Category Archives: International Trip

Dr. Ram Subramanian’s Thailand Reflection

Dr. Ram Subramanian, Professor of Strategic Management in our Executive MBA Program, ventured to Thailand with our Cohort 15 students, and shares his experiences.  

“We’ll Always Have Sukhumwit”

My colleague, Jon Carrick, was in full drill master mode on our first day in Thailand.  I, like most others in Cohort 15, had landed late Saturday at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and the nearly 20-hour flight had left me, as I am sure the others, in a groggy and disoriented state.  Jon, a veteran of several trips to Thailand, had anticipated correctly our discomfiture and had the perfect antidote for it!  A 6:00 a.m. wake up call and a day long bus trip was just the panacea for jet lag!

The beauty of Ayutthaya more than made up for Jon’s tough love approach! Ayutthaya, Thailand’s variation of Ayodhya, the historic city in northeast India, putatively the site of Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic, hit its peak in the 14th-18th centuries, when it was a leading city in Asia, and a center of both commerce and culture. By then, Buddhism was widespread, and Ayutthaya was replete with numerous statues of Gautama Buddha.  What we saw, however, was the strange sight of statue after statue with Buddha’s head chopped off.  Our intrepid guide, Crystal, told us that the Burmese were to blame for the beheadings.  Regardless of what the Burmese did, Buddha’s influence permeates even today in a country where 97 percent of the people are Buddhists.  Buddha got his enlightenment while meditating by a tree and so I thought it fitting that an interesting feature of our visit was the sight of a Buddha statue embedded in a tree.

While Sunday was the cultural tour of Ayutthaya, the rest of our hectic week was filled with business visits, each of them distinct and interesting in its own way.  At McDonald’s or McThai, we saw how the famed American restaurant chain succeeded by adapting its menu to fit local market needs.  An interesting presentation at Taskworld showed us how coding and start-up skills can be found anywhere.  Our visit to Kantor gave us a fine-grained glimpse of Thai market conditions from the perspective of a market research firm. Kidzania allowed us to be kids once again, albeit for a brief while. And at Hangar we saw a replica of Silicon Valley’s vaunted entrepreneurial culture as our presenter told us that the search was on for Thailand’s first unicorn!  Every day was exhausting but interesting and informative.  At the end of each day, we looked forward to coming back to the luxurious confines of Westin Grand Sukhumwit, our hotel, which as our resident hotel expert Aziz pointed out is part of the worldwide Marriott group. Suffice to say, I wouldn’t be wrong if I paraphrase Humphry Bogart in saying, no matter what, we’ll always have Sukhumwit!

Cabbages, Condoms and Cohorts – Oh my!

Our visit to Cabbages and Condoms

It’s not everyday that you walk into a restaurant that is themed

around something that could be considered fallic or inappropriate, but I found myself in that place during our

International Experience to Bangkok Thailand when we visited Cabbages and Condoms. I chose this restaurant for 3 reasons: I really wanted to experience true Thai Cuisine, I had heard that the concept was unlike anything I would ever experience in USA, and I wanted to learn more about the foundation which the Restaurant supports.

The evening started with a short walk from our Hotel down a very dark ally to a beautifully colorful lite building. As you enter the restaurant there is a gift shop with logoed souvenirs which I knew I would have to stop and make a purchase on my way out. We were greeted by a very friendly host who was quick to put a table together for our large group.

The restaurant is two stories which has three air-conditioned dining rooms, and two more authentic courtyard style dining areas. We were seated on the upper level, which gave us a gorgeous view of the lower level. The uniqueness to this restaurant is all the decor is made from Condoms.

When we were seated, we were presented with a huge book that was our menu. It was filled with about 50 or 60 choices, and full cocktail, beer and wine section, and at the end was the dessert page. I stopped and got very excited when I found the very thing I had been wanting to try on this trip…Durian Ice Cream!!

We were all curious and looked to the end of the meal! When we ordered our meals, everyone chose something different as the portions are large enough to share, and they stage the table with sharing plates to encourage you to do so. The menu choices ranged from Spring Rolls, Sweet and Sour Chicken for the faint of heart to Blazing Spicy Chicken, Pork and Noodle dishes. We all had a great time experiencing the amazing flavors of Thailand. At the end of the meal, I ordered the  Durian Ice Cream. It came beautifully presented, and there was enough for everyone to take a bite. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I am attaching our reaction to the Ice Cream that is made from the “Noble Fruit”, as Krystal, our translator from the Ayuttaya tour deemed it.

With all the fun we had at this restaurant, there is benefit to the Thai community through the fundraising effort that is promoted through-out the restaurant through the signage and donation boxes. Mechai Viravaidya has a campaign to raise funds for HIV prevention and education and life skills for underprivileged children that attend his school, Mechai Bamboo school.

