Book review: BRICS and beyond, executive lessons on emerging markets

A few months ago I was surprised and pleased at the same time to receive a complimentary book from Wiley in my mailbox. I was wondering why – maybe because this blog is meant for MBA students (something mentioned on the back cover) and I wrote many posts about BRICS countries? Well actually it was the result of a participation to a monthly competition at Business Because – so you too you can participate and win! And thanks, Business Because, for the very interesting book!

130224-BRICS-bookHere are the technical details about the book: “BRICS and BEYOND” by Stephanie Jones, Wiley 2012, ISBN 978-1-119-96269-4 (also available as e-book). Dr Stephanie Jones is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Maastricht School of Management. She lived and worked around the world (Hong Kong, China, India, Australia, Dubai and Kuwait according to her bio) and has therefore a good background to write this book. The first thing that strikes with this book is its cover: it basically states that every step of a product life cycle is now happening outside the US or the EU (except consumption perhaps).

The Vlerick Business School curriculum is not really focused on BRICS (nor emerging markets). However the full-time MBA has lots of participants coming from these countries. And even in the executive MBA (with mainly Belgians), there is (in my opinion) a certain interest in these countries (it is sufficient to mention that the study trip to China is fully booked in a few minutes …). And Western MBA students are clearly the target population of this book.

The structure of the book is somewhat classical. There are tree main parts: risks, opportunities and practise. You will be able to make links with – or more appropriately: make extensions of – several classes taught at Vlerick (and in all MBAs): CSR, marketing, entrepreneurship, innovation, strategy, operations, etc. But don’t expect to find any 2-by-2 matrices: this book is more about learning from experience than applying glossy frameworks.

This brings me to what I liked in this book: you have many ways to read it …

  • You can read the second cover and you will have very quickly 8 “must-know” sentences.
  • You can read “Executive Lessons” at the end of each chapter and you know a bit more.
  • Or you can just read one chapter you fancy at a time, on a specific topic – and there you go.
  • (and of course you can take some time and read it from the first page to the last one).

Something I also appreciated in the book is to have many practical “mini cases” (called “brief worked examples”). They illustrate each of the lessons detailes in the previous chapter. Very often MBA textbooks explain theory and concepts in great details but fail to deliver very practical examples you can relate to in your everyday life. Not here. This is again another illustration of the power of storytelling.

Some regrets? Although corruption and bribery is covered, there is nothing about regular finance and accounting. The topic is obviously very technical and vary in each emerging market. But you better know it before. And the author may have struggled to give a balance in the different countries to discuss. China and India indeed occupy the majority of examples. This is obviously normal as they enjoy great economic powers and a large part of the world population. However BRICS and emerging markets deal with other countries too. Most of these other countries are cited in one or several examples here and there – but at the end of the book the reader should expect to know more on India and China than Congo or Brazil for instance.

In a nutshell? “BRICS and Beyond” is a book you will enjoy reading if you are interested in emerging markets. It will give you an interesting introduction as well as key points to focus on when doing business there. And it will be complemented by more specialised reading (e.g. targeting a country or a topic specifically) but more importantly by your own experience!

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China adventures 2012 – week 1

In this series on the International Study Trip please welcome Mark Willems as the second guest reporter from China. Mark made us the honour to write an extensive report of the whole (tourist) trip, including pictures … [for the sake of clarity and although I don’t like it, I will split this very long post, you’ll need to read it on the web]

Day 1 – Shanghai

I arrived early on Monday morning in Shanghai airport.

The Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train brought me to the city center in 8 minutes at a maximum speed of 301 km/h. During the day the train reaches a maximum speed of 431 km/h.

Maglev picture by Frederik Mennes

Maglev picture by Frederik Mennes

Speed indicator picture by Mark Willems

Speed indicator picture by Mark Willems

After another short and “slow” metro ride I arrived at the Blue Mountain Youth Hostel where Frederik checked in the night before. He was barely awake when I knocked at the door but it was nice to see a familiar and non-Asian face. Apparently I already felt alienated in China and that after only a short train and metro ride ;-) In the subway I was at least a head taller than the others and I was the only one wearing a non-black and even a colorful sweatshirt. Can you imagine ;-)

Stijn, a friend of mine studying an MBA in Gent, was also staying in the same Hostel. We all gathered and took off to People’s Square in the city to meet up with our Leuven classmate Gilles. From there on, we first visited the Jade Buddha Temple.

Jade Buddha Temple picture by Mark Willems

Jade Buddha Temple picture by Mark Willems

Afterwards we travelled to the famous Bund where we got a first glimpse of the Pudong new area across the Huangpu River. The Bund is a waterfront area between the river and Zhongshan road.

Bund waterfront picture by Mark Willems

Bund waterfront picture by Mark Willems

Eager to see the Pudong new area from close by, we crossed the river by taking the sightseeing tunnel.

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel picture by Mark Willems

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel picture by Mark Willems

As you will see in the following link to a You Tube video, this tunnel is less spectacular as seen in many pictures (mine is pimped by playing with the shutter speed), but it was nice to have seen it though.

