MBAs see Asia, wonder, warts and all

By GIFT

Mr Nair was one of two guest speakers at the closing sessions of the OneMBA programme, held at the Langham Hotel, Hong Kong, on Saturday, 20 May 2006. His talk, “Asia for real: a peek behind the scenes – adapting to a dynamic, global environment”, put Asia in proper context in a fast-changing world, providing facts, figures and asking some probing questions of the participants.

The 78 executives in attendance were on their final “residency” in Asia, during which they visited Hong Kong and Shanghai, attended talks given by guest speakers on a range of current and relevant topics and made company visits. Mr Philip Chen, chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways – voted airline of the year for 2006 – spoke separately on Saturday.

The OneMBA programme is formed by a partnership of five prestigious business schools in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. The Shanghai-Hong Kong residency marked the end of the programme, which spanned 21 months and consisted of residencies in each of participating universities’ home cities.

Mr Nair brought together some well-known facts about Asia – that it is the most populous and diverse continent in terms of culture and religion, geography and stages of development – and that it is also full of opportunity. While the OneMBA participants have seen success in Asian businesses during their residency, Mr Nair showed them an alternative view.

On the flipside of Asia’s unprecedented economic growth is the need for growing social awareness, better governance, environmental vigilance, strong, moral leadership, and strong institutions, Mr Nair said. He posed questions that business executives, often firmly focused on their jobs, rarely, if ever, think to ask themselves in making decisions. He suggested reasons for the anger and resentment against multinational corporations.

Mr Nair outlined more challenges from globalisation, among them increasing risks of social unrest and environmental destruction. Successful business should not be only about profit-making, but it also has a role in shaping a fair society that benefits all, he said.