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Full-time MBA: Exploring Eastern business culture

Rahul Shah, Class of 2017 reflects on the China and Dubai study tours, two of the elective options available on the Full-time MBA.

In the autumn term of the second year of the MBA, we have the option to take a global elective/study tour at any of Alliance Manchester Business School’s international centres. I elected to take two study tours – Doing Business in China at the Shanghai centre and International Business Strategy at the Dubai centre.

The workshop in Shanghai was a very pleasant experience. I had heard stories about how it’s difficult to communicate since there’s no common language spoken, but I was surprised that people could converse in English almost everywhere. The signs on the metro station and even the street names were in English! My favourite part of this tour was the trip to a huge automotive equipment manufacturing unit. I had only read about the manufacturing capabilities of Chinese companies, but to see them in person was truly amazing! I was told that they produced automotive equipment for half of the cars worldwide and it was not difficult to understand why, given the size of the manufacturing unit. One of the key takeaways for me was the role Chinese history and culture play in how business is done in China. Most of the Chinese companies still use the strategies devised from the time of Confucius and Sun Tzu around 2500 years back! Considering the way commerce has evolved in the Western world during this period, to see the Chinese companies follow principles from their ancient times and still be wildly successful certainly was a great learning for me.

The workshop in Dubai was a contrasting experience but equally interesting. Dubai is a melting pot and people from more than 150 countries live and work in this Emirate city. My best experience on this study tour was the visit to a real estate investment company where we were given a half-day presentation. The speaker explained how real estate has flourished in Dubai, and how Dubai is becoming a magnet for expanding businesses because of the kind of infrastructure available. To see the construction site of Ain Dubai – the world’s largest observation wheel was the icing on the cake! My key takeaway, coming on the back of the study tour in China, was how international business strategy differs from region to region and culture to culture. Shanghai and Dubai are poles apart in terms of history and culture, but still successful cities playing a big role in the international business context. And I realised that there’s no set formula which works across the board. The key criteria to succeed in this global business world is to understand the factors underpinning the culture and customs of a region and adapt the business accordingly.

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