Higgins (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business Sch

Dan Higgins (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School

Keith Lawless (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Keith Lawless (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Tanya McNamara (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Tanya McNamara (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Beatrice Metzler (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Beatrice Metzler (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Laureen Morrissette (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Laureen Morrissette (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Niamh NicClamha (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Niamh NicClamha (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Lorna NiMhuiri (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Lorna NiMhuiri (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Nicolae (Nick) Opris (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Nicolae (Nick) Opris (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Carolann O'Sullivan (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Carolann O'Sullivan (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Barry Sweeney (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Barry Sweeney (MSc in E-commerce (Business), DCU Business School)

Zara Walsh (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Zara Walsh (MSc in Business Management, DCU Business School)

Ekaterina (Katia) Zavershinskaya (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

Ekaterina (Katia) Zavershinskaya (MBS in Marketing, DCU Business School)

The Monkey

The Monkey

r. Theo Lynn (Director, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

Dr. Theo Lynn (Director, DCU Leadership, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre, DCU Business School)

More photos on flickr.
Irish Blogs

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Last day in Shanghai – Day Eight of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai 2010

In An Bord Bia, Business Education, CEIBS, Chinese Food, DCU Business School, Di Shui Dong, Doing Business in China, Dublin City University, Elearning, Ireland, Irish Pavilion, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai Restaurants, The Blarney Stone, Travel, Uncategorized, World Expo 2010 on August 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Our last day kicked off with a frenetic visit by Andrew and I to CEIBS to hear about their e-learning publishing business. CEIBS seems to be the equivalent of the Harvard Business School of China and the CEIBS MBA is ranked 8th in the world. The campus is great with a lot of space for contemplation – there seemed to be an abundance of meditation pools (or it could just be good landscaping!) One of our alumni heads up business development for the e-learning business and I was interested in sharing experiences with her. CEIBS has developed a fairly comprehensive suite of e-learning courses for their general business with a judicious mix of interactivity. I could see a suite of elearning modules by CEIBS on doing business in China being a real hit and it was interesting to hear their thoughts and plans although we had very little time – all my fault; I totally misread the traffic an distance to CEIBS.

CEIBS

CEIBS

We had planned to get back to the hotel and get the coach to Paypal Shanghai but it turned out it was faster to meet the rest of the group at Paypal‘s office. Their offices could have been in California – the office block was a modern high rise in a landscaped business park in the Shanghai suburbs and the interior was the same level of modern professionalism. Martin Hennig (one of our MSc in E-commerce (Business) students) works for Paypal in Ireland and organised a tour of their Shanghai office. Martin kicked off with a great presentation to the group on Paypal and its operations and answered any questions we had. We then had a really good tour around each department in Paypal – unfortunately, I can’t share the details as we agreed to confidentiality. I can tell you that everyone we met spoke excellent English and seemed on top of their game.

Paypal China

Paypal China

As it was our last day, we got the coach back to the market under the Science and Technology Museum for people to pick up additional presents and custom clothes ordered. At this stage, we had a regular meeting place at the market, Daisy’s, where we could pick up edible food and big mugs of Espresso. After a couple of hours, I had had enough haggling, stringing the shop-owners along and espresso and decided to go back to the hotel for our penultimate meeting of the trip with Breffini Kennedy (Asia Manager, An Bord Bia).

Sean Cullivan, the happy buyer of a tailor-made linen jacket from Shanghai. Don Johnson watch out.

Sean Cullivan, the happy buyer of a tailor-made linen jacket from Shanghai. Don Johnson watch out.

I have to say Breiffini’s talk with us was great. He gave us great insights in to his career and how his various roles in different organisations resulted in his current placement in China and how various skills and knowledge he acquired in previous roles contributes to his current role. Breiffini is a one-man office representing the Irish food industry in Asia with responsibility for both promoting and generating deals for Irish food companies but also making sure we can sell in the market at all. For example, An Bord Bia were actively involved in getting the Chinese ban on Irish pork products lifted recently following the 2008 dioxin scare.

Irish pork products allowed back in to China. Good for Irish farmers, not so sure about the pigs!

Irish pork products allowed back in to China. Good for Irish farmers, not so sure about the pigs!

Everyone liked Breiffini’s hands-on approach – he attends trade fairs, chases down leads, does market research and is often the first point of contact for some large deals. He explains that this often means visiting places that he has never heard of, often off the well beaten path to Beijing and Shanghai. He believes and made a very strong case for greater investment in Asia from the Irish food and beverage industry. There are so many direct and complementary opportunities that Ireland can exploit – for example, China is turning in to a major market for non-traditional meat products e.g. offal, trotters etc. These products simply wouldn’t sell in Ireland and while not hugely financially profitable do offset costs and develop trade relationships. Once again, Breiffini stressed the importance of guanxi and raising the profile of Ireland in the minds of the Chinese public. Breiffini did a great job contextualising the Irish World Expo pavilion design by explaining that emphasising the greenness of Ireland helps with agricultural perception etc.

Breffini Kennedy from An Bord Bia answers questions from the DCU Business School group in Shanghai.

Breffini Kennedy from An Bord Bia answers questions from the DCU Business School group in Shanghai.

The meeting ended with some thoughts on living in China and he was very open about both his and his wife’s experience. He praised the International hospitals in Shanghai and also noted that they didn’t realise how well they had adapted to life in China until they had visitors over from Ireland and others told them. Breiffini the fielded questions for over 45 minutes on various aspects of working in China and An Bord Bia – we could have gone for a lot longer!

Eoin Murphy, President of the Le Cheile, the Irish Community in Shanghai.

Eoin Murphy, President of the Le Cheile, the Irish Community in Shanghai.

Our final engagement was dinner with Eoin Murphy from Le Cheile, the Irish Community in Shanghai, in the Di Shui Dong Restaurant. Di Shui Dong is a Huananese restaurant which was recommended by Deirdre Green (ChinaGreen) – it means “Water Dropping Hole” but literal translations don’t work well in China. Basically, everything is spicy! While the decor was modest, the food was excellent, reasonably priced and nearly everything was both recognisable and edible, although in some cases, extremely spicy!

Dan Higgins, Sean Cullivan and Brian Connolly consider what Huananese spicy food really means at the Di Shui Dong restaurant, Shanghai.

Dan Higgins, Sean Cullivan and Brian Connolly consider what Huananese spicy food really means at the Di Shui Dong restaurant, Shanghai.

For approx. 25 euros each we had over 20 dishes and drinks for the night. Eoin was great fun but unfortunately couldn’t be split in three across our tables – hopefully, we will have more time to spend with him the next time. If you are looking at moving to Shanghai, doing business in China or visiting, trust me it is worthwhile contacting Eoin or looking at the Le Cheile website – the Irish welcome is alive and well in Shanghai!

Joe Cullinan outside The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

Joe Cullinan outside The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

The Blarney Stone, one of Shanghai’s Irish pubs, is located next door to Di Shui Dong and we invaded en masse. The Blarney Stone is what one would expect – Irish Pub decor and their own balladeer, Big Paul. There were only 5-6 people there so we, effectively, had the bar to ourselves (although I noted our new friends from An Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and An Bord Failte were also there and came over to say hello) and after a couple of rounds we took over the entertainment too.

Sean Donnelly, Carolann O'Sullivan and Barry Sweeney get in to the swing of things at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

Sean Donnelly, Carolann O'Sullivan and Barry Sweeney get in to the swing of things at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai.

It is trips like these that hidden talents come out and Sean Cullivan’s rendition of Galway Girl and Seven Drunken Nights will be one we will all remember – maybe Big Paul too! Experience it here on youtube.

