On Top of the World at the Marina Bay Sands

By Saurabh Sakhuja, Global MBA student 2013-2014, India

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore is neither a hotel, nor a casino, but the world’s most expensive integrated resort/casino property built on Indonesian soil. Yes, you read that right, it was constructed on Indonesian soil that was dumped in Singapore bay to reclaim the land for development.

The property is unique; it features 2561 rooms, 121,600 m2 of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) space, a collection of fancy celebrity restaurants, a huge shopping mall, and most importantly the Casino, which brings in the most revenue and contributes the most to the MBS’ profit. It employs over 9,700 permanent staff, as well as additional temporary staff when required.

We started our tour in the Convention center, where we were briefed on the tremendous space it encompasses. Where else in Singapore can one have a roundtable banquet facility seating 6,000 people in a single pillar-less banquet hall? Next up was the Casino. To say it was massive is an understatement and it glitters like gold. We looked down from the floor above at the countless slot machines, casino tables, and more than 30 private gaming rooms reserved for high-flyers. Paiza, a special VIP members-only club, is also located there, with a dedicated entry from the hotel to the casino via the Dragon/Paiza Bridge. Getting into Paiza isn’t easy; only players who meet the average bet and length of play criteria for their respective rooms are invited. We were surprised to learn about the role of “gaming ambassadors,” of which there are 127 at the MBS Casino. Gaming Ambassadors are there to help casino patrons who express dismay at losing too much or being unable to stop. These ambassadors will direct them to resources on gambling addiction like the National Council on Problem Gambling’s website and help line, or organizations such as the National Addictions Management Service. We were briefed on the Council of Problem Gaming and on schemes such as “self-exclusion,” “family exclusion,” and “third party exclusion,” which allow individuals with gambling problems to be excluded from the Casino.

The personalized service and care provided by MBS is seamless. For example, they even have their own herbs garden, managed by the Executive Chef himself. MBA also has the advantage of being quite eco-friendly by participating in rain water harvesting or food recycling to make compost. These small steps make a big difference for the environment.

We next visited the observation deck on the 57th floor, which can hold 900 people and from which you have a perfect view of Singapore city.

Then came the brilliant Presidential Suite, which commands 509 m2, including 3 bedrooms with balconies, two living rooms, a grand piano, a media room, a study, a massage room, and a mini gymnasium. The view from the room would make anyone feel like the king of the world. But all of this comes for a price… S$16,000 per night. I’m sure once we get jobs after our MBA, we’ll love to back to Singapore especially to stay in the Marina Bay Sands Presidential Suite. ;-)

Mr. NK, the Human Resource Development Manager who gave us the tour of the property, informed us that the MBS changes their furniture regularly and that the old furniture is sold to the staff at a concessional price, with the proceeds going towards charity.

We finished the visit with a Q&A session with Mr. Maunik, the Senior Vice President of Marketing. He was the image of a true hotelier, smiling and sharp, and answered all our questions regarding marketing the brand, revenue generation, competition, KPIs, etc.

All in all it was a great experience for those of us who had not had much exposure to the casino and hotel world, particularly with an integrated property as huge as the Marina Bay Sands.

5 weeks in Singapore

By Xavier de Susbielle, Global MBA student 2013-2014, France

We arrived in Singapore on February 13th, a beautiful, sunny day. It didn’t take much time for everyone to settle in at the Far East Plaza Residence in the heart of the city. It’s a shopper’s paradise, with luxury brand stores all around Orchard Road. Hats off to the Singaporean government for their efficiency! We went straight to the ICA building and obtained our student cards in just a few hours. It didn’t take long for us to start our mission of mastering the Asian market.

The Far-East Plaza Residence and its swimming pool
Classes in Asia

The lectures started with IT in Asia. We had one intense week to deal with this “delicate” topic. Some of us were still a bit jet lagged, but the view on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel kept our eyes open, while Professor Yan Li kept us going and motivated.

Are you jet lagged?
We hadn’t realized that we had already adapted quite to the Singaporean lifestyle. Philippe Bonnet, our HR professor (and also VP of Human Resources for Asia Pacific at Essilor), has been living in Singapore for almost 20 years. He briefed us on the challenges and opportunities of the expatriate life, which was quite interesting.