Once we arrived at the other side we grouped with two other classmates, Vanessa and our one and only Chief Party Animal, Fabian.

We climbed the large bottle opener shaped building, the Shanghai World Financial Center, housing the second highest observation deck worldwide at 474 meters.

Next to this tower an even higher beauty of 632 meters is being built, the Shanghai Tower, which will open for public in 2014.

Spyshot picture by Mark Willems

Spyshot picture by Mark Willems

Pudong new area skyline picture by Mark Willems

Pudong new area skyline picture by Mark Willems

For dinner, Frederik arranged us a nice table at Shook! where Kevin Cape, a British highly respected chef, presents an Asian and Western blended menu.

We tried some different nice dishes but it was mainly one of the desserts that caught our attention. Even for a culinary adventurist like me, the “Malaysian Ice Kacang” was very innovative. Or did you ever try a dessert that combines shaved ice, corn, sweet brown beans, peanuts and grass jelly?

Shook! dinner picture by an unknown Shook! waiter

Shook! dinner picture by an unknown Shook! waiter

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A star is born! (study trip to China – day 2)

In this series on the International Study Trip please welcome Fabian again as guest reporter from China …

After the first big party, everybody was a little (or a lot) down on Tuesday! We had classes only in the morning, we had a lecture about the history of China and another one about Confucianism (Tony Liu). Then, during the afternoon, we visited the Forbidden City and the Hutong District. It was definitely the worst day of the week to do an outside activity because it was freezing cold! But we survived! We had a lot of great moments like when we were in the Forbidden City, the Chinese people wanted pictures from us but mostly from the blond people and also from the tall guys as you can see on the picture … They took hundreds of pictures of us! Our group rocks in China ! Vlerick is already in the photo books of many Chinese people!

First news from Beijing

In this series on the International Study Trip please welcome Fabian as the first guest reporter from China …

First of all… We all made it to China! Some of us came earlier and met in other cities before Beijing! Shanghai was for example one of these meeting places!

Then here we are ! Beijing!

We have to say something about General Becky! She is in charge of the organization of the Chinese trip. During the introduction session she told us that if the schedule says 9:00a.m , it doesn’t mean 9:01a.m , we start at 9:00! The first session was an introduction of the Chinese culture presented by the Dean of the Chinese MBA program, Mr. Bruce Stening (not Bruce Willis like Kattina thought).

After this session, we all (Leuven students) went to a fake market for shopping! We could finally put into practice what David Venter told us! We developed our bargaining skills and we negotiated great deals! Then it was followed by a great Vietnamese restaurant! Finally we ended up in a Russian bar/disco! OMG I don’t remember the end!

Sorry Becky, we were all late on Monday morning!

Fabian Frola from Beijing !

Bustling Beijing

Photo credit: Bustling Beijing by Trey Ratcliff on Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

International Study Trips: 1, 2, 3, Go!

During the coming two weeks, first year students will experience their international study trip. Some of us will be in China, some in South Africa and others in the USA. The preparation session was specific for each country; the experience will also be different.

I’ve asked some students to become reporters for a few days and send me their feelings and comments. And, again, if you also want to share your study trip experience, just send me an e-mail and I’ll publish it! Thanks in advance!

200301 departures

Ready? Let’s go!

Photo credit: 200301 departures by Bentley Smith on Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

How Belgium is selling itself in China

For the New Year of the Dragon, Belgium is selling itself on Chinese social networks Baidu and Weibo.

I don’t know you but for me, I watched the 7 first seconds as a demonstration of a missile attack from China on Belgium (and France, the Netherlands). I’m not sure it was the best way to demonstrated direct flights from China to Europe …

Diplomatic and economic relationships between Belgium and China are quite recent. However these ties were quickly strengthened with the fast Chinese economic growth. For instance, look at the amount of activities organized by the The Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) … Here, Belgium tries to attract Chinese tourists to Belgium and by doing that, strengthen economic exchanges too. They try to attract Chinese tourists and businessmen in Belgium ; Vlerick will be sending some Belgian business students in China in a few months …

For those who are going to other parts of the world, here are the Belgo-indian chamber of commerce and industry, the American chamber of commerce in Belgium and the Belgian chamber of commerce for Southern Africa.

Chinese New Year 2012: January 23

Smiling dragon Like in many Asian countries, the Lunar New Year in China will be on January 23, 2012 (in our Gregorian calendar). The Chinese New Year (aka the “Spring Festival” or 春节) is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. According to the Chinese calendar, this year is the year of the water dragon (龙). I thought it would have been interesting to know for the lucky ones who are going to China this year :)

There are usually many celebrations with many customs and traditions. I guess there will be also celebrations in Belgium but as it’s not very easy to find them (except maybe at your local Sino-Vietnamese restaurant), here are three activities found for you:

If you know any other celebrations, feel free to post them in comments below!

Photo credit: Smiling dragon in the Forbidden City, Huế, Vietnam (from my photos on Flickr, licence CC-by-sa)
Edited on Jan. 10 to add Maasmechelen Village celebrations. Edited on Jan. 20 to add the three celebrations from belvietnam.

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