Sean Cullivan takes over from Big Paul and knocks out 'Galway Girl' at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai

Sean Cullivan takes over from Big Paul and knocks out 'Galway Girl' at The Blarney Stone, Shanghai. Experience it on youtube.

Before I left for the hotel, the group presented me with a variety of mementos of the trip for which I am grateful and display proudly in my office. “The Man Club” was closed when we got back to the hotel and to some extent, I was glad our last night ended on an Irish note, no matter how out of tune that might have been.

More photos on flickr. Day Nine to follow….
Irish Blogs

Father’s Day in Shanghai, a day of rest? – Day Seven of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai

In DCU Business School, Doing Business in China, Dublin City University, Enterprise Ireland, Father's Day, Huaihai Road, Ireland, Jade on 36, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, Shangri la Pudong, Shopping, The Westin, Travel, Yongkang Lu on July 29, 2010 at 11:56 am
Dr. Theo Lynn (DCU Business School) with monkey at Father's Day brunch in the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai.

Dr. Theo Lynn (DCU Business School) with monkey at Father's Day brunch in the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai.

It’s Father’s Day and I am nearly 6,000 miles from the kids….not a good start to my first Sunday in Shanghai. Unlike Ireland, today is not a day of rest for our group. We kicked off with an informal briefing from Enterprise Ireland‘s Alan Buckley (Director), Kevin Sherry (Director, International Sales and Partnering) and Renee Wu (Manager – East China). Alan and Renee are based in China, in Beijing and Shanghai respectively and Alan is over for World Expo but also the Enterprise Ireland regional meeting. It was a relaxed start to the day and we held the session over coffee in the lobby of the hotel. Alan gave us an overview of Enterprise Ireland‘s activities in the region and the challenges. We all agreed educating the Chinese about Ireland was a crucial first step. Again, the sheer scale of the opportunity was hit home but also that EI‘s activities, while successful, were severely constrained by funding. Alan also stressed the importance of relationships and guanxi but also having a presence in China. Enterprise Ireland are not immune from this either and their presence in the Irish Consulate greatly assists their efforts. I was quite impressed by Kevin as he was very interested in the group’s thoughts and listening to their first impressions.

Jade on 36, Shangri La Pudong, Shanghai

Jade on 36, Shangri La Pudong, Shanghai

We had booked brunch at the Shangri La Hotel in Pudong. Initially this was going to be my personal treat however soon 16 of us had booked in….or so we thought. On arrival, we found that although we had made a reservation through their website, this had not been communicated to the Jade on 36 restaurant…. While we were offered the option of a Japanese brunch, unfortunately this didn’t really suit our palate. In fairness to Clement Jacquel, the Service Manager, and his the staff at the Shangri La, they immediately rang the Westin on the Bund, paid for transport and booked us in to a private room there for brunch.

The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

Serendipity struck again! The Westin was great. Brunch was served over two floors from 7-10 serving stations, something for everyone – Italian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, English, even a caviar bar, candy floss and pick-n-mix sweet trolley! We were on the second floor and we could look down and see the different entertainment the Westin had laid on – a 16-piece orchestra, child acrobats/gymnasts, magicians, clowns and singers – it was like a circus-themed restaurant.

A view of the lobby dining area for brunch in the Westin on the Bund with orchestra on steps in background.

A view of the lobby dining area for brunch in the Westin on the Bund with orchestra on steps in background.

After some champagne, the group attacked the food and two hours later after several desserts, we lazed around in our guilt. I rang my kids which only exacerbated this feeling but its amazing what a good chocolate brownie will cure!

DCU Business School group in our private room for brunch at the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

DCU Business School group in our private room for brunch at the Westin on the Bund, Shanghai

Just before we were leaving, we ran in to some of the Irish diaspora from Cork working for EMC Research in Shanghai. It says a lot about the Irish that within 15 minutes of meeting us, the offer to visit EMC Research was made. Unfortunately there was no more time in our schedule but the offer was much appreciated. Maybe the “Ireland of a thousand welcomes” may be lost in Ireland but the diaspora certainly make up for it! We all agreed the Westin Brunch is a must for any visit to Shanghai, especially one with kids, even the older ones!

Dr. Theo Lynn, Ciara Dolan and Rosemary Clancy at brunch at The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai. Sean Donnelly auditions as a server.

Dr. Theo Lynn, Ciara Dolan and Rosemary Clancy at brunch at The Westin on the Bund, Shanghai. Sean Donnelly auditions as a server.

While some of the group decided to hit the markets again, Andrew, Martin, Laureen and I decided on some culture. Alan Bradley had recommended the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum and so we jumped in a taxi and made our way back to People’s Square. It says a lot about the Chinese and their sense of scale that they have a museum just about urban planning in Shanghai, Dublin urban planning seems an oxymoron! The museum is huge and has exhibits over several floors which explores different aspects of the evolution of Shanghai through pictures, film and other exhibits. It is not everyone’s cup of tea however the giant model of Shanghai is worth the reasonable admission fee. It takes up an entire floor and you can walk around and view it from an attached gantry. The detail is impressive – Andrew even found the Maltese pavilion in World Expo in the model!

A view from above. The model of Shanghai at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum.

A view from above. The model of Shanghai at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum.

Our plan was to get a quick coffee and visit the Shanghai Museum located behind the Urban Planning museum. We popped in to Starbucks for a quick coffee (and to buy a Shanghai city mug) and sat in the drizzle of the People’s Park. It was quite amusing. Clearly Sunday is Date Day for young Shanghai couples and we felt slightly guilty that we were disturbing them. After a few minutes, we couldn’t take it any longer and left Chinese couples to what couples all over the world get up to… And off we went heading towards what we thought was the Shanghai Museum. As we walked through the Park, we couldn’t help but notice the large number of older Chinese people congregated under canopies over the paths with pieces of A4 paper attached like notices to fences and trees. What could they be? We eventually discovered that these were marriage notifications – now we really felt for those couples we had disturbed earlier, little did they know what their parents were up to!

My attempt to negotiate marriage contracts for Andrew Bonello, Laureen Morrissette and Martin Hennig at the People's Park in Shanghai were unsuccessful.

My attempt to negotiate marriage contracts for Andrew Bonello, Laureen Morrissette and Martin Hennig at the People's Park in Shanghai were unsuccessful.

Eventually we got to the Shanghai Museum. I say eventually because we inadvertently walked the entire circumference of Renmin Square. And what did we find? It had closed 5 minutes earlier. So readers, no we didn’t get to see the 120,000+ collection of Chinese artifacts. So much for culture.

Martin Hennig, Laureen Morrissette, Dr. Theo Lynn (with Monkey) and Andrew Bonello outside a closed Shanghai Museum.

Martin Hennig, Laureen Morrissette, Dr. Theo Lynn (with Monkey) and Andrew Bonello outside a closed Shanghai Museum.

We then decided to visit some of the shopping streets – unfortunately I have no idea where we were but it seemed to be more Chinese than western! Before you suggest, no, it wasn’t Monganshan Lu – the famous modern art district – I think Yongkang Lu. Anyhow it was full of little alleys with all sorts of bits and pieces to buy and lots of photo galleries and art shops.

Laureen Morrissette looks for gifts in Yongkang Lu...maybe.

Laureen Morrissette looks for gifts in Yongkang Lu...maybe.

For those interested in modern art or pop culture with an Asian bent, this area is manna from heaven. Imagine an Asian Urban Outfitter-themed diagonal alley (from Harry Potter) and that’s the general impression – a bit like the Laines in Brighton.

One of lanes in Yongkang Lu, Shanghai - I think.

