International students give Wellington businesses a competitive edge

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Mumbai: Wellington businesses have been gaining direct cultural insights into their target overseas markets thanks to a group of Victoria University of Wellington’s international students.

Through the University’s new International Markets Insights Programme (IMIP), 15 international students from eight countries were matched with local businesses that expressed interest in exporting their product to the student’s home country.

The three-month programme is a partnership between the University and Education New Zealand, and saw each student spend 10 to 15 hours a fortnight in their business’ headquarters working on a project tailored to their business’ needs.

Chinese postgraduate student Cindy (Junhua) Sun, who was partnered with app creator posBoss, investigated the feasibility of launching posBoss’ point-of-sale software in China’s hospitality sector.

Cindy says working with posBoss was a “good match” because in addition to providing cultural understanding of its target market, she was able to share her first-hand marketing experience in China’s hospitality industry. She also valued the work experience and learning new skills, which she hoped will prove useful in her future career.

“I’m so lucky to be involved in this programme. It is a good opportunity to get to know New Zealand’s enterprise culture, communication ways and working environment,” she says.

posBoss chief executive Jonny McKenzie says Cindy’s cultural and industry knowledge was a huge help. “Culture can play a big part in how you do business. Through this programme we’ve had great insight into how that works without having to leave the office.”

Woolyarns New Zealand marketing manager Jimad Khan says having Japanese student Miki Akemitsu joining the team for the duration of the programme was “a great opportunity”.

“Woolyarns has developed new contacts in the Japanese textile market and currently there’s a language barrier. There’s a huge advantage in that Miki could contact people directly and speak to them in their language.”

Miki also researched Japanese importing legislation and scouted important locations in the Japanese market, which Jimad said helped “speed up the process” when learning about the new overseas market.

As part of the programme, both the students and the businesses were invited to attend six especially designed workshops led by international business experts on topics such as online marketing, New Zealand’s global reputation and intercultural communication.

IMIP project manager Dr Alison Kuiper says the programme’s objective was to create connections between students and local businesses in a mutually beneficial exchange.

“A lot of our international students are interested in maximising the learning opportunities while studying at Victoria. This programme provides an additional and practical education that supplements their studies and enhances their future employability. They also have a fantastic wealth of knowledge, which with the right framework, can really help local businesses gain a competitive edge expanding offshore.”

The programme was supported by Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA).

WREDA business growth and innovation general manager David Jones says, “WREDA was delighted to be involved with the initiative from the initial planning stages through to providing practical help for the students through its workplace training programme”.