Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My New Beginning

Is there anything in common amongst Chinese, Korean, Indian, American and Singaporean? You bet there is with the 2011 batch of the S3 Asia MBA. We all are coursemates on a 2-year journey away from home and family, a course in which we would sweat it out to learn new skills and knowledge, hone our technical expertise and most importantly, make new friends.

I am glad to be in a class as unique and diverse as the S3 Asia MBA program offers: 3 world-class cities, 3 distinct cultures and languages, 3 set of life experiences. In my opinion, this course is one of the most unique MBA programs offered currently, the most 'bang-for-buck' as some would describe it.

Diversity is good. We all come from different nations, each with individualistic skills, backgrounds and personalities. And being away from home has made my learning all the more exponential, as I grapple with the influx of new things coming my way every single day. From day-to-day conversations with the professors and students, to settling into a foreign environment amid all the hustle and bustle, I savour each experience and learn from it, as these are the intangibles that the S3 Asia MBA program brings to the table.

I feel young as I walked from my apartment to school daily. Fudan University is a campus that is full of youth and energy, with nice greenary, the legendary twin-towers and a beautiful heritage. Being back in school definitely brings back memories, not to mention all the homework, assignments and projects that are always on a tight deadline.

However, 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'. Fortunately for me, there are a host of activities ranging from students' clubs to 'crab-eating' tours in Fudan University, which gives students a well-oiled work-life balance.

I shall end off here, as there is a pile of work that is sitting on my desk as I am writing this. I just want to let you readers out there know that the S3 Asia MBA program is truely special, and you have to experience it yourself in order to appreciate all that it could bring to you.

Edwin Kheng (Singaporean)
S3 Asia MBA - 4th Batch, Class of 2013

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pls Pardon The Excessive Use of Superlatives!

It’s truly fascinating to watch a diverse set of individuals who have had no previous connection with each other collaborate and come up with a solution to a strange problem. Imagine a Korean taxation expert, a Chinese entrepreneur, a Singaporean government employee, an American credit card industry expert and an Indian Pranic healer trying to consensually arrive at a solution to a problem. Superficially, one may be fooled into thinking that all of them have nothing in common with each other and that they will find it difficult to collaborate.

Group discussion

S3 Asia MBA students from different nationalities

However, all of them have many things that link them to each other. Each one of them has an immense willingness and drive to learn from the other. Each one of them possesses the mental strength and agility to appreciate the distinct viewpoints that the other expresses and has an even greater respect for the other’s individuality. Each one of them has dedicated a significant portion of their life and has made many personal sacrifices in the effort to learn about business in three different countries – China, South Korea and Singapore. Each one of them is a sincere professional. And finally, they are all students of the current S3 Asia MBA batch. (2011 intake)

Every individual in this batch of 34 students has an equally fascinating and unique background. I feel very proud and privileged to say that I am a part of this batch. When signing up for the program I was keenly aware that the S3 Asia MBA is very different from any other MBA program – but I don’t think there is anything in world that could have prepared me for what was in store.


There is a huge sense of rush when moving to a new city and country. I am sure you understand when I write that there are not enough words in my vocabulary that can help me explain the first rush of moving to a city like Shanghai as a student. The bright lights, superb infrastructure, really tall buildings and fast cars are surely impressive. Any S3 Asia MBA student should get used to this feeling as within a span of 2 years we will be moving be living and studying in three of biggest cities in Asia –Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore - as the course progresses.

For the time being, I am only equipped to write about my experiences in Shanghai at Fudan University, where I am currently studying for the first semester of the course. I was almost awestruck when I first got to the campus of Fudan University. The two imposing Guaunghua Towers, surrounded by lush green lawns and boulevards on which thousands of students from all nationalities hurry to their respective classes on their bi-cycles is a sight that would welcome any student. I have never come across an environment which is so conducive to studying and learning. Coming to Fudan University truly made me feel like a student for the first time in nearly 8 years, after I graduated from college. I warmed up to the prospect of studying the first semester at Fudan University immediately after I saw the campus.

