The allure of Singapore attracted 21 HEC Paris MBA students to a week-long trek during the first week of April. Organized by the MBA’s Asia Pacific Business Club, the trek provided the perfect opportunity for participants to meet with a range of startups, finance and consulting firms, and big tech players. We packed our schedule with 13 company meetings and three sociocultural events, which made for an incredibly informative and fun experience!
Singapore is a unique blend of east and west – an Asian bubble that you can navigate in English. Its booming business scene, home to many multinational firms’ South East Asia (SEA) headquarters, and its strong expat community make it well worth considering for post-MBA life.
Company Visit Highlights
StashAway: We started the week visiting this robo-advisory/wealth management firm. We learned from its Italian co-founder how he found a gap in the Singaporean market and created this FinTech business – persevering through complicated regulatory, licensing and investing bureaucracy. This visit made entrepreneurship in Singapore feel possible!
Boston Consulting Group (BCG)/Strategy&: At both consulting firms, we were welcomed by several associates who presented their SEA operations. Strategy& included insight into their recent history (PWC acquired them from Booz & Company in 2014), which helped frame the company’s evolution and direction. Strategy& networked with us well into the evening and we later commented on how authentic and fun our conversations with their associates were. This evening was one of my highlights!
Shopee/Lazada: These e-commerce companies are transforming retail in SEA. Shopee feels like a fun, scrappy startup. Its office consisted of open working spaces and Silicon Valley-esque perks that seemed almost over the top (free snacks, a massage room, even a nap room)! Lazada, a few years older than Shopee, felt slightly more mature, and the company’s representative shared with us an engaging, forward-looking presentation. Coming from an e-commerce background in the U.S. and France, I was fascinated to meet these regional players.
Food Panda/Deliveroo: It was so interesting to explore these food delivery companies back to back, since they are direct competitors in the Singapore market. It brought to life marketing and business development concepts, such as: How do you grow your business by reducing cost or increasing willingness to pay? What are the economics of a price war? Is this a red or blue ocean strategy? These visits felt like a real-life case study!
Microsoft/Google: We ended the week with these tech giants. At Google, though our visit was centered around an office tour, we were able to feel the independent nature of Googlers. At Microsoft, we had a lively discussion on the company’s recent leadership changes, transfer of culture, and Microsoft’s reincarnation as a more “modern” company. Being from Seattle, I loved seeing how a “hometown hero” integrated itself into a place so different from home.
Soaking in the Singaporean Culture
In addition to our star-studded company visits, three events rounded out our experience:
- We attended the Asia Business Forum hosted by the National University of Singapore (NUS), which included a seminar on Singaporean culture given by a NUS professor, followed by a luncheon. This provided valuable perspective on life in Singapore outside the office.
- A networking soirée by the bay brought together the whole spectrum of the HEC community, including prospective students, current students and alumni. In all, about 40 people attended, and it was great to see some familiar faces from company presentations and the NUS event. Plus, we had the stellar skyline as our backdrop!
- We had a massive Singaporean family-style dinner at one of the famed “hawker centers” (outdoor food markets) on our second to last day. I’ll never forget almost ordering 400 sticks of satay – and then reducing to “only” 200 so we could try some other dishes! It was a great night of bonding over local food to cap off a week of impactful visits.
I am so thankful to the HEC Paris MBA’s APAC Club for coordinating this trek. I, like my colleagues, got exactly what we wanted out of it: we learned about different companies, we imagined our lives there, we started building our networks and we ate amazing food. Singapore truly feels like a buzzing business hub, and it’s exciting to see all the opportunities that wait. I will be back!
Text by Hilary Matson
Hilary Matson (MBA'20) graduated from the University of Washington (USA) in 2010 with a degree in Business Administration. She immediately started working with Amazon.com at their headquarters in Seattle, and held a variety of roles ranging from Financial Analyst to Senior Program Manager. In 2016, she moved with Amazon to their Paris office for a Senior Marketing Manager role. With nine years of experience in e-commerce retail, she decided to pursue her MBA at HEC Paris to layer a theoretical framework over her practical experience, as well as gain exposure to other sectors and small/medium enterprises. She is specifically interested in tech startups and sustainability, and will be pursuing the Entrepreneurship Specialization as well as the Social Business Certificate. On campus, Hilary is a member of the HEC Consulting Practice, serves as an Academic Representative for her cohort, and was the Women's Football coordinator for MBAT.