Dialectical Materialism, 2.0: Russia + China Build New #University ‘In Capitalist Shrine’!

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Too Much Information: Overworked Students in Vietnam ‘Losing the Plot’!

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London, UAE: Reflections On An Asset Bubble?

With the global financial crisis long put to bed – at least for some demographic segments – a recent work by emerging video artist and Mediolana Creative Director & CSO Asad Yawar serves as a reminder that not all the lessons that might have been learned from the fiscal farrago may have been internalised. London, UAE (15th March 2014) is a simple, single-shot movie which takes in a moving panorama of a sea of cranes typical of those which have sprung up in the United Kingdom’s capital in recent years. As city neighbourhoods previously only known to afficionados and the down-at-heel are colonised by impersonal and often distant forces – making parts of London’s skyline resemble that of cities like Dubai or Shanghai – it is tempting for the viewer to think about the implications of yet another asset bubble popping its detritus on unsuspecting societies; however, it is not clear from the piece whether this is the artist’s intention.

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All Aboard: Indian Railways Set to Open Four Brand-New Universities in Five Years!

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Message in a Bottle: UK Faces Alarming Decline in Social Capital as Loneliness Skyrockets!

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Snack Attack: Three Globalisation Lessons from the Success of Korea’s Paris Baguette!

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A recent story that made Mediolana’s Creative Director & CSO Asad Yawar pause from eating a late-night yoghurt snack was (perhaps predictably) the news of another food-related development: the opening of a giant baguette franchise in Paris. At first glance, the inauguration of an establishment purveying what is after all a staple of French cuisine within ambling distance from the Louvre doesn’t appear to be particularly newsworthy – until one realises that the Paris Baguette chain is actually South Korean. Started in 1988 by entrepreneur Hur Young-in – now chairman of Korea’s leading confectionery group, SPC – Paris Baguette has no less than 3,250 outlets in its country of origin, and is looking to sweep the world in its mission to become the McDonald’s of bread: the target for the Chinese market alone is 500 shops.

To anyone with even a basic knowledge of French cuisine and the culture surrounding it, this trend is of profound significance. French food is in many ways the epitome of ‘slow food': dishes and eating cultures which are unusually resistant to economic and manufacturing rationalisation. Thirty years ago (perhaps much less) the idea that a company could successfully sell French bread – much of which is actually made in Korea Republic, frozen and then distributed worldwide – would have seemed too strange for fiction. But as is so often the case, fact has trumped fantasy.

After some contemplation, we at Mediolana have identified three clear implications from the success of Paris Baguette:

1. Competition is Global. Competition now really is global. The ‘flattening’ of the world’s knowledge systems and productive processes means that if a 19-year-old in Bordeaux wants a career in baking, s/he had better be aware that on some level they will be up against armies of wannabe boulangers from Beijing, Bangkok and Brasilia. Notably, Paris Baguette’s model – broadly based on mass production – has not stopped it setting higher artisanal standards for its French presence: the Parisian Paris Baguette has joined the Chambre Professionnelle des Artisans Boulangers-Patissiers, which requires its members to adhere to traditional baking standards.

2. Opportunities are Global. The present phase of globalisation signifies that tariff barriers are declining and being circumvented to the point of irrelevance. South Korea is not part of and can never dream of joining the EU – but that doesn’t stop everything from Kia cars to Lotte biscuits thriving in Western markets. Of course, the same is true the other way: France cannot be a part of ASEAN or the A3 (China-South Korea-Japan) group of economies, but that does not stop corporations such as Danone regarding these are key markets for expansion – and key markets, full stop.

3. Cultural Monopolies are Collapsing. With the globalisation of education, the idea that people resident in France possess intangible qualities that will forestall anyone else entering certain industries has probably already become redundant. The culinary and haute-couture schools of Paris are only too happy to admit students from all over the world – and to go to them if inflexible visa regimes or simple personal preferences prove to be obstacles to learning in France itself. Fashion school ESMOD has branch campuses from Sousse to Seoul, with instruction available in multiple languages.

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Turkish Education Market Predictions: What Does the Erdogan Presidency Mean for #Education and #EdTech Companies?

With the recent election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan – one of the world’s most brilliant albeit increasingly controversial political populists – to the presidency of Turkey, we at Mediolana feel it an opportune moment to survey what the first Erdoğan term (2014-2019) could mean for education companies with a stake in the increasingly valuable Turkish market. Three points in particular stand out:

  1. More ‘Crazy Projects’. Erdogan is known for his love of the Really Big Undertakings, such as the intercontinental Marmaray rail line which links Asia and Europe and which was inaugurated and completed during his tenure as prime minister. In the education sector, the the FATIH or Movement to Increase Opportunities and Technology project, which is already well underway, will see tablet computers issued to every student in Turkey from grades 5 to 12. Providers of large-scale, capital- and technology-intensive products and services will continue to benefit from this approach.
  2. Developmental Emphasis. The ruling Justice and Development Party, of which Erdogan is likely to remain de facto head despite his officially neutral presidential position, has very much placed the emphasis on economic development in recent years. This is likely to accelerate the percentage of the population who are at least nominal members of Turkey’s middle-class, meaning that the education sector as a whole is likely to benefit. New universities have been springing up like mushrooms after a summer storm since the 1990s; this trend should intensify.
  3. Arbitrary State? Education companies looking to expand their presence in Turkey should be aware that some local education providers – particularly those in the dershane or cram school industry – are facing a bleak future as the government has promised to make these illegal, despite both the vital role they play in augmenting the largely sub-standard Turkish schooling system and significant public opposition to their closure. An Erdogan presidency could make an already centralised state more powerful and less responsive to property rights and the rule of law. However, it is also worth bearing in mind that the presidency in Turkey under the current 1982 constitution is fundamentally not an executive position, so some of the more grandiose predictions could unravel with surprising ease.

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