Conquering the Asian Market with a Global MBA

ESSEC Business School's campus in Singapore

This article is sponsored by ESSEC Business School’s Global MBA program. Learn more about the program.

The world shrinks. Opportunities become globalized. To succeed, students and educators must adjust. Yet the future is not always a continuum of the past. China’s ascendance inspired companies to focus on its enormous marketplace. Recently, the nation’s opaque stock market, declining growth and leadership challenges have led to questions. While the scale of business opportunity in China remains vast, many have been turning their attention to emerging markets elsewhere in Asia, to India and the Philippines for instance, or to more established economies, such as that of Singapore.

ESSEC Business School‘s Global MBA program allows participants to sample several markets. Embarking from the school’s main campus in France, students spend five weeks at a newly constructed campus in Singapore. They also study in an emerging market of their choice, be that in Asia or in other parts of the world. To find out more, TopMBA.com caught up with four students to discuss what drew them to ESSEC’s program and how they hope to utilize what they have learned.

The Global MBA at ESSEC Business School

To the northwest of Paris, in the town of Cergy, ESSEC Business School traces its origins to the creation of the Institute of Economic and Commercial Studies over a century ago. Today, it works hard to apply that experience to the ever-changing Asian market. “The Global MBA aims to help you develop your creativity and problem-solving skills in a multi-cultural context,” reads the program website. This diversity is reflected by its cohort – 32 students representing 16 different nationalities.

ESSEC Business School students

Yuma Sasaki grew up in Yokohama, Japan and attended the University of Tokyo, where he majored in French literature. Sasaki is focused on changing “things for the better in West Africa, where about 70% of the population don’t have the access to electricity,” and sports his core belief on his arm - in the form of a tattoo of the word ‘passion’.

Another fan of French literature, Jagan Yegireddi, is the son of a school teacher and grew up in rural South India, where he read translated editions of works by Alexandre Dumas, Jean-Paul Sartre, and René Descartes. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Birla Institute of Technology & Science, and also earned a degree in business law from NUJS (West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences) in Kolkata. 

A US citizen, Timothy Minch grew up in a remote part of the South Pacific. He left to attend college at Northern Illinois University near Chicago and enjoys mountain biking and kayaking. After university, he worked for a Fortune 500 food company’s international division as a project manager.        

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Tilman Reiser graduated from high school in Heidelberg and fulfilled his country’s mandatory (at that time) service requirement in the emergency room of a Bavarian hospital. He then enrolled in a ‘dual apprenticeship’ program, allowing him to study and work simultaneously. An ensuing degree in hospitality management led Reiser to join Hyatt’s corporate leadership program. Following a year-long stint at the Park Hyatt Ningbo (about two hours’ drive south of Shanghai, China) as a food and beverage specialist, he relocated to the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou.

The reasons these four students have for pursing their degree are as diverse as the Global MBA program. Sasaki realized that the company where he worked was unlikely “to go to Africa for commercial and security reasons, so I decided to quit and do an MBA.” Hoping to blend dreams with experience, Sasaki hopes to remain connected to the Asian market by making his professional life “a hub between opportunities in Africa and technologies and knowhow in Japan.”

Minch pursued an MBA because “my target career goals required not only experience but also an advanced degree” while Yegireddi felt motivated by prior work experiences in Brazil and India, “to expand my horizons and to prepare myself for my long-term goal of becoming the CEO of a large conglomerate.” Reiser, meanwhile, “felt limited in terms of knowledge when it came to topics like corporate finance, strategy or business intelligence…[and I] wanted to challenge myself more intellectually and academically.”

Sasaki wanted to earn an MBA in France, because French is widely spoken in the West African region where he hopes to work after graduation. “After talking with many French friends who knew all the schools to which I applied and also with the administration at ESSEC,” Sasaki recalls, “it was obvious that ESSEC offered the most innovative culture and one which I was sure would fit me.”

A global MBA for Minch was a no-brainer. He explains, “I believe the world is becoming more global and those bright individuals ready to link cultures and commerce together will quickly show their value. ESSEC clearly believes that actual global experience is vital to this MBA.”

For Yegireddi, an early fascination with French literature meant it made sense “to pursue my higher education in France so that I could immerse myself in the French culture that I was always mesmerized by.” Yegireddi saw ESSEC Business School’s Global MBA program as “an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and exposure to doing business in unfamiliar markets and one that equips us with critical business knowledge and capabilities.”

Like many students who opt for a European education, the length of study was a factor for Reiser because US MBA programs usually take longer to complete. As he explained, “I feel I have to move forward fast, being 29 years old. I soon figured out that ESSEC Business School´s Global MBA was the program of my choice.”

