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What’s It Like To Get An MBA In Shanghai?

CEIBS Boot Camp participants getting a lesson in kung fu. Photo by Nathan Allen

CEIBS Boot Camp participants getting a lesson in kung fu. Photo by Nathan Allen

They came from all corners of the world — 23 countries to be exact. For five days, the 63 would-be MBAs participating in the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) boot camp got a full-fledged immersion in all things China. During the program, which serves as a CEIBS pitch, they were zipped around at 200 miles per hour on China’s bullet trains, lugged around the streets of Shanghai on charter busses and pitched on why China is the ideal place for a global-minded MBA student. After a week spent in a CEIBS MBA’s shoes, some left the camp convinced they wanted to apply; others were still unsure whether an MBA degree was for them. But no matter where they stood at the end of the week, everyone left with brain-busting knowledge of a Shanghai-based MBA, the Chinese economy, and a new network of peers.

In between three-hour lectures from CEIBS’ most popular and lively lecturers and company visits to Baosteel’s massive complex, Ford’s Asia Pacific headquarters, and Henkel, participants were able to take in the local scene. Using the Chinese mobile app WeChat, they made plans, often at a moment’s notice, for meals, socializing, and visits to the nearest KTV — karaoke television establishment.

According to Roy Chason, assistant director of marketing for CEIBS, about 30% of the boot campers had already taken the GMAT. Over the past three years, Chason says, the conversion rate of participants enrolling in the CEIBS MBA program has been about 15%. There was definitely a spectrum of interest in CEIBS, China, and the MBA in general. While it’s obviously too early to know how many of the 63 boot campers this year will actually apply to and enroll at CEIBS in the next few years, they’ve certainly gained a new perspective on China and the countries represented. Poets&Quants was able to catch up with five of the boot campers and get to know their stories.

Bhavishya Kanjhan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Bhavishya Kanjhan. Photo by Nathan Allen

Bhavishya Kanjhan. Photo by Nathan Allen

For Bhavishya Kanjhan, an MBA means more than an education, network, and career-accelerator — though it certainly does mean those things to him. But it also means a new way of carrying on a legacy. For the past two years, Kanjhan has been the director of Computer Care Group, a Dubai-based computer hardware retail chain his father and uncle founded nearly two decades ago. As one can imagine, working with and for your uncle and father can be a rollercoaster experience.

“Neither of them have any formal (business) education. So it’s been an interesting challenge because not only do I have to plan for the future, I have to battle legacy issues,” Kanjhan, 28, says. “And I’m constantly being told, ‘This is how we’ve done it and this is how it’s worked.’”

It’s been such a challenge, in fact, that Kanjhan recently founded a support group of sorts for fellow in-line executives of family businesses, called the BETA Network. “By calling myself a ‘beta,’ I’m calling myself a work in progress. I’m being groomed to take over,” Kanjhan says. So far, the 10 members of the group have met once a month for about half a year. Over coffee, “We pick topics like conflicts with your founder, who is also your father,” Kanjhan says. “Or issues with disdain among employees for you because you got the job because you’re the oldest son.”

‘CHINA IS THE FACTORY OF THE WORLD’

Kanjhan’s particular interest in China has to do with suppliers. “China is the factory of the world,” he says. For Kanjhan’s business, gross margins in the supply chain are incredibly low, he says. “Gross margins are single digits. Our net margins are even lower,” he explains. What’s more, Kanjhan says, the majority of his suppliers in Dubai are sourcing from China. So why not go straight to the source? “Coming to China or Hong Kong will give me direct access to China’s factories, to China’s economy, and to Chinese working cultures,” Kanjhan says.

Even though he has started establishing relationships with Chinese suppliers, Kanjhan says an MBA would allow him to get a better understanding of the environment while testing some business ideas in a forgiving space. As for CEIBS, Kanjhan admits some initial trepidation. “I came a little skeptical because when it comes to business education, America is America and everyone else is the rest,” he says.

But engaging and case study-focused lectures at the boot camp have changed Kanjhan’s perspective. He also seemed to get along very well with fellow boot campers. “If this is the final representation of the MBA class — and I have reason to believe it will be — then it feels like it’s going to be a good program.”