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What a whirlwind trip! Yesterday we said goodbye to Saigon and flew to Daneng. We drove into Hoian and heard about the Vietnam War. Many American installations are still here.

We are on the water and it is lovely! When we arrived, we did a short walking tour of the old city which is a unesco world heritage site.

Today we did an eco tour and saw how people here farm and fish! We got to ride a water buffalo and float in the river. Lunch on the boat was delicious! We came back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation before our flight tonight. I’m excited to go home!IMG_0763

Days 6 & 7: Winding Down

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What a whirlwind trip! Yesterday we said goodbye to Saigon and flew to Daneng. We drove into Hoian and heard about the Vietnam War. Many American installations are still here.

We are on the water and it is lovely! When we arrived, we did a short walking tour of the old city which is a unesco world heritage site.

Today we did an eco tour and saw how people here farm and fish! We got to ride a water buffalo and float in the river. Lunch on the boat was delicious!  We came back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation before our flight tonight. I’m excited to go home!

Day 5: Brands and Startups

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Today was fascinating! We heard from incredibly smart people; dividing the day into establishing and established brands, and then startups and new businesses later on.

In the morning we learned about energy in Vietnam. It is a priority here like it isn’t in Cambodia, but at the moment the infrastructure is very similar. Our speaker discussed he market for back-up generators and the cost of energy here. I’m a little disappointed that coal and the technology from China is where the future of energy in Vietnam is going. There is hydropower but very little solar or wind and no investment in it. The speaker sold Kohler diesel generators, and we talked about who would buy the brand name and who would still need to purchase a generator but be more motivated by price and smaller competitors.

Then we heard from PNJ Jewelry and learned about their efforts at creating branded lines. It was so interesting to hear what worked and what didn’t, and how the local sales and exports operate.

Our final meeting of the morning was with Starbucks Vietnam and we started with a coffee tasting! The steps are: 1 smell, 2 quick spray, where on tongue does it sit, and 3 what do you feel? Starbucks in Vietnam operates under a license owned by a company in Hong Kong but the brand is still the same and global. We heard about the challenges and successes of operating the global brand in Vietnam.

For lunch, our Graduate Assistant and local guide Genie, took us to get real pho! It was amazing and everything I hoped for!

Our last meeting of the day was with Vietnamese startup entrepreneurs. One spoke about the fintech (financial technology) space, and the other talked about startups in Asia, but specifically in Vietnam. The government and community support for startups is impressive and there have already been a number of success stories. We’re all eagerly awaiting the first Vietnamese unicorn!

Day 5: Brands and Startups

 

Today was fascinating! We heard from  incredibly smart people; dividing the day into establishing and established brands, and then startups and new businesses later on.

In the morning we learned about energy in Vietnam. It is a priority for Vietnam like it isn’t in Cambodia, but at the moment the infrastructure is very similar. Our speaker discussed the market for back-up generators and the cost of energy here. I’m a little disappointed that coal and the technology from China is where the future of energy in Vietnam is going. There is hydropower, but very little solar or wind, and almost no investment in it. The speak sold Kohler diesel generators, and we also talked about who would buy the brand name versus the smaller competitors.

Then we heard from PNJ jewelry, and learned about their efforts at creating branded lines. It was so interesting to hear what worked, and what didn’t, and what the local sales and export market operate like.

Our final meeting of the morning was with Starbucks Vietnam, and we started with a coffee tasting! The steps are: 1 smell, 2 quick spray, where on tongue does it sit, and 3 what do you feel? Starbucks in Vietnam operates under a license, granted to a Hong Kong company, but the brand is still the same and global. We heard about the challenges and successes of operating the global brand in Vietnam.

For lunch, our Graduate Assistant and local guide, Genie, took us to get real pho. It was amazing and everything I was waiting for!

