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Tenth Annual McGill University Hot Cities Tour Returns From Singapore And Malaysia

For ten years students, faculty and alumni from McGill University in Montreal have undertaken an annual trip to areas of the globe considered fast-growing emerging economies.  This year, the group returned to the Far East.
Thirty undergraduates and about a dozen alumni from the Desautels Faculty of Management business school at McGill University have just returned from the annual “Hot Cities Tour” to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, Malaysia.

For 10 years Professor Karl Moore has coordinated the tours. He notes that the theme of Hot Cities is “Taking the Future to the Future” and they returned to Asia because it’s where economies are growing.  "When you look at it Asia is just simply where much of the growth of the world economy is occurring. North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia are slowing in terms of growth but we see great growth in Asia.  And that’s a message we got over and over again on this and last year’s trip as well.”

The McGill students toured major businesses and met with corporate executives including Microsoft Singapore, Uber Asia Pacific, L’Oreal Southeast Asia, Al Jazeera, Air Asia and the Canadian ambassadors.   Moore uses a global network of alumni to access the business leaders.  “We start from a theory of saying we want to meet with some of the leading international and local firms in the key industries in that country. Then we look at what are those firms and who do we know that might know people there. And typically these big firms we’d have McGill alumni or I’ve taught at Oxford as well, still on the faculty, so we use Oxford alumni as well. And I taught at Cambridge a bit. So kind of use that network to reach those specific companies. But for example Ogilvy’s one of the great advertising firms in the world so always love to go see them because they’ll talk about how do they adjust advertising for a Muslim nation for example.  We met with Microsoft last year and this year as well as Uber and Facebook. But how do you manage and how do you change your offer around the world?  And take the theory from class and make it real.”

This was the second Hot Cities trip for McGill Finance and Strategy student Nirav Sahni.  “Definitely Microsoft and Google were two companies that really excited me. Definitely because of their global standing, their global nature and my interest in tech. But apart from that also, as Professor Moore mentioned, we visited a lot of local companies especially the ones that are booming specifically to that region. So we visited Valiram which is a very very fast growing e-commerce player in Malaysia. And that was a company that really appealed to me as well primarily because of their story how like three brothers started a venture. So those are three companies that really excited me.”

The students also visited historical and cultural sites. Sahni says that helped illustrate how culture shapes business decisions.  “And how sort of organizations are positioning themselves in those respective countries. We noticed that Malaysia and Singapore, which were the two main countries that we visited this year, were very tightly knit both in terms of their culture because of their past history and also in terms of their business practices. The culture is like deriving and like falling and trickling down on their business decisions.”

Sahni, from Mumbai, India, says the Hot Cities tours have broadened his perspective and career opportunities.  “I’ve always been interested in emerging markets. But probably in my opinion if I hadn’t visited or like actually been to these countries I wouldn’t have had the courage to like sort of think about them as like actual destinations or like actual like points of consideration as opportunities there after graduation.  So I think now the fact that I’ve been there especially twice has sort of definitely given me very very tremendous confidence and like sort of the courage to consider them strongly. And in fact I am. I’m interviewing for firms in the region. My attraction and like passion towards the region has grown tremendously and significantly after both the trips. Rather than just considering like some of the more mainstream locations that like a typical McGill student would consider primarily around like Toronto or New York.”

Moore finds that Sahni’s comments reflect what he has heard from his students over the program’s first decade.  “They almost say to a person that it’s broadened their view of the world and it’s led them to travel more, to work in different places, to study in different places and see the world as a bigger more interconnected place.”

Moore’s team is considering three areas of the world for next year’s Hot Cities tour:  Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia; or Egypt and Morocco; or Tokyo, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.  Cost and safety are among the considerations.

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