One of lanes in Yongkang Lu, Shanghai - I think.

It also had a couple of fresh food markets which were quite interesting to visit in a voyeuristic way. They looked initially like Irish farmer’s markets but in some ways were like some alternate reality – totally different vegetables, many of which were unknown to us and meats that in Ireland would not be offered for sale – offal, chicken feet etc. I felt for one hapless employee whose job seemed to be cutting the nails of the chicken feet….

Martin Hennig tries to find out where we are from other equally lost tourists!

Martin Hennig tries to find out where we are from other equally lost tourists!

After attempting to and giving up on working out where we were, we hailed a cab to the Huaihai Road, Shanghai’s main medium-to-high end shopping street. As usual, the Chinese cabby wouldn’t let us put on our seatbelts and off we went literally on the Chinese version of a rollercoaster ride. The Huaihai Road is six-kilometre street blending modern department stores with branded stores from most of the Western fashionable and luxury marques. If you are looking for bargains, I am not sure they are here. We popped in to the Apple store which is like its contemporaries in London and elsewhere including the price which was the same as London, if not higher. Authentic luxury and fashionable products are still valued and cost no matter where.

Welcome to Shanghai! The famous sign on the Huaihai Road, a six kilometre Shanghai shopping extravaganza!

Welcome to Shanghai! The famous sign on the Huaihai Road, a six kilometre Shanghai shopping extravaganza!

To some extent, you could be in any major city worldwide but the differences are there in the shops, the culture and the people. Maybe only in China are there signs indicating management is honest (and presumably if you don’t have the sign, you are dishonest?) or food quality is good (and presumably if you don’t have the sign, you will be tethered to the toilet?). It is worthwhile visiting those stores that the Chinese authorities consider good – we went to some impressive specialist tea and jade shops where the difference in quality between their tea sets and the ones in the market were perceptible both to the eye and wallet!

Honest management but food not so great!

Honest management but food not so great!

Middle Huaihai Road seemed to have best selection of designer and luxury shops, a good and varied selection of eateries, and some good views from the walkbridges. The dedicated shopper could spend days here however Andrew and I gave up and let Martin and Laureen continue their explorations.

Dr. Theo Lynn shares a joke with Laureen Morrissette and Andrew Bonello on the walkbridge over Huailai Road, Shanghai.

Dr. Theo Lynn shares a joke with Laureen Morrissette and Andrew Bonello on the walkbridge over Huailai Road, Shanghai.

Day Seven ended with another late night in the “Man Club” chewing the fat with the rest of the group and having a bucket of ice split all over me – it’s a long story and not for this blog!

More photos on flickr. Day Eight to follow….
Irish Blogs

Return to World Expo 2010: What happened next? – Day Six, Part 2 of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai 2010

In Angerer & Obermayr Messegastronomie, Ansgar Halbfas, Balancity, Business Education, DCU Business School, Dublin City University, German Pavilion, German-Sino House, Ireland, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Pavilion of the Future, Rhone-Alpes Lighting Pavilion, Rhone-Alpes Urban Case, Shanghai, Travel, World Expo 2010 on July 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

We had left our story with the intrepid group of DCU Business School students outside German Pavilion at 5pm in the afternoon in the summer heat of Shanghai. The German Pavilion was closed to the public but our new found friend Ansgar had agreed to meet us later in the evening to bring us on a tour….if it opened again.

Balancity.

Balancity.

With time to kill, the group went their various ways. Myself, Lorna NiMhuiri and Keith Lawless travelled back to the Puxi site to visit some of the urban best practice case pavilions in the urban square. Lorna and Keith are working on a group practicum as part of their MSc in Business Management in the LED sector and there were some possible leads for their client in the Rhone-Alpes Lighting Pavilion and in the Pavilion of the Future. After a pretty long walk and a small water fight, where there were no winners except the amused (and confused) Chinese onlookers, we eventually reached our destination. I am not sure there was much to take from the Rhone-Alpes pavilion or their light show but I really enjoyed the various exhibits in the Pavilion of the Future housed in the former Nanshi Power Plant.

Astronaut Haibao outside the Pavilion of the Future at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The Pavilion of the Future is housed in the former Nanshi Power Plant.

Astronaut Haibao outside the Pavilion of the Future at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The Pavilion of the Future is housed in the former Nanshi Power Plant.

As you walked through the Pavilion of the Future, the exhibits introduced different facets that will need to be considered in future urban design including environmental factors. Using giant books, sculptures and other media from history the exhibits go on to contextualise much of the thinking from history. The main display, Dream of Yesterday, however was the best. It was a huge hall with gigantic 36 meter high screen showing an animated film against the backdrop of themed sculptures and other settings. As you leave, you enter the Dream Is Approaching section which focuses on bringing many of the concepts that we saw in to the real world including the Intelligent Home, Healthy Community, Low-Carbon City and Harmonious Environment. There were some really good examples of cutting edge technologies from intelligent refrigerators to home biodiagnostics amongst others. Lo and behold, even Lorna and Keith found some material for their practicum – intelligent lighting is part of the future!

Multiple Possibilities in the Pavilion of the Future features a 36-metre-high screen and animated film.

Multiple Possibilities in the Pavilion of the Future features a 36-metre-high screen and animated film.

The group assembled again at the bar to have a stein of beer at the German restaurant where Ansgar was waiting with our beloved Sennheiser wireless earphones.  Angerer & Obermayr Messegastronomie of Munich run the restaurant and it is worth a visit if only for the beer…..apparently. Despite the quality of the beer, the excitement of the German pavilion was too much of a draw….even for the Irish. It was open again. Steins down, off we go!

Laureen Morrissette, Barry Sweeney, Rob Elliffe and Niamh NicClamha toast Ansgar and the German Pavilion at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

Laureen Morrissette, Barry Sweeney, Rob Elliffe and Niamh NicClamha toast Ansgar and the German Pavilion at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

The German Pavilion occupies a plot measuring around 6,000 m² – the largest area a national pavilion can be given – and they have packed in a lot – so much so, I won’t and can’t do it justice in this blog so check out the German’s really excellent virtual tour – the interactive round trip. As we had already toured the exterior, we went through the tunnel which is lit in blue (and features different media representing transport routes to enter Germany) and then in to the urban planning area, The Urban Office, where you could explore some of the German ideas around urban planning.

DCU Business School Students in the tunnel entering the German Pavilion at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

DCU Business School Students in the tunnel entering the German Pavilion at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

The German architects put a lot of effort in to interactive elements that use all the senses so you could see and touch different types of materials as well as explore mini-cases on different ideas like multigenerational housing, the evolution of transportation from individual mobility to public transportation. From the urban space, you transition into The Garden. Ansgar explained that they wanted a contrast in the design and this was achieved by using different material, such as fabrics hung from the ceiling and interactive elements hung from the same that you literally put your head in to. The Garden sequed in to The Depot, a exhibit based on a German Warehouse with towers of crates illustrating the manufacturing and design legacy of Germany – Bosch, Sennheiser, Villeroy and Boche, Hansgrohe and Adidas are just some of the famous brands I recognised. I was particularly taken with the Otto Bock Blizzard wheelchair which I didn’t no much about but is transforming the lives of many physically disabled people. Ansgar really hit home the policy of “Designed in Germany, Made in China” – a true algorithmic economy vision that Irish policymakers should not only be aspiring to but emulating.

e Germans! Beatrice Metzler and Martin Hennig (our token Germans - only kidding!) pose at The Depot in the German Pavilion at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

e Germans! Beatrice Metzler and Martin Hennig (our token Germans - only kidding!) pose at The Depot in the German Pavilion at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

As you exit the Depot, you enter the Factory exhibit which has a full production system and some sustainable product ideas. It wasn’t working while were there but Ansgar explained that usually you could control the system using some augmented reality applications they have – some of which can be controlled by your iPhone Touch. We continued quickly through The Park exhibit to the Studio.

