If you were looking for something really Russian, what would you buy: a chapka, a matriochka or a Raketa?

By Edouard Cazalaa, Global MBA Student

Our first GMBA company visit took place near Saint-Peterburg. We were welcomed and taken on a tour of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory by Jacques Von Polier, factory owner and Essec alumni.

The fascinating story behind the brand and its current owner plunged the GMBA back into soviet times. Although today’s assembly lines have considerably reduced in numbers compared to 30 years ago, very little has changed in the factory since the break-up of the soviet union.

Jacques von Polier is a French designer and businessman based in Russia. He has collaborated on various artistic and design projects and is currently heading the creative and design department of the Petrodvorets Watch Factory for the production of Raketa watches. With David Henderson-Stewart, his business partner, they are the key-stone of restructuring and rebranding of Russia's historical watch brand "Raketa". Polier is also the author of a book about Russia and Eurasia published in 2002 by Robert Laffont. In 2011 he won the election organised by the Russian press of the "Top 50 of Saint-Petersburg's most famous people" for fashion

Raketa watches have been manufactured since 1962 by the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in Saint Petersburg. It is Russia's oldest factory and was founded by Peter the Great in 1721 as the Peterhof Lapidary Works to make hardstone carvings. Raketa watches were produced for the Red Army, the Soviet Navy, for North Pole expeditions, as well as for civilians.

In April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin made the first flight in the history of mankind in outer space on the rocket Vostok 1. In honor of Yuri Gagarin the Petrodvorets Watch Factory named its watches "Raketa," or "rocket" in Russian. At the height of the Cold War, however, the name "Raketa" was perceived negatively in the West, as the word was associated with the latest generation of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, the R-16.

Before the Petrodvorets Watch Factory began to produce watches, it produced objects made of precious and semi-precious stones for the Tsar and his family. Later, it began to produce goods for military manufacturers as well as jewels" for the watch industry. In 1949 the factory released the first watches under the names Zvezda ("Звезда", star) and Pobeda ("Победа", victory). The factory's own watches, sold under the brand name Raketa, first appeared in 1961 and the factory also began to manufacture its own movements, like the «Raketa - 2609N». Over the years, the Petrodvorets Watch Factory produced more than two dozen versions Raketa movements. Some were equipped with features such as automatic winding, calendars, 24-hour models for polar explorers, anti-magnetic watches (for use in case of a nuclear attack), as well as watches for the military. Mechanical Raketa watches produced in Petrodvorets were exported to many Eastern Bloc and communist countries and are considered one of the most durable and reliable movements in the world and by the 1980s Raketa was producing 4.5 million watches a year. (source: Wiki) nlike most watch makers around the world, Raketa produces every single piece of its mechanisms on site, making these product 100% Russian made.

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Reflections: the Kindness of Strangers

By Ayan Mukhopadhyay, Global MBA Student, India

From childhood we have all probably been taught not to talk to strangers, and that it’s better to stay away from them. We have religiously carried this advice with us to adulthood. But if you stop to think, you will realise how bad a piece of advice this can be. Imagine a world where no one talks to other people since most of them are strangers, of course, except for members of their family.  In the first place, there most likely wouldn’t be any families at all!

So if we never talk to strangers and avoid them, we will never meet anyone or make any friends. There has to be a beginning somewhere and approaching ta stranger to talk may be the first step. In our day-to-day life, we come into contact with many strangers. At times, situations in our lives are such that either we are forced to take help from a stranger or a stranger comes forward to help us. I am sure there have been instances where you have been left speechless and engulfed in a sense of gratitude by the act(s) of kindness from a stranger. The act may not be significant enough to make a substantial difference in our lives but what is more important is the act in itself, however small it is. What is important is the urge in the person to come forward and help someone in distress, even though it means taking some amount of time from his or her life. Sometimes when we are generous in small, seemingly undetectable ways, it can change the life of someone else forever#.

What drives a person to be kind to someone who he or she has never encountered and with whom he or she has no relations whatsoever? What does a person derive from a small act of kindness for a stranger? The answer possibly lies in the inherent feeling of love & faith in humanity and in being humane: the belief that kindness will beget kindness, i.e. doing good to someone will come back someday. As a matter of fact a small act of kindness can start a ripple effect, where the recipient is inspired to be kind to someone else in need. “Pay it forward”, as this ripple effect is usually characterised by, essentially signifies the idea to repay a good deed by reciprocating in the same way to someone else in need. It’s not the motivation to look good in other peoples’ eyes that drives “Pay it forward”, rather the urge of touching other peoples’ lives in a positive way. In short, our words and actions define the world we want to live in. Here is what Benjamin Franklin had to say about it:

I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

Here is a small anecdote of the effect of kindness from a stranger as written in www.ldsliving.com:

The lunchroom lady was small, wizened woman with frizzy hair and no makeup. She never smiled and would pounce on people wanting a plastic spoon for their sack lunch. “That belongs to the cafeteria,” she’d bark. “You need to pay for that.” I was delighted—she was perfect!

