Feb 11, 2015

Tuck OnSite Global Consulting – Beijing, China

By Divya Belavadi T'15

Divya Belavadi spent 4 years working in pharmaceutical supply chain management at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.  While at Tuck, she interned for the Vermont Creamery, a gourmet butter and cheese company, on their recently launched goat dairy.  Upon graduation, Divya is looking forward to returning to her hometown in the suburbs of Philadelphia to pursue a rotational management program at SAP.  She is currently a fellow for the Center for Business & Society, a Revers Board Fellow, and a co-chair for Tuck Business & Society Conference.

In December 2014, I traveled to Beijing, China for three weeks to participate in a Tuck OnSite Consulting project for a foodservice and facilities management client. We were tasked with sizing the Chinese market and prioritizing industry sectors for business development. I applied to this project because I was interested in the client company, not necessarily for the chance to do a project in China. However, while the company itself was interesting and I was grateful for the opportunity to work with the client, in the end, it turned out that learning about doing business in China was also a fruitful experience. Our project gave me a unique glimpse into the kind of strategic questions faced by country managers for large multinational companies. 

My time on the ground in China left me with a new appreciation for how tenaciously China has fueled its growth, how nimbly it has adjusted to this growth (at least on the surface), and what’s at stake as China moves toward their future growth targets. Beijing had a wonderfully convenient public transport system, glamorous high-end malls, and clean streets that I always felt safe traversing at night. But it also had crippling air pollution some days and a lot of vacant real-estate on the outskirts of town. As we traveled via high-speed rail between Beijing and Shanghai one day, I could see parts of the country which, like much of rural China, have yet be developed. These areas remain relics of China’s past but serve to remind us of China’s current resource imbalance.

Also while in China, I developed some skepticism of the term “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Lumping all these developing countries together into one acronym somehow seems to imply that they are all developing in the same way or even at the same rate. Having visited India several times in my life, it was extremely interesting to see firsthand just how differently development has manifested itself in China and in India. I haven’t yet been to Russia or Brazil, but I am now eager to travel there someday soon and see for myself just how different all four of these countries are.

On a more personal note, my biggest takeaway from the project was a greater awareness of just how subtle my own biases as an American can be and how that can impact the way I view business challenges. Having the chance to learn, within a safe zone created by my classmates, where and how my own unintended biases can impact my communication in a foreign context was invaluable. And potentially, it may be the last time in my life that I have the chance to learn so safely about cultural differences in a professional setting.

Although our project required long hours of interviewing, research, and analysis, we did still manage to make some time for fantastic food. I decided to get adventurous with my culinary pursuits and tried cow stomach, pig feet, and chicken feet too!  While they were all pretty good, I most enjoyed trying all the new fruits I found there such as longans, jujubes, and dragonfruit. Several pounds and hundreds of dumplings later, my team proved that a well-fed team was a productive and successful team! At the close of the project, we are happy to say that our client reported that they loved our work and found value in our analysis of the Chinese market.