As a strategic business hub in Asia, Singapore is surrounded by many other countries and we didn’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of this. The weekends were the perfect moment for some students to relax in the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand, while others who stayed in Singapore enjoying swimming, shopping, eating (Chinese, Indian, or even Japanese meals), taking photos, and exploring everything Singapore has to offer like the beach in Sentoza or the Botanical Garden. That’s the Global MBA spirit; we never stop! The immersion in Asian culture was of great value and we learned so much that we wouldn’t have in France.

On Friday, February 28th, we met Leonardo Banegas, an alumni from last year. Leonardo is now based in Singapore working for KMPG. He invited us to the 43th floor of a building next to the Marina Bay Sands, where he and his girlfriend prepared sushi for us and gave us some precious advice for our future and on how he managed to quickly get a job after graduation.

Tai Wei Chao and Cedomir Nesterovic, our Negotiation in China and Geopolitics professors respectively, gave us a lot of precious information about Asia, such as the “tricks” to doing business in China, the political context, business in emerging economies, etc. Learning about these topics should prepare us to work within the particularities of the Asian business environment.

An amazing Indian celebration took place on Sentoza Beach on Saturday, March 15th., for Holi. Some of us went there to enjoy the party! Everyone was colorful! It was quite a fun day, people were free to put colors on anyone else, even if they didn’t know them. We danced together with a real feeling of togetherness. It was a good break before beginning our last week in Singapore, which is dedicated to company visits.

 Stay tuned!

The Day of the Hult Prize Regional Finals

By Naoki Kitabayashi, Global MBA 2013-2014, United States

The experience was surreal, and it’s still difficult to describe the emotions we felt as we competed for the Hult Prize at the regional final in Shanghai on March 8th. Our proposal was a culmination of over two months of research, meetings, and creative problem solving. Led by Ingrid Cazalis, the team had worked many hours and came to Shanghai determined to win.

We had taken an overnight flight from Singapore and landed on March 7th on a very cold morning. We checked into the rooms that we had booked, only two blocks away from the Hult Business School Shanghai Campus. We registered and met the organizers and the rest of the competing teams. Before dinner, we listened to two lectures. The first, by Dr. Helen Chen from L.E.K. Consulting, was on health care issues related to chronic diseases, more specifically on breast cancer. The second lecture was given by Eric Zwisler, President of Cardinal Health China. He spoke about his experience in China and advised the students on importance of ethics and teamwork.

On the day of the competition, we started the day with a breakfast at 7 am. Afterwards, we entered our assigned conference room and spent the next five hours fine-tuning the presentation. For the first presentation, all of the competing schools, about thirty, were broken up into four groups of about eight teams. Each team was given 12 minutes to make a pitch to a small panel of judges. Judges from each group then selected a winner to present again, but this time in front of all of the judges and competitors with the trip to Boston and the Hult Prize finalist spot on the line.

Our team, MobilHealth, was assigned to Group 2 and was given the 2:30 time slot to present. At 2:15, we were called to standby outside of the presentation room. We were relaxed even though just minutes before we were dancing around a small room in order to get our energy level up after a long morning.

“Fifteen minutes.”

“Two minutes.”

We were then called into a small classroom where six judges sat in the front row. We promptly started our presentation starting with the introduction of the team members by Richard. Claudia then told the story of Maria who lived in the slums of Jacarezinho in Brazil, and was in need of healthcare. I presented the core concept of the proposal, the concept of “one,” which would provide early diagnosis for $1, in 1 hour within 1 km of those at risk for developing chronic diseases. Then our team leader Ingrid presented the financial and logistical part of the proposal that have been worked out to fine details. It was a great team effort.

We were very content with the performance and felt like we gave all that we had. To be selected later as the winner of the group and be given the opportunity to present our ideas in front of everyone involved at the event was the cherry on top. Although we weren’t selected as the winner of the regional final, the experience was still very positive and memorable. I’m happy to have shared this unique experience with my teammates and hope that we were able to contribute good ideas to bringing forth a solution to the global healthcare problem in urban slums.

