A Word from the Associate Dean: an MBA can serve as a bridge between emerging and developed markets

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean and Program Director for the Global MBA

Participants choose to pursue an MBA degree for a variety of reasons. Of course, the most important these is career enhancement or career change. We need to consider where these managers who are seeking this career enhancement or change, who have 6-8 years of experience, are coming from. It is definitely in in markets where there is growth and profitability and in firms that want to harness those opportunities for growth and profit. Where are these markets and where are these companies who are looking for high potentials to help them in this endeavor? They are multinational corporations either from developed nations, like the CAC40 of France, or emerging MNCs from emerging nations who are looking to expand.

Saturation in developed markets as well as large populations and increasing spending power in emerging markets means that corporations need to expand their focus from their traditional playing field in order to stay relevant and profitable. The key has been for the past decade to focus on establishing a presence in the markets of the future. And multinational corporations have expanded to embrace opportunities in developing and emerging markets. Also with this expansion, corporations seek more and more diversity in their boards, in their directors, in their managers, in their employees as a reflection of the shifting customer base of the new world order.

To fuel this need, in today’s global climate, an appropriately structured and thoughtfully designed MBA can serve the unique purpose of building bridges between emerging and developed economies. Doing business today requires a certain amount of cross-cultural ease, fluency, and familiarity. Speaking other languages, understanding other cultures, and being sensitive to the backgrounds, norms, and expectations of others is key to successful interaction, collaboration, and cooperation. Understanding the way that business is done in other countries allows us to borrow best practices and approach today’s obstacles and opportunities alike with a holistic approach that is global in more ways than one.

This means opportunities for participants from emerging markets on several fronts. Participants have the advantage of knowing their local language, culture, and business practices. This is an asset to hiring companies looking to develop a presence in their locality. This also means that students with the knowledge, tools, and skill set are positioned to take advantage of the growth in their local economies as entrepreneurs or employees. Also to integrate these managers, the MNCs like to have their high potential employees educated where the MNC hails from. In this process, the managers bring a dual advantage – location and lesson learnt – to harness the opportunities in the true sense of the word.

An MBA from an established school in a developed market can help students from emerging markets to seize these opportunities. It offers them the well-rounded exposure and education that they need in order to familiarize themselves with global business practices and successfully bridge the barriers that have traditionally stood between cultures, people, and businesses. These environments are fertile and fast-changing, and require specific competencies to develop long-term, sustainable strategies. Global standards, practices, and metrics need to be adapted to respond to regional needs and particularities. These students will be particularly well equipped to succeed in the ever-changing economic climate we have before us.

In the Global MBA, our small-batch cohort represents a diversity of backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, and languages. This year’s students represent 12 nationalities. In collaborating together on team-based projects in the classroom, Global MBA students hone their interpersonal and cross-cultural skills. As part of its focus on emerging markets, the program offers several immersion opportunities. To open the doors to opportunity in Asia, the students complete one of their academic terms in Singapore. To better understand the particularities of business in Russia, the students participate in a mandatory Eastern Europe field trip, filled with cultural events and company visits.

And to really engage on the ground, to learn best practices from another place and system, the students take place in the International Immersion Project, a project revolving around a month-long installment in the field. This year’s students are being sent to projects in locations as diverse as India, Venezuela, South Africa, Uruguay, Egypt, and the Philippines. And for students coming to France from BRIC countries and other emerging or developing markets, the Global MBA engages regularly with the business community through company treks, visiting speakers, and networking events. The program truly seeks to combine the best that each location has to offer, and to train our students to function comfortably, competently, and responsibly within this international framework. Similarly, it aims to make them aware of the particular challenges and obstacles that exist in emerging markets, which are often unanticipated by counterparts used to doing business only in developed economies.

On an academic level, students at the Global MBA benefit from ESSEC’s top tier core curriculum and world-renowned faculty, which have helped the Business School rank consistently among the top in Europe and the World and to maintain its prestige over its more than century-long heritage. In addition to the rigorous core curriculum that is to be expected from a top MBA program, the program’s academics are geared specifically towards emerging markets and international perspectives. Students explore the new frontiers of business with courses such as Green Energy Economics, the Entrepreneurial Manager, and Entrepreneurs in Innovation. They enhance their global perspectives through courses such as Global Strategy, Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Managing IT in a Networked World, and Business, Sustainability, and Society, among others.

Today’s companies recognize that there are opportunities in emerging markets. Now they need the managers to help them develop and execute tailored, sensitive, and thoughtful strategies both for entering and expanding in these markets. An individual from an emerging market with a degree in hand from an established Western school such as ESSEC Business School should be just the type of employee to fill this important niche.

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