Barely did we settle into the new environment and meet our classmates and we were thrown into the most memorable experience of our life – the famous orientation. The orientation at Fudan University is a three day, intense, extremely well managed, well planned and large event that is meant to “break ice” with your classmates. It works wonders, as we are not just classmates - we are all very good friends. I now understand the meaning of the phrase by the famous Greek philosopher, Pluto - “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

The orientation is an outbound event in which, over a course of three days, all the participants are split in smaller groups and are given numerous tasks. All the tasks require you to work closely with and depend heavily on your group members. Nearly 500 students of all the programs offered by Fudan University School of Management converge on the campus for this event. Planning for this event starts nearly six months before. And the reaction from all the participants after it is over is one big WOW!

Orientation - Getting together

After such a welcome, we all looked forward to the prospect of starting our classes. Fudan University certainly manages to exceed expectations in every aspect. And classes were no exception. One of the classes that left an impression on me was conducted by Professor James Yuann for a course – Business in China. Apart from his cool swagger and calm disposition, I was completely impressed by his long and rich experience of doing business in the Asia- Pacific region. He was able to articulate and explain many of the subtle nuances of doing business in the different cultural environments of the region. I feverishly took notes every time he spoke because I was sure that I will learn things from his experience that no text book will teach me.

Meanwhile, we have other subjects like Managerial Economics, Financial Accounting, Data Models and Decisions, Managerial Communications and Organizational Behavior. All the professors have ensured that we are kept very busy. For all our subjects we have group assignments and individual assignments. We have so many groups meetings for so many assignments that it gets tough to keep track of all the meetings we have scheduled to discuss the assignments.

Despite this, our class works like a well -oiled machine. It’s one of the mysteries that I would like to solve - how do so people of different ages, experiences, cultural backgrounds, educational backgrounds work so effectively and efficiently with each other?

However, this mystery will remain unsolved for now as I now need to ponder on another mystery thrown at me by our Data, Models and Decisions (DMD) professor. We all love the subject so much that we have nicknamed it Death, Murder and Destruction.

But before I go, I would like to apologize for the excessive use of superlatives in this entire blog. It’s just that my classmates are outstanding, incredible and simply superb and the S3 Asia MBA experience is awesome, fantastic and amazing.

Yogesh Thakkar (Indian)
S3 Asia MBA - 4th Batch, Class of 2013

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

All the more reason

People get bombarded with a lot of questions when they aspire to do an MBA. I worked on choosing a college for 1 year before I landed up with one. MBA has become a fashion and a trend. The market now seems to catch up with the demand, with loads of choices. With so many choices one could easily get baffled. It did happen to me when I decided I wanted to be there within a year. The first step to doing an MBA is to write GMAT without pondering too much about the college. A score above 650 will help you survive and a score above 700 will help you get better. Once the scores are handy, then think about the colleges in terms of location, ranking (tells you about faculty, prestige), fees, duration, specialization, job prospects and culture. When you do so, these are the reasons for which NUS Dual degree S3 Asia MBA is recommended.

One can witness a transitional change in perspectives of a person as he or she spends considerable time on this program. This change in perspective arises because you just don’t get to visit three top Asian cities but you live as one of them. The insights you get on the cultures of different Asian companies has so far been incomparable. As you complete your term in Shanghai you get to understand the lives of Chinese so well that undeniably for doing business with them you will make a best fit. The best days of the program are those of orientation and field trip.

MBA Orientation is usually arranged with the fulltime MBA programs of the respective colleges and all the three colleges being top notch in the countries get the best students, so you get to see the best managers in town and spend good time with them. The classes are well structured and you are given the best case studies as group assignments, which teach you a lot. The faculties usually have on average 15-20 years of experience teaching with considerable experience on western countries. By listening to them, you gain a lot of knowledge on the international business and its intricacies. The days as we see it has only been getting better and better with time. Each university offers you a unique experience and provides a great forum for learning and networking.

