July 30, 2015, by Academic contributor

Malaysia on my mind

Nottingham MBA students enjoy a global experience studying with people from all over the world and having the opportunity to participate in a number of international business study tours. Study tours include California’s Silicon Valley (with a focus on technology start-ups and equity investment), China (a week-long business and cultural tour to China taking advantage of Nottingham’s unique connections with China), Lehigh University (including visits to blue-chip companies in New York City and Washington DC, a tour of the White House and Capitol Hill, and time at the Lehigh campus in Pennsylvania).

In a series of special blogs we hear individual perspectives from current MBA students who recently took part in a Study Tour to Malaysia and Singapore.

Malaysia on my mind (by Emmanuel Hindovei Tommy)

Travelling in MalaysiaSaturday, 30 May 2015, our Silk Airlines plane smoothly landed on the tarmac of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. We trooped out just like happy teens on their first scouting expedition. We all stood quietly around the carousel. All our bags came in (Some bags were more colourful than others and they came in all shapes and sizes). Paul our troop leader did the head count…Paul was smooth and I was to learn from his patience and leadership in the coming days. The anxiety to discover was palpable…KL here we come.

First impression! The heat struck with such a force, in the face. So powerful! It was 35 ºC. It was humid. I was to experience later that the temperature can drop to 10 ºC at night. Quite dramatic!

At Novotel, that was to be home away from home, the foyer looked strangely familiar. Globalisation and branding on display; all hotels these days look the same and each brand can literally be transplanted around.

Saturday was a rest day… retired to my room and started my reflection.

Sunday, 31 May 2015, I Was really tired. Jet lagged? I woke up late and had to rush to the waiting coach. Colleagues were already on board. Ok folks sorry! I will not be late again. I promised and kept to it. Today we will do some site seeing.

The Istana Negara – The Royal Palace

This is an imposing site. The palace sits on top of a hill, looking down an expanse of greenery that is breath-taking. The Green Movement will be proud of this place.

This is a new palace, now home to a kingship that predates the advent of colonial rule. I learnt that the construction actually started in 2007 and completed in 2011 at the cost RM 997 million.

Paul left some little people at the Palace gate. Tiny rubber effigies, fondly named ‘the little people’, were to accompany us throughout the tour. I would still have to enquire more about them from Paul. Taking pictures of them and leaving them on visit sites left some cool feelings. Hope the people that will discover them will share similar sentiments.

Batu Caves

Next stop Batu caves, a Hindu shrine and one of the ‘must-see’ when in Malaysia. The first thing that catches your imagination is the 140ft statue of the Hindu deity Murugan . Here was the world’s tallest statue of Murugan. A climb of 272 steps beckons into the caves. I took the steps. Right at the top, I could see the hundreds of tourists and (worshippers lifting and pulling themselves up to the top.) Amazing!

In terms of business, a place like this will always make Malaysia a winner. Tourist will flow. Down below, one could see the small businesses that flow into the mammoth tourist swirl.

Next, Central market, I was already beginning to see that the Malaysians had transformed there colonial past in many ways than one to their benefit. The Central market, built in 1888, today is one of the protected heritage sites in Malaysia. Market for crafts and Local cuisines… Picked up some souvenirs and had a tasty Malay dish; Nasi Lemak, rice cooked in rich coconut milk.

We visited China Town. I am yet to visit a country and not find ‘China Town’.  This China town was a haggling market square with almost every ware from clothing to electronics. I followed a colleague to buy a big suitcase. I enjoyed the bargaining. The first charge price was RM 350. My friend ended up paying RM90.

End of site seeing. Paul took the head count and we were on our way. As we snaked through the city to our hotel, I observed the milling crowd. Truly Asian! Chinese, Indian, Malay, Japanese and looks that fall in between the mix. Looking up the skyline, I could see the cranes. They posed gently in the air like unperturbed waving hands to admiring onlookers. This city has been going through transformation for the last 50 years. Its appetite for construction has not been satiated. Go on KL! Infrastructure is a sure way of positioning as a key player in the global market.

