November 6, 2008

Panel Discusses Challenges Facing Global Businesses

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A five-member panel of international business leaders from Osram, one of the world’s leading lighting manufacturers, met in Sage Hall last night to discuss global leadership challenges and changes.
The panelists talked about topics ranging from green business and sustainable development to competing leadership models and corporate social responsibility. The student-organized International Leadership Forum sponsored the event. [img_assist|nid=33342|title=Looking for answers|desc=Panelist Larry Hu speaks yesterday in Sage Hall about international business.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
They focused on the need for sustainability in light of global climate change and the energy crisis.
“We need to create a compelling future with sustainable profitable growth,” Larry Hu, national sales director for Osram’s Chinese division, said. “We need to look for innovation in business models and business technologies as well as in products.”
Yew Wan Toh, finance director of Osram’s Singapore division, concurred, offering public and private examples of cooperative action toward sustainability.
“In Singapore the government has tasked various departments to look into the use of Energy Saving Products,” she said. “The government is also working with global corporations like Osram to increase sustainability,” she added, citing research of recyclable lamps as an example.
Juan Chavez, marketing manager of Osram’s Santiago division, discussed the different perspectives and priorities of emerging countries with regard to sustainability.
“In emerging countries we’re not thinking at this moment on sustainability,” he said, noting that the primary focus of many businesses in developing countries is simply surviving and increasing competitiveness.
Chavez also tied some South American economic problems to “populist governments acting on the sole purpose of winning elections.”
Panelists also spoke about the current global financial crisis.
Imam Khanafi, accounting and finance manager of Osram’s Tangerang division, discussed both the financial crisis and the sustainability crisis in terms of strategic short-sightedness.
“We have to see … how [current business policies] will affect our future in our business,” he said.
Khanafi also associated the financial crisis with recent changes in the operation of national and international business.
He said, “Previously the product cycle was 40 to 50 years … Today, we are talking about introducing a product this month that next month is not sellable anymore.”
Khanafi and the other speakers emphasized the need for ethical business practices and corporate compliance with legal restrictions.
The speakers also considered how the increasing globalization of business has and will affect leadership strategies.
Hu used the word “glocal” to describe business strategies combining “global vision with local strategy.”
Similarly, Jose Sartori, sales manager for the organization’s Brazilian division, spoke of the need for culturally-sensitive business practices.
“We have to know what’s happening around the world,” he said. “We have to have that good relationship skills in communication.”
All of the speakers expressed their belief in the need for positivity in the face of serious challenges to modern, globalized society.
Sartori used the Brazilian economy as an example.
“We have a huge change financially, with factors like GDP, imports, exports and inflation rates changing rapidly,” he said. “We need to ‘be Zen,’ to be calm in the face of these changes.”
Toh agreed, using as an example the Mandarin character for “crisis,” which combines the symbols for trouble and opportunity. “Remember that in today’s crisis lies tomorrow’s opportunity,” she said.
The panel drew a large and diverse group of Cornell undergrads, graduate and professional students, and faculty members.
Preshita Date ’11 reacted to the presentation.
“I think that this type of international business perspective will become more and more important as economic globalization continues,” she said, “I think that cultural sensitivity in business practices is key.”