Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. Consumer confidence is high and a Ho Chi Minh City-based startup scene is booming – the World Bank forecasts a further 6.3% GDP growth this year.
The UK’s Cass Business School took the Executive MBA students to Vietnam, on a week-long International Consultancy Week and leadership expeditions to develop students’ business skills related to emerging markets.
On consulting projects, students were paired with Vietnamese startups as well as multinational companies to create recommendations for their clients’ business challenges. Students also took part in a leadership expedition to the top of mount Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina.
The aim: to take students out of their comfort zone and prepare them to excel no matter how tough their future business environment.
“Applying what you’ve learned in a challenging environment with language barriers and different ways of doing business is a really intense experience” says current Executive MBA student, Archna Luthra.
Archna was one of the first five members of staff at MoneySavingExpert and has seen the company grow to become part of the group which owns leading UK price comparison site MoneySuperMarket. For Archna, the Vietnam elective was a chance to hone her leadership skills and learn the commercial business skills necessary to further her career.
She worked on a consulting project for Vietnam Airlines, helping the company grow their online presence. “We presented our recommendations and to see they were actually interested and excited about what we had put forward was really rewarding,” she says.
For Cass MBA alumnus Ed Dymott, it was the resourcefulness and optimism of the Vietnamese people that stood out. “It was interesting how entrepreneurial they were,” he says. “From tour guides who learned English without lessons, to the farming methods for crops and even the lady who was determined to sell us her handcrafts – she walked six miles with us!”
Archna too, was left impressed by the climb up mount Fansipan. “It was harder than I thought it would be” she recalls.
“What made this different was reflecting on leadership at the end of the day. We discussed the team dynamics and what worked. It’s really stuck and resonated. It’s very different to learning in a classroom.”
For Ed, teamwork was an essential part of the expedition. “It seems obvious in a business sense, however it’s much more obvious in this type of challenge. The strengths and weaknesses of a team are more apparent when you’re climbing a cliff face!” he laughs.
The expedition brings MBA classes together as one. “I've always said the student network is one of the most valuable things you get from an MBA” Ed continues.
“The fact I got to know twenty people I didn't before is great. I've already spoken to a few about new ideas and business opportunities.
“Even today, despite it being seven years since I finished my MBA, I was talking to someone from Cass who I was helping with a piece of work. That type of network shouldn’t be underestimated.”