CSC: When Mideast goes far east
Researcher Amnon Ribak and the China 6 team complete four weeks in Xian with the Corporate Service Corps
“Xian, China is alive with diversity -- fascinating history alongside modern skyscrapers," explained Amnon. "One minute I’d be walking down a street that could be anywhere in New York or Tel Aviv. Then I’d turn the corner and find myself back in 'Old China' - an alley with dark little shops, restaurants cooking on the sidewalk, unusual aromas, and low prices. And the pace of construction and renovation is just amazing.“
When Amnon initially applied to join the CSC, he envisioned romantic scenes of nature and working in an under-developed area like Africa. “It wasn’t like that at all,” explains Amnon cheerfully. “Xian is a city with 7 million people. Being exposed to a whole new type of city was both fascinating and eye-opening.”
Helping small business to compete
China 6 team, Amnon worked with his partner Paul van Riel to help a small software company establish their vision and business strategy while extending their basket of services for online shopping. The company wanted to create a platform that would allow other businesses to easily set up their own online shops. The IBM team of two took the company through the basics of analyzing its strengths and challenges, the market opportunities, the competition, helped the company identify key issues to address in building a business plan that took all these into account.As one of ten IBMers in the
"We helped them specify the vision that would differentiate them from the competition, and helped brand the company as one that is socially responsible,” continued Amnon. The company plans to match customers that wanted to open online shops with students and graduates who could build these shops using the Xian company’s new platform.
Aside from analyzing the market and opportunities for growth, the IBM team engaged with the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) in China and drew forecasts for Internet, mobile, retail, and online retail opportunities that were relevant for the company. "For example, we realized together that many opportunities lie outside their Shaanxi province, and looked into ways to reach out to there" says Amnon.
Getting as much as you give
“Sometimes when you set out to help someone else, you end up getting just as much as you gave – if not more,” Amnon continued. He learned first-hand how business is conducted at dinner tables, golf courses, concerts, and pubs – where personal relationships are first cultivated and only then the deals are closed.
After numerous CSC seminars and preparations to overcome the difficulties in working with people from a different culture, the team was pleasantly surprised to find how nice , open and friendly their Chinese colleagues were, which helped bridge all gaps. The language barrier meant that all interaction was conducted at a much more basic and authentic level, when all the masks come off.
“There’s something very refreshing about interacting with smiles, facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language,” noted Amnon. “You end up feeling close in a way that would not occur otherwise.”
What did Amnon bring back from Xian? Other than jet lag, the Haifa researcher now has a much better understating of the opportunities and challenges that this huge and rapidly growing market can offer to IBM. In the future, Amnon hopes to help expand IBM’s presence in China in the area of services, an activity that will combine his current expertise and his new desire to return to China.