On Saturday March 4, 2017, nearly 500 students, scholars, professionals and executives continued a longstanding tradition by congregating at the Harvard Business School campus to attend the 26th Annual Asia Business Conference at Harvard University.
This year’s conference, entitled “Asia in a Changing World”, focused on the role of Asia as the fastest growing region of the global economy, and against the backdrop of creeping political and economic protectionism in the developed world. More specifically, the conference examined why Asia is an increasingly attractive region to invest and grow global businesses, as well as how Asia’s political and business leaders should continue to promote globalization and Asia as an economic hub.
The day-long conference featured four keynote speeches and eleven panels, comprising over fifty speakers and moderators from various corners of the globe. Jointly organized by students from the Asia Business Club of Harvard Business School, the Harvard Asia Law Society of Harvard Law School, the Southeast Asia Caucus and China Society of the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Asia Real Estate Association and ChinaGSD of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Asia Business Conference at Harvard continues to be North America’s largest student-run Asia business conference.
The conference commenced with a keynote address by Dr. Muhamad Chatib Basri, Indonesia’s former Minister of Finance. Dr Basri outlined his view that Asia remains robust in the absence of leadership of global trade from the US and EU, because ASEAN will play a bigger role in leading economic integration within the Southeast Asia region and in the global economy going forward. Directly after the opening address followed two morning panel sessions including a session by Ms. Karen Lu, Director of Business Development at Alibaba Cloud, who discussed Alibaba’s aspiration to become a global leader in cloud computing services by leveraging Alibaba’s existing e-commerce IT infrastructure, in a way similar to Amazon’s Web Services. Alibaba is investing heavily in big data analytics and artificial intelligence, which the company considers significant drivers of future growth.
During the lunch break, some participants were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interact in a more intimate setting during small group lunches, with conference speakers such as Ms. Coral Chung, CEO and co-founder of Senreve, a luxury handbags brand, and Mr. Dave Cho, Co-Founder and CEO of Soko Glam, a Korean beauty products retailer. Other conference attendees participated in a workshop covering job opportunities in Asia and the US led by Ms. Liqi Peng from Liepin.com, a leading Chinese internet recruitment platform.
The afternoon’s proceedings kicked off with two keynote presentations. The first was given by Mr. Brian K. Heywood, CEO and Founding Partner of Taiyo Pacific Partners, an activist investment firm focused on the Japanese market. In an energetic and entertaining presentation, Mr. Heywood outlined a compelling set of reasons for why, despite the economic and geopolitical rise of China over the past decade, Japan remains a highly attractive destination to invest. The second keynote was given by Mr. Tim Lee, CEO and a co-founder of QFPay, a Chinese mobile payment start-up with over 200 million users. Mr. Lee gave an interesting recount of his journey, which he compared to the “Life of Pi” movie, from non-technical IBM consultant to founding a hyper growth startup to become a world leader in fintech, as well as his vision for QFPay as “the largest global internet service platform for merchants”. These insightful keynotes were followed by the third and final panel session which comprised of engaging discussions on venture capital, private equity, and urbanism in Asia. The formal proceedings of the conference concluded on a positive note, with the closing keynote speech of Mr. Bin Li, Counselor for Economic Affairs at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the US. Mr. Li summarized and reinforced China’s commitment to pursuing environmentally sustainable growth, promoting cultural and economic cooperation with other countries, and fulfilling its vision for the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road.
The conference was viewed as an overwhelming success, with extremely positive feedback received from a number of participants. Mr. Koji Yamada, an MBA student traveling from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University in Indiana remarked that he was “able to learn about current trends in Asia, how the region competes in the world, and gain great insights from different MBA school peers”. Mr. Maciej Godek (HBS 2017), an EC from Poland, remarked: “The conference had very strong panels with great selection of topics and guests, which made the day really valuable.”
This year’s conference was led by the HBS Asia Business Club – namely co-chairs, Songi Ryu (OA) and Hyon Bin Kong (OD), and Tomo Nakagawa (OB), who is also co-president of the Asia Business Club. For additional information on the conference, please visit //www.asiabusinessconference.org/.
Yun Yu (EC Section A) worked in investment banking and business development in the natural resources industry prior to HBS. He will be transitioning into the technology sector after graduation. Born in the UK and raised in Australia, he studied a mechanical engineering and commerce double degree at the University of Western Australia.