SCIE Business Students Travel to Tencent


--To Observe Company Culture and Learn How a Real Business has Rose to Prominence

Tencent Holdings, one of the most innovative and prominent IT companies of China, has long been a trailblazer and an inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs at SCIE and around the world. From being just a small company formed by a group of young graduates into a world where the internet was at its early development stages, to being one of the biggest IPOs in the world with worldwide Headquarters and involved in all aspects of online business; Tencent is a source of inspiration that Business Studies students from SCIE wouldn’t miss a chance to visit their Offices for the world.

It’s a cool Wednesday afternoon, and there are more than 30 SCIE students gathering at the South Gate of the school campus, calling roll… Amidst the lukewarm sunshine and the blissful shade of the clouds, enjoying the slight cold in the autumn wind, small chatter could be heard from all of the students – all in anticipation of the business trip and what they will learn from Tencent.

The teacher scheduled the gathering for departure at 1PM that Wednesday, but many students, urging to get a glimpse of one of the most successful businesses around the world, came as early as 12AM – as soon as their morning classes had ended.

Finally, after a roll call confirming the presence of all 30+ students, the students were allowed on to the buses. On the way to Tencent, it seemed the anticipation from the students only grew in strength, as all sorts of business topics came on discussion like their business model, their history, and their current company value… before long, after approaching an impressive array of skyscrapers, everyone knew they were beholding before them: Tencent Offices. They had arrived. The building before them wasn’t necessary impressionable – a modestly tall building decorated with glass, and a large blue plaque at the top denoting ‘Tencent’. It wasn’t the building that made the students impressed, it was the aura induced by the name ‘Tencent’. It reminded everyone of Tencent’s success and its prominence in the modern day.

The Presentation

After picking up our visitor cards and going through standard COVID-19 precautionary measures of checking temperature and checking our health code, we were brought inside the building to our first event – the presentation on Tencent’s business model and history. After a quick trip to the 37th floor inside a breezy elevator, we sat down on the cozy cushions in one of the presentation studios inside Tencent Offices. The presentation began, led by an educator from Tencent, Mr. Chen, we were thus introduced to Tencent’s business model: ‘All focus on the customer and their satisfaction.’ Through detailed and extensive graphics and models, Mr. Chen told us the importance of building trust between the business and the customers. Without a strong bond of trust between the business and the customer that Tencent kept focusing on when making QQ and WeChat, Tencent, Mr. Chen said, would not be as successful as it is now. By focusing on customer satisfaction, QQ was able to outperform a contemporary competitor at the time: MSN, which is a similar messaging app made by Microsoft. MSN was impressive and well-made, but it was not catered to the needs of Chinese customers, so as QQ improved the customer experience, MSN eventually had no market in China.

Next, Mr. Chen walked us through the lengthy history of Tencent, and how us business students might take inspiration from it when we become entrepreneurs. One of the most important points was creativity and seeing opportunity in new markets. At the time of Tencent’s creation, a group of young graduates from Shenzhen University saw a society where internet was not widespread in China, but foreign countries had established some impressive social media platforms. This group of graduates saw opportunity in this underdeveloped market – and dared to take a risk. They created their own social media platform ‘QQ’, and together with their customer-oriented business model and constant improvements, QQ dominated the Chinese market for social media platforms. Tencent has thus achieved the most important and most difficult part of an IT business: building trust and a strong customer base. Now, Tencent could introduce new applications like WeChat, and dominate the Chinese market. But like every company and business executive, Tencent also has experienced failures and lost battles. Mr. Chen told us the story of Tencent’s battle for hosting the biggest Weibo, and how they lost. Tencent also tried to establish an e-commerce platform like Alibaba and Taobao, but that endeavor was unsuccessful as well… Everyone, including giant companies with huge customer bases, make mistakes; and everyone has their specialties. Nowadays, Tencent invests in ally companies to expand their presence – like being a major investor of JingDong after they failed with Tencent E-commerce.

The Exposition

Just as we were deep in conversation and thought about the work environment of Tencent, it became time for us to experience the most anticipated part of our trip: the technology exposition. The exhibition hall was two stories tall, and gargantuan in size, and for every room that we could look, we saw innovative and new technology.

A presenter quickly came and led us around the building. We first laid our eyes on a detailed mini diagram of a data center Tencent had constructed in the mountains. The details were mesmerizing, and the security around the database was said to be able to withstand nuclear war. Then, we were led to a room that acted as a model for Tencent’s server rooms. It was filled with arrays of LEDs shining like stars in the night sky. Entering such a room felt alien to all of us… despite living in one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world, we had never come to contact with such sophisticated hardware. But the surprises did not end there, we were then taken to an impressive AI – one that could play the ancient board game GO better than any professional player, by using neural networks that evolved to develop an algorithm that looks several moves ahead of the game to determine the move that makes the AI most likely the winning player. Excited, many students timidly tried to play against the AI, but saw in surprise the quick and expert response from the AI. The student’s win rate just plummeted from 47% to less than 1%! Just by one wrong move. As we kept moving, we also learned about Tencent’s development of self-driving cars, their parent-control application software, their live tourist experience software, and many other sophisticated and innovative technologies. It was an unforgettable experience, all of us had our horizons broadened about the capabilities of technology and the Internet. We were made to appreciate the power of the technology that our generation has taken for granted, a technology that our parents weren’t even exposed to when they were young.

Our sincerest thanks to Ms. Allen and all the teachers for their hard work and patience for organizing this trip into the inner workings of one of the most prominent internet companies in the work, after all of us got back safely, we discussed at length about technology, inspired to one day be the entrepreneur that embraces technology, and be the one to create the next Tencent!