Siobhan Buckley and Beatrice Metzler (one of our token Germans!) attempt to read their heights at the German Pavilion at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

Siobhan Buckley and Beatrice Metzler (one of our token Germans!) attempt to read their heights at the German Pavilion at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

The Studio was a really enjoyable space with lots of interactive exhibits that gave a different more light-hearted perspective on German culture and a bounty of ‘silly photo’ opps ranging from Carnival masks to German karaoke. Oh yes, we had an attempt. Who else but Laurynas, our dependable Lithuanian. He literally will try anything!

Niamh NicClamha as a little girl at Carnival (she really is the one in the middle!)

Niamh NicClamha as a little girl at Carnival (she really is the one in the middle!)

The City Square was the next exhibit. It was good to take a break and rest on some stone blocks and watch a multimedia piece on urban life in Germany but this was just an apertif for the highlight of the German pavilion, The Energy Source. The Energy Source is an interactive experience hosted by two students, a German boy and a Chinese girl. They guide, encourage and cajole the audience in to collaborating to change the color of and move the Energy Source, a large ball hanging from the centre of the ceiling in a spherical room. The Energy Source reflects the sound of the audience and follows the two hosts using concealed packs that they carry. The hosts bring you in to their show until becomes the audience’s. You really have to be there but trust me it’s good. Check out some of our German Pavilion pictures on flickr.

The Energy Source at the German Pavilion at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

The Energy Source at the German Pavilion at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

We must have made an impression on Ansgar. He recalled my interest in interactive education and organised for a private tour of the German-Sino House with the Facility Manager, Soeren Puerschel. Germany is in an unusual situation in that it effectively has two sites at the World Expo, the main pavilion and a second exhibit, which while not officially a pavilion, is nearly more impressive than many of the pavilions at World Expo, i.e. the German-Sino house.

The German Chinese House at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

The German Chinese House at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

The German Chinese House epitomises the “Designed in Germany, Made in China” philosophy and is the result of a three year study tour of the next four cities after Shanghai and Beijing. Although officially closed by the time we finished in the German pavilion, Soeren welcomed us and gave a great tour. The house structure is made of bamboo and metal – sort of representing Chinese natural resources and German engineering. Soeren explained that bamboo is a material that is cheap, underused, abundant in the Far East, sustainable, very strong but flexible. Unfortunately it has fallen out of favour. The idea of the German Chinese House is to showcase how bamboo can not only support a modern structure but looks good. And it really does!

Soeren Puerschel and Ansgar Halbfas explain the design of the German Chinese House to the DCU Business School group at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

Soeren Puerschel and Ansgar Halbfas explain the design of the German Chinese House to the DCU Business School group at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

So what about interactive education? Well, when we came Soeren had a photo taken of our group on the stairs of the House. He then brought us in to a room to face a wall with a computer application projected 16 times on it – our group numbered 16 on the visit! Serendipity was calling. Soeren and his assistants then guided us through a game whereby we built sustainable buildings through computer software which interpreted our shadows on the wall. For example, the first step required us to create a shadow in the shape of our building – the software interpreted this shape using digital cameras above and behind us and then projected our shadows as buildings.

Sean Donnelly, Niamh NicClamha and the DCU Business School group create virtual buildings at the German Chinese House at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

Sean Donnelly, Niamh NicClamha and the DCU Business School group create virtual buildings at the German Chinese House at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

We also had to simulate trees and by holding hands connect our power. When we finished all the steps all our buildings were connected and displayed as a city block in a sim city type environment accessible online at http://www.deutschland-und-china.com/media_de_detal_127.shtml. Our Game ID is 9693 – that is the address of the DCU Business School block designed at the German-Sino House. Come and visit!

Block 9693 (Designed by Irish, Made in China, Developed by Germans)

Block 9693 (Designed by Irish, Made in China, Developed by Germans)

As Soeren explained, whilst our group was the large and we knew each other, most people coming to the House come in twos and threes and have never met. The game, designed with Aachen University, not only teaches some sustainable building principles, it acts as a means of connecting people who had previously never met. Soeren brought us upstairs to show us some of the other products that have been generated from their study tour. This included modular bamboo furniture including some units themed around each of the four cities visited. Soeren urged us not just to consider Beijing and Shanghai but also the next 4-10 cities, all of which are huge by European standards – this may be a good lesson for Irish companies and indeed Irish universities.

Modular bamboo furniture design in Germany, made in China displayed at the German Chinese House at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

Modular bamboo furniture design in Germany, made in China displayed at the German Chinese House at World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

After thanking Soeren and Ansgar, we had to return our VIP passes to Indrė Kumpikevičiūtė at the Lithuanian pavilion. We were all fading and in need of some nourishment so we headed to the Argentinian pavilion for some beef – it was good, really good! And so, at 10pm we left the World Expo 2010 and caught a taxi back to the Ya Fan Longmen Hotel for a drink…or two.

Time to go home. DCU Business School students leave World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

Time to go home. DCU Business School students leave World Expo 2010, Shanghai.

More photos on flickr. Day Seven to follow….
Irish Blogs

University Day at Shanghai – Day Five of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai 2010

In Chinese Restaurants in Shanghai, DCU Business School, Dublin City University, Ireland, M on the Bund, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai, Tongji University, Uncategorized on July 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Andrew and I had an early start attending an Executive Breakfast briefing, to be attended by President Mary McAleese, organised by Enterprise Ireland at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Pudong district of Shanghai.  We represented Dublin City University with Xiaoxia Wang, DCU’s China Rep. We also invited and were delighted to host two guests, Ms. Grace Shou, Vice Director of the International Office at the School of Economics and Management at Tongji University, and Professor Xu Xiaowei, Vice President of Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. After arriving at 0715 and admiring the view of The Bund from the 7th floor, the breakfast kicked off with introductions and gift giving to our guests. We also briefly met with Deirdre Walsh (ChinaGreen), Breiffini Kennedy (Asia Manager, An Bord Bia). Everything about the Shangri-La was five star – the food, the service and the company! While we had a pleasant discussion with Ms. Shou and Professor Xu, unfortunately President McAleese didn’t arrive until 0830 and Andrew and I had to leave to travel to Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade where we had prior arrangements.

Pudong Shangri-La

Pudong Shangri-La

Like all good plans, this didn’t go smoothly either. We hit rush hour in Shanghai and then our taxi drive drove right past our hotel, nearly in to an oncoming bus and then in his attempt to correct things tried to do a u-turn on a one-way highway in to a flash-mob of Chinese workers on mopeds! In the meanwhile, Micheal met our translator and got everyone on our coach for the day as we arrived 45 minutes late. Founded in 1960,the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade (SIFT) has approx. 10,000 students and focusses nearly exclusively on international business. This focus has allowed faculty to specialise and the much of the teaching is bilingual. We were heading to their new  Songjiang campus, part of a university city-type development on the outskirts of Shanghai – similar to our trip last year to Dubai, this development had 6-7 colleges and the entire town was designed around student needs with each institution sharing some central services – possibly a good idea for all that NAMA-land. The trip to Songjiang took about an hour and we got to see the sheer size of Shanghai from a different view. Needless to say, we got lost but eventually 45 minutes late, we arrived at our destination to be greeted by Xu Rui (Cherry), our student organizer, faculty and some 20 postgrads. It was one of the most memorable and colorful welcomes to any university I have visited.

