Yaowen Yap ’20 reflects on lessons learned while taking a module on entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship in Shanghai, China.
In October, I spent a week at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, as part of Global Network Week, which allows students from schools across the Global Network for Advanced Management the opportunity to complete an in-depth module around a particular topic. Fudan’s offering comprised classes on China’s business environment, entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, and Chinese consumers and innovation. There was also a guest lecture by Jie Lin, a 2004 graduate of Yale SOM’s PhD program, on AI-empowered new retail and a company visit to NIO, an electric car company. For me, it was fascinating to learn how China has succeeded in carving its own development path. We were taught that the Chinese government, for instance, emphasized stability and development above all else, while the Chinese economy is a hybrid between central planning and capitalism. The Chinese government heavily subsidizes industries it deemed critical at the nascent stage, while allowing competition and market forces to determine winners and losers as the industry matures.
What makes the Global Network Week so powerful, in my opinion, is the diversity of backgrounds my classmates came from. There were students from 12 business schools (located on five continents), representing 19 different nationalities. This makes for a really rich class discussion. To provide an example, my classmate from the UK was concerned about the pervasive surveillance on the streets of Shanghai, while my classmate from Brazil was willing to accept the privacy tradeoff if it meant that there were fewer crimes committed. These discussions allowed me to see an issue from multiple perspectives and appreciate the complexity of the issue at hand.
Two highlights of the week were the guest lecture by Jie Lin and the company visit to NIO. Jie Lin is working on his startup, which applies AI principles to retail. We learned about his smart vending machine, which is essentially a fridge that can be unlocked with a smart phone and automatically senses and bills the user for the product(s) that were removed. While the smart vending machine is not entirely theftproof, it is only a fraction of the cost of a regular vending machine. Meanwhile, at NIO, we had the opportunity to test ride the company’s SUVs and observed a battery-swapping station at work.
Overall, this was a week well spent. I came back to New Haven understanding a little more about China and having made more friends from around the world. I am also thankful to Yale SOM for the financial support given to attend the Global Network Week.