By Manisha Gupta WG’16
Manisha Gupta recently participated in a MBA Program for Executives Global Business week trip to China, along with students from INSEAD. Here she recounts her many experiences which influenced her mind, body and soul.
China: a country of beliefs, where an army of life size terracotta warriors accompanied Emperor Qin into immortality. A country of creative courage, where once dividing inter-province walls were united as the “Great Wall” to shield against Mongolia. From the forbidden city of the past to the pearl tower of the present, a trip to China offers nourishment to the mind, body and the soul.
A visit to LinkedIn let me experience the Chinese government’s involvement in business. The Wharton connection offered deeper insight as I witnessed the balance the government has maintained between keeping autonomous control and promoting innovation. “Internet” for a Chinese entrepreneur stands for “inter-connected world”. They strive to offer complete solutions up and down the value chain, even bridging the Online Offline gap (O&O) as they maintain a razor sharp focus on the customer’s changing and ever expanding needs. Systematic Business Model Expansion catering to “related customer problems” has created a sticky ecosystem for chart busters BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Xiaomi and Tencent) and fueled exponential growth for startups like 36Kr, Meituan and Baifendian.
We also got a chance to visit the beautiful Penn Wharton China Center and meet some VCs. A hot debate topic in our trip was whether China was forging “imitation or innovation”? Innovation for me is not just an invention of a technologically advanced product, but also a radically new solution to an existing problem. I bow to Steve Jobs for the 1000 songs I carry in my pocket, and am inspired by Elon Musk’s passion to reach the moon; but I am truly thankful to Amazon and Uber for making my life simpler. The Chinese entrepreneur is focused on solving real problems for the most populous country. Some call it imitation. I see it as inspiration. They are learning from global advancements and adapting to fit the local needs.
Wharton Professor Karl Ulrich declared Wednesday as the “rest day”. For us students, rest meant scaling the Great Wall of China. The expedition became another Beijing highlight. Starting from Gate 14, we reached gate 22, beyond which the wall is marked closed; but we marched on. Neither the discouraging shrubbery nor the dismantled wall could stop us. We even hoisted the flag of our native countries in that serene wilderness and made a wish for our families far away. Two warriors, Manish and Khalid, continued way past the rest of us. As the walls disappeared in the shrubs and the climb got steeper these two advanced till the very end, even when it meant walking on all fours!
To balance the competing demands of long working hours, socializing and sightseeing we adopted 6 am gym hangouts—especially after 1 am social hangouts. This spirit of leaving no stone unturned is what I cherished living everyday with this gang!
Representation from five executive MBA campuses across the globe (Wharton Philadelphia and San Francisco; INSEAD Singapore, France and Dubai) was another highlight of this trip. Nothing beats an intellectually stimulating trip that also fosters friendships for life. I came back knowing I have made friends whom I can lean on, who accept me the way I am, and who are comfortable pushing me even when I give up.
I am thankful to the Wharton and INSEAD faculty and staff for planning such a memorable trip. I am thankful to our wonderful hosts Min, Manping, Yongbo and Yulan for showing us a China we would have never seen without them; to Jon Jones for bringing it all home with friendly nominations celebrating the memorable stories; to David Raske for capturing the moments we will relive for years to come; and to my friends for creating memories I will cherish forever.
It’s not over just yet! This trip is over, but not the story of innovation nor of friendships. I look forward to creating many more memories with my new friends from the west, the east and the global INSEAD in years to come.
Bio: Manisha Gupta is a Product Leader and General Manager who has led diverse functional teams and likes to leverage technology to solve real world business and consumer problems. She is currently the Global Head of Products, eBay Commerce Network.