DCU Business School and Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade Faculty and Students, Shanghai, 2010

DCU Business School and Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade Faculty and Students, Shanghai, 2010

After posing for a group photo with faculty and students, we proceeded to a formal welcome from the students and some members of faculty. Again we were overwhelmed by our welcome and after an able introduction in English by one of the SIFT students, we were welcomed formally by Professor Shu Hong,  Deputy Zhang Yan and other colleagues. I said a few words and we exchanged gifts. I felt bad as SIFT went to immense trouble and gave everyone in our group a tiger gift and I only had gifts for the faculty and some smaller gifts for some of the students – note for next time.

Niamh NicClamha, Tanya McNamara and Ciara Dolan pose with SIFT students at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade College Museum

Niamh NicClamha, Tanya McNamara and Ciara Dolan pose with SIFT students at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade College Museum

Next stop was a tour of the SIFT College Museum. This was extremely impressive. Again one of the students explained the history of SIFT through the various. The pride in their institutions accomplishments was impressive and it is something that we need to try and imbue a sense of within our students and universities in Ireland. After a brief walk through the campus, we joined the students and faculty for lunch in the student restaurant which again was an educational experience. It was great for us to get to sit with and share food with the Chinese faculty and students. Both sides were very inquisitive and engaged and the students’ English language level was excellent. See more photos of our SIFT visit on flickr here.

Dr. Theo Lynn and Xu Rui (Cherry). Cherry is a postgraduate at SIFT and helped organise our itinerary at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade.

Dr. Theo Lynn and Xu Rui (Cherry). Cherry is a postgraduate at SIFT and helped organise our itinerary at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade.

And so after posing for some more pictures, we said farewell to our new friends in SIFT and headed in to our next stop – the School of Economics and Management in Tongji University (SEM-Tongji). SEM-Tongji is located in the centre of Shanghai and is partnered with over 50 business schools worldwide and is one of the leading management schools in China. We were greeted by Grace Shou, who we met at the Breakfast Briefing, and were lead to one of their lecture theatres where I was due to present.

DCU Business School Students visit the School of Economics and Management, Tongji University

DCU Business School Students visit the School of Economics and Management, Tongji University

I gave a brief introduction to DCU, the Business School and then discussed some observations on the Irish competitiveness and LINK research relating to the role of ICT usage in education. This visit was very different than SIFT but no less satisfying.  The Chinese attendees were very attentive and asked for insightful and direct questions.

Dr. Theo Lynn presents at the School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, Shanghai

Dr. Theo Lynn presents at the School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, Shanghai

In particular, as well as our research, I think they were both impressed with and curious about our research and teaching approaches for digital marketing and e-commerce, Next Generation Management and industry engagement. One of the last questions was particularly interesting in that they asked how many of our students would like to work for the government/civil service – the answer was probably a bit surprising for the Chinese. None.

Micheal O'Leary and Andrew Bonello Professor Wu questions Dr. Theo Lynn at the School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, Shanghai

Micheal O'Leary and Andrew Bonello watch on Professor Wu questions Dr. Theo Lynn at the School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, Shanghai

While the students toured the SEM-Tongji campus, I held meetings with Grace, Professor Wu and Susan Zhou. These were very informative and I hope to collaborate withSEM-Tongji on some e-commerce projects and visit again later in the year to deliver some workshops. Hopefully next year some of their students will join our classes on an exchange and vice-versa. As it was getting late in the day, we exchanged gifts and said our goodbyes to Tongji University and left for the hotel.

Niamh NicClamha, Laurynas Binderis, Sean Donnelly, Carolann O'Sullivan and Sarah McPartlin ready for dinner at "M on the Bund", Shanghai

Niamh NicClamha, Laurynas Binderis, Sean Donnelly, Carolann O'Sullivan and Sarah McPartlin ready for dinner at "M on the Bund", Shanghai

It’s Friday night in Shanghai! Some of the group decided to hit the town and check out the German bar for the World Cup match however a group of us put on our glad rags and went for dinner in ‘M on the Bund‘. M on the Bund is one of the best restaurants in Shanghai and one of the most reasonable fine-dining experiences I have had. It has a great location overlooking the Bund but the size of our group meant (i) our menu was restricted and (ii) we couldn’t sit on the terrace.

Siobhan Buckley, Ekaterina Zavershinskaya, Zara Walsh and Ciara Dolan on the terrace at 'M on the Bund', Shanghai

Siobhan Buckley, Ekaterina Zavershinskaya, Zara Walsh and Ciara Dolan on the terrace at 'M on the Bund', Shanghai

Despite this, everything on the group menu was great, our seating superb and the service excellent. I had the politically incorrect foie gras and beef and gorged myself to the limit on the “truly grand dessert platter to share”  – it was truly grand and more than enough to share.

The Grand Dessert Platter at 'M on the Bund' was worth attacking!

The Grand Dessert Platter at 'M on the Bund' was worth attacking!

I have to admit I bailed at 11pm whilst the youngsters hit the incredibly stylish Glamour Bar on the floor below the M. I quickly got a taxi and for the first time in five days, got to bed before midnight!

Rosemary Clancy, Siobhan Buckley, Sean Donnelly and Rob Elliffe glam it up at the "Glamour Bar" at "M on the Bund", Shanghai

Rosemary Clancy, Siobhan Buckley, Sean Donnelly and Rob Elliffe glam it up at the "Glamour Bar" at "M on the Bund", Shanghai

More photos on flickr. Day Six to follow….

Irish Blogs

Exploring Shanghai – Day Two of the DCU Business School Trip to Shanghai 2010

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Doing Business in China, Dublin City University, Ireland, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Next Generation Management, Shanghai, Uncategorized, World Expo 2010 on July 9, 2010 at 9:13 pm

We eventually arrived in Shanghai at 1030 and after a surprisingly efficient immigration check, collected all our bags. Yes, all of them. We also encountered the ubiquitous Haibao for the first time, the World Expo 2010 mascot. He resembles some toothpaste and is literally everywhere in Shanghai.

Rosemary Clancy, Niamh NicClamha, Joe Cullinan, Nic Opris, Tanya McNamara. Dr. Theo Lynn (sitting on) Andrew Bonello with Haibao (the World Expo 2010 Mascot) at Pudong International Airport, Shanghai

Rosemary Clancy, Niamh NicClamha, Joe Cullinan, Nic Opris, Tanya McNamara. Dr. Theo Lynn (sitting on) Andrew Bonello with Haibao (the World Expo 2010 Mascot) at Pudong International Airport, Shanghai

Without Neil the Navigator, we struggled but eventually found the MagLev station and while waiting for the train experienced the incredible heat and humidity of summer in Shanghai. The MagLev was the first commercial magnetic levitation train and is one of the fastest operational public service trains in the world with a top speed of 431 km per hour.

The MagLev hits a top speed of 431 km per hour

The MagLev hits a top speed of 431 km per hour

It is an impressive ride but only scary when another train is passing by! It’s a bit weird but the train is a tourist attraction in itself and a great way to start our adventures in Shanghai.

Andrew Bonello competes with other passengers to take a photo of the speed display on the MagLev as it hits the top speed

Andrew Bonello competes with other passengers to take a photo of the speed display on the MagLev as it hits the top speed

On arrival in Shanghai, some members of the group decided to go native and get the metro to the hotel; others gave up and got a taxi! The metro was an adventure in itself and gave us an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere but also get to know the train system and how to find our hotel.