Mobile Health: The Concept of “One”

By Claudia Pumarejo, Global MBA 2013-2014, Mexico

It was the moment of the night. Helen Chen, from LEK Consulting had just called our name: “The winners of the second room - ESSEC Business School!” We had to present our idea for a social enterprise in front of over 200 people, 20 of them high profile judges from all walks of life. Only 4 teams out of 30 were selected. We celebrated for five seconds and rushed on stage without thinking too much about it. We did it, we got to the point we were aiming for.

You must be wondering what this idea was. It was the concept of “One.” Our plan was to offer early diagnosis of chronic diseases in urban slums within one hour, within one kilometer from the population at risk, and for only one dollar. Let me explain a bit more about how we planned to achieve this.

Thanks to a strong awareness program that would help us both to attract customers and to educate about prevention, we would enter the market hand in hand with the main stakeholders. We considered internal and external players such as local governments, NGOs, community and religious leaders, doctors and medical schools. In terms of physical resources, we would have vehicles (buses, mini vans, bikes, backpacks) equipped with accurate, easy-to-use diagnosis tools.

During the one hour visit, the first 15 minutes would be spent answering a free risk assessment questionnaire, based on lifestyle habits, body measurements and other criteria. After the first assessment, there would be a filter and a USD $1 fee to go to a deeper examination.

The project would be operated by the slum residents themselves. In terms of human resources, we would have one nurse, a driver assisting with administrative tasks, and four staff members carefully trained by our medical partners. We would give preference to heads of families, usually women, and patients suffering from chronic diseases in our recruitment process.

The challenge was to impact at least 25 million people in five years with our social enterprise. Thanks to a detailed financial and operational analysis, we were able to balance costs and revenues in order to be sustainable.

We chose one slum out of the hundreds surrounding Rio de Janeiro as our pilot and we gave it a face in the form of a woman living there, Maria Gonzales. She was developing diabetes, but she was unaware of it. People in the audience were able to relate to her as we discussed our understanding of the problem through the challenges she was facing.

We chose Brazil because we felt closer to the culture, because this year there is political will to improve the living conditions in the slums (due to the Olympics Games and the World Cup), because at least half of the team spoke Spanish (we planned to expand the project within Latin America), and finally, because if we had won, we would have gone to a start up accelerator in Boston (traveling within the Americas would be faster).

After working hard for three months, we are very proud and satisfied with our performance in Shanghai, and thrilled with all the people we met there.


Livin’ la Vida Local

By Claudia Pumarejo, Global MBA 2013-2014, Mexico

After reading about our first week in Singapore, you must be wondering if it’s possible to top that experience. Well, I can assure that – now that the jetlag’s finally gone – it’s only getting better.

This week we learned about Human Resources in Asia from Monsieur Philippe Bonnet, Vice-President of Human Resources for Asia Pacific at Essilor, a world-wide leader in the corrective lenses market. Originally French, Essilor has been able to position in the Asian market itself thanks to its strategic bilateral partnerships and its top of the line technologies. Among other interesting topics, we discussed the shift in leadership style required for Asian managers and the challenges of being or dealing with expatriates. With Bonnet as our professor we had the unique chance of interacting face to face with someone who figures as a character in a business case study used by the most prestigious business schools. He told us firsthand about that particular case and gave us more off-the-record details about the situation, which was a privilege to hear.

On Monday after class, Ingrid, Richard, Naoki and I – the Shanghai Hult Team – had a work meeting to polish our project presentation. Next week we will be presenting it to our class to get some more feedback from our dear classmates. We are sure their bright minds and contributions will be very helpful for making us as well-prepared as possible for the real competition. We have made it a challenge: we will pay for the drinks of whoever raises the most relevant questions.

On Tuesday afternoon we were taken to the Asian Civilizations Museum. I generally enjoy visiting museums, but this time I must confess that I was not very enthusiastic at first. To my pleasant surprise, these exhibits are absolutely on par with those in Paris. The museum is world class, with extensive arts and crafts from the whole region. We first went to South Asia, where we focused mainly on India. It was great to refresh our memories about Indian deities such as Brahma, the creator of the world; Shiva, the destroyer; Vishnu, preserver of the status quo, and Ganesha, remover of obstacles. We also covered some of the story of the Buddha. Then, we went to the China section, where the guide gave us an introduction to its traditional philosophies of Daoism and Confucianism, as well as Mazu, the goddess of the sea, worshiped in southern coastal regions of China and in Taiwan.