As a community leader, he has identified that HIV is not a ‘health problem’, but rather a Soceity Problem, and through education, we can begin to diminish the disease by promoting safe sex. What better way than through starting with the youth through giving them the tutelage at the Mechai Bamboo School.

I highly recommend a visit to Cabbages and Condoms if you visit Bangkok for the food, décor and opportunity to support a very beneficial Charity. When the server dropped off our check, each of us was given a condom as a parting gift. For some in our group, one was not enough, so there is a box to help yourself on the way out the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shared by Kristie Jones

 

Kantar Group: A Leader in Market Research

Today, we in Cohort 15 were lucky enough to meet with Kantar Group, one of the world’s largest insight, information and consultancy groups. They are a leader in market research and a division of the larger company WPP. Kantar works with clients to launch products, improve marketing efforts, innovate their strategies, create brand equity, lead communications and more. They shared with us the unique perspective they have by focusing on insight rather than just providing information and looking into the “why”, rather than just describing consumer behavior. They consider themselves a “people” company that tries to be the voice of the consumer in Thailand.

We learned that advertisements in Thailand could be described through the three S’s: Sanook, Sabai, and Suay! Sanook refers to humor, Sabai means happy and Suay means beautiful. Thai people love very emotional commercials that play on feelings, we also learned that celebrities in advertising are extremely popular. Another unique insight we had into the Thai consumer was the changes in retail Kantar has observed over the past few years. Convenience stores have been exploding in popularity due to their convenience of course, but also the ability to be cost-effective by buying smaller quantities of products.

Another major difference was that Thai consumers have a hesitancy to purchase things online due to fraud, so they typically pay for items after they have already received them from Internet purchases, quite different from what we do in the U.S.! We also learned about how globalization has made Thai consumers more materialistic and has given them a tendency to “live for today” to the detriment of their savings and financial futures. Our presenters from Kantar Group shared so much valuable knowledge with us throughout our visit and gave us a unique insight on the experiences and behaviors of consumers in Thailand.

Shared by Jessica Bundy

Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights

A Visit to the Museum of Counterfeit Goods

Intellectual property rights are nothing new, with the concept having existed since the late 1800’s. However, advances in technology and the expansion of global markets have made it easier for would be creators to mimic original creations and therefore disrupt the benefits that would otherwise be afforded to the original creator. Intellectual property consists of many different creative avenues such as creations of the mind, expressive works and inventions. It would seem logical that as more of these ideas are brought to fruition the harder it will be for new and original ideas to be presented. Many forms of intellectual property are used to form the basis for new ideas and there is a fine line as to whether these deviations constitute infringement or original works that were merely inspired by others. These intricacies have influenced many forms of legal representation throughout the world. With each country typically enforcing property rights in its own way or, in some cases, not at all. Copyrights, Patents, and Trademark laws all have specific areas in which they govern but the way they are governed all rely on the origin of the original work and the country in which it is being enforced. 

Creators in any form are ultimately responsible for the enforcement of their individual intellectual property. As businesses develop products they must understand the inherent risks of doing business worldwide and their ability to maintain control of how they generate revenue. It is almost inevitable that counterfeits or altered versions of original work will be made. Although governments have made efforts to make these practices illegal it is up to individual owners to police their products and pursue legal action against those who infringe them.  

 Shared by Eddie Molina

Cohort 15 visits the Land of the Cool Kids

Welcome to the Land of the Cool Kids!

KidZania is where kids in Thailand (and a number of cities all over the world) come to learn about careers through play.

   After finishing our visit to McDonald’s, we headed over to KidsZania for some Edutainment. KidsZania means “Land of the cool kids”.

Located in Bangkok, Thailand, KidsZania, a unique concept mixing education and entertainment, allows kids to learn about career options, money management and social responsibilities while building self-confidence and independence.

You start the adventure like many trips, via an airplane.  When you land, you enter a tiny city containing stores, hospitals, banks, fire and police stations, gas stations, government offices, tv studios and etc…. The entire “city” is run by kids.  The parents observe but don’t participate.  There is an airport lounge for parents to relax while their kids have fun.

The “city” has its own economy and currency.  The kids earn money by working at gas and convenience stores, as firemen and women, DJs and veterinarians.  Depending on the experience, the kids either earn money or spend money.  Kids earn money buy performing a job or they spend money on a University degree.  Each job pays a different amount based on role.  In addition, if you have a degree related to the job you earn more money.  Kids can even save their money in the bank and earn 1% interest per month.  Kids can also pass a driving test and earn a driver’s license.

