* Sylvia’s Social Sabbatical
This blog is part of a series and the other blogs can be found here:
On April 1st I hopped on a plane to fly to Chengdu, China as a bunch of 12 SAP colleagues from around the world is meeting up there for our Social sabbatical. Our team name for the Social Sabbatical is Grasshoppers:
Grasshoppers are resilient, they stick together, it is a word with 12 letters, same number as our team… this was the best argument for choosing this name, and not that grasshoppers can be eaten or that they can be very devastating. But food will be handled in a different chapter!
This is the whole Grasshoppers team with our local clients, and our partners from Pyxera Global:
We are all working in 4 sub teams of 3 people. Our sub team is working at a local university who provides an incubation program for start-ups to be, and for young entrepreneurs. Our task is to help the client with a clear marketing message as there are over 300 incubators in and around Chengdu. We further want to look into the university’s start-up services, and package them into easy to understand offerings. Furthermore we will provide best practices for future marketing events, and help the university with a consistent branding.
And this is our team:
Mr. Danny Liu, New Technology Commercialization Manager, Mr. Yan, Deputy President of Academy of Entrepreneurs in Chengdu (AEC), Mr. Bowen Wang, Vice Dean of Chengdu Incubators, SoSa Team: Sylvia Barnard, George Savva, and Grimley Lampera – first row, from left to right.
Life in China from my perspective
Before talking more about the project itself I simply have to talk a little bit about the life in Chengdu.
My first impressions could not have been more different from my expectations: Chengdu is a well organized city, with several ring roads, 2 metro lines – 11 more to come within the next years – and it is overall very clean.
Traffic can be a bit chaotic during rush hour, but this is basically the same phenomenon around the world. But if you want to survive traffic, you have to learn very fast that there are thousands of completely noiseless motorbikes coming from ALL directions, right, left and center, from the wrong direction, from anywhere. And they transport anything, from the family to the whole family business!
Quite a lot of life seems to happen outside the house. I have never seen so many people sleeping on benches, in shopping malls, on busy pedestrian zones:
My list of sleeping beauties could go on for ever! I found more, only my last shot nearly brought me some trouble as it was a police officer sleeping on a bench and he woke up just when I wanted to take his picture. He did not look too pleased, so I walked off without a shot, such a shame!
And if people in Chengdu do not sleep, they communicate with someone, but not necessarily with the person sitting next to them.
Another subject to talk about is food, the interesting one and the tasty one – to put it politically correct:
It is unbelievable what you can eat here and also how it is presented. Sichuan is famous for its peppercorn, and, when you try it for the first time, you might want to panic a bit. They use whole peppercorns in a variety of dishes: the peppercorn itself has some kind of perfumed flavor when you bite on one, and it is not spicy. But what is more disturbing is actually that your tongue goes numb! Completely! And then your mouth, and I think, when it moves slowly downwards, your whole body! On the bright side this lifts your chance of surviving the unbelievable spiciness of certain dishes…on the not so bright side this effect can last up to a few minutes. Maybe dentists should start using it? Might be a business idea for other countries?
Here is a list of dishes that are my least favourite:
Chicken feet, duck heads, rabbit heads, bamboo worms, pig lungs, pigs brain, do I have to list more?
The last dish is made out of 100 year old eggs, a delicacy, which I failed to try as my tummy was a bit upset from my last dinner. It must have been too spicy again and somehow I cannot cope with the spiciness very well. The eggs, when you want to buy them on the market look like the black balls on the right picture above, the green ones are boiled in green tea.
The eggs are of course not a 100 years old, but they are prepared
and preserved for several weeks to several months, depending on the method you use – in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls. Through the process, the yolk becomes a dark green to grey color, with a creamy consistency and strong flavor due to the hydrogen sulfide and ammonia present, while the white becomes a dark brown, translucent jelly with a salty flavor. There you have it: ENJOY!
Then there are dishes where you cannot stop eating, like tiger skin, which has nothing to do with a tiger nor a skin, but is grilled green pepper. Very tasty and not spicy at all!
The next photos give some impressions of the tasty food our team experiences thanks to Danny Liu from the Academy of Entrepreneurs in Chengdu, who introduces us to all delicacies of China, and to Sichuan in particular. Without him we would not have been able to discover all this! Every lunchtime he takes us to a different restaurant and he orders the best dishes for us. And when we had the duck head he was actually not with us.
Above you see the beginning and the end of a meal: dumplings, a whole fish – man, that was tasty! – glass noodles with mushrooms, green vegetables with lots of garlic, pork with lots of garlic, green peppers, and more mushrooms. We are now very good at eating with chopsticks!
Our Client – The Academy of Entrepreneurs in Chengdu
If you got the feeling that we are only enjoying ourselves, doing site seeing and eating – you got it all wrong! We are actually working very hard, and also learning a lot.
I feel quite honoured and humble that the members of the Academy of Entrepreneurs include us into their daily business, talk about their successes and problems, and let us into their lives. It is a two sides story. Our task is to look into their business and to come up with some strategies.
What is their business about? Good question, this was something we had to figure out within the first two weeks as it was not that straight forward. They were using lots of different names and logos, but when it comes down to business they are incubators for start-ups and more advanced start-up companies in Chengdu – one of over 300 alone in the area. And there are over 15000 incubators all over China as the government is pushing lots of money into high tech buildings and innovation.
Anyhow, once we figured out what we have to do we rolled up our sleeves and started working.
We also went to see competitors in the incubation business – of course with the help of our client, and we got a pretty good overview and understanding what the business is all about.
George, Grimley and I are now very famous, as we were photographed so often that my skin is feeling quite thin already.
I have to continue on another blog, I think I uploaded the maximum amount of photos, cannot upload more.
So I will continue my blog on a fresh site.
And are the trips we made after work or on weekends: