With four days of classes, touring, and company visits in Shenzhen followed by one day of class in Hong Kong, the China international module on Doing Business in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) was truly an insight into international business. As far as combining solid course material, cultural immersion, class bonding and business understanding are concerned, no other course in my time at IESE so far has been as impactful.
Learning from a new environment
As an Asian and Filipino, I believed I knew Asia well but realized that in the greater context of the world, I really understood only one small part. Seeing how the urban landscapes of Shenzhen and Hong Kong fit into the business activity and agenda of the Greater Bay Area gave color and a depth of understanding that I never would have had reading books or sitting in our typical classroom in Barcelona. For example, my favorite comment was from one of the managers at Tencent, from the gaming division: she said that the top Key Performance Indicator of a video game was gifting to people fantastic visuals and some sense of beauty.
I had never encountered such a perspective in any of my MBA classes, and it helped me understand that some takes on doing business you would only consider by being immersed in different contexts.
Beyond the case method
The classes were an extension to what we are used to at IESE. Classes in our partner school Hong Kong University (HKU) included entrepreneurship, operations, sustainability, and the economy in China, while the last day at Hong Kong Cyberport featured interactions with a startup owner and marketing professionals well-versed in personalizing products for local markets. It was refreshing to see the case method applied with an Asian flavor, and to see a case discussion come to life as it was followed up with an actual company tour. I remember reading a case about BYD Company Limited (it stands for “Build Your Dreams”) about its humble beginnings as a battery manufacturer and its unique story towards becoming a renowned player in the electric vehicle space. Right after that, te went from the classroom at HKU to the actual company site where we got to sit in the showroom and try the features of the cars on display!
I also enjoyed seeing marketing in action from the Hong Kong lens: for example, companies like Nestle and Pret-A-Manger seek to customize their products to a busier, Asian landscape and it showed in the way they adapted their menus to include ingredients like kimchi and soba, and advertising sandwiches and coffee in smaller portions.
Free to explore
The whole group appreciated that after 2-3 classes a day and either cultural events or a company tour in the afternoon, we were free after around 6pm every day to explore the city on our own. I went with my friends to try different Asian foods and check out stores in the malls. Some of us even chose to visit other cities like Beijing and Shanghai before and after the module started. I toured Hong Kong and Macao by taking a bus and ferry where I saw bridges connecting people between these cities and Zhuhai on the mainland, and this showed me another dimension to understanding the work behind keeping the Greater Bay Area integrated and active.
Making the most of what IESE has to offer
From giving me the space to bond with more of my classmates over calligraphy sessions and new foods to tying practical business courses with immersive company tours, the China module has definitely gone over and beyond my expectations.
Whether you want to go deeper into how business is conducted in rising cities in the global economy, or just are curious about what’s happening in different parts of Asia and have never been, be sure not to miss the China international module!
Written by Ma. Isabela Regina Abola, MBA Class of 2024
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