Our last meeting of the day was with Vietnamese start-up entrepreneurs. One spoke about the fintech (financial technology) space, and the other about startups around the world with the focus on Asia in general and the specifics of operating in Vietnam. The government and community support for startups and entrepreneurs in Vietnam is amazing, and there have been a number of success stories already. We’re all eagerly awaiting the first Vietnamese unicorn!

Day 4: Happy International Women’s Day!

 


This morning we travelled from Chau Duc to Ho Chi Minh City, or as it is also known, Saigon. After some normal travel hiccups, we had lunch at a fancy rest stop, and continued on to our hotel in Ho Chi Minh.

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Finally, we visited with a lawyer who represents global companies in Vietnam and the region. She spoke at length about doing business here, including the effects of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It was interesting to hear how it has taken hold over a period of time. According to this lawyer, there are no exceptions for Americans doing business because bribery overseas can and will be prosecuted in the US. The interesting part was how local employees have adapted to talking about bribery openly since the law was passed and implemented. If you are wondering, as I did, how business still happened without “gifting,” it is with corporate messaging that the company will stand behind local employees who may make less money because they do the right thing.

Now we are at an incredible barbecue dinner to end the day!

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Day 3: Cambodia to Vietnam

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We took a boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Duc in Vietnam today! What a great way to travel four hours. The border crossing by boat was really interesting: quiet and efficient. We had to climb up steep steps on the river bank to depart Cambodia and then again when arriving in Vietnam.

Now that we are in Vietnam, it is beautiful and relaxing. We headed to a fish farm on the Mekong delta and learned about the fishing industry and exports in this area. Following that, we toured the Chau Duc village, which is predominantly Muslim. I didn’t know there was so much diversity in Vietnam, with 56 tribes and eight languages.

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Finally, we went to the village market which had lots of stalls and sold mostly food and trinkets. Most of the food was raw or dried fish (and fruits and vegetables), which has a distinct smell. I was surprised that so many of my classmates had never been exposed to this environment. I thought the food looked delicious and fresh!

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I’m excited to see what our next day in Vietnam is like!

I fell in love with the phrase “non-governmental corporate diplomacy” when I was seventeen. I was a pretentious teenager. But I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do- work with one company around the world, helping invest in communities and people and changing lives permanently for the better.

Today was an incredible day in that respect; we heard from different groups of people who operate in that space, the intersection of government and business in a developing country. It was so inspiring to hear from the team at Better Factories Cambodia about how promoting or hiring women supervisors can improve productivity in garment factories by 22%, according to a study done by Tufts.

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For me, this reaffirmed that I made the right choice to pursue an MBA. It will equip me with the credential to move in to management and pursue corporate policies that benefit society and improve the company’s bottom line.

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We also heard from young Cambodian entrepreneurs working out of TEKHUB at the Asia Foundation about their startups and their hopes for Cambodia’s future. It is really incredible what can happen when non-profit missions and private donors align with government to sponsor innovation.

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After another delicious lunch, we visited the Garment Manufacturer’s Association of Cambodia. What stuck with me the most was hearing about why automation won’t work in Cambodia and other developing countries: it isn’t a lack of capital or a lack of will power, it’s simply that energy is not reliable enough to run manufacturing machines 24/7, or even consistently 8 hours a day. People, humans, are not replacable.

That’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish with my MBA and my future career. I’m excited to empower individuals to do amazing work and push with new technological advances. It’s going to be incredible to see how the world moves forward and what kind of jobs the future has!

 

Day One in Cambodia

IMG_0692 IMG_0696We arrived in Cambodia after more than 24 hours of travel! We took two very long flights, and it is gorgeous here!

 

Today was an extremely busy day, starting with a tour of the royal palace (pictured above), the S21 detention center, followed by lunch at an NGO (also pictured!). In the afternoon we visited a village and watched women weave silk fabrics on looms. Back in Phnom Penh, we visited the store where these fabrics are sold and learned about the charity of Princess Marie. What incredible work she does in Cambodia and around the world!

After a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, we are back at the hotel and getting ready for a big day tomorrow!