10 Sep 2016 17:11 IST

Kamsahamnida Korea

A Korean street shop

IIM-B students grappled with emotions on their last days at KAIST

The next day saw Prof Zong Tae Bae, head of the Graduate School of Management at KAIST giving us a lecture on the growth engines that power the Korean economy.

Noting that their companies are good at imitating and adopting global best practices, he narrated how Koreans excelled at basic and applied research. He also touched upon the role that various Government research institutes played in bridging the industry-academia gap.

After lunch, we participated in a tour of ‘Incubation Room’, organised by Prof Min Jeong Kang of the Social Entrepreneurship department of the institute. It reminded us of IIM-B’s own incubation cell, Nadathur S Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL).

The professor introduced us to the current and former students working at the lab, who shared with us the details of their projects.

A former student, Martin, presented to us his successful venture that provides a profitable livelihood to many artisans of Mayan handicrafts, in Guatemala. The limitless possibilities offered by combining social responsibility and astute business sense are not new to us.

e-Commerce success story

Richard Song, CFO of Coupang, a fast growing e-Commerce company in South Korea, joined us to discuss the importance of listening to customers. Narrating his company’s story, he explained how Coupang was able to identify an under-served customer segment to gain market share and built a reputation for consistently delivering customer delight.

MNCs in Korea aren’t as successful as local companies, mainly due to the lack of thorough understanding of customer tastes, needs and wants.

Emphasising that customer centricity has to be part of a company’s culture, the senior executive explained how delivery personnel at Coupang often left personalised greetings for customers along with the packages.

The session concluded with a roundup of elements that are essential for winning Korean customers’ minds and hearts.

Banpo bridge

 

Knowing that our visit was about to come to an end, we tried to make the most of the immersion experience. While some of us experienced the nightlife in Seoul or indulged in shopping, the rest explored local attractions.

Most of us visited the Banpo bridge rainbow fountain, the world’s longest bridge fountain, to beat the heat. The picnic area was well developed; it had a bike path, an exercise area, a pedestrian walkway, a theatre and a café.

The fountain is best viewed in the moonlight, when water jets from the LED nozzles put on a splendid display! It was hard to believe that all the tranquillity around us was just a few meters away from the bustling city life.

Farewell

 

The following day, Prof Betty Chung summarised the lecture series, highlighting various aspects of Korean culture and business environment.

Talking about our stay in Korea, we recounted our experiences and the key takeaways from the immersion programme. The wrap-up session ended with a quick recap of cultural aspects unique to Korea and differences between Eastern and Western ways of doing business.

A hearty lunch at the cafeteria was followed by an information session that helped us understand what, how and when to work on the group projects we received from Korean firms. We are going to work on these and submit our reports after we get back to Bangalore. Prof Chung volunteered to act as a liaison whenever we needed help reaching out to our project champions.

After each of us received a certificate from KAIST for completing the immersion module, it was finally time to bid adieu. Everyone in the room grappled with mixed emotions and tried their best to express themselves. Our hosts played a video, summarising some memorable moments of our stay.

Not the ones to be left behind, we too played a video that covered the highlights of our experience. We topped it off with a humorous yet thought-provoking poem dedicated to team KAIST.

After exchanging gifts and kind words, we bowed to our heads express our gratitude with a warm ‘Kamsahamnida’. We invited the KAIST team to visit our campus and give us an opportunity to reciprocate the hospitality we received.

That evening, as we retired in anticipation of travelling back to India, we were packed not only with gifts and goodies but also with dreams and aspirations about the promise that Korea held.

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