 

 

The iconic experience is the Junior Pilot Program. The kids become certified pilots by passing a flight simulator.

 

 

 

We had the opportunity to be “kids” again, at least for an hour.  We role played as news anchors, cameramen and women and producers.   We also pretended to be pilots in the real airplane.

Shared by Brian Vann

McDonald’s Academy – “C̄hạn Rạk Mạn”

On June 26, 2018 Cohort 15 visited the HQ of McDonald’s Bangkok and were greatly impressed by their “McDonald’s Academy”, a unique and “state-of-the-art” training center for managers, that one would normally expect to find only in the corporate headquarters of a global company.McThai, the sole McDonald’s franchisee in the country from 2006 with 253 restaurants stresses that the McDonald’s business is a people business and therefore gives top priority to their people, as it is they who deliver happiness and satisfaction to customers.

Of course, a company is nothing without its people and the leaders of McThai, Mr. Chew and Mr. Vicha Poolvaraluck were quick to realise that by creating the local McDonald’s Academy.

The Academy develops McThai managers and empowers them to make a difference at work, at home and in Thai communities. It lives the corporate culture called “STEPUP” that comprises S – Sanook at work, meaning happy staff having fun (Sanook) and being enthusiastic about their work. T – Team to Win, meaning all the team sharing objectives and having trust and confidence in every person’s contribution. E – Exceed Customer Expectations, understanding and then exceeding customers’ expectations. P- People, supporting the development of staff and mutually praising success. U – Ultimate Ownership, working as if staff owned the business, daring to solve problems creatively. And P – Passion to Win, having dedication and hunger for success to be the leader.

The strong culture has created high engagement and helps drive the company’s strong values.

The continuous hard work of the McDonald’s Academy has paid off.  McThai was recognized as Best of the Best Employers in Thailand and Regional Accredited Best Employers in APAC in 2013. The award was issued by AON Hewitt and Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration Chulalongkorn University, who looked at employment practices at 182 leading companies in Thailand.

McThai was also recognized as Best Employer in Thailand and in APAC in 2011.

These awards reflect the employees’ trust and engagement towards the company, their praise for the company and their dedication for it to achieve success, consistent with the management policies which result in sales growth indicating business success.

Cohort 15 was convinced that people are the main engine of McThai’s business!

Shared by Lilian Kaares

McDonald’s STEPs UP

Cohort 15 visits the McDonald’s Corporation in Thailand

The visit at the McDonald’s Corporate Office was amazing. They talked about their approach in the business as focusing on; people, marketing, and operations.  First, they mentioned that McDonald’s is in the people business, not the food business.  They also saw the importance of creating a company culture, before the World Office felt the need.

I thought the Step up approach was put very well.  It stands for S- Sanook – At Work or Fun At Work, T- Team To Win, they used the analogy of French fries, that we need everyone (the whole container of fries) to be successful, not just one. Then they talked about E- Exceed Customer Expectation, P- People, U- Ultimate Ownership, P- Passion To Win.

I thought it was interesting that because of the price, it is not an everyday meal for the Thai’s.  In fact, the marketing department has sales promotions each month to entice the Thai people to come to the restaurant to eat, as well as adding Thai favorites to the menu like rice and chicken.

From an operations stand point, the one thing that really stood out to me was their Leadership by Example.

Each year the corporate leaders at the home office go out to the most successful restaurant and replace the staff, they take on all positions except the cashiers.  They actually work a ten-hour shift.  So, the CEO would become the Manager for the day and then they pick all other positions. What a cool and innovative idea.

Shared by Greg Lucas

5 Star Hotel Accommodations for a 5 Star Cohort

The Westin Grande Sukhumvit,

home of SqUadron 15 for the next few days is a 5 Star hotel of 363 rooms located in the Business and Commercial District of Bangkok; one of the emerging cities in the Asia, Pacific Region. The property is part of the Marriott International Group, the largest hotel chain in the world, after the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

We arrived at the hotel on Saturday, June 23, 2018, at around 2330 hours and after settling in our well-appointed rooms, a few of us met in the lobby restaurant where we indulged ourselves in some local Thai food and drinks. It was a great opportunity to decompress and bond after a long and exhausting journey from Orlando, Chicago, and Tokyo.

On the afternoon of June 24, 2018, our Stetson EMBA Cohort #15 met with Mr. Peter Lucas, an Australian Expatriate who has been appointed General Manager in 2016.

Most recently, he held leadership positions at the Four Points Sheraton Bangkok and Hilton Melbourne Australia.

During our briefing, Peter told our group that there are more than forty 5 Star hotels in Bangkok; a city that has become the  #1 tourist destination in the world ahead of London of Paris.

In 2017, Bangkok welcomed more than 30 million guests and visitors.

