I’m writing today to tell you all a little bit about a company called Noppen, also known as LNoppen. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because they’ve offered you a job (or you’ve applied for one) and you’re trying to find out more about them, or you already work there and are curious about what others are saying. Well I’m here to tell you that Noppen is, unquestionably, one of the worst companies for a foreigner to work at in Shanghai.
They prey insidiously on university students, new arrivals and those looking to get away from teaching. The company is unscrupulous, exploitative, abusive, and outright immoral in a large number of ways, which I’ll briefly get into in a minute. But if you take one lesson away from your reading of this, let it be that you should NOT, under any circumstances, work for this horrible company, and if you already work there, you should seek other employment as fast as possible.
To give you a little bit of background information, I worked at Noppen for several months, and did so fairly recently (this is being written in March, 2011, and I won’t get into any more specifics so as not to reveal my identity). While at Noppen I worked in three separate departments: sales team, sponsorship team, and production, so I know a fair bit about how the company works.
Odds are you’ve been contacted by one of two people, either a gentleman named Praveen Rao, who is head of the sponsorship team, or a man named Chris Sevcik, director of international production. While I wouldn’t say either of these men is necessarily a bad person, their roles at Noppen certainly have a negative impact on people and, dare I say, society at large.
You probably already know that Noppen is a conference planning organization, meaning they plan and execute conferences (basically networking events and/or tradeshow-type events) for a variety of industries. What you probably didn’t know is that these events are all scams and shams. Noppen contacts hundreds and hundreds of companies for each event, and inevitably a few dozen agree to sponsor or take part in the event, and they pay Noppen anywhere between around RMB 10,000 and RMB 100,000 for this.
These companies do not get what they are promised. The government officials, corporate managers, and industry experts that they’ve been told will be in attendance are not present. I know this from experience, as I’ve been to events and dealt with countless clients who were extremely upset about not getting what they were promised for their money. The numbers certainly bear it out: Noppen’s rebook rate, meaning the average number of companies that return for the next iteration of the event the next year, is about 5%. 5% (it’s reputed to be even lower, but 5% is the only confirmed figure I’ve heard, so we’ll stick with that)!
That means that after every event, 19 out of every 20 companies are unsatisfied enough to not return the next year, if there even is a next year. Now, obviously, no event-planning company will have a 100% rebook rate, that’s simply not practical, but if you look around you’ll find that the industry standard for rebooks is around 50-60%, and for events focusing on infrastructure projects, of which Noppen has many, the rate tends to be a bit higher, and certainly far more than 5%.
So how does Noppen stay in business, you ask? Well, they hold events in, for the most part, three countries: China, India, and Turkey. These three countries are three of the fastest growing economies on earth, which means that no matter how many unsatisfied companies Noppen leaves in its wake, there will always (at least for a few more years) be more companies to take their place.
So Noppen’s business model is doomed and horribly immoral, but that’s really only the beginning. The atmosphere at the Noppen office is extraordinarily toxic, and employees are essentially treated like livestock. If you already work at Noppen, note how there is a new class of trainees, 8-12 people, every single week. Every week! What kind of company has to bring in new people every week? Either one that is so successful it is growing extremely fast, which is definitely not the case here, or one that has an extremely high turnover rate and needs to hire 10 people per week, hoping at least one doesn’t quit immediately, in order to maintain sufficient staff. Look at it this way: Noppen actually has a standard procedure for deducting a portion of an employees’ salary when he or she walks out unannounced and then returns weeks later to collect their money. That’s how frequently it occurs! Is that the kind of company you want to work for?
Noppen essentially operates the way that sales companies in third-world countries did in the 1970’s and 80’s, exploiting employees and treating them poorly in the hopes that those tactics will keep them afraid and in the office. They intimidate employees into working long hours by constantly demeaning them and threatening termination. Their main business tactic is to literally call as many potential clients as possible, regardless of qualification or relevance, and give them a standard pitch, hoping that some tiny percentage will agree to attend the event and thus bring Noppen a profit. I could go on all day about this, really, but if you want to see it for yourself, go ahead. Just be warned, all divisions of the company, including sponsorship, sales, production, delegates, etc. are all just as bad and treat employees just as poorly (that is, to say, like children).
So why am I writing this, you might be wondering? For a number of reasons, but the main one is this: the only way to prevent Noppen from continuing to prey upon and exploit innocent people is to stop the incoming flow of new employees. If they have no new foreigners joining the company, eventually the ones presently there will all leave and the company will have to cease its reign of terror upon the unfortunate foreigners of Shanghai. The company will almost certainly be out of business within five years or so, given its business model and reputation, but that’s five more years of wasted time, money and effort, not to mention hurt feelings, of people who deserve better than to work for Edward Dai, one of the shadiest and scummiest bosses in Shanghai. Stopping the influx of new hires is really the only way to make this happen.
I’ll leave you with something a bit personal, something that irked me from my very first day at Noppen and for me defined just how horrible of a place it is. Noopen puts a premium on appearing professional – they are extremely strict about dress code, tardiness, and even things like not going to the bathroom too frequently. They ache to seem professional, going so far as to install a fish tank in their office, though they filled the tank to the brim with the same kind of fish, which kind of misses the whole point of a fish tank, which is very emblematic of how Noppen operates. As you’ve heard, Noppen is anything but professional, so please, for your sake and the sake of society in general, do NOT work for them. If anything, agree to work for them, show up on the first day, then excuse yourself to use the bathroom after five minutes and go home. It will waste a little bit of their time and, in the long run, save the decent people of this city some of theirs. Thank you.