CSU Hayward -- October 24, 2003

Cal State Hayward Students Learn That Bangkok is a Gateway to Asian Markets

Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai.

These are the cities many people name when asked to identify the locations of the economic engines driving Asia. But for 10 years California State University, Hayward has been bringing students to Bangkok, the city it considers a key to the future of the continent.

"When we bring our students to the region we want them to see the gateway to the market societies of Asia," said Shyam Kamath, director of Cal State Hayward's Transnational Executive MBA program, known as TEMBA. "Thailand has had more years of growth than China, and it has become the hub in Asia for manufacturing automobiles, hard-disks and consumer electronics.

"It's also truly the place to study emerging markets in the region because, like Vienna in Europe, it's perfectly placed geographically."

When it comes to international business, Cal State Hayward knows a lot about geography. It has MBA programs in Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Moscow, and Graz/Vienna. It will add Florianopolis in Brazil early next year. TEMBA is designed for working executives with an eye on managing multinational companies.

"Thailand is one of the places in Asia where there are real opportunities, right at the crossroads of India, China, Taiwan and Japan," said TEMBA participant Christopher Mark during a class visit to Bangkok in August. "It was in Bangkok where I learned that the Asian business environment isn't just limited to the financial centers we've all heard about."

Mark is the western regional security manager for Federal Express in Oakland.

Cal State Hayward student groups, through TEMBA and the Asian International Marketing program, have conducted 22 projects on behalf of Thai corporations in the last 10 years.

"More Thai companies are realizing that if they want to be involved in the world market they have to be in the United States," said Jagdish Agrawal, a Cal State Hayward professor of marketing and entrepreneurship involved in the TEMBA program. "Thailand has a growing manufacturing base and the advantage of a free-market approach and a central location. It's a great laboratory for students of international business."

Twenty-five Cal State Hayward students entered that laboratory last August, visiting leading economic institutions and learning from international business professors from Thammasat University and other experts, such as Christopher Bruton, chief executive of Dataconsult Ltd., which develops corporate relations for multinational firms.

"A great advantage for Bangkok as a business center is that Thailand is a loosely structured society, as opposed to some other Asian nations," Bruton told a seminar of TEMBA participants. "There is a flexibility that allows the toleration of change and that gives the Thais an edge in the competitiveness and globalization that is sweeping the region."

"That doesn't mean there aren't some important cultural differences that can be ignored," said Bruton, who has lived in Thailand since 1969. "Sometimes in Thailand when we say 'no,' we mean 'yes,' and when we say 'yes,' we often mean 'no.' The point is that everything is negotiable. You just have to know when to recognize that opportunity."

The Cal State Hayward group got a close-up view of that concept when a five-member team delivered a report to the Bangkok management team of Plan Creations, Co., one of Thailand's leading toy companies. Plan Creations commissioned TEMBA to examine its strategy in the United States.

Another TEMBA team gave an interim report to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, a government agency that commissioned a study on how to increase the number of Americans who visit the country for more than 30 days.

"We bring our people to Bangkok to see this kind of thing first-hand," said Zinovy Radovilsky, a Cal State Hayward professor of management and finance and a TEMBA faculty member. "You can't make generalizations about Asia. The future of international companies here will still be linked to dealings with individual countries. Bangkok is a great place to watch that happening."

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