Today we visited Sunshine Insurance Group, and they were nothing like the tall skyscraper-based businesses I had expected from Beijing. In fact, the campus was based on the architectural style of a European university. This was the first thing I’ve seen that’s in a western model, as the streets of Beijing mainly feature elaborately decorated cultural gates and uniquely eastern-style underpasses and giant shopping malls. Visiting Sunshine was interesting, as I didn’t know anything about insurance coming into the presentation. As the first profession presentation I’ve attended, I also didn’t expect the representative to ask us our names and majors in a formal setting. Another random note about my visit to Sunshine – the shuttles they used to bring us around campus displayed the output current and voltage, rather than the speed.
After eating lunch at Sunshine, we visited Xiaomi, which I thought further exemplified today’s theme of Chinese fascination with western culture, as many Xiaomi products are based on Apple’s. However, this company is unique because they are really tailoring their products to specific markets. For example, in India they make their front camera larger, and in China the front camera is located at the bottom instead of the top. When I was trying out their products in the store, I first thought this was weird because it resulted in an unflattering selfie angle; however, I realized that it’s actually a brilliant design meant to work better with selfie sticks, which are more common in China. Using this new knowledge about customizing for your market, my group and I then finished the first draft of our business idea on the bus ride home.
Later tonight we headed to the silk market for the bargaining experience we had be much anticipating. Rashel and I were able to bargain a tie for Jimmy down from 235 to 40, which was a lot of fun. I also watched one vendor paint pandas and characters inside glass beads with a bent brush. It’s amazing to me how high the prices are initially and how willing salespeople are to barter. In one shop we even found clearly knock-off Ray Bans for 280. It wasn’t completely what I had expected though. It was indoors and looked very finished and legitimate, where I was expecting an outdoor marketplace more similar to an Artsfest back home. Afterwards we went to the vegetarian restaurant and tried ocra and new wrapper dishes (and finally got veggie dumplings). The restaurant was actually closing at 9, so we had to head out early. From what I can gather, most places in Beijing, even the shopping malls and convenience stores, close by 10pm.
From there we headed to the 798 art zone, but we were unable to find it. Instead, we ended up walking around the business district. Walking around, there was this one intersection that had parked cars in the middle of it, with broken bikes around them, which confused us a lot. We then found the Alibaba tower and watched employees leave for home at 11pm, which surprised me that they were working so late. However, just standing there, in the middle of the skyscrapers and the lights, was absolutely inspiring.