We continued our journey to South East Asia and by the end of the visit we were able to tell apart the Buddha figures from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The next day we welcomed Nicolas Morineaux, Vice President of Finance for the Fashion Division of LVMH in Asia-Pacific. You have probably heard about this company, a huge French conglomerate of Luxury brands. Monsieur Morineaux was amazingly sharp in his talk. He could discuss about operations, distribution, contract law, sales, marketing or any other business topic with great knowledge and understanding. Apart from having a remarkable mind, he was the perfect image of elegance. We could have not asked for a better representative of LVMH.

On Thursday, we had another guest speaker, Olivier Hui-Bon Hua, the GM for Asia of a leading recruitment firm called BeThe1. He told us about his professional path and we got details about some of his projects. He manages three offices with very different profiles: Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, but he knows his market very well and it was very interesting to have this interactive session with him.

Overnight, the working week was over and it was time for us to relax. We had the perfect occasion to do so when Leonardo Banegas, an ESSEC Global MBA graduate from last batch, kindly invited us to join him for a cocktail. We went to Marina Towers to meet him and we could enjoy the nicest views of the city from one of its top floors.

Leonardo is currently working here in Singapore, he landed a job at one of the big four world-wide consulting firms, KPMG. We were very happy to see him and his insights about the post-MBA life were truly useful. We had the very nice surprise of also seeing again Maryam Mohamed, another alumnus from the last batch, who went back home to Qatar and is now working for the National Financial Regulatory Body. She was on her way to a well-deserved vacation in Bali, when she decided to make a quick stop in Singapore to say hi!

Today, after a day of hard work preparing for what’s coming up next week, I decided to go stroll around the Arab Quarter during some free time. In this very lively place I saw a beautiful Mosque, tried delicious food and, in typical fashion for this very diverse and international city, I found a Mexican restaurant in the middle of the Arab Quarter! Welcome to Singapore!

Hult Prize: Reporting from Team Rene

By Rene Forjanic, Global MBA student 2013-2014, Slovenia

Contrary to popular belief, urban slums do have access to general healthcare and treatment, limited as the latter might be. There are number of healthcare providers, both NGOs and for-profit, that are providing affordable (often free) healthcare solutions tailored specifically to the needs of urban slum dwellers. Another group with great potential are community health workers – these “community champions” are very much seen as trustworthy and honest by the local population and can, with some additional training, act for example as mediators between slum residents and us.

The real issue that prevents the majority of residents in urban slums from obtaining adequate health care or treatment, however, is the lack of profitability of the various business models in place today. While the aforementioned “local champions” care for up to 100,000 patients per year, their operations – good as they may be – simply cannot be scaled up. Both the NGOs and community champions face the same problem: due to financial constraints, they are only able to provide quality service to a handful of patients (compared to the total slum population in need of medical assistance), while their expertise could be used to help so many more.

One solution is a two-tier project that makes use of both non-profit and for-profit business models. The real question for any type of endeavor, particularly social, is how to make it self-sustainable (profitable)? The model we are developing is a solution capable of diagnosing slum residents for some of the most widespread chronic diseases. Furthermore, at the core of our solution, there is the option to generate a patient’s medical chart to be used by healthcare professionals or to compile statistics for interested parties.

Since the priorities of urban slum residents are focused more on immediate survival needs, convincing them to get diagnosed for diseases that could impact their lives in the mid- to long-run, if at all, is a challenge in and of itself. To be completely honest, this is something we are still struggling with – how do we provide incentives to urban slum residents to get tested for diseases that might not even impact them? Do we dare ask hardworking men and women who are struggling for survival to pay for something so trivial?

Our idea for working around this barrier is to diagnose people when they are attending in one of their short-term needs. By designing our solution in a simple and flexible way, we may be able to offer added value in the form of increased service to the patients, perhaps even free of charge, and at the same time collaborate with other organizations. In any case, we’re still some time away from our presentation in Dubai and we are putting in every possible effort to make our solution as solid as possible. See you there!