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Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Network Hubs of Hong Kong

By Victor Cattermole

Asia Pacific Bureau Chief

I was really struggling to find an interesting topic this month. I had a few people on my list but with one thing and another I just couldn’t connect with them. With busy days of my own in meetings I started to give some thought to where we meet and why.

My day started with the computer turned on and email and instant messages flicking up before my eyes. Before the first coffee I have 6 people talking with me on Skype, MSN and Yahoo. Top that off with SMS messages on the cell phone and I have hit the day running. At this time of the morning its best to have that coffee first for fear of sending the wrong message to someone as I am still half asleep.

Oh how I have realized the importance of this technology for me to connect my USA, Europe and Asian Pacific contacts together. It gets worse, my girlfriend pops up on screen asking can I help her with a document, she is only sitting 5 feet away (man, she looks so cute in that picture!). I am then reminded of reality as I turn around to see her and hear the rattling noise of her gas escaping, as she describes it.

A trip to central Hong Kong for me and my first meeting is in the local icon coffee shop, Pacific Coffee. This place is a hub of meetings, the whole place is geared towards customer demands, there’s wifi, free computer terminals and in some stores even workstations where students complete their home work. The whole environment is geared towards doing business and supplying coffee while people network. When it comes to arranging a meeting everyone knows where the Pacific Coffee stores are.

From there it’s off to meet one of my HSBC bank managers, he suggests a juice bar near by, called Mix. This place in so many ways emulates the coffee shop, geared towards business networking, wifi, tables which make it easy to lay documents out. The place is full of bankers talking deals and money.

A ten minute walk to my next meeting, it’s in the Marriott Hotel. I have to wait a while for my contact to arrive (I hate lateness) but I make the most of it and spend some time in the foyer watching what is going on. It’s non-stop; taxis coming and going, hand shaking, cell phones, folders, people at tables with documents and plans. My contact arrives, the coffee is crap, yet again its business as usual.

My day ends on Skype, MSN and Yahoo as the rest of the world fits in to my workable time frame.

Oh how we interact with each other has changed, my online conference calls conducted in boxer shorts, then in a chain coffee shop millions of dollars of deals are being discussed while women with babies talk with their girlfriends and kids gather together doing their homework. I realize the bankers are leaving their offices for the comfort of a more social environment, the juice bar, and the suits are still schmoozing in the big name hotels, pressing the flesh, talking the talk and between you and me ….they are still wearing boxers under that suit just like me in front of my computer.

The environment we network in is changing, the market place is where we stand.

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