Africa, home of some of the world’s most impressive wildlife, is a beautiful continent with breathtaking scenery. But the poverty, exploitation and, in some cases, war has hindered its progress. But how do you wake up a sleeping beauty and bring out its best?
The Singapore Business Federation invited Nanyang Business School students and industry leaders to a breakfast session with Guillaume Kavaruganda and Hazel Ngubeni, the ambassadors of Rwanda and South Africa respectively. They shared their views on what is needed to accelerate progress in Africa.
Rwanda on the move
Mr Kavaruganda says the abolition of the excessive protectionism of African markets and a proactive transition to free movement of goods and people in Eastern Africa are the priorities to become competitive. Yet, Rwanda, like its neighbours, still struggles to address structural issues such an unstable energy supply, a lack of housing for its 12m people, poor infrastructure and a deficient education system.
Even though Rwanda prides itself as one of the few African nations to have achieved political stability, there is still a long way to go to win investors’ trust
But the government is aware of its responsibility to provide basic care for its people and has made smart moves to improve the living conditions. Recently, access to basic healthcare has been extended to 85 per cent of the population; a drastic improvement that will not go unnoticed by foreign investors. Yet even though Rwanda prides itself as one of the few African nations to have achieved political stability, there is still a long way to go to win investors’ trust.
Africa is more than gold and diamonds
Having shed light on the forward-looking initiatives that Rwandan officials have brought on its way, Hazel Ngubeni broadened the perspective on the challenges and multiple investment opportunities across Africa.
She projected a map of Africa to visualise the natural resources to be found in each of the 54 African countries. “This is how people see us,” she jokes. “There is gold, diamonds, more gold, and more diamonds.” But Africa is much more than precious metals and gems.
By investing in intercontinental highways, water integration and improved energy supply, the continent shows that it is seriously concerned with improving infrastructure to foster growth of its service and manufacturing industries, and promote trade within Africa and with foreign partners.
Rwanda has converted development opportunities into growth, with annual real growth of gross domestic product averaging about 8 per cent between 2001 and 2015. But South Africa has reached a stage of stagnation and complacency. Despite its past progress, its currency, the rand, is crashing; its credit rating is rapidly approaching “junk” status; and South Africans have taken to the streets. But what issue to tackle first?
Johan Burger, director of the Centre for African Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, argues that the greatest challenge in managing South Africa is setting priorities to tackle social issues.
However, South Africa is willing to learn from its peers and assess high-tech solutions to address its most pressing problem: the provision of adequate healthcare in remote areas. Using innovations, such as drug delivery via drones, the country seeks to emerge from its crisis by meeting the basic needs of the rural population and preparing its people for a much bigger task: economic growth.
A NBS alumni working for Lazada, South-East Asia´s number one e-commerce player, was invited to give a workshop on business analytics and advanced excel to the current batch of MBA students.
Sunny Jain (NBS MBA Class of 2013) has over 6 years of experience of working for technology companies as well as financial institutions. Over the last 2 years he has been working as a pricing manager with Lazada, who recently made it into news with regards to its acquisition by Alibaba.
Sunny provided thought-provoking insight into the ways of working of e-commerce firms, especially with regards to the key performance indicators and the challenges that various firms face to remain competitive. In the second half of the course, he offered an excel learning session wherein he gave sample case questions based on data populated in an excel file.
The current MBA students who signed up for the workshop learnt to build pivot tables and simple statistical data models that allowed them to understand e-commerce dynamics and generated insights pertaining to an annual sales report of a hypothetical company. The speaker proved that Excel is indeed a powerful tool and stated that learning to build complex data models catering to various business challenges is indispensable to be well prepared for the corporate world.
The 3-hours sharing session was very insightful and after multiple “aha”-moments, the participating students left the room with many valuable takeaways from the workshop. Eventually, the lecturer closed the day with the recommendation to spend 5% of earnings every year to upgrade one´s skills – an interesting tip that the MBA students, who are to graduate soon, will certainly take to heart!
“Do good work and enjoy the work that you do. Money will follow. Make sure that you don’t work for money alone (As the sole aim!).”
