For nine years McGill University in Quebec has taken students to emerging economic regions of the world. During the trip about 40 students meet with corporate leaders, government officials, and alumni. Past treks have included Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; Moscow and St Petersburg; and last year’s trip to Santiago and Bogota. This year students traveled to Manila, Palawan and Hong Kong.
McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management offers degrees in corporate management. The Hot Cities Tour is an opportunity for students to understand the global economy by going to cities that are considered emerging economies and meeting with corporate representatives and government officials.
Desautels Associate Professor Karl Moore coordinates the Hot Cities tour. He says site selection is based on the tour’s theme of taking students to future economic hubs. “To look for strong economic growth. And when we look at The Economist Intelligence Unit we see that the Philippines were one of the strongest growing economies in that part of Asia for quite a few number of years now.”
This year the first stop was Hong Kong. Moore reports that the group spent two days meeting with corporate executives including the COO of Microsoft and leaders of Ayala. “It’s a group of 40 and so we’re looking at you know Ayala for example is one of the biggest conglomerates, ah, Hutchinson Whampoa in Hong Kong, one of the largest conglomerates in Asia, and indeed in the world. And part of it is the complexity of a global economy which is morphing now, partly thanks to President Trump. It’s interesting to talk to the big players because they’re absolutely involved in globalization. But we did get to smaller players at meetings with alumni.”
From Hong Kong, the group travelled to Manila in the Philippines. There, they visited a hospital and Moore says they also had a chance to learn about the country’s new president. “Undoubtedly the biggest question was about the newish president Duarte. And from talking to many, many people, not only billionaires, a former president, but also dozens and dozens of millennials, we saw a more nuanced view of the president. Virtually everybody spoke against his neglect of the rule of law when it comes to drug dealers. And also they said that he is doing things to help the poorest people in the Philippines. So we came away with a more positive view of him than what we had based at looking at the Western press.”
Moore says Manila offered students a unique opportunity to meet with former Filipino President Gloria Arroyo. “To be in a room and spend an hour one-on-one with her was a great honor. Afterwards the students said well she was a bit too political for their tastes.”
One of the key goals of the trip is to have students understand that to be successful, businesses must understand and mesh with the local culture. Karl Moore cites a so-called “sache economy” common in Manila and Hong Kong, but not seen in the West. “It came up when we were taking to Ogilvy, the great advertising firm both in Manila and Hong Kong. There’s people of such low income they can’t afford to buy the whole bottle of shampoo. So they buy little saches. And we saw a number of these saches in the stores in the slums. It’s just they cannot afford it and so they break it down to very small size. So you can see that as a consumer difference. But that’s certainly very much part of the economy over there. Also you do different advertising because of the culture, not only language, but how they view the world. It’s a very considerably different approach.”
Students met with a number of corporate leaders during the trip including top representatives from Microsoft, Deutche Bank, Ogilvy Philippines, Disney Land Hong Kong, CK Hutchinson Holdings, New York Times Hong Kong and Kingstone Energy.