The main opportunity in the hotel business here in Bangkok is the very low ADR (Average Daily Rate) which is about $95.00 per night for 5 Star Hotels. The ADR in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco is between $600.00 and $750.00 per night.

The success indicators at the Westin Sukhumvit and in the Marriott Hotel Group are Revenue, which includes Profit and Budget Achievement- Guest Satisfaction- Quality Assurance Audits- Employee & Owner Satisfactions.

Before leaving for Bangkok, Dr. Carrick told us that the breakfast buffet at the Westin are tremendous and we unanimously agree. We always look forward to meeting at the restaurant early in the morning to enjoy the variety of fabulous local and international food served by the friendly and welcoming staff.

Shared by Aziz Ndiaye

An American Chamber in The City of Angels

Picture this, you just arrived in Bangkok and are interested in starting a business, what would you do? Begin exploring on your own or approach the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand and take advantage of decades of experience in doing business in the area?

 

Cohort 15’s Monday AM meeting was with C.F. Chicarelli from Pan Pacific Associates and Paul Robere from Robere and Associates. Both provided us with an overview of the chamber’s objectives:

  • Promote trade between the U.S. and Thailand
  • Help protect and promote the interests of its over 600 members and over $23 billion investment
  • Elevate the civil and commercial reputation of the U.S. and Thailand

As well as the chamber’s guiding principles:

  • Good corporate citizenship – maintain high standards of professional and business ethics
  • Improve market access and promotion of intellectual property rights
  • Environmentally responsible business practices

Q&A included discussion around unique relationships based on a culture of mutual respect. We also discussed government medical and drug programs, medical tourism, traditional medicine, robotics in South East Asia, resources available and Bangkok as the gateway to ASEAN  (Association of South East Asian Nations).

In their closing statements, both agreed that it is an ongoing learning process between two cultures and their belief that sharing of knowledge through committees and their members will provide the foundation for sustained growth through times of change.

Shared by Elena Outlan

Task World: Building a Nurturing Culture

Taskworld

On Monday June 25th Cohort  15 had the opportunity to tour Taskworld and learn about their cultural and technical differentiating factors. At first glance, you could tell that this was not an ordinary tech company.

Immediately upon arrival we were greeted with snacks, coffee and conversation in their beautiful office space. Shortly after, we began our tour of Taskworld, by the head of Marketing, Shiv Sharma. You could tell that Shiv has a passion for this organization and a passion for people. He introduced us to each team and explained to us that culture was of utmost importance to the sustainability of their organization. When transitioning between introducing us to the designers and back end developers we stopped at the culture wall. This wall represents all of the aspects that are important and the heart of this business, with User Centric as the most important element to their products. After completing the tour, we sat down in their conference space to enjoy a presentation on who they are and what makes them different.

What Is TaskWorld?

Taskworld is “a group of friends that have gathered to do some exciting work.” This exciting work is developing a project management system by ways of research and relationships. Their mission is to improve how the world collaborates one project at a time. This project came to fruition after Fred Mouawad, a serial entrepreneur, hit a wall where so many of his projects were becoming very successful, yet tasks were getting dropped or missed, so he started to make a list of the seven pain points that he found in this project, and then he put together a team of committed individuals to make this dream a reality. This team began talking to potential customers to determine what their pain points were and started to build out the technology in a way that would be easy for the customer to use and need as little integrations as possible. After a few years of research they launched a successful and innovative cloud based task management system. But that is not where their story ends. It is merely the beginning.

 Company Culture

The truly amazing part of this organization was not that they had created a solution to millions of people’s working problems, but that they built this product by building a foundation of remarkable, humble and kind individuals. Shiv touched on their culture every step of the meeting and continued to enforce the importance of this element of their business. On the tour he showed us that this was a flat hierarchy and that their team was made up of “co-entrepreneurs” who all sit in the same space and do not display any form of hierarchy. He then introduced us to the book that Fred and the TaskWorld team created before TaskWorld was underway, to sit as a foundation to this organization. This book is called “Nurturing vs Damaging Culture” and is prominently displayed at the heart of their office space. It goes through situations that could affect their organization and the choices they will have to make. However, it is one thing to have a book, and another to live out their book. Shiv walked us through each of the ways that their team builds a trusting and nurturing culture, from culture screening in interviews, to allowing anyone to be a part of any meeting, to quickly calling out office politics in order to foster a nurturing environment and to reduce damaging behavior. They believe that “People stick around with us do incredible things and achieve unparalleled growth.” It was clear that this statement was lived out each and every day in their organization. Our cohort left this meeting energized and inspired by both the technical work and cultural work this organization displayed.

Thank you Taskworld!!

Shared by Kate Kroll