With these words, Professor Tan signed off the Derivatives and Risk Management course, the last elective module for the MBA students of 2016 who chose the Banking and Finance Track. Derivatives, much hyped and complex financial instruments, were created with the aim of risk management in finance. However, they are predominantly used for speculation and trading. Hence, Prof Tan asked the class to always wear two hats while analysing derivatives: Are you going to manage risk? Or are you going to trade?
The Derivatives classes were exclusively scheduled on weekends, but as the class size was small and the topic was interesting indeed, all sessions were quite engaging and nobody minded weekend work. The class participants discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from the creation of structure products, various risk mitigation strategies used by corporations, the fall of Lehman brothers and many more, and learnt from a variety of case studies discussed during lectures.
After the last class session, Prof Tan invited his students to a celebratory meal to Spruce at Bukit Timah, which was a fire station prior to it being renovated to a modern day bar/bistro. The trip to Spruce marked the closure of elective classes for the MBA class of 2015/16 and Spruce´s location in beautiful greenery, overlooking a mountain, served to be the ideal getaway to clear the mind after a whole day class . Tower beers were being emptied and a lively discussion on topics such as cultural diversity, returns of VC firms and even the Chinese preference of Tibetan Mastiff dogs ensued. It was time to celebrate.
Before leaving the event, all students cheered Prof Tan for his upcoming Gobi Desert Challenge wherein he and his EMBA team will represent the Nanyang Business School in a daunting desert challenge over the course of 4 days, and everyone promised to take the message from Professor Tan to heart: Make sure to give back to society.
On Tuesday, April 12, Nanyang Business school invited to the third session of the quarterly ”CEO Breakfast Series” at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore to explore challenges and opportunities when doing business India. Panelists, current NBS students, alumni and faculty engaged in a lively sharing session of the benefits of investing in India, discussed obstacles that individual and institutional investors face when entering the Indian market, and outlined the rewards of a long term foothold in the fastest growing economy of today.
Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at Nanyang Business School, Professor Nilanjan Sen, introduced the crisp 90-minutes sharing session on the opportunities and challenges when doing business in India by addressing the current macro- and microeconomic context of the largest Commonwealth country. India is not only affected by the slowing demand of the superpower China, a shrinking export market, and more conservative investment policy of the west but also fights against typical internal challenges of an emerging market. Touching on the 3 dimensions of future growth, Prime Minister Modi´s 3 D, demand growth, demography, and democracy, Professor Sen opened the stage for five expert speakers of Indian descent to present their views on the Indian market, and the prospects for foreign investments.
The majority of panelists who joined the early morning event to elaborate on their experiences with doing business in India has significant professional experience in banking and investment management, or held senior positions with large multinational corporations, so that the audience large benefitted from a pool of real live experiences and insider insights.
Even though India allegedly is the fastest growing economy with a 6-7% average annual growth rate, the seemingly attractive percentage by itself represents a far smaller absolute economic growth in India than a 6-7% growth rate in China. Also, the challenges that institutional investors and multinational corporations face in when expanding into booming markets with large one digit to double digit growth rates are fairly similar. Despite significant differences in the root causes of obstacles, doing business is not less challenging than doing business in other emerging markets.
India scores low on “ease of doing business” due to unusually frequent elections in the different states of its large territory, and political power struggles in the fragmented republic prevent a much needed consistency in decision-making and harms sustainable infrastructure investments. Hence, panelist advise to find a local partner to enter the fragmented and culturally diverse Indian market. Bringing a global brand to India, it is recommended to redesign one´s value proposition for the local market, as for example providing small quantities for daily demand to the the bottom of the pyramid and customise one´s offering for the Indian market to match cultural expectations. When looking for best practices on how to approach, and sustainably attach the Indian consumer in the long run, newcomers to can learn from successful MNCs, as global brands such as Czech “bata” and American “Colgate” are exceptionally well established in India, considering that the brands are commonly recognised for their “Indian” heritage by the local costumers.
When contemplating about gambling on India´s growing economy, panelist recommend to prioritise the prospering logistics industry which significantly benefits from the rise of Indian e-commerce. Further, investments into infrastructure and transportation are especially rewarding as they support the filling of institutional voids, and lay the ground for the country´s road to unparalleled commercial success.
