Having arrived in Hanoi via Hong Kong at 8.30pm the group set out to see Hanoi in its evening glory.  The cacophony of sounds greeted us – the call of street vendors and music from bars to the chatter of crowds drifted over us. A barmy breeze carried the scents of food and smog that arises from densely populated cities – it was the moment to savour the city.

We are here for International Consultancy Week – a highlight of the MBA curriculum.  The aim is to give students an opportunity to consolidate what they’ve learnt from blocks one and two and apply this to a real-world setting, but in a completely different context – political, economic and cultural.  We would be working with one company on a business challenge for one week, and present our recommendations at the end. 

This process begins a few weeks earlier when we are asked to choose from a list of companies and the proposed scope of work.  For me, it was an opportunity to stretch myself and identify an area that I am not familiar with to get some real experience in. 

My top pick was Bao Viet – the number one insurance company in Vietnam with 25 per cent of the life and non-life market.  This was Bao Viet’s first engagement with Cass and the business challenge was to develop a marketing strategy to enable the company to maximise a new online sales channel to generate growth and revenues.

I was pleased to secure my first choice and felt it lent itself to helping me achieve some personal objectives to apply my learning in both a new context and different industry.

As new groups formed based on the choices the cohort had made, we moved to quickly ensure that we were positioned to prepare ahead of us leaving for Vietnam. Working full-time and managing family commitments does make it a challenge to coordinate and ensure that group meetings take place; this is especially the case as the International Consultancy Week comes quite quickly after the block two exams and we have other modules sandwiched in between. 

However, the group was able to meet remotely a couple times to prepare and we were also very fortunate that we could reach out to our main contact at Bao Viet – Tam and our ‘on the ground’ contact, Chris. Speaking to Tam helped us refine and agree a scope before we went to Vietnam and speaking to Chris helped us understand the culture and expectations and ways of doing business in Vietnam.

I would certainly encourage future cohorts to do the same if there is the time as it will stand you in good stead.

The individuals we were working with at Bao Viet were excellent and while we had a translator, Phoung, to help us, we were fortunate not to require her translation skills as much as some of the other groups required. Nonetheless, we considered Phoung an additional member of the team from whom we sought advice that helped us position our presentation effectively with our client.

On our first day, we focused on getting to know our client and ensuring that the scope was clear.  There were high expectations from our client and we were both excited and a little anxious about this.  Simultaneously, we were figuring out how to work as a group and get a sense of each other.  While we know each other, most of us hadn’t worked with each other before but there wasn’t time to go through a process of storming to form! 

It was five intensive days of getting to grips with the problem, splitting into smaller groups to conduct primary and secondary research to respond to key questions and then come up with a credible set of proposals to present on the Friday afternoon.

The experience was quite unlike anything I have been through before due to the different context, but also insightful about how to identify and draw on individual and team strengths.

For example, following some discussion, we all agreed to be involved in the presentation. Of course, there were momentary speed bumps, but this is part of understanding how to work with different personalities. We worked very well as a team and I believe this was down in part to some of our earlier preparations.

Other areas of learning, included how to make a positive impact early and ensuring that we made a good impression so that we had some currency to draw upon when we needed help from our clients. 

With our excellent Bao Viet colleagues, Phoung and Professor Cliff Oswick

As a group we were keen to ensure that we provided an insightful and useful product for our client and Bao Viet was keen and interested in our recommendations. In some respect we were able to validate some of their early thinking on how to progress this project and we were able to provide some ideas that they hadn’t considered yet. 

None of us were insurance specialists, but the MBA equips you with the necessary principles, theories and frameworks that enables you to consider and resolve problems.

Radhika Narasinkan
Executive MBA (2019)