‘Korea offers global test bed for new businesses’
This is the first in a series of roundtable discussions with alumni of top MBA schools. — ED.
By Bahk Eun-ji
Korean consumers are choosy in product and service selection and fast-changing in preferences, offering foreign businesses a chance to use the market as a test bed before global launch.
This is the view shared by three noted executives of foreign business operations in Korea during recent roundtable discussions in the first in a series inviting graduates of top MBA schools.
BMW Korea CEO Kim Hyo-joon, Home plus Executive Vice President Seol Do-won and Intel Korea CEO President Lee Hee-sung participated.
“Korean consumers are the fastest responders to new products and services, ” Kim said. “For instance, Korea is often the second market after Germany for a new product launch.” This strategy aims at taking advantage of Korean consumers’ unique characteristics so as to make adjustments before taking the product global.
Kim said that China and Japan are too big to serve this purpose and Korea’s unique market makes it more valuable than just another export market.
Kim’s BMW operations are a perennial leader in Korea’s imported car sales ahead of Mercedes Benz and Audi and is regarded as an exemplary case back in Munich.
Kim added that this environment makes for good MBA schools and his alma mater excels among them.
Home plus Executive Vice President Seol went a step further, saying that efforts should be doubled to globally share Korea’s wealth of business experiences from the perspective of successes and failures.
“I believe it’s high time to establish a Korean style of business studies including MBA programs,” he said.
“We have already foremost multinational conglomerates such as Samsung Group that have been very successful to draw attention globally. So it’s literally the right time to raise our reputation through improving academic programs.” he said.
Seol pointed out that Korean style of MBA program can be more focused on teaching integrated business management such as the ultimate goal, core values and strategies for which companies seeking at a time when the program in Western countries are focused on separated functionalism such as marketing, operation management, finance and accounting.
“There are many excellent CEOs and executives in Korea who put more emphasis on big picture when they operate companies. This means the frame of thinking is different from Westerners when it comes to business operations,” Seol said.
Intel Korea head Lee noted that Korea’s unrivalled feature comes from service qualities.
“Service-oriented corporate culture can be another distinct feature in Korea,” Lee said.
“The quality of customer service is much more advanced than any other countries from hotel to after-service of home appliances. And this will be the key point of selling premium products in global market.” Lee said.
However, observers contend that there are still some issues to resolve in order to make an outstanding improvement for Korean business schools.
For example, a case study is one of the most important programs for business schools. It is like a customer trying a demo program with which people can learn if it would be suitable for them before they purchase some software.
In order to entice more global talents to Korea, it is necessary to have more interesting stories with regard to Korean companies but the hitch is that they are reluctant to disclose their information.
“Companies usually don’t want to reveal their cases, because they think it’s too risky to reveal them to the public, especially to local business schools,” said Suh at Yonsei University.
“What is more irrational for me is that the companies, which refused to share their business cases before, are willing to share it with prestigious schools abroad such as Harvard Business School.” Seol assumed that the executives of Korean companies think if their cases are introduced by Harvard, it will be helpful for their reputation. On the other hand, they think that it will be a revelation of corporate secrets in case they share cases with Korean schools.
“When I went to London a week ago, I met a professor from an MBA program of Babson College, who has prepared for publishing a book about Korean market. He had visited and stayed Korea for three weeks in order to collect information and to do interviews with Korean clients and workers of conglomerates.” said Seol.
“And that means exactly that Korean business style is useful in the global market. So it’s hard to understand why Korean companies are hesitant to open their own stories as Korean professors are the best knowledgeable about Korean business environment.” Seol said.