How the IBST equipped me to navigate cross-cultural business landscapes

Benedicta Banga (EMBA 2023) shares her experiences of the International Business Study Trip (IBST) to Vietnam.

Benedicta Banga (EMBA 2023)

“The Executive MBA schedule can be likened to a treasure trove of experiences. Having access to the 20-month plan early on proved invaluable for balancing work, life, and family commitments around the course. The structured routine of weekend residentials is punctuated by several unique and delightful moments, including the 1-week-long IBST.

I remember vividly the eagerness and anticipation in the cohort when the EMBA team advised that they would be announcing the destination for the IBST. After the announcement, everything was a whirlwind of activity – booking flights, discussions about extending the stay, and trip logistics. Before we knew it, we were in March, bags packed and flying to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

My IBST highlights

Professors Christopher Marquis and Michael Kitson and their team delivered the International Business module. Our mornings comprised lectures, talks and discussions that offered varied opportunities to reinforce the learning. The lectures offered an enriching exploration of fascinating concepts, such as institutional distance, deglobalisation dynamics, and the pivotal role of innovation as a catalyst for economic growth. Delving into these multifaceted topics gave us a deeper understanding of the complex forces shaping the global business landscape.

In the afternoons, we visited local businesses and saw firsthand how what we were learning is put into practice. Company representatives gave us guided tours of facilities, and speaker sessions and Q&As provided a window into how business is done in Vietnam. 

I really enjoyed the evening reception at the British Consulate. Speaker Emily Hamblin, the HM Consul General and Director for Trade in Vietnam, gave a fascinating insight into how countries foster trade relationships. She explained how geopolitical shifts were positioning Vietnam strategically within the region. Additionally, we learned about the UK’s strategic priorities for the partnership, Vietnam’s ambitious goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2045, its green transformation opportunity leveraging solar and wind energy, and other key areas. 

During our farewell dinner, I had the honour of delivering a thank you message to Tuyet Vu, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Planning and Investment at the Vietnam National Innovation Center. Herself an MBA alumna, Ms Tuyet shared her inspiring career journey and expressed optimism about Vietnam’s innovation and development prospects, despite the challenges the country faces. Her speech was an encouraging testament to the transformative impact of pursuing an MBA, showcasing how far one can go by investing in oneself.

What I learned about the Vietnamese business culture

Ho Chi Minh City left a lasting impression as a city full of potential and entrepreneurial spirit. The streets were lined with countless small shops, a confirmation of the industrious nature of the locals creating their own opportunities. The grassroots ecosystem stood in stark contrast to the equally prominent presence of large, global businesses. By the end of the trip, I had come to appreciate the systems at play and opportunities afforded to locals to make a living.

During the Innovation Forum hosted as part of our module, we met numerous entrepreneurs with fascinating stories. Hearing the motivation behind start-ups, such as Dear Our Community, Drinkizz, Closed Loop to Balance (CL2B), Vulcan Augmetics and others, provided an insight into the city’s entrepreneurial landscape. It was inspiring to connect with the young, empowered entrepreneurs who are at the heart of driving transformation for the next generation.

Vietnam strikes me as a highly adaptable nation, a quality evident in the joint ventures with global brands like Samsung, the relocation of manufacturing facilities to the country, and the growth of innovative homegrown brands such as Maison Marou chocolate company. The visit to FPT Software also confirmed this; they boast a globally competitive technology consulting campus, managed a remarkable transformation from a food business into a leading technology company, and even established their own university, demonstrating adaptability at scale.

My key takeaways from the IBST

It was a privilege to visit Vietnam and experience its potential firsthand. After this trip, I expect to revisit the country. I look forward to observing Vietnam’s ambitious 20-year strategy. The nation’s adaptability, coupled with its entrepreneurial spirit and openness to business, paints a picture of a society primed to make its mark on the global stage.

How the IBST changed me

The immersive experience left me with a profound sense of confidence in my ability to conduct business in a foreign country or collaborate with leaders formulating internationalisation strategies. The comprehensive blueprint provided during the week equipped me with the necessary tools and insights to navigate cross-cultural business landscapes effectively.

The concepts I learned during the IBST have found direct application in my current venture, Fluxury – a research and insights platform dedicated to sustainable luxury. The knowledge gained is proving invaluable in shaping aspects of this endeavour, allowing me to integrate ethical considerations and principles of institutional distance between countries into responsible business practices.”

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