University of Pittsburgh

alumni hall

Shanghai Gold

Written by Holden Slattery

Abulaban (left)

Abulaban (left)

At a General Motors plant in Shanghai, China, a business executive interviews a young Chinese man in his office, the only heated room in the old, Russian-style edifice. As managing director of a new GM business venture, Majdi Abulaban needs to find qualified managers—independent thinkers and problem solvers.

Pitt alumnus Abulaban ★ (ENGR ’85) moved from the United States to Shanghai in 1995 to expand GM’s ventures. Since then, his efforts have helped to create Delphi Packard Electric Systems Asia Pacific, a $1.1 billion company with 17 plants that produce electric systems for automobiles sold worldwide. Today, Abulaban—who earned a Pitt bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University—is president of the firm’s Asia Pacific operations, as well as board chair of Delphi Packard Electric Systems Co.

Abulaban attributes part of his success to the hiring of Chinese citizens as managers at a time when other companies in the region primarily hired Western expatriates. He believed that “locals” would better understand and adapt to the company’s challenges in the region. Indeed, the Chinese man he interviewed and hired in 1995 turned out to be an excellent manager and helped the business to expand. These days, the man is president of his own $100 million company.

Leaders throughout Asia have appreciated Abulaban’s business acumen. In 2005, he was a finalist in CNBC’s Asian Business Leaders Awards program. Last year, the City of Shanghai gave him its Magnolia Gold Award—a high honor given to expatriates who have made long-term contributions to the economic and social development of the city.