Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Good Shoe Company

Today we concluded our presentation for the first show company, one which we have termed as Shoe One. The presentation went really well. I discussed in detail about the importance of creating a business plan and how to go about creating one. The things to focus on in a strategic business plan and things to avoid. After me Vandana discussed motivation and HR systems. Loren concluded with a passionate discourse on building corporate culture. In total the presentation lasted for 1 hr 40 mins. The president then called for a break for the employees to get together and gather their thoughts before starting the question answer session. After a short 5 minute break we started the Q&A session and it went for over 1.5 hours. The questions and the candour felt very nice. The general manager herself asked most of the initial questions. Once the session got into full swing even other members joined the fray.

The Q&A over, the president and the general manager thanked us profusely and the president took us to their shoe display area. This was one fairly large hall filled with sample shoes. They asked us to choose a shoe for ourselves that he would custom-make for us. We were initially a bit hesitant at first although but after a while made our choices. Loren picked a brown Italian leather shoe and I chose a brown Nubuck leather shoe.

After the "shoe-ceremony" was over, the president took us out to dinner to what is supposed to be China's finest "Hot Pot" restaurant. Both Loren and I were a bit skeptical. Loren, because the last time we had a hot pot, he had an upset stomach, and I because of my toothache. We were assured that the president had ordered a mild hot pot (two on a scale of one-to-five for us). Anyway, we hardly had a choice in the matter as the reservations were already done. The restaurant was really swanky and looked really expensive. The cars parked outside were all very expensive ones - Audis, Mercs, BMWs. The restaurant was not a conventional ones. Instead of tables laid out, it only had rooms inside. The food was really nice. Another interesting fact in China is every time you finish food on your plate or drinks in the glass, it would be automatically refilled. If you don't want any more, leave your plate/glass untouched. We did not have any exotic food unlike some other days but mainly had chicken, beef, pork and mushrooms. I did not have anything out of the hot pot. I only had food from the mild pot which had a delicious chicken and mushroom soup.

During the dinner I asked the president if the working hours in his factory were normal. His workers work from 8:30 am to 6 pm. We heard from the other shoe companies that the general practice in the shoe industry was for workers to work from 8 am to 10 pm, 28 days a week!! That's why Chinese factories are called "sweatshops" the world over. I am not sure how China wishes to compete in the future with this setup. The technology is poor and the companies are just throwing cheap labour and squeezing the last ounce out of them. India atleast is competing with better technology and more skilled resources. Anyway, thankfully, this company does not believe in exploiting their workers. The president said I cannot talk to corporate social responsibility without first taking care of my workers. I somehow really liked him. He must be a multi-millionaire but has a very humble and down-to-earth air about him.

With this we completed our third client assignment. Only the bigger shoe company remains for week 4.

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