Still, India´s current competitiveness is suffering from a below standard road network and the country is severely disadvantaged by its complex regulatory, taxation and public administration system. MNCs seeking to cater for the needs of the upscaling middle class of Indians, face a series of appointments appointments when knocking on the doors of governmental offices to beg for the necessary approvals needed to start a business, or even wait up to 13 months to simply cut a tree. Panelist report that they have seen peaks of 100 plus approvals needed to get going on an investment project and Foreigners and Indians alike criticise the artificially erected bureaucratic hurdles and missing dynamics of the Indian market, prompted by an unnecessary complexity that foreign investors encounter when dealing with Indian authorities.
Although the challenges highlighted during the 2016 panel discussion have been present for over one decade, they have not been properly addressed so far. Yet, India still promises 7.7% annual growth due to the the peoples’ entrepreneurial spirit and the prevailing start-up culture that builds the backbone of India´s competitiveness and promotes technical innovation and unique solutions to global challenges. In addition, public and private sector joined forces to spot the gap in global manufacturing capabilities and aim to position India in an untapped niche as a specialised manufacturing service provider that might translate to a distinct competitive advantage which will allow India beat other emerging economies in the race for FDI.
Supporters of crisis-prone, but inventive India highlight the public sector´s increasing investments in infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities, and predict a stable upward trend for Indian society and the standards of living, eventually leading to improvements in the ease of doing business. Yet, despite all promising prospects, there are different viewpoints on doing business in India. Experts cast a critical eye on India´s demographics, its sluggish reform progress, and suggest carefulness in dealing with authorities. The tax bureau might have announced taxation reforms and committed to creating more investor-friendly business environment already a few years back, but is actually just about to pass the GST and tax reform bill. While the US Fed hikes interest rates, US foreign investment streams dry up, liquidity flows out of India and tells the uprising country to combat corruption and social unease in its the multi-religious and multicultural Indian society before the money comes back. A nation that is publicly characterised by the lavish lifestyle of its billionaires and their excessive spending rather than a conservative savings policy, struggles to attract investments in the light of previously disappointing foreign engagements.
Going forward, investors are strongly advised to set the right expectations instead of hoping to reap short term profits from businesses in India. First, one has to obtain clarity on the target segments, and business goals, to find its sweet spot in the vast Indian market. Despite continuous progress on the reform and regulation front, India seems to be market that rewards investors to come to stay, and punishes those looking to reap short term benefits. Hence, the recipe for success in India involves a step by step approach that acknowledges the diversity of a country which is best compared to is culinary richness: analyse the customer, understand the recipe to success, select ingredients, cook a sample and then scale-up.
Nanyang Business School, Singapore, was recently represented at The Negotiation Challenge (TNC) 2016, held in Vienna, Austria on 1st and 2nd April, 2016.
It was the first time that a team from Nanyang MBA, comprising of Laveesh Hassija, Shajitha Sinasamy and Akshaya Kumar, who decided to name themselves as ‘The Nanyang Negotiators’, participated in this prestigious competition.
The Negotiation Challenge is one of the only few international negotiation competitions in the world. The competition is aimed at gathering world’s best student negotiators, allowing them to compare their negotiation skills and preparing them for the complex negotiations they will face after graduation. This year, 16 universities from across the world participated in TNC.
TNC has been an extraordinary experience for the Nanyang team that worked hard under the guidance and support received from the NBS Negotiation Professors – Valerie and Kit Wye. The team participated in a total of five rounds, wherein they were evaluated on application of appropriate methods from the whole spectrum of their negotiation skills in different negotiation situations. In some of the rounds, the evaluation was based on the team’s ability to understand interests and identify issues, as well as their ability to create and claim value,while in other rounds the assessment was based on the instrumental and/or relational outcome of the negotiations.
Though the Nanyang Negotiators could not reach the final round, they were able to demonstrate their negotiation intelligence and recall TNC as the most eventful time of their MBA journey. The team enthusiastically remembers one of the rounds where they were asked to negotiate with another team in a moving Vienna tram. This round tested their ability of managing a negotiation without being influenced by external factors.
The Nanyang Negotiators in action
The competition venue in Vienna
The Nanyang MBA TNC team for 2016 – The Nanyang Negotiators is extremely proud to have exemplified Nanyang Business School at this highly admired competition that invites world’s top business and law schools. Their experience in the competition has instilled in them stronger confidence for business negotiations that they will be facing in their careers after their MBA. The Nanyang Negotiators not only got a chance to experience diverse ways of negotiation, but also to meet and network with students from various countries with different backgrounds and cultures. The learnings from the competition and the cherished memories they have from the beautiful city of Vienna are definitely going to last a life-time.