Opportunities in emerging markets

While opportunities abound in the Asian market, they are not the sole focus for many students at ESSEC Business School. As part of the Global MBA program, they spend at least one week living and working in an emerging market. For some, it’s a chance to test their talents in the context of a developing economy. For others, it’s the first step toward their final destination.

Sasaki, for instance, plans to do an internship at PEG – the largest off-grid solar company in West Africa and one that is run by an Australian entrepreneur. He hopes that spending time in Ghana and Ivory Coast will prepare him for a career in one of the continent’s emerging markets. Sasaki is confident but realistic about the challenges he faces since this will be his first time working in Africa. “I know this won’t be easy because I am neither African nor a Westerner. I need to get out of my comfort zone and pick up a lot of things quickly about its business, people and culture. Those are scary things compared to going back to Japan.”

For Yegireddi, the emerging market portion will be spent closer to home, as he joins two other students from his Global MBA cohort in working on an entrepreneurial venture in clean tech. The trio plan to “explore the opportunities to establish the technology in India, a country which, at this point of time, is one the growth engines of the global economy and a suitable environment with respect to the opportunities required to succeed in our entrepreneurial venture.”

Minch, meanwhile, will work for over a month in the emerging markets of Rwanda and Tanzania, partnering with local entrepreneurs who are looking to optimize their projects. “Although I am unlikely to work full time in Asia or Africa,” he admits, “there is a very real need to continue learning cultural fluency and in appreciating and improving cross-cultural relationships.”

Why Study in Singapore?

In 2015, the new Singapore campus building was completed and its Nepal Hill location provides a base in Asia for both the Global MBA students and ESSEC Business School as a whole. In this sense, the school provides opportunities for people from around the world to study in Singapore. Many will opt to stay on and work there as well.

An island nation with few natural resources, Singapore has leveraged its strategic location and economic freedom to create an environment of tremendous opportunity. The Index of Economic Freedom is a joint publication between The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation. Two decades on from its launch, this index ranks 186 countries on everything from property rights to government spending. In 2016, Singapore came second only to Hong Kong in this economic freedom index. By comparison, the US ranked 11th with France way down in 75th position, just below Kuwait. While France’s low ranking was based partly on price controls and labor regulations, Singapore scored high marks for such factors as its transparent regulatory environment, clear property rights and low taxes (with a top income tax rate of 20% and a corporation tax rate of 17%). For aspiring entrepreneurs, the index also notes that the regulatory hurdles are minimal and it’s possible to open a business in the space of just three days and with no minimum capital requirements.

For Minch, studying in Singapore - a place that charts so highly on this economic freedom index - helped him “gain a great appreciation for the importance of the Asian market, something that I did not learn in my US education. Singapore, specifically, was a perfect location to visually and physically experience East and West meeting for business.”

Even Global MBA students who were already familiar with the Asian market gained new perspectives from studying in Singapore. “To be honest, I wasn’t so excited about going there at first,“ Sasaki admits, “because I was already determined to work in Africa after the MBA and had no interest in spending five weeks in Asia, instead of in France. But I realized, after actually being in Singapore, that I was wrong about it. ESSEC really ensures that you have an experience you couldn’t have in France. Classes are more about technology and big data. Professionals you meet are more tech-savvy and entrepreneurially-minded.” Studying in Singapore for a period of five weeks felt ideal for Sasaki since “it’s long enough for you to be able to experience and feel the real culture of Singapore, but short enough that you don’t lose the work you did in Paris.”

Having spent time both in Shanghai and Singapore, Yegireddi has detected that what “may provide Singapore with an edge over Shanghai is the lower degree in ambiguity with respect to rules and regulations in place, which may sometimes take a toll on less experienced investors.”

Reiser believes that no one can afford to ignore the Asian market. For him, studying in Singapore and Shanghai “strengthened my desire to continue my career in Asia. Many Chinese and foreign firms will have to re-evaluate their value proposition and the way they do business. China still has a long way to go before it will be able to bring the same level of service and quality to the table as Singapore has been able to deliver consistently for years.”

For each of these Global MBA students, the time they spent studying the Asian market has been invaluable, regardless of whether or not they ultimately choose to work in the region. As Yegireddi notes, “ESSEC has provided me with the platform to tap into my entrepreneurial personality by connecting me with my current venture partners and with the necessary technology. Considering the global macroeconomic landscape, Asia and Africa are definitely the places that will drive future economic growth.”

This article is sponsored by ESSEC Business School’s Global MBA program.


Written by John Bankston

Content writer John began his career as an investigative reporter and is a prolific educational writer alongside his work for us, authoring over 100 nonfiction books for children and young adults since 2000.

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