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Microcosms in a Business World

Students from 70 countries are represented in the class of 2011, according to statistics compiled by HBS. Of those students, however, 64% are from the U.S. itself. The remaining 36% originate from developed countries like New Zealand, developing countries like Saudi Arabia and Chile, lesser-known countries like Uzbekistan, and countries with long war histories like South Korea and Vietnam.

Six HBS students from the above countries reflect on the socio-cultural and political scenarios in their respective countries and the needs emerging from them; their takeaways from the HBS experience; their motivations for returning to their homelands (or otherwise); and on their fears.

Most of the developing nations are caught in the vicious cycle of faulty education systems leading to unemployment, which causes income inequality. However, for some countries the most critical problems are geographical location and size of the economy, factors over which they have no control. Minsun Hong (NJ) is from South Korea, which is situated between China and Japan, considered two powerful nations in Northeast Asia.

“Previously, South Koreans provided labor to the world; now China provides cheap labor. Previously, South Korea was the hub of technology; now Japan is the source of high-technology products to the world. So the question before South Korea is what should be its focus for the next phase,” says Hong.

Manoj Patel (NH), who hails from New Zealand, shares, “at times I feel a bit intimidated in that our economy is only a tiny blip and hence my experiences there are not often relevant when compared to other larger countries.” Patel has finished medical school and has worked as a doctor in New Zealand.

Moreover, some countries suffer from single power governance. For instance, President Islam Karimov, 72, has ruled over Uzbekistan for 20 years, ever since the country gained its independence. He has constantly suppressed all political opposition. But Vladimir Rykov (NJ) from Uzbekistan is hopeful for change. He says one Harvard-educated woman has dazzled the Uzbek people with her voice and super-cool 3D music video effects replica breitling bentley 6.75. She has established a strong political following through well-placed strategic charities and has earned the trust of world leaders after serving in Uzbekistan’s Mission to the United Nations. She got a lot of media attention after having taken a hot picture with Bill Clinton during the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in 2009.ÿ “As for the question of being able to run the country, she can always go to President Karimov and say: ‘Daddy, I need your help!'” finishes Rykov with a laugh.

Ha Cao (OA), a joint-degree HBS/HKS student from Vietnam, corroborates with Rykov that corruption and bureaucracy is inherent in the government of her country replica breitling Aeromarine . She adds that there is a huge environmental concern in Vietnam; industries set up in villages are not socially responsible and contribute to pollution on a large scale.

In some countries, socio-cultural customs create an environment non-conducive to growth. Aala Bakr (NJ) from Saudi Arabia says that in her country there is an almost equal male-to-female ratio. Yet females are allowed to work only in certain sectors like healthcare, education and banking and not in larger sectors like oil, gas or the public sector. Thus, there is an enormous wastage of human resources. Also, female entrepreneurs find it very difficult to run their businesses independent of male guardians because men are needed in case of court proceedings and government regulations. Moreover, they are not allowed to drive cars, which further restricts their independence. It is a male-dominated society wherein most females blindly follow the rules set by men.

Nevertheless, Bakr would prefer to go back to her home country, which, in her opinion, is replete with opportunities. She says that especially when the country is being constructed, there is a huge shortage of skilled engineers. “Because new cities are being built from scratch for setting up industries www.replicaforbest.co.uk, even an idea tried and tested in developed countries has a high chance of success,” adds Bakr. She further explains that there is no need to bring in an innovative idea for incremental development as is the case in developed countries because the current stage in Saudi Arabia is that of laying the foundation. In addition, there is no tax system in the country, and the cost of living is also low, which are two more lucrative reasons for her to return to her home country and work there.

Chile has a different kind of social stigma attached to it. Chien Lee (OE) would like to go back to his home country in the medium term. According to him, it is relatively easy to start one’s enterprise in Chile, and there is also a need for secondary or value-added products and services there. However, he adds, “Being a small country, everyone in Chile knows everyone. If you fail once, it is harder to get finance and to succeed the next time because of that image.”

Thus, untapped opportunities beckon some students back to their home countries. But for Hong it is the brand name of Harvard that she thinks would differentiate her in South Korea when she goes back. “In my country, there are very few HBS-educated people like me. Hence, the probability of being in the upper class of working demographics is higher compared to being in a much more competitive atmosphere in developed countries,” Hong reasons. Out of about 40 million citizens in South Korea, only 4-5 people make it to HBS each year.

While some like Patel would like to go back to their own countries where they were raised and where they have their family and friends, some like Cao want to leverage their network and knowledge acquired at HBS to work in developed countries. Those returning to their nests after HBS agreed that their learnings are, for the most part, universally applicable, though they’ll require adaptation to a specific country’s culture.

Rykov says, “In Uzbekistan it is customary to give and receive gifts as part of many business transactions.”

On a different note, Hong adds, “We are taught at HBS to be aggressive. But in South Korea, you have to be very respectful to seniors.”

All the students recognized value in the case method in the sense that the arguments and counter-arguments open up their communication skills. Moreover, they concur that they would have benefited more if the students came from diverse work backgrounds (58% of students come from consulting and financial services). They also wish that more international students would be admitted to B-School straight from their home countries, bringing in the corresponding know-how of trade practices. Large proportions of international students have either done their under-graduate studies in the U.S. or have worked thereafter in the U.S. or both.

Thus, HBS provides wings to its students, some of whom break out of their comfort zones and fly to rougher, though more attractive, skies while others realize that gold was beneath their feet all along.

AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY
Smita Kothari is the partner of Pranav Kothari (N J). She is taking Journalism classes at Harvard Extension School. Besides writing, she enjoys International-Indianized vegetarian cooking, travelling and dance-exercising at Shad.ÿ

April 20, 2010
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