Interview: Dipak Jain
Given renewed government efforts to stimulate innovation-based industries, how can Thai institutions drive entrepreneurship among students?
JAIN DIPAK: In understanding the need for entrepreneurship among new graduates and young professionals, it is important to consider the historic context of the global business model as a whole. Businesses have evolved tremendously over the past decades and centuries. During the time of colonialism the major players in global commerce were both the colonial powers and the colonies themselves, with the colonialists bringing the know-how and the colonies defined by their natural resources. In the post-colonial era the needle shifted towards capitalism, with the major players becoming corporations and other private enterprises. What has occurred in this century, however, is the emergence of an entrepreneurship-based model that complements capitalism and may soon overtake it.
The younger generation of upcoming professionals wish to do things on their own, and that entrepreneurial spirit is becoming more visible. One of the challenges in Thailand, and in many countries in Asia, is overcoming the prevalence of traditional, top-down educational models that were not designed to teach the skills necessary to succeed in today’s dynamic business environment. But this is changing, and post-graduate institutions in particular are rethinking the way they teach. In addition, the market mechanisms are now there in order for entrepreneurship in Asia to truly take off, with angel investors and the venture capital market serving that role.
One unique difference between the Asian and Western business models is that family businesses are more prominent in this part of the world, and these too will serve as yet another tool to encourage entrepreneurship. Members of the new generation within a family business are increasingly looking to spin off into their own ventures, and the family model is as good a source of funding as any. Thus, it is only a matter of time, in my opinion, before entrepreneurship will become a phenomenon.
Which niche management specialisations are currently being favoured over general businesses administration given Thailand’s trajectory?
JAIN: In many ways, today’s MBA programmes have evolved and adapted to changing demands from students, in terms of the format, the duration and the focus of programmes. When management education began, the aim of students was to attain a job either within a major corporation or, later, within a consulting firm or investment bank. Today we are seeing more specialised and specific master’s programmes that cater to the needs of individual industries.
There are several such instances in Thailand where specific industries are truly driving economic growth and the demand for top-level management will grow in the near future. Master’s degrees in health care management, for example, can be a very big product moving forward as human longevity increases and the need for well-trained health care professionals booms. Tourism is another sector driving growth in Thailand, and hospitality management degrees remain in high demand. Other examples include degrees in real estate management due to South-east Asia’s rapid development, degrees in technology management as the world continues its shift from analogue to digital and degrees in public policy as in much of the developing world state-owned enterprises and government-linked companies continue to drive growth and innovation.
These programmes instil very tangible technical skills, something that start-ups in particular look for. Business schools exist to teach skills, tools and concepts, but continuing education is required to apply those to specific industries. I am bullish on the concept that we as educators must teach professionals how to run businesses, how to convert start-ups into successful entities and how to succeed in life beyond that point.
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