On November the 14th 2015, the NUS-NBS Mixer, a social event for Singapore´s MBS students, took place in downtown Singapore.
In order to facilitate inter-school networking, Deep Dabholkar, the President of the student Executive Committee at Nanyang Business School liaised with Sean McNulty, President of the National University of Singapore student body. The two school representatives met over a coffee at Holland Village along with a few members of their respective student groups and organized one of the most highly attended events of the semester.
With twenty two students from Nanyang Business School (including part time students) and over 28 from the National University of Singapore, the NBS Bistro at Marina Square was booked and catering was ordered for the event.
event catering – a truly delicious feast!
A vibrant event with multiple games such as darts, billiards and some exciting foosball matches, students from both schools wasted no time in getting comfortable and “networking” with each other. By the end of the evening, a strong bond had been formed between the attending students that would laid the platform for great friendships.
The success of this event promises to lead to many more such inter-school activities, both on and off the field, that will foster better relations among the schools and the student cohorts.
A diverse Nanyang MBA team consisting of Sheng Jie Tan, Deep Dabholkar, Priyanka Khosla and Pierre Vinarnic took part in the 35th edition of the John Molson MBA International Case Competition, from 03 Jan – 08 Jan 2016 in Montreal, Canada.
The John Molson Case Competition is a not-for-profit event organized by MBA students from the John Molson School of Business in Montreal, Canada. The competition is among 36 teams from top business schools worldwide, and is recognized as the largest and most prestigious competition of its kind.
The event was a very enriching experience for the team, right from the first session of the preparation phase, with the guidance of coach Akshay Regulagedda, the Nanyang MBA John Molson alumni and part of the previous year’s winning team as well as Professor Vijay Sethi. While the team experienced a tremendously steep learning curve, all team members really bonded through a strenuous preparation phase. It was particularly memorable that Coach Akshay guided the team through a full case preparation despite a loosing his luggage and suffering from severe jetlag.
During the actual competition phase, the Nanyang MBA team sought to tackle various real life case problems, within a 3 hour time frame. The issues presented and industries covered were very diverse, including a fascinating case on turn-around strategy for MacDonald’s. After preparing a compelling case solution, the team proceeded to present a ppt outlining the case solutions to a panel of judges, predominantly senior leaders from major enterprises in North America.
One of the most memorable cases was a live case presentation by a Spanish Joint Venture, who presented their “Beauty & Go” product. The teams had the opportunity to interact with the actual stakeholders of the business, who presented on the case and business issues that they were facing in person.
The dynamic nature of the competition format really broadened the horizons of all participants, and served as an enriching platform for interaction and learning.
Overall, while the Nanyang MBA team did not win the competition in this edition of the event, it was definitely one of the most memorable experiences in the MBA program. For the competing team, it represented an opportunity to make the Nanyang MBA program proud, and to showcase the “Nanyang” perspective towards resolving business issues. The friendships and bonds forged will be fondly remembered as a highlight of our MBA experience.
Submitted by Mathew Stenger, President of the Student ExCo
The Annual Global MBA Conference is a chance for MBA leaders from around the world to come together to share best practices, create impactful networks and brainstorm ways to improve the global MBA student experience.
Submitted by Reina Wong, Student Exco VP Communications
One of the important events in our first month of the MBA program was the MBA Student Exco Elections. Nominees gave their election speeches during the Meet-The-Voters session on 15 August and the voting was held over the following two weekends.
The results of the election of the Exco and the Club Co-Chairs can be found here.
The first event that the Exco organized was the Singapore Delights & Exco Election Party held on 22 August. The class was invited to the MBA Lounge to have an evening of food and fun.
Since about four-fifths of the class is madeup of non-Singaporeans, local delights including chili crabs, black pepper crabs, fried rice and fried beehoon were served during the party.
After everyone had their stomach filled with the delicious food, we invited our President, Mathew, and our Executive Vice Preseident, Jiajia, to each give us a speech on getting elected, and a general outlook they have for the class.
We look forward to an exciting year ahead with the many events that the MBA Student Exco will bring to the class.
For more information about Nanyang Business School click here.