Sean Cullivan on the Metro to the Ya Fan Longmen Hotel, Shanghai

Sean Cullivan on the Metro to the Ya Fan Longmen Hotel, Shanghai

As it turned out, our rooms weren’t ready so we ended up taking over the lobby where Rob delivered his sermon on the future of religions. Some headed off for food, others to the bank…..and eventually, Rob gave up. Our rooms were eventually allocated and were a pretty good 4-star standard. We had booked tickets for the Big Bus Tour via email and exactly on time our Red Bus contact, Titan, turned up as good as his word and not only gave us a good group discount but a 48 hour pass. This pass was pretty good value and recommended – it gave us hop-on/hop-off access to two tour bus lines crossing the city, a river cruise and access to the Shanghai Museum, Madame Tussauds and some other attractions. After distributing the passes, the group split off to explore the city.

Sarah, Micheal, Andrew and I decided getting food would be a good idea. After hailing a taxi, we headed off to Renmin (People’s) Square. This was an adventure in itself. It became apparent quickly that wearing a seatbelt in a taxi was considered bad luck (or insulting) and after several attempts, Andrew gave up and rode beltless. After an unsuccessful attempt to even understand the menu in a Chinese food court outlet, we resigned ourselves to eating our first meal in Shanghai in McDonalds…it tastes the same….

And so at 3pm we got our bus tour on the red route. Like Dubai last year, this is a pretty good way to be introduced to the city showing and explaining the architecture and history of the city quickly and professionally.

Siobhan Buckley soaks up Shanghai on the Big Bus Tour

Siobhan Buckley soaks up Shanghai on the Big Bus Tour

In an hour, we got a birds eye view of Renmin Square, the Shanghai Museum, Xin Tian Di, Huaihai Road (Shopping), the Jade Buddha Temple, and the Bund. Unfortunately, the combination of heat (30 degrees), humidity and fatigue did hit us and sometimes it was hard to keep the eyes open. Luckily, we weren’t the only ones!

Fellow Big Bus Passengers Take a Rest, Shanghai

Fellow Big Bus Passengers Take a Rest, Shanghai

While the others continued on to the Yu Gardens, Madame Tussauds and the River Cruise, Andrew and I had to jump out to confirm M on the Bund, our restaurant for Friday night and meet Xiaoxia Wang, DCU’s China Representative.

Martin Hennig, Beatrice Metzler, Wafa AlMuhamma and Nic Opris and Jackie Chan at Madame Tussauds, Shanghai

Martin Hennig, Beatrice Metzler, Wafa AlMuhamma and Nic Opris and Jackie Chan at Madame Tussauds, Shanghai

At 7pm, a group of us had dinner at the Lost Heaven restaurant on Yan’an Dong Lu near the Bund with Deirdre Walsh (ChinaGreen) and Ciaran Lally (Saon Group China). Saon Group have acquired a number of recruitment companies in China, for example MyJob, and Ciaran outlined the challenges and opportunities of growing the business in China. While the cost of everything is an eighth of Ireland so is the pricing so scale is important. Deirdre and Ciaran also gave us great insights in to living, working and staying in China. Don’t expect people to work through lunch too often and don’t answer any unexpected knocks on the hotel door at night! The food was excellent and recommended. I am not sure what we were eating but it apparently was a “mix of dishes from northern Thailand, Yunnan, and Burma (self-described as “Mountain Mekong” cuisine).” I think we were spoiled for our first night and only 25-30 euros per head including drinks.

After a short walk along the Bund, where our two blond twins (Sarah and Micheal) got stopped for regular photos by Chinese tourists visiting Shanghai for the Dragon Boat holiday, we embarked on another mini-adventure getting a ride back to the hotel on the back of the motorised version of a rickshaw. Sarah and Micheal fared better than Andrew and I – they worked out to bring down the bar at the back that held you in to the seat as Andrew and I were knocked all over the place by every pothole in sight!

Chinese people enjoying the Bund during the Dragon Boat holiday, Shanghai

Chinese people enjoying the Bund during the Dragon Boat holiday, Shanghai

More photos on flickr. Day Three to follow….

Touring Dubai: Graduate Student Adventures in the City of Merchants – Episode Three

In Arab World, Travel on June 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Our final day in Dubai began late. After sleeping in, we waited for a small bus to bring us to a Big Red Bus and we headed off to see the Atlantis Hotel on The Palm. While the Atlantis dominates the landscape, visiting The Palm is somewhat of a non-experience as really you need to be flying above it for effect. While genuinely fascinated by the concept, there seems to be a lot of building and few people on the beaches. The next hour of the tour really described architecture, malls and a series of car dealerships. Not ideal in over 40 degrees of heat.

The Atlantis Hotel on The Palm, Dubai, 5 June 2009

The Atlantis Hotel on The Palm, Dubai, 5 June 2009

The second half of the tour was more interesting and as we travelled around Dubai Creek, we could see that not everyone in Dubai lives in luxury and although the souks and environs add to the vibrancy, it felt more like India and the Far East than an Arabic country. 

Abra passing by on Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

Abra passing by on Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

 

We disembarked the bus at the Abra station and rather than take the scheduled Dhow cruise, we haggled with an Abra driver to take us down river to the Spice and Gold Souks. This  allowed a more unmoderated  experience of Dubai and was quite refreshing as the Students waved at workers travelling down the river in similar fashion.

Linda Kelly and Fiona Creedon travel by abra down Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Linda Kelly and Fiona Creedon travel by abra down Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

The Spice and Gold Souks differed dramatically from the sanitised experience of the malls in Dubai and we were vastly outnumbered by Asian workers and buyers.

James Philbin and Eoin Healy stroll through the Gold Souk in Dubai Creek as watchers look on, Dubai, 5 June 2009

James Philbin and Eoin Healy stroll through the Gold Souk in Dubai Creek as watchers look on, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Hawkers walk buy quickly listing more than a dozen watch brands in seconds while at the same time looking for some connection with you, seemingly through the language of international football – “You Irish? Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, Mick McCarthy”…the watch brands and Irish footballers blurred after awhile.

Fiona Creedon concludes negotiation on some vanilla in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Fiona Creedon concludes negotiation on some vanilla in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Fiona successfully haggled our first purchase, vanilla, as we perused the spices and “natural herbal remedies” in the stores. I am not sure whether the FDA had jurisdiction here but it was an amusing experience – no need for cosmetic surgery, the Spice Souk merchants can cure everything with some powder! 

A merchant in the Spice Souk shows us his merchandise, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

A merchant in the Spice Souk shows us his merchandise, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

We continued our walk through the Gold Souk but didn’t buy any of the eponymous gold, it was nearly “over gold” – very yellow. Possibly a good investment but not really our “taste”. This is not to say that the group didn’t buy anything else. James did manage to get a 60% discount by haggling for a gutra but whether this was good value, we may never know. 

James Philbin looks interested but not that interested in buying a gutra from a merchant in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

James Philbin looks interested but not that interested in buying a gutra from a merchant in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

 After lunch at yet another mall, we returned to relax at the hotel before our final dinner. It was Friday night, the International night for partying, and Dubai is no different. As we walked towards Dubai Marina, cruising is a sport there too…but only provided you have a sports car or SUV. No one was going anywhere fast and maybe that was the point. After some time, we settled on a mexican restaurant, celebrated Neil’s birthday and reflected on the trip.

Neil Bruton enjoys his birthday cake as the restaurant staff sing Happy Birthday in Mexican, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

Neil Bruton enjoys his birthday cake as the restaurant staff sing Happy Birthday in Mexican, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

Everyone agreed the trip was worthwhile. We all agreed the vision and ambition of policymakers in Dubai is to be admired but were unsure whether it was good just for doing business. While here, we all began to appreciate the breadth and depth of Dublin for tourists however also could see the limitations from a business and development perspective. And may be that’s a trade off Ireland can live with but maybe not.

