As our bus pulled into our site visit location, I had thought that we had gone to the wrong place because we were surrounded by brick buildings and gardens that resembled the looks of an Ivy League institution. However, we were where we needed to be, The Sunshine Insurance Company. They are one of the fastest growing companies in China and have only been around for just over a decade. Their founder, Zhang Weigong, was one of the youngest and smartest in the insurance industry and he left everything behind so that he could make his own company. Zhang and four others worked non-stop for eight months in a hotel room without pay and a constantly tightening food budget to get everything needed to create the Sunshine Insurance Company. Now, he runs a company that has all different types of insurance and one thing I found to be very interesting was that they insure a hotel in New York City that has a rating of six stars. His story was one that I had really admired and proved that you can do anything if you are determined enough to make it happen.
After learning the history of the company, we took a tour of their prestigious, college campus looking headquarters. All of the buildings were made out of brick that they had imported from Europe and all of the grass in their courtyard was trimmed better than any golf fairway that I have ever seen. We were surrounded by statues, creeks, and flowers of all kinds. Towards the end of our tour, we entered one wing of the building that turned out to be their own personal art museum. They had large, symbolic paintings related to their company on the walls as well as fountains in the center of the lobby and one that ran all the way from the ceiling to the floor.
For the second visit of the day, we traveled to Xiaomi tech company. Their products seemed to reflect Apple while their operating system was similar to Samsung with the android features. We discussed supply chain and how the phones are transformed from raw materials to their sleek finished products. One thing that I thought had made them stand out, was the variety of products that they offered in their stores. They sold items that ranged from phones, to electric shavers, to smart cooking pots.
At night, we traveled to the one of the places that I was most excited for on our trip. It was the Silk Road Market which was a six floor mall filled with outrageous knock off items that you could negotiate prices for. Popular items were mostly sunglasses and high end designer clothing like Gucci. A large majority of the items were obvious knock-offs, but some items were practically spot on to where I would not be able to tell that it was fake other than the price. The sellers in the mall were very aggressive and were willing to sell their products at any price. As soon as I would go to leave a store, the owner would start cutting their prices in order to try and make the sale.
Today was a learning experience in many different categories. All of which will stick with me through China and even the rest of my life.