Haas Goes to China; Experiences a Fusion of Culture and Technology
Written by Nausher Cholavaram, Rohan Balwani, Tanya Gupta, Pradeep Khanal, and Edi Lim
We just returned from China after completing a two-week stint with Yirendai, a FinTech company based in Beijing. Our time was filled with experiences that enriched us professionally, personally, and culturally. We learned about the booming economy in China and the uncertainty that comes with it. We also talked to company leads and learned how they think about company strategy. The two weeks were also great exposure to Chinese culture both at and outside of work. We tried different types of Chinese food, watched traditional Chinese opera, and participated in some heavy bargaining when shopping.
Client and project overview
Yirendai, our client, is a leading FinTech company in China. It is a dominant player in the Chinese peer-to-peer (P2P) lending industry and has recently expanded into the Online Wealth Management space. Having made a huge impact in China, Yirendai is now setting their sights on the US! Yirendai enlisted our help to explore options for their expansion into the US market.
This ask posed a very interesting challenge for us. On one hand, China is far ahead in the world of FinTech with their ubiquitous use of technology for making payments and conducting business via mobile phones. For example, we saw panhandlers and street musicians display QR codes for WePay to facilitate donations, and we ate at a food court where no cash or credit cards were accepted. On the other hand, we learned that Chinese investors don’t possess the same level of sophisticated planning and diversification that investors in other markets do. When we synthesized all of our learnings and presented our final presentation to Yirendai, they had very incisive questions and couldn’t help themselves but become excited by the ideas we presented.
We started the research for our project while in the US. We spent 3 weeks researching P2P Lending and Wealth Management industries in general and our client’s business in particular. We read hundreds of documents about both industries, downloaded P2P lending apps to learn their features and user experience, conducted surveys, and interviewed contacts about their investing behaviors. We had insightful exchanges with our clients where we validated our understanding from field studies with their expert knowledge. The work was intense but totally worth it.
As we arrived in China, we prepared our recommendation. We surveyed the problem-solving toolkit – financial modeling, SWOT, business model canvas, and go-to-market strategy framework – we learned at Haas and implemented them to build our recommendation. We had several discussions about customer segmentation, product differentiation, and customer acquisition strategy with our client’s CFO, Head of Online Wealth Management, Director of Investor Relations, and Head of Product Management. Their invaluable input helped mold our recommendation.
Though China has been lauded for its recent economic advancement, it has a long history of rich culture and tradition. Besides our client, Yirendai, our team was very excited about the Great Wall. We went to the Jinshanling section, which was very scenic and less crowded. Walking 6 hours on the Great Wall didn’t feel enough. We were astonished by its grandeur and humbled by its expanse. Our day at the Great Wall was definitely one of the finest experiences of our stay in China.
Beijing is full of other historical and cultural sites as well. We visited the Forbidden City, a historical palace museum in Beijing. We toured the Tiananmen Square and other important sites in Beijing including the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Lama Temple. We went to the popular Antique market and also playfully immersed ourselves in a bit of haggling at Beijing’s popular Pearl and Silk markets.
It was a little disheartening to see sun only twice due to poor air quality during our 2-week stay in Beijing, but we remain hopeful the measures being implemented currently will continue to make improvements.
Following our final presentation, our client treated us to a traditional Beijing style dinner along with Beijing Opera – quite a fitting end to our 2 weeks stay in Beijing.
The China trip was incredible and the IBD experience, priceless. It was like opening the wardrobe and venturing into a new world, both professionally and culturally, with talented fellow Haasies! Our relationship with the client did not end with the conclusion of the project. We are still in touch through WeChat and plan to meet our client on their next visit to the US for a roadshow in the second half of 2018.