Members of the DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class prepare to depart Abu Dhabi, 6 June 2009

Members of the DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class prepare to depart Abu Dhabi, 6 June 2009

 

Ultra-luxury for the masses: Graduate Student Adventures in the City of Merchants – Episode Two

In Arab World, Travel on June 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Dervla Murphy, the Irish travel adventure writer, might think experiencing a culture, in itself, was the ultimate goal of travel. When over 80% of your population are ex-pats, that may be hard to achieve. But when your identity is highly correlated to ultra-luxury, the masses also increasingly expect celebrity. I would love to say that Dubai doesn’t deliver on either but, you guessed it, in our case it did.

The morning started off with what could be described, at best, as a distracted breakfast. Neil, one of our team, is a stalwart Manchester United fan. While abhorrent to many, this is nothing unusual for an Irish soccer fan. However, if you asked Neil what his abiding memory of our trip to Dubai was, it will not be experiencing the educational objectives I so carefully planned, the ultra-luxury of the Barj Al-Arab, the architectural phenomenon of The Palm or the heat of the desert. No, it will be Ryan Giggs. Yes, readers, what made Neil’s trip was that the venerable Welsh footballer was staying in our hotel. Could we leave the man have his breakfast in peace? No. We  had to have proof. Neil charged over and yes, objective achieved walked back with Ryan’s autograph. Dubai delivered. One satisfied student, five to go.

Ryan Gigg's Autograph on Back of Dubai Trip Itinerary, June 2009

Ryan Gigg's Autograph on Back of Dubai Trip Itinerary, June 2009

Our first meeting was only 5 minutes away. The Dubai Knowledge Village was launched in 2003, initially to support the nearby Media City and Internet City free zone business clusters. It is a self-sustaining knowledge business cluster with over 400 professional training and learning support organisations operating there including Manchester Business School Worldwide, the University of Wollongong in Dubai and the British Council. Our hosts, Ibrahim Moosa Jamel (Director, Business Development), Rania Rawass (Brand Manager) and their colleagues in events management and the business centre provided us with a detailed overview of the project and a tour of the facilities. The project is extremely ambitious however has already demonstrated a certain amount of success with over 12,000 students p.a. with its sister project Dubai International Academic City. It is a free zone so every partner located there has 100% ownership and operates on a tax free basis. Our hosts graciously answered our questions both about the project and marketing both Knowledge Village and their partners.

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class and Dr. Theo Lynn with members of Dubai Knowledge Village Management Team.

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class and Dr. Theo Lynn with members of Dubai Knowledge Village Management Team.

The tour was also informative as they seem to have provided for every student need including a 24/7 grocery store, a stationery store, a driving school, travel agent, barber/hairdresser, pharmacy, gym, food court and accommodation for students and visiting parents. We also visited their business centre, which acts as a business incubator unit, and their state-of-the-art ministerial-class conference centre which has been designed to cater for over 300 people.  The fit-out throughout the facility was world class andwe could see how Knowledge Village could be an ideal initial site for an organisation in the region.

After the tour of Knowledge Village, our driver took us 30 miles, mostly in to the desert, to Dubai International Academic City (DIAC – pronounced D-I-A-C and not “DIACK” which means rooster in Arabic!). Unfortunately our driver got lost (despite a map) so the amount of time we could spend at this project was limited. Chindu Mohsin, one of the Account Managers,  provided a good overview of the Dubai Strategic Plan and of Dubai Holdings and Tecom Investments, the companies that ultimately own both Knowledge Village and DIAC (and it would seem most of Dubai). The presentation was very well prepared and professional and we were all impressed with the ambition of the project and the scope of Tecom’s operations. Michigan State University, Heriott-Watt, MAHE and c. 18 other higher education institutions. It is an extension of Knowledge Village and from September all HE institutions must locate at DIAC. I, personally, am uncertain of this strategy. Although the space and fitout of DIAC is excellent, it is still in the middle of the desert, away from the bright lights, big city feel of downtown Dubai where Knowledge Village is located. At this early stage of development, it lacked a community feel and I think it would be hard to persuade faculty to locate there other than on a fly-in, fly-out basis. Maybe in a few years.

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class and Dr. Theo Lynn with Chindu Mohsin and Taner Topcu of Dubai International Academic City, June 2009.

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class and Dr. Theo Lynn with Chindu Mohsin and Taner Topcu of Dubai International Academic City, June 2009.

On our way back to downtown Dubai, we were reminded that urban design does not necessarily equate to urban planning. We noticed a tailback of trucks for several miles – “who were they,” we asked. “Sewage trucks”, our driver replied. Enough said on that matter.

 

Miles of sewage trucks queue to unload in desert outside of Dubai, June 2009

Miles of sewage trucks queue to unload in desert outside of Dubai, June 2009

Enterprise Ireland’s office in Dubai is located in the prestigious Monarch Tower, home of the eponymous hotel. David Hamill, Marketing Executive for the Middle East and North Africa, gave us an overview of Enterprise Ireland in the region and some insight in to business norms and Irish activity in the region. David is on the EI International Graduate Programme so the Students were interested in both EI and David’s experience in Dubai and on the Programme. EI offer a wide range of support services to companies in the region and those thinking about entering it including organising meetings, local business networks, trade missions and providing hotdesk and temporary office space. There seems to be a lot of opportunity for Irish companies particularly in telecomms, construction, and ICT and EI have a goal of helping their clients generate over €35 million this year which they are on target to exceed. Again, the fly-in fly-out approach seems to be on the wane as demonstrating commitment to the region is a critical success factor. CR2, an Irish channel banking software company, has located it’s CEO in Dubai to show this commitment and it is has worked out extremely well so far. On a personal basis, David echoed Peter and Elle in that he had hoped to meet more Emirati but most of his social life, while admittedly good, is centred around the ex-pat community. While we were impressed with the activity of Irish businesses in the region, we were surprised at how small EI’s team and offices were. The Arab world represents a huge opportunity for Ireland, more investment is clearly needed.

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class with David Hamill of Enterprise Ireland, Dubai 2009.

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class with David Hamill of Enterprise Ireland, Dubai 2009.

Ironically, one of the best business lessons the Students experienced was afternoon tea at the Burj Al-Arab. Now, I know some will question the educational value of afternoon tea in an ultra-luxury hotel but as the ubiquitous “they” say “you can’t talk the talk unless you walk the walk”.  The Burj Al-Arab is one of the architectural icons of the world and is considered one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. You cannot get past the security check-points without a reservation; you literally have to be on “the list” as a guest or diner. We weren’t. 

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class at the Burj Al-Arab Guest Welcome Centre, Dubai, June 2009.

Members of DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class at the Burj Al-Arab Guest Welcome Centre, Dubai, June 2009.

After waiting nearly 40 minutes in the searing heat, we were finally let through the gates and to cross over the bridge to the hotel. Once we entered the hotel, we were immediatly made to feel special, ultra-special. After explaining our situation, the Maitre’d apologised profusely and organised a table for us and starting with glasses of champagne, the next six courses flowed seamlessly for us. As we soaked in the atmosphere at the bottom of the world’s tallest atrium and gazed out on to the panorama of Dubai from the Sahn Eddar lounge, I am sure the Students felt a lifetime away from exams and dissertations.

A view of the atrium of the Burj Al-Arab from the Sahn Eddar lounge, Dubai, June 2009.

A view of the atrium of the Burj Al-Arab from the Sahn Eddar lounge, Dubai, June 2009.