The next time I was in line, I held a dollar out. “What’s that for?” she asked looking worried. Had I taken something she hadn’t seen? “It’s a tip.” “Tip?” she scoffed. “People don’t tip in a cafeteria.” “I do,” I said firmly. “What for?” she asked, disbelieving. “You never make a mistake with my change,” I said. “Besides, this place couldn’t be paying you that much.” “Thank you,” she stammered, and just for a split second she flashed a smile that bathed her entire face in sweetness. This was getting heady!

After that, when I’d tip her, I noticed other people in the line doing the same. She began to wear nail polish, and when I complimented her on it, she began to wear lipstick as well. A few days later I noticed her hair was fixed and she was smiling and chatting with people in the line. There even seemed to be a spring in her step.

One day I didn’t get lunch until late, but she rousted out the cook to fix up something for me. While I was waiting, she was wiping down tables. “You know,” she said thoughtfully, “the past year and a half has been really rough. First, my husband of twenty-six years left me for a much younger woman. Then my mother passed away, and one of my sisters died of cancer.” She paused, then leaned over and whispered, “You made me remember there’s still some good in the world.” I wiped my eyes and after eating returned to my co-workers. I explained to them what I had been told, and they admitted the lunchroom lady had been a source of jokes. Lately they noticed she was friendlier and wondered why. We were all rather ashamed of ourselves.

A couple of years later, the lunchroom lady retired. There were three large cakes, completely eaten by all her friends, and it took two boxes to cart all her gifts home. Some of the most prominent management types in that company could not boast a more enthusiastic celebration.

If we stop to think, a one dollar bill might seem to be very insignificant to most of the readers, but it can have a profound effect on someone else’s life. I am sure that you as a reader of this blog might have come across situations when you have been helped by a complete stranger. While it is up to you whether you want to pay it forward and create a ripple effect, it is worth giving some thought to how it would affect peoples’ lives.

Company Trek: A Visit to GE

By Vineet Sahaya, Global MBA student, India

On a bright sunny day of May 3rd , half of the Global MBA program batch decided to visit GE's offices near La Défense. It was an invitation to meet with people from GE and its affiliated companies i.e GE Capital, GE Money, GE Healthcare and GE Energy. We were excited about this trek since the batch were not only being hosted by 7 speakers (the largest number of guest speakers for any company trek to this point) but also because it was a long evening followed by a cocktail to network freely. The fact that we were running on a tight schedule, heading to the GE office at 5 pm after a long day of classes and group presentations followed by Managerial Economics exams ( finishing at 3:45 pm), did not dampen our spirits. It’s all normal in the day of a Global MBA Students. As our Program Director says often, “time is elastic”.

We were welcomed by the Training Manager at the GE office, located in the La Défense plaza. We were led to the boardroom which showed a neat clean look, reflecting the image of a company confident and comfortable with itself. The session started with introductions followed by a rundown of GE’s history, starting with its founding in 1892 by the great inventor, Thomas Edison. This was followed by a presentation of GE and its businesses in each industry. It showed the main business units of GE businesses which ranged from GE Capital, GE Energy, GE technology infrastructure to GE Home and Business Solutions. The spectrum of businesses covered just about every business one can possibly think of. With an revenue of $ 160 billion, over 3,25,000 employees and a presence in over 100 countries, GE is a colossal giant. Since over half of GE's revenue is derived from financial services, it is arguably a financial company with a manufacturing arm. It is also one of the largest lenders in countries other than the United States, such as Japan. In 2011, Fortune ranked GE the 6th largest firm in the U.S, as well as the 14th most profitable. The numbers kept going on and on…

The next presenter, their Organization and Staffing Leader, gave us some insight into GE's culture, which focuses on strong values, leadership, and integrity as well as performance. What was interesting was that GE’s appraisal system focuses not only on performance parameters but also on values displayed. This spoke about the culture itself and the importance given to Walk the talk. She emphasized that for GE “change is constant” and is part of its culture. This explained how for such a huge company, GE is still able to make changes like a small company and move fast, something that a lot of companies struggle to do. Later we were joined by the HR Directo, who talked about how GE recruits its employees, not only focusing on skills but also on culture fit. She then opened the floor for a question and answer session to answer queries and clarify doubts, if any.

This was followed by a talk on the financial spects of GE businesses by two Finance Managers and the various kinds of Leadership programs that are on offer. That was very exhaustive and also enlightened us on the 5 centers of studies in 5 countries which replicate the Crotonville learning center based in US. It showed that training and leadership development is as important at GE as the organization's business goals.

The next to follow were two participants of the Experienced Commercial Leadership Program (ECLP), an intensive two-year program for commercial savvy talent consisting of three eight month rotational assignments in the sales and marketing functions of a GE business. They were happy to share their experiences and answered all questions we had.

Finally, the presentations were over and it was time for the cocktail. We thanked everybody and presented them with small gifts as a token of appreciation. All the presenters including the HR Director joined us for a free-flowing conversation over cocktails and made us feel at home. It was a chance for networking which we gladly did (as we have got used to by now). The HR director and other managers expressed their happiness to host the ESSEC Global MBA program.

