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!