Typhoons and Travel: Hong Kong Edition

Geographically, it quickly became apparent why the British had colonized Hong Kong. The land was full of deep natural ports surrounded by large mountains, offering ships protection from typhoons or whatever else Mother Nature might offer-up.

I guess we should have taken a ship.

In the days leading up to our travel from Beijing to Hong Kong there was a lot of talk about a typhoon that was hitting HK precisely when we where scheduled to arrive. Sure enough, it did. Flights were delayed and we spent a few extra hours in the airport but the storm cleared out just as fast as it came in and the rest of our trip was typhoon free.

Our first meeting was at a business complex called Cyberport. Cyberport was located on the west side of HK Island, so when taking the bus to Cyberport we got to see the layout of most of the city. For those of us who are Oregon natives it was very refreshing to see many parks scattered throughout the city and mountains in the distance. (We later found out that 60% of the land in HK was set aside for public parks and nature reserves, making only 40% of an already small landmass buildable.) Cyberport was a massive complex geared to spur the start-up environment, as well as cater to small businesses. Business located within the Cyberport complex had access to amazing resources. There were 3-D animation rooms, recording studios, prototype building facilities, unlimited office space, and grant funding that Cyberport offered to businesses deemed as having ‘great potential’. While talking with some of the entrepreneurs, it was not unusual for them to share that starting a business in HK only took “6 hours, and that you could conduct business the same day”, supporting the notion that HK was a business friendly environment.

We had a fantastic lunch meeting with Mr. Edwin Keh, the former SVP COO of Global Procurement at Walmart and currently the CEO of Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel. The location, The China Club, could not have been more fitting when talking to a man as acclaimed as Edwin. The China Club is a restaurant/private club in the old Bank of China building, which is now dwarfed by the new Bank of China building and other large skyscrapers. Keh discussed the business environment of China in depth, talking about the mass migration of people from the country side to urban areas, the role of the Chinese government in its immense growth and how business in Hong Kong is different than that conducted in mainland China. Many of us did not want to conclude the meeting due to the wonderful food and the fantastic stories that Keh was sharing.

In the final days of our trip we met with Lizette Smook, the founder of InnovAsians, a sustainability driven lifestyle brand building the “bridge to biodiversity”. Lizette was full of new and exciting projects underway at InnovAsians using a variety of eco-friendly fibers to create anything from clothes to towels at hotels to the plates and bowls restaurants serve food on.

After two weeks of traveling through Asia, dozens of business meetings, long days and short nights most of us were more excited to see the suits we had tailored the day earlier than meeting with the founding members of the investment bank REORIENT. Little did we know we were about to sit-in on what some may describe as the highlight meeting of the trip. The founding team consisted of highly educated young men who dressed like they had their own personal tailors, (a little better quality than we had got from our street tailors) and were paving the way for investment banks in Hong Kong. The banks’ senior management included Mr. Uwe Parpart, who took a few economics classes from Mr. John Nash himself (who Russell Crowe depicts in the movie ‘ A Beautiful Mind’) and has experience conducting business in China that dates back to the 1980’s. REORIENT’s strategy is to conduct business on a personal level, fully understanding the power of Guanxi (relationships) when doing business in China. The meeting was full of innovative ideas by the founders and compelling stories of start-ups that had crazy potential, much like REORIENT themselves.

Not only was business in Hong Kong exciting but the city as a whole was equally thrilling. The endless restaurants, amazing views atop skyscrapers or mountains, and the variety of people located in HK made this a great way to end a fantastic whirlwind trip to Asia.

-Blake Thompson (Class of 2015)

Blake is a second year MBA student focusing on Sustainable Business Practices. The experience of growing up involved in his family’s business, has led Blake to realize the importance of a holistic approach to business. He hopes to bring this approach to the organization he works for after completing his MBA. Blake received an undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon where he was also a student athlete. 

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.