Friday, March 11, 2016

Global Connections South Africa: Day 2

I must start my post for Day 2 by apologizing for failing to take any pictures. That's on me.

We started the morning at Woolworths (or, as they call it Wolly's).

First, I need you to forget everything you think you know about Woolworth's. The Woolworths in South Africa is not the same to the five-and-dime we know from the US. According to Wikipedia:
"The chain was named after the United States chain F. W. Woolworth Company but, because of the contemporary trademark laws, the name was legally used without permission. No financial connection ever existed between the companies. Similarly, Woolworths Holdings Limited is not to be confused with Woolworths Limited, an Australian retail company."
It appears that naming a store Woolworths is popular in many places.

We were visiting the Woolworths at the V&A Waterfront. And on first glance, it looked like any other mid- to high-end department store. However, in the midst of a conversation with Noni Gasa, the head of PR for Woolworths, she mentioned that people compare them to Whole Foods in the US. I am standing in a brightly lit department store surrounded by women's clothing, and I am very confused.

As it turns out, that Woolworths Food is actually the main brand here in SA. They have standalone food stores and also have the foods section in their department stores.

On a side note, Noni. So Noni is amazing. After meeting her, I decided I want to be her when I grow up - though I think we are basically the same age. Her personality was very infectious. Her fashion sense was impeccable. And she had the best freckles in likely all of the world. Add to that being the head of PR for Woolworths SA and that is something to aspire to. Except the freckles. There is nothing I can do about that.

I googled her as I was writing this blog post so I could make sure I was spelling her last name correctly and discovered she's just a little bit a famous model and fashion icon. You know, so there is that.

After the visit to the Woolworths store, we then has a presentation on their My School My Village My Planet CSR and customer loyalty initiative. This was a standalone entity that serves as a CSR arm and customer loyalty scheme for many companies that Woolworths purchased not too long ago. It still operates for many companies, but it is just a part of the Woolworths empire now.

Finally, we heard from a representative of Wesgro the regional government's tourism, trade, and investment entity. He helped provide a broader picture of the SA economy.

Our formal program for the day ended there. We went to lunch and afterwards the students all broke up into their teams for site visits with their clients.

The MBAs in this class have been working in teams with small businesses in Cape Town for the past 6-7 weeks on mini consulting projects. Now that we are on the ground, the teams had a chance to meet their clients in their environment to get a better idea of the situation as they prepare their final presentations for Friday.

While the students were with their clients, Mik and I rented bikes and rode up and down the sea wall. Something I also failed to take phone pictures with. I do have some pictures on my real camera, but I won't be able to process those until I am back in the US and have access to my Mac. I shoot in RAW and I don't have any image processing software on my work laptop.

Mik, you may remember from the Global Connections Ghana course last year, is the GRA for this course. He's managed all the details around this projects for the course.

So that was Tuesday. It's actually Saturday morning as I am typing this, and the official program ended with a closing dinner last night. I am a little behind in my blogging. I will try to catch up.

In my next posts you'll hear why I missed most of the activities for Wednesday, about how adorable penguins are, and how Global Connections South Africa concluded.

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