The 14th Annual Harvard Asia Business Conference took place Friday, February 10 to Sunday, February 12. Titled “Asia, Inc.: Integration and Differentiation,” this year’s conference drew over 900 students, scholars, professionals and executives. As suggested in the title, this year’s conference focused on the integration and differentiation challenges companies and countries face to compete in Asian nations and as Asian entities.
The two-and-a-half day conference featured five keynote speeches, 16 panel streams comprising nearly 70 speakers and moderators, and two career-networking events. Jointly organized by 100-plus students representing the Asia Business Club of HBS, the Harvard Asia Law Society of Harvard Law School and the East Asia Caucus of the Kennedy School of Government, it is the largest student-run business conference pertaining to Asia held in North America. The HBS co-chairs of this year’s conference were Albert Hui (OH), Brooke Zhou (OB), Patrick Kim (OG), and Take Takekawa (OI), who worked through countless nights to lead the effort.
Former VP and General Counsel of World Bank Ko-Yung Yung opened the conference with his keynote speech at the Fogg Museum reception Friday evening. While enjoying the elegant ambience associated with Harvard’s famed Fogg Museum, guests tuned their ears to Mr. Yung’s remarks on the importance of Asia as a region in terms of market size as well as potential for future growth.
Next morning, over 800 attendees filled Burden Auditorium where President of Asian Development Bank Haruhiko Kuroda shared his view on the current trend and future prospect toward economic, political, and social integration in Asia. During his speech, Mr. Kuroda emphasized the importance of collaboration among Asian nations and ADB’s crucial role in the process.
Following the speech, seven panels and executive roundtable discussions were held in Burden, Aldrich, and Hawes.
Throughout the day, panelists and participants exchanged views on subjects ranging from venture capital, M&A in Asia, legal environments and free trade issues. Also, Mr. Paul DiPaola delivered a succinct yet captivating key remark on behalf of Bain & Co. where he serves as director and head of Greater China. This year marks the sixth consecutive year of Bain & Co.’s long-standing relationship as a major sponsor of the conference.
The conference’s high energy reached a climatic point at the Charles Ball where attendees enjoyed great company over gourmet cuisine and refreshments. The dinner event also featured a keynote by Dr. Tu Weiming, director of Harvard’s Yenching Institute, who spoke about incorporating Asian virtues and values with Western learning and practice in business.
Attendance remained strong Sunday despite inclement weather that put the city of Boston in a state of emergency. Participants braved the blizzard to attend the closing speech by Mr. Robert D. Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International.
Hormats’ expert view on financial and macroeconomic development in China, Japan, and Korea is based on his ample experience as a government official and an industry executive. He was met with questions from eager participants. In one afternoon session, Professor Pai-Ling Yin interviewed Dr. Songyee Yoon, who heads mobile data service platform strategy at SK Telecom, about how Korea became the world’s leader in the telecom industry as well as her company’s strategy.
She said, “Having a single, uniform technology platform, fostered by the Korean government, definitely eliminated problems early.”
Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Mr. John Liu, who came from New York to attend the conference applauded, saying, “I am very glad to have come here. I have to say [the organizers] did a wonderful job. I’d definitely want to come back next year.” Another attendee, who has been a regular for four years, commended the conference “despite the worst weather day in Boston this year.” Others raved about the quality of the panels, saying, “The speakers were truly engaged and the energy in the room was just amazing.”
Sponsors of the 14th Annual Harvard Asia Business Conference were: Bain & Company, Paul Weiss (Platinum), Nomura, Davis Polk (Gold), Shinsei Bank (Silver), Goldman Sachs, Lathan & Watkins, Skadden (Bronze), and Clearly Gottlieb (Contributor). Their generous support made this year’s conference possible.
Patrick Kim (OG) is a Co-chair of the Asia Business Conference