Written by Kevin Cottle, Gian Gentille, Jordan Taylor, Mike Solarz and Elspeth Ong
After a whirlwind week of finishing finals, packing up our apartments and saying goodbyes to our friends in Berkeley, our team of five – Elspeth, Mike, Kevin, Gianfranco, and Taylor – headed to Southeast Asia to complete our consulting project for Ananda, a premier real estate developer in Thailand. Ananda, founded by a Haas alum, is one of the largest condominium developers in Bangkok. We were tasked with conducting a competitor analysis and developing a growth strategy plan to help Ananda achieve its aggressive growth targets.
The Adventure Begins
The team decided to take a detour en route to Bangkok and spent the weekend before our official start date in Singapore, our team lead Elspeth’s home country. Harsh, another classmate and IBD team lead, was also in town and the two of them were incredibly gracious hosts, showing us all of their favorite Singapore hotspots. We explored Orchard Rd, Clarke Quay, Gardens by the Bay, and the beautiful Marina Bay Sands hotel, where we took breathtaking photos of the city. We enjoyed an incredible dinner with Elspeth’s family and a great day at Sentosa, definite highlights of the weekend. The weekend was the perfect start to our Southeast Asian adventure and was a nice mini vacation prior to arriving in Bangkok and hitting the ground running with our client.
Ananda Week 1
Our client met us in the lobby of our hotel Monday morning to bring us to the office, which was conveniently located next door; the proximity proved to be a huge blessing as we came to know the huge challenge that is Bangkok traffic. We spent the first week introducing ourselves to key stakeholders within the company and conducting interviews to validate the work we had done in Berkeley. We spoke to employees who had worked at other real estate development companies and pulled on the expertise of strategic business development VPs. We made use of consumer surveys and other market intelligence research the company had conducted and incorporated all of this new information into our analysis.
By the end of the first week, we had validated our competitive analysis processes and reworked some of our strategies based on client feedback. We had spent most of our time with our main point of contact, Khun Lloyd, who was incredibly generous with his time and went out of his way to ensure we had a proper introduction to Bangkok. He kept us busy with lunches and dinners throughout the week, and it quickly became evident how important relationship building is to doing business in Thailand. We had also discovered the magic of Thai massages and began planning our spa visits for the remaining time in country!
After our first week of work, we headed out to Siem Reap, Cambodia! Our trip to the airport was our first real taste of Bangkok traffic and we ended up using multiple modes of transportation, running through the streets and the airport, and convincing an airport employee to help us cut the immigration line in order to make our flight. The crazy travel experience was well worth it and we very much enjoyed our time exploring various temples in Siem Reap and hanging out at our fancy Airbnb, equipped with a pool in the living room. We had a relaxing day on Sunday at Phnom Kulen where we swam and played in waterfalls all day.
Week two began with a day of site visits to both Ananda and competitor properties. We were impressed by our client’s showrooms and model units, which clearly stood out from their competitors. The attention to detail and beautiful interior design made us all want to invest in Thai property!
The rest of the week was spent conducting final research and putting the finishing touches on our final presentation deck, which we presented Friday of Week 2 to the CEO and our main points of contact, Dr. John and K. Lloyd. The presentation went well and we had a great discussion about our recommended strategies, learning that many of the workstreams we suggested were already under consideration. Additionally, we discovered our client’s passion for technology. The team is quite visionary and frequents tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv to scope innovations that could be used to improve their properties and/or work processes.
Having completed our presentation and main assignment at the end of week two, we spent week three networking and exploring Bangkok. Our client put a strong emphasis on us using our time in country to understand Thai culture and life in Bangkok and encouraged us to use week three to gain this knowledge. We met with another Berkeley alum, K. Paul Ark, who heads up the VC arm of SCB, one of Thailand’s major banks. We connected with a Haas 2015 alum who started his own VC fund and learned more about his post-Haas experience and the work he does in bridging Thailand and San Francisco. We are grateful to have had this free time to further explore Bangkok and to gain a deeper understanding of business in Thailand. We feel spoiled to have been connected with so many interesting people and feel lucky to have spent these three weeks at Ananda. We look forward to staying in touch with our new contacts and will see many of our Ananda contacts in August when they visit the Bay Area!