The Adventure Begins, Team Ananda in Bangkok

Written by Kevin Cottle, Gian Gentille, Jordan Taylor, Mike Solarz and Elspeth Ong

Lunch with fellow classmate and IBDer, Harsh.

Lunch with fellow classmate and IBDer, Harsh.

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. 

Team Ananda in front of Marina Bay Sands

Team Ananda in front of Marina Bay Sands

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.

       Enjoying dinner with the Ong Family.

Enjoying dinner with the Ong Family.

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!

Angkor Waaaat

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.

Team Ananda in action at Ankor Wat

Team Ananda in action at Ankor Wat

Week 2

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 team contemplating purchasing some Thai property

The team contemplating purchasing some 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.

All smiles after the final presentation.

All smiles after the final presentation

Week 3

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!

Competing with Team Indonesia’s teddy bear mall picture

Competing with Team Indonesia’s teddy bear mall picture

Exploring the old Siamese capital of Ayutthaya

Exploring the old Siamese capital of Ayutthaya

Updates from IBD Thailand – Bangkok, Krabi, and Vientiane, Laos

Spring 2014 IBD students Christen Chen, Garima Dhingra, Zane Keller and Andrew Mitsch are in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Week 1

Our team arrived in Thailand on Sunday, May 18th. One of the things you first notice when you arrive in Bangkok is the climate. To say it’s warm and humid here would be an understatement: daily high temperatures routinely reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) with humidity in the 70-80% range. Needless to say, the best time to explore the city is in the morning and evenings when temperatures are cooler.

shell1Morning in Bangkok

We are staying in the Sukhumvit neighborhood of Bangkok. Sukhumvit is a very modern neighborhood bustling with street life, soaring office and residential towers, and a vibrant mix of western and eastern stores and restaurants. The neighborhood is bisected by Sukhumvit Road, one of the main thoroughfares in Bangkok. This has worked to our advantage since the road is served by both the MRT (subway system) and SRT (monorail). We have found the public transit system here to be cheap, efficient, and safe. Transit is an especially favorable option due to local traffic and road conditions, which we will describe in a later post.

shell2The Sukhumvit skyline

On the second day of our trip, we woke up to the surprising news that the Thai military had declared martial law in response to recent political unrest. This development took a further turn when the army declared on the fourth day of our trip that a coup was in progress. Despite these alarming headlines, we thankfully saw little change in day-to-day life in our neighborhood in Bangkok.

shell3Coup in Thailand (source: CNN)

When we aren’t working on our project, we have enjoyed the local cuisine and coffee shops which are prevalent throughout the neighborhood. Thai food, which is most well known for being spicy, can also be surprisingly sweet and comes with various forms of meat (generally chicken or pork), seafood, and vegetables. To the surprise of the vegetarian in our group, it is relatively challenging to find strictly vegetarian food in Thailand.

Our first week in Thailand was an interesting one between the coup, the surprisingly modern and western environs of Sukhumvit, and the bustling street life of Bangkok. This weekend, three of our group members are heading to Chiang Mai, well known for its rich history. The fourth member will be staying in Bangkok and exploring the Rattanakosin neighborhood which includes sites such as Wat Pho, a well-known Buddhist temple.

shell4

Week two

During the second week, we finally had the opportunity to meet with our client in their office (the political situation previously delayed us from meeting with the client in-person). During the meeting, we discussed our project plan and scheduled some interviews with some of the client’s employees as well as several external parties.

shell5Discussing our IBD project with our client as we walk through the streets of Bangkok

shell6Meeting with our client in their office

We conducted these interviews throughout the week. When conducting these interviews, time zone differences often created a significant challenge: since our client is a multinational company, many of the employees that we spoke with were located in Europe or the United States. As a result, we conducted many of our interviews early in the morning or late at night from various locations. Additionally, employees in different geographical regions have different conversational styles: in Thailand, they prefer to build a relationship first before speaking, whereas in Europe and the U.S. the employees preferred highly structured and direct conversations. Subtle differences such as these are what make the IBD experience a true learning opportunity.

At the end of the second week, half of our team headed to Vientiane, Laos while the other half headed to Krabi, Thailand. Krabi is a quaint beach town located in southern Thailand which is lower profile than its sister beach town Phuket. On the first day, the group climbed up the famous Tiger Mountain; 1,200 steps the team finally made it to the top. The breathtaking views made the hour long climb worth the effort. Meanwhile, the pair that went to Laos enjoyed the French-influenced city of Vientiane and the relatively undeveloped countryside of Laos. When the team arrived back in Bangkok, the political tensions seemed to have eased a bit as the curfew was extended from 10pm to 12am.

shell7IBD team members visiting a Buddha garden near Vientiane, Laos 

shell8IBD team members riding an elephant near Krabi, Thailand

Week three

On the last week, the team was able to extract some great insights from internal employees of the company. Because the Thailand market in which the client operated was underpenetrated, we were able to gain best practices from other parts of the company. These insights were very informative in when forming our final recommendations to the client. On Friday June 6th, we presented our conclusions to three members of our client’s country management team. The recommendations were well received and we discussed the next action items as well as possible future consulting projects.