We were invited to come over again and discuss opportunities with them on an individual basis. The whole trek lasted almost 3 hours and gave us great insight into the organization, its culture and the opportunities we may have there for growth.

A Word from the Associate Dean: an MBA can serve as a bridge between emerging and developed markets

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean and Program Director for the Global MBA

Participants choose to pursue an MBA degree for a variety of reasons. Of course, the most important these is career enhancement or career change. We need to consider where these managers who are seeking this career enhancement or change, who have 6-8 years of experience, are coming from. It is definitely in in markets where there is growth and profitability and in firms that want to harness those opportunities for growth and profit. Where are these markets and where are these companies who are looking for high potentials to help them in this endeavor? They are multinational corporations either from developed nations, like the CAC40 of France, or emerging MNCs from emerging nations who are looking to expand.

Saturation in developed markets as well as large populations and increasing spending power in emerging markets means that corporations need to expand their focus from their traditional playing field in order to stay relevant and profitable. The key has been for the past decade to focus on establishing a presence in the markets of the future. And multinational corporations have expanded to embrace opportunities in developing and emerging markets. Also with this expansion, corporations seek more and more diversity in their boards, in their directors, in their managers, in their employees as a reflection of the shifting customer base of the new world order.

To fuel this need, in today’s global climate, an appropriately structured and thoughtfully designed MBA can serve the unique purpose of building bridges between emerging and developed economies. Doing business today requires a certain amount of cross-cultural ease, fluency, and familiarity. Speaking other languages, understanding other cultures, and being sensitive to the backgrounds, norms, and expectations of others is key to successful interaction, collaboration, and cooperation. Understanding the way that business is done in other countries allows us to borrow best practices and approach today’s obstacles and opportunities alike with a holistic approach that is global in more ways than one.

This means opportunities for participants from emerging markets on several fronts. Participants have the advantage of knowing their local language, culture, and business practices. This is an asset to hiring companies looking to develop a presence in their locality. This also means that students with the knowledge, tools, and skill set are positioned to take advantage of the growth in their local economies as entrepreneurs or employees. Also to integrate these managers, the MNCs like to have their high potential employees educated where the MNC hails from. In this process, the managers bring a dual advantage – location and lesson learnt – to harness the opportunities in the true sense of the word.

An MBA from an established school in a developed market can help students from emerging markets to seize these opportunities. It offers them the well-rounded exposure and education that they need in order to familiarize themselves with global business practices and successfully bridge the barriers that have traditionally stood between cultures, people, and businesses. These environments are fertile and fast-changing, and require specific competencies to develop long-term, sustainable strategies. Global standards, practices, and metrics need to be adapted to respond to regional needs and particularities. These students will be particularly well equipped to succeed in the ever-changing economic climate we have before us.

In the Global MBA, our small-batch cohort represents a diversity of backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, and languages. This year’s students represent 12 nationalities. In collaborating together on team-based projects in the classroom, Global MBA students hone their interpersonal and cross-cultural skills. As part of its focus on emerging markets, the program offers several immersion opportunities. To open the doors to opportunity in Asia, the students complete one of their academic terms in Singapore. To better understand the particularities of business in Russia, the students participate in a mandatory Eastern Europe field trip, filled with cultural events and company visits.

And to really engage on the ground, to learn best practices from another place and system, the students take place in the International Immersion Project, a project revolving around a month-long installment in the field. This year’s students are being sent to projects in locations as diverse as India, Venezuela, South Africa, Uruguay, Egypt, and the Philippines. And for students coming to France from BRIC countries and other emerging or developing markets, the Global MBA engages regularly with the business community through company treks, visiting speakers, and networking events. The program truly seeks to combine the best that each location has to offer, and to train our students to function comfortably, competently, and responsibly within this international framework. Similarly, it aims to make them aware of the particular challenges and obstacles that exist in emerging markets, which are often unanticipated by counterparts used to doing business only in developed economies.

On an academic level, students at the Global MBA benefit from ESSEC’s top tier core curriculum and world-renowned faculty, which have helped the Business School rank consistently among the top in Europe and the World and to maintain its prestige over its more than century-long heritage. In addition to the rigorous core curriculum that is to be expected from a top MBA program, the program’s academics are geared specifically towards emerging markets and international perspectives. Students explore the new frontiers of business with courses such as Green Energy Economics, the Entrepreneurial Manager, and Entrepreneurs in Innovation. They enhance their global perspectives through courses such as Global Strategy, Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Managing IT in a Networked World, and Business, Sustainability, and Society, among others.

Today’s companies recognize that there are opportunities in emerging markets. Now they need the managers to help them develop and execute tailored, sensitive, and thoughtful strategies both for entering and expanding in these markets. An individual from an emerging market with a degree in hand from an established Western school such as ESSEC Business School should be just the type of employee to fill this important niche.