For over 400 years, Guangzhou has been a city famed for trade, namely with the Middle East and Africa. Guangzhou is home to China's largest African and Middle Eastern communities. If you go to areas such as Sanyuanli and Xiaobei, you may be forgiven for thinking that you've suddenly arrived in Lagos, Nairobi, Dubai etc. The road signs are in both Arabic and Chinese, and there are many restaurants serving authentic African and Middle Eastern cuisine, all operated by the natives of countries from those areas. As one may expect in a multi-cultural society, there are quite a number of mixed-race people too (Chinese-Africans, African-Middle Eastern etc.). While it may sound derogatory to those in countries outside of China, the local Cantonese people call this area 'Chocolate City'.
Sanyuanli is also an area known as trade city. Most of the trade is with countries on the African Continent and the Middle East. Numerous shops sell various products, including garments, non-branded/ designer fake shoes and other bric-a-brac.
After I left Hangzhou, I decided to go and work for a company called DJI in Shenzhen for a short period as a copywriter.
DJI, which stands for Dajiang Innovations, is a Chinese company founded in 2006 by mainland-China born Frank Wang Tao, after he graduated from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he studied electronic and computer engineering. Wang developed the idea for the company from a research project at the university, which he effectively turned into an idea for him to get this first start-up up and running in Hong Kong. However, initially Wang's efforts went nowhere, due partly to a lack of funding, lack of government policy support and other operational issues in the city. In the process, Wang was forced to give up Hong Kong as the first choice for his start-up and later launched DJI across the border in Shenzhen.
The company manufactures commercial and recreational unmanned aerial vehicles for aerial photography and videography (the question of whether they are used for military purposes has never been, and I suspect, never will be officially disclosed).
Shenzhen is not only the home for DJI (whose offices are in the same building that houses the HQ of Chinese household electric firm, Skyworth), but also the hub for many other key technology businesses including Tencent, the parent of the popular real-time messaging app WeChat, Huawei, ZTE, Konka, Mindray, TCL and many other Chinese tech firms, some of which are mega household names in China.
DJI's HQ building is located in Shenzhen's science tech park, Ke Ji Yuan, while all the manufacturing and product testing is completed at a factory located on the outskirts of the city. During a visit to the factory, I was highly impressed to see how neat and clean the facilities were compared to most of the Chinese factories I have seen. The staff, all of whom we were told to be highly-qualified adults, seemed to come across as being very proud and happy to work for DJI.
So what is it actually like to work in DJI? While I cannot divulge much into the company's inner happenings, I would say that I had the pleasure of working with some of the brightest minds, both Chinese and International, of any Chinese company I have worked for in the past. While most Chinese companies have still a long way to go before they can class themselves as being the next Samsung, Apple, Nissan, Toyota etc., DJI on the other hand is one of the few Chinese companies which I feel is on its way of turning itself into a household name sooner rather than later. Why? Well, to start with, most of the engineers and product designers have a strong background in aerospace engineering or related subjects (some of them have no doubt been poached from Boeing, Airbus etc.), the content and video production team is made of professional writers and video editors (some of whom have a background in Hollywood), and most importantly, the PR team has strong connections with the media industry. They have certainly set the firm foundations of a long-term plan to aggressively go into a market, which is being increasingly competitive.
The offices themselves are very neat and clean, and have an international/multi-national feel to them. Outside it may be Shenzhen, but inside the premises it could an office based in London, New York or any other Western city. Some of the unusual behaviour that you may encounter while working for a local company is thankfully not clearly visible (I am not going to divulge into details).
Wang has been quite instrumental in securing strong financial backing from keen investors, and has made it his number one priority to really click the right buttons when it comes to digitally engaging with the consumer. They have realised that the future is mobile and that engagement through digital innovation is what is going to make DJI a leader in the technology- something that their competitors can only dream of.
It was a sheer pleasure to work with some of the brightest minds in the industry.
Below is a video I presented showcasing the capabilities of the DJI Guidance SDK, which was released in June 2015.
Below is a video I presented showcasing the DJI Matrice 100 and Guidance, which was released in June 2015.
DJI in Chernobyl
There were a few interesting projects I had worked on while at DJI. One of them involved writing about DJI's visit to Chernobyl with filmmaker Philip Grossman, who is making a documentary named ‘Exploring the Zone’. This documentary is part of a five-year personal project that Philip has been working on about the area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where in the early hours of 26 April 1986, one of four nuclear reactors exploded creating a 30km radius zone now known as the “The Zone”. Learn More
One of my colleagues, who went with Philip to film the project for DJI, came back with a little souvenir from Chernobyl - an unused film (as seen below in pictures), which is still intact from 1986. A nice to keep gift.
Making an effort to climb to the peak of Nanshan mountain (takes about an hour), is all the more worth it as it offers some of the best best views in town. I only wish I could have this lifestyle forever...you'll never need to go to the gym ever again!
An early morning hike up Nanshan mountain (Shenzhen) not only provides spectacular views but also an awesome sunrise over the Eastern hemisphere...in the distance is Hong Hong. The mountain is next door to my home. This means I can start the hike at around 6.30am, burn the calories by reaching the summit of around 336 meters by 7.30am, and then coming down, taking a shower etc., and in the office by around 8.45am- great lifestyle!: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
In late June, I was interviewed by the well-known Chinese TV presenter, Cecilia Li for Face Time, a prime time show on China' GDTV channel. A recorded segment of the interview is shown below.
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