That evening, we were treated to a lavish dinner in the hotel. Hospitality at its best! And the briefing was remarkable. We were officially welcomed with a dinner lecture by Assistant Prof Vanitha Ponnusamy from UNMC, on the Malaysian Economy and Society. The chips were falling in place.

Well! Well! Well! Not so fast. The night was not finished yet. We moved over to a pub, Tom, Harry and Dick. Hmmmm! We got what all Toms, Harries and Dicks can expect from a pub with a live band playing.

Monday, 1 June 2015


We started our day with a 20 minutes’ walk to the Kuala Lumpur Teaching Centre (KLTC). I think it is a brilliant idea to have a teaching centre in the city as the main UNMC is some 2 hours drive out of the city. I was impressed with the reception at UNMC. We met with Judy Wong at last, the woman who had been instrumental in all the tour arrangements on the Malaysian side. Together with her colleague, Dr Mohan, they helped to make the tour worthwhile.

At the KLTC, we had our first lecture on Islamic Finance by Syed Aun Raza Rizvi, Deputy Director of Islamic Business and Finance Research. The centre piece of his presentation was that Islamic Finance has caught on over the decades as an alternative to the capitalist model. The difference is in the risk burden.

We next had a presentation from Tim Gocher, Honorary professor of sustainable Business, at UNMC. He presented on the work he is involved with in Nepal. His views on development were quite an eye opener. He gave an insight in to the relationship between not for profit and profit in a developing context. I gotcha catch up with Tim sooner…

Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery

A visit to the central Bank of Malaysia Museum left me wowed. This was an interesting show case of development and economic transformation. My best take away was the visit to the Children’s wing. I was sincerely impressed. I think it is a wonderful strategy to engage the young on the intricacies of finance and economics even that young. Hope Africa can borrow a leaf from here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Visits to Crops for the Future, we passed through oil palm plantations to the research centre of Crops for the Future. The scenery looked familiar. I grew up with the palm tree. Most of the cuisines in my country are cooked with palm oil. Over the decades, Malaysia has transformed the palm tree to a highly profitable economic tree. Now the research centre is looking beyond monoculture crops. I think it is sustainable and futuristic. The Centre was also working on the Bambara ground nut seed and fish breeding.

All of these researches left me thinking. WATCH THIS SPACE!

Nirvana Asia bereavement service provider

One of my superstitions is to avoid talking death. So when told that we will visit a funeral parlour, I was uneasy a bit. When we got to Nirvana, it was quite the opposite effect. Rather than inducing a morbid feeling, I left Nirvana with spring in my steps and the gratitude to have seen a business that meets needs. Planning for your own funeral and investing in it is pragmatic. Nirvana has taken to a very profitable business and it is going global.

Dinner at the Menara KL Tower

Oh what a dinner! What a place! Having dinner right on top of Kuala Lumpur, at the Menara Tower is simply an astonishing experience. The Menara tower rises 282 m above ground and it is the world’s 6th tallest tower. The evening wore on gracefully. What a finale to an equally overwhelming day.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

School of hard knocksWe visited three more places on this last and final business day.

Royal Selangor

Great Tin/Pewter industry! The history of the Royal Selangor is inseparable from that of KL. They both had grown like Siamese twins.

Putrajaya on my mind

Putrajaya, a former sprawling oil palm plantation has been transformed into a world class sustainable city. Here lives the ambitious spirit of a people…The visit to Putrajaya left me with the feeling that for Malaysians, only the sky can limit them.

Final words on the Malaysian Tour…I would love to do it again. It brought home to me poignantly, the development realities of a third world country that is emerging into a developed nation with sustainability and growth inseparable.

Emmanuel Hindovei Tommy is currently completing a full-time MBA Corporate Social Responsibility

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