The universities have a pretty good tie-up with the companies because of which you get to visit the best Asian companies and study them. In terms of placements, all the three universities have their own CDO, which acts as a liaison between the companies and the students. It would be early for me to comment on the placements of these colleges but I can see that they have the potential to get us on the right track. The last semester you can choose your own electives to concentrate your studies on a particular field. The fee for this program is far lesser when compared to the western schools and ROI is appreciable. The pay back as we calculated is less than 2 years and NPV is a total surprise that which you can take for granted now. At the completion of this program, you can be assured to see a sign of increased confidence in you to deal with the business challenges. Conclusively one can see this as a gateway to the business world.

Ranjani (Indian)
S3 Asia MBA - 3rd Batch, Class of 2012

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Shanghai Sojourn

We arrived, settled and started the semester with a lot of enthusiasm- both from the students as well as the university. I can never forget the three-day orientation that Fudan organized for us. The accommodation – Tonghe International Student Village – lived up to its name by proving to be a truly international experience.

The S3 Asia MBA is a very unique course in more ways than one. On one hand is the wealth of knowledge that a student stands to gain from studying in three amazing universities, and on the other is the priceless opportunity to live in places like Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore. I embarked upon this journey with a lot of preparation. I had tried to imagine the various situations that I might land in and how I would deal with them. In retrospect, I was being utterly stupid! For nothing I could ever imagine would have prepared me for what was in store for me.

The first thing I felt upon landing at the Pudong International Airport, Shanghai was a rushing sense of being an Indian. It was my first international travel experience and, as destiny would have it, I was in China. Here, I looked different from everyone else. They spoke a language that was nothing like anything I’ve ever heard before. Everything was built gigantic in proportions, the traffic was right-handed and the food- well, let’s leave that for later.

The route everyday from Tonghe to the School of Business gave us an opportunity to walk past the GuangHua Towers. At least to me, the towers remained an awe-inspiring view throughout the semester. The entire Fudan campus has this amazing energy and sense of purpose about it which is reassuring and humbling at the same time. Then the classes started.

With classes, came group studies, assignments, exploring the surroundings, and of course, parties! Tonghe is the perfect place to live as an international student studying at Fudan. The place is perfect in terms of amenities, location and independence. You can study at anyone’s apartment, meet at Chartre’s Deli for a quick meeting over coffee and party like there’s no tomorrow. If you want to cook, there’s a kitchen in every apartment and if you want to eat out, there are plenty of options around to choose from. I would like to make a special mention of a little joint called Hannah’s near Tonghe run by an angel of a lady called, well, Hannah. In case you are an Indian and want to eat healthy food outside on a regular basis, Hannah’s is just the place for you. The lady, thanks to some of our friends, had become so fond of Indian students that she prepared a separate Indian menu with stuff like vegetable rice and chicken curry rice in case you are selective about what meat, if any you wish to eat.

Shanghai has the reputation of being one of the best cities in the world and it totally lives up to it. The city has everything for everyone, there’s great transport, amazing infrastructure, an exciting nightlife and all that jazz that makes any cosmopolitan worth living. There will be small issues sometimes like communication or cuisine if you are conservative like me in the kind of food you eat but, the overall experience makes up for all that and does so nicely!

Now comes my favourite part – the people. In my experiences, I found the Chinese people to be extremely friendly, approachable and understanding. From the cabbie who sang Awaraa Hoon to professors who offered to conduct the same paper twice because some students were flying earlier; from the total strangers who would approach you and start talking to the nightclubs that would play Himesh Reshamiya’s version of Ek Hasina Thi (!!!), the people of Shanghai came across as a very affable lot. With the students, there were cultural confusions in the beginning of the semester but as time passed, we started understanding each other better thanks to the various cultural days organized by students from each country and Varun’s dance classes the overall group turned out to be extremely coherent.

As I wait for the next semester to start in Seoul, I sometimes wonder if times or going to get better or worse. After a start like this, your expectations start soaring new heights and that is when the pessimist in you also starts questioning everything. I am really not sure how it is going to be. But, I’m glad that I got a chance to study in a city like Shanghai in a university like Fudan; and that’s something that is going to stay with me always.

Piyush Kumar (Indian)
S3 Asia MBA - 3rd Batch, Class of 2012