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Vietnam trip offers EMBA participants immersive international business opportunity

May 16, 2024

EMBA 2024 Vietnam Trip

2024 Discovery Expedition trip participants.

Ivey’s 2024 Executive MBA cohort recently travelled to Vietnam to hone their international business skills and learn about the country’s cultural, political, and economic landscape. More than 40 Executive MBA (EMBA) participants went on the expedition, working in learning teams to make the most of the week-long experience. 

The EMBA Discovery Expedition trips are a unique experience offered to EMBA participants in their third term of study. With an aim to bring classroom theories to life, the trip challenged them to forge new pathways in global commerce.

Exploring global business opportunities

EMBA participants chose to work with either a Canadian or Vietnamese company and determine ways the company could be integrated into the other country’s economy. Trip participants worked together to conduct business overseas while navigating the complexities that come with operating in a foreign market.  

Shazil Charania, EMBA ’24 candidate and Assistant Vice President of Equipment Breakdown at Sovereign Insurance, considered the business environment in Vietnam as a unique opportunity for Canadian enterprises seeking to grow internationally.

“Vietnam has major institutional differences in comparison to Canada. Rules and regulations are well-refined and have their place in Canada, which is characteristic of a well-developed economy,” said Charania. “In Vietnam, you have to expect regulatory complexities and inconsistencies, but on the upside, you also expect all the energy that comes with growth in an emerging economy.”

Charania’s team worked with a Canadian company that was interested in bringing wine to Vietnam, a business venture that underpins the importance of navigating a foreign country’s culture.

“We spent a lot of time figuring out how wine is sold in Vietnam,” he said. “We also had to understand how wine fits into Vietnam’s cultural and social landscape to determine whether or not this would be a wise business move.”

Fellow EMBA ’24 candidate, Alison Peirce, Canadian Business Development Lead at Parch Spirits Co, worked with FPT Software – a Vietnamese company headquartered in Hanoi that offers artificial intelligence, cloud, and big data services to clients in 29 countries. Peirce and her team were tasked with providing the company with a market entry strategy to Canada.

Gaining perspective overseas

From biking along the Mekong Delta to riding on Vespas around different areas of Ho Chi Minh City, participants experienced Vietnamese history and culture through the eyes of a local with the help of seasoned guides and business owners. These experiences left a lasting impression.

“Vietnamese people are honest, hardworking, and extremely loyal in nature,” said Charania. “They’re proud ambassadors of their culture, traditions, and religion without aspiring to be Westernized.”

Peirce also commended the Vietnamese people for embracing business perspectives that extend beyond a focus on immediate gain.  

"In Vietnamese culture, there is a strong emphasis on developing mutually beneficial relationships, with a focus on collective progress rather than individual achievements. This approach is about building a resilient and harmonious society for the future," she said. "In contrast, there is a tendency in Western society to prioritize individual initiatives and seek immediate results, reflecting a drive towards personal success and quick gratification."

Taking Ivey’s case method to new heights

Both Charania and Peirce noted that the trip amplified Ivey’s practical learning approach, allowing them to push boundaries and expand their horizons beyond the case method to enrich their EMBA experience.

The participants said visiting companies in Ho Chi Minh City was a highlight of the trip, immersing them in the business operations of firms. The lineup of firms included PPJ International Garment Manufacturing, Logistik Unicorp (uniform manufacturer), La Boulangerie Française by IECD (non-profit vocational training school), Thien Phuoc Center (residential centre for children who are orphans or have disabilities), HRK Group (eco-friendly packaging company), and Green Connect (waste management company).  

“It’s easy to sit behind a desk in North America and say, ‘let’s expand,’” said Charania. “But you certainly can’t make those decisions without experiencing the uniqueness of the economy and political landscape of a country. This trip really pushed me to think beyond a context of what I’m used to in Canada.”

For Peirce, the true value of the expedition lies in the opportunity to see the challenges that Vietnamese businesses face on a daily basis.

“You’re going into a new place, you’re witnessing a new culture, you’re trying to understand why things are the way they are…You’re not just reading a case, you’re on the ground and the complexities are in your face,” she said. “I’ve always had the belief that nothing develops intelligence like travel.”

EMBA Discovery Expedition highlights

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