What can students learn from this? Firstly, to aspire to the best things in life, you must first experience them – this also applies to business. How can students be expected to manage or compete with such organisations without experiencing them as customers.  Secondly, our own experience started off as bad customer service story which was turned around by the subsequent experience. I cannot tell you how frustrated and extremely hot we were by the time we finally got to our table however the staff at the restaurant not only apologise (several times) but gave us an unforgettable dining experience.

 

James, Fiona and Theo (with obligatory Blackberry) enjoy afternoon tea at the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai, June 2009.

James, Fiona and Theo (with obligatory Blackberry) enjoy afternoon tea at the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai, June 2009.

 

After freshening up back at our own hotel (and more Ryan Gigg spottings), we visited the Mall of the Emirates where the Students took me out for a dinner of arabic and lebanese food. This was an entirely enjoyable affair followed by a browse around the extremely busy mall where thankfully there were some Emiratis. It was strange seeing everyday European brands next to some of the world’s most luxurious brands – expectations for the ignorant masses could be made. For example, we visited an Arabic perfume store which was again an interested experience in customer service. Every perfume seemed to be designed and made up there and then. After testing various scents, we asked the price – the equivalent of €1,000 per bottle…so much for that gift for the wives and girlfriends!

Eoin Healy reflected in the Porsche Design shop window looking at a wristwatch for sale in Mall of the Emirates at a price of 962,000 dirham (€187,500).

Eoin Healy reflected in the Porsche Design shop window looking at a wristwatch for sale in Mall of the Emirates at a price of 962,000 dirham (€187,500).

The visit to the Mall compounded my view of Dubai as a postmodern city – the mall, even at 11pm was extremely busy with the activity at hand, consumption. But what was truly surreal was Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort created in a mall in the middle of the desert…it has trees, real snow…with us in our mall looking at the skiers in their winterwonderland. Maybe the decision-makers in Dubai took Baudrillard’s “Desert of the Real” too far…

Ski Dubai through the looking glass in the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, June 2009

Ski Dubai through the looking glass in the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, June 2009

We finished the night over drinks in the Polo Bar of our hotel. Bizarrely, my watermelon juice cost nearly as much as a liquor! A busy day, a late night and as I left it looked like and even later one for the Students….

 

Sarah McPartlin and Linda Kelly at The Polo Bar (The Grand Habtoor Resort), Dubai, June 2009

Sarah McPartlin and Linda Kelly at The Polo Bar (The Grand Habtoor Resort), Dubai, June 2009

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To Be Continued.

Is Dubai the first truly postmodern city? Graduate Student Adventures in the City of Merchants – Episode One

In Arab World, Travel on June 7, 2009 at 3:04 pm
Members of the DCU Business School MBS in Marketing Class in Dubai, June 2009

Members of the DCU Business School MBS in Marketing Class in Dubai, June 2009

“It’s even better than the real thing”

It’s seven degrees in Dublin today; rainy and windy. It was 40 degrees yesterday…in Dubai. I have just returned from another trip to the Arab world but this time I brought six marketing graduate students – Eoin, Fiona, James, Linda, Neil, and Sarah (collectively know as “the Students”). Their two teams won the trip as part of an internal competition I held as part of an MMK Strategic Management module that I delivered last semester. Their prize was the result of their work on country profiles and integrated marketing communications campaigns prepared for the Arab Grid for Learning project. In January 2009, they presented to the Global Grid for Learning management team in Cambridge and thus from a snowy day in Cambridge they ended up in blistering sun on the edge of the Arabian Gulf.

Dr. Laurent Muzellec with DCU MBS Marketing Students in Cambridge, January 2009

Dr. Laurent Muzellec with DCU MBS Marketing Students in Cambridge, January 2009

Having seen their work and had the opportunity to spend an intensive few days with them, I would recommend these students to any employer.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of the demise of the Irish education system has been exaggerated.

We departed on the redeye to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night. An overnight flight would not normally be a great start to any trip however Etihad provided an exemplary service, even in coach. My age (and possibly experience) is showing and while I got some sleep, the students were happy to avail of the extensive on-demand and personalisable entertainment system. The only complaints being the server was down and thus we couldn’t try the multi-player games and chat system and there was no cash prizes for winning “Who wants to be a millionaire?”.

Having landed in Abu Dhabi at 7.30am, a minibus brought us across the desert to Dubai. In the past, the desert may have slowly laid waste to various civilisations but it was clear that modern urban design was quickly extracting revenge. As we progressed towards Dubai, everything seemed to be under construction and the signs of this could literally be seen everywhere.

 
All Projects Under Construction

All Projects Under Construction

Our accommodation for the trip was the Habtoor Grand Hotel in Dubai Marina – although the Students had to share rooms, student accommodation in Dubai is somewhat better than European counterparts, at least on this trip! After a buffet breakfast, the Students checked out the resort and hit the beach while I, again showing my age, hit the sack.

The Students Check Out The Resort

The Students Check Out The Resort

 

Peter Finan, an Irish legal consultant with DLA Piper, organised our first meeting in Dubai. DLA Piper are one of the w0rld’s largest legal services firms and are building their presence quickly in the region. Neil Isaacson, their Head of Marketing for the region, gave an excellent overview of their approach to marketing in the region which was given extra depth by Peter and Andrew Hodgman, one of the Partners. Their perspective on the critical success factors for their firm and the challenges of building brand presence in a market where legal services is still very nascent was enlightening. Commitment to the region, and not merely using a fly-in, fly-out model, cannot be overemphasised.

DCU Business School Students with Andrew Hodgman, Neil Isaacson and Peter Finan of DLA Piper, UAE

DCU Business School Students with Andrew Hodgman, Neil Isaacson and Peter Finan of DLA Piper, UAE

Peter joined us with Elle  Demianos (Brookfield Multiplex) for dinner at the Mango Tree at The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall. Peter and Elle gave us a very good insight in to working and living in Dubai; a life they described as excellent but revolving around interaction with a largely ex-pat community.

Elle  Demianos (Brookfield Multiplex), Dr. Theo Lynn (DCU Business School) and Peter Finan (DLA Piper) at the Mango Tree, Dubai Mall, June 2009

Elle Demianos (Brookfield Multiplex), Dr. Theo Lynn (DCU Business School) and Peter Finan (DLA Piper) at the Mango Tree, Dubai Mall, June 2009

The restaurant, with a thai fusion theme, looked out on the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building and we were presented with a showstopping fountain display (25% bigger than the Bellagio) every half hour as entertainment. Later, Peter informed us that if we wanted to watch the Lions rugby match, Brian O’Driscoll, the Irish Captain, owned a  bar near the restaurant. We declined but as we walked through the mall, it was clear that Dubai catered for every cultural or ethnic need, reflecting its diverse inhabitants. 

Eoin Healy with the Burj Dubai in the Background

Eoin Healy with the Burj Dubai in the Background

Later as we ended the day with a drink (yes, they do serve alcohol in Dubai) at the hotel, we reflected on our first day – it was great but somewhat surreal. In his book, “The Condition of Postmodernity“, David Harvey discusses the postmodern city with reference to the rise of historical eclecticism, multiculturalism, and spectacle. While it was clear Dubai was unique, it was not uniquely Arabic. Unlike Riyadh and even Doha, the architectural design was all very new and modern; while possibly inspired by traditional Arabic themes, it has more in common in with Manhattan or Los Angeles. In Riyadh and Doha, the minarets of mosques comingled with the modern in a subtle, unobtrusive but natural way, in Dubai this was missing. And while we saw people of every hue, we saw few Emirati. But there was spectacle, commercialisation and a lot of malls. If the postmodern city is the commercialisation of the built environment, then Dubai, the City of Merchants, is one.