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Exclusive | Southeast Asian tech leaders like Grab’s Anthony Tan now look to China for EMBA education (update 2)

Written by Elaine Huang Published on   5 mins read

Once looking up to the western world for business education, Asian business leaders are now turning to look at Beijing.

While in the past Asian entrepreneurs and business luminaries have often looked up to top schools in the US or Europe to further their education, in addition to tapping into those schools’ vast alumni network for more business opportunities, nowadays leaders at some of the new economy companies from across the region are apparently heading east to China.

China’s prestigious Tsinghua University just kicked off today in Beijing the matriculation ceremony for its Belt and Road (B & R) EMBA programme for Southeast Asia, welcoming a diversified group of either well-established or highly promising leaders from the region.

According to an exclusive class roster KrASIA obtained, some of the notable regional business leaders include Anthony Tan, CEO, Grab; Adrian Li, Founder and Managing Partner, Convergence Ventures; Ruangroj Poonpol, Venture Partner, 500 Startups; Willson Cuaca, Managing Partner, East Ventures; Teruhide Sato, Founder, BEENOS and BEENEXT, and more. KrASIA has reached out to some of the people mentioned for comments.

Grab confirmed to us that Anthony is attending the programme. He said that “Although I have an MBA from Harvard, I have admired Tsinghua because it is one of the top universities in China. The opportunity to learn from the best, and among the best and to get to know some of the brightest minds in the country, was a key reason for me to apply to the school,” he said in a statement.

He added, “Also, I enjoy coming to China and seeing the amazing strides the country is making in its digital economy, from the massive and rapid adoption of e-commerce and mobile payments to the growing ecosystem of on-demand services they’ve enabled. Southeast Asia’s digital economy is beginning to rapidly develop, and Grab is well positioned to be a partner and enabler in this transformation.”

The Beijing Tsinghua University’s Belt and Road (referring to China’s cross-border economic development strategy) Executive Master of Business Administration programme is a 2- to 3-year course where most classes would be carried out in English.

Program highlights.

According to Tsinghua, the students who enrolled last year are mostly from finance or investment backgrounds (45%) while the rest were split between construction, real estate and other industries. Nationality-wise, 35% of them were from mainland China; 19% from Malaysia; 16% from Hong Kong; 13% from Singapore; 6% from Indonesia; 3% each from Canada, USA, and Australia.

Student profile of the programme. Source: Programme official site.

On its website, the school wrote that its target audiences are mainly:

 – Entrepreneurs of the Southeast Asian countries who are looking for further studies on Enterprise Management and Financial Operation and more knowledge about China

 – Senior executives of financial institutions in Southeast Asian countries

 – Business elites from China and Southeast Asian countries

 – Entrepreneurs from China and the Southeast Asian countries, who are targeting at global expansions and who are seeking long-term partnerships with companies in the designated countries under the Belt and Road Initiatives.

Some of these executives from China’s burgeoning startup, technology and investing sector includes Bob Bao (包建磊) who is Baidu’s Indonesia head according to his Linkedin profile.

In addition to being held out of Tsinghua’s Wudaokou campus in Beijing, the programme will also have class gatherings in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Hong Kong.

Tsinghua University is one of the top universities in China; according to QS 2018 World University Rankings, it is the number one university in China and the 25th globally. The EMBA programme is run by the Tsinghua PBC School of Finance, home to 2,559 alumni.


China-Southeast Asia ties

In the last few years, one thing has become increasingly apparent. Southeast Asia, as a market, is extremely valuable to China’s top tech firms, which are finding opportunities in the budding region of blue ocean to make it up for their saturated and highly competitive home market.

A lot of these companies, from Alibaba to JD to Didi to Tencent, have started either investing or acquiring local players. Didi, for example, has pumped capital into Grab, whose CEO is currently in Beijing for the educational programme. Alibaba invested in Tokopedia, whose CFO Pat Cao is also in the same programme.

Both interestingly and understandably, a good amount of the Tsinghua EMBA programme students, had already graduated from a variety of U.S. top-notch business schools, including Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Columbia, etc.

As is well-known, business leaders go to EMBA more for the alumni network that eventually will be tapped for prospective business opportunities. Additionally, the Tsinghua programme, which provides modules ranging from “belt and road policy”, general management, to international financial policy and corporate finance, also hosts office visit to Chinese companies, giving Southeast Asian business leaders a closer look at Chinese companies to help unravel what’s behind the blossom of some of the local Chinese companies over the past years.

For some of the Southeast Asian tech company masterminds, China is literally one of the most competitive markets in the planet. And by coming to such a ferociously competed market to take a close-up view at the goings-on and take some of their reflections back home, this might work well to help them leapfrog their local rivals. At the end of the day, putting themselves in a dynamic and vibrant tech market environment like China, could lend them to the reflection of who they are and what their potential rival could be like in the future.

Just like what the great Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu once said that, know yourself and your enemy so that victory will follow in every battle (知己知彼,百战不殆).


Some of the notable participants in the programme

Bob Bao, 包建磊, head of Baidu Indonesia

Yao Lin, 林耀, Chairman, AllSocre Payment Services Co. Ltd.

Tian Qu, 屈田, Co-founder, BAT Capital

Nurtas JanibekovAdviser to the Governer , Astana International Financial Centre

Wai Kit Kohhead of Pavilion Capital

Andrian Li, Managing Partner, Convergence Ventures

Supachai Kid Parchariyanon, Founder, RISE Accelerator

Anthony Tan, CEO, Grab

Shao Chung TsaiNon-Executive Director of Want Want China Holdings Limited

Anindya Novyan Bakrie, President Director, CEO at PT Visi Media Asia (VIVA)

Willson CuacaCo-founder and Managing Partner, East Ventures

Joseph He JunPartner, Wong Partnership

Kazuomi KanetoFounder, CEO at Dream Project Incubators Pte. Ltd

Keong Hui LimCIO, Genting Malaysia Berhad

Lindsay LinManaging Director & Head of Southeast Asia, Investment Banking, CICC

Ruangroj PoonpolVenture Partner, 500 Startups

Arif RachmatCo-Founder & CEO of TAP Group

Michael SampoernaPresident Director and Director at PT Sampoerna Telekomunikasi Indonesia

Gavin Lee, Principal, Wavemaker

Teruhide SatoFounder and Managing Partner of BEENEXT

Barry ChanSenior Director, Strategy & Business Development, Health at Prudential Corporation Asia

Jefferson ChenCEO, ADVANCE.AI

Shien Mai Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director at Tian Ge Interactive Holdings Limited

Yipin NG, Partner, Yunqi Partner,

Hoi San Yiong Managing Director, Chief Investment Officer , Huatai Financial Holdings (Hong Kong) Limited

Roderick Purwana, Managing partner, Sinarmas Digital

Editor: Ben Jiang

(UPDATE 1, 10:58, 13/9, 2018 ) The article was edited to reflect Grab CEO Anthony Tan’s comments on the matter.

(UPDATE 2, 12:29, 13/9, 2018 ) Updated to include a list of partial participants according to the programme roster.


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