Yesterday was my first day of classes at Sasin. I'm taking a Leadership & Ethics class and a Entrepreneurial Marketing Practicum (which is actually an initiative from Dipak Jain, dean of Kellogg). From what I can tell the entrepreneurial marketing practicum is essentially a business plan writing class (with a slight focus on market research and data collection).
In any event, business school in Bangkok is definitely different from in the States -- yesterday was by far the strangest day of school I think I have ever attended. I have no idea if my descriptions will convey the wonder and hilarity of it all, but rest assured both are what I was feeling as I walked home at the end of the day.
The Leadership & Ethics class is straightforward enough - the teacher is incredibly nice and supportive of the students. We went around and introduced ourselves and talked about what we were doing when we graduated. One of the Thai students announced that he was starting a music and movie production company, called appropriately enough "Dong & Friends." One of the other students was going to be the lead singer of his first project. The guys were cracking up the whole time, so its possible they were messing around, but Dong claimed that he could show a video of some of their work. The teacher consented and Dong walked to the front of the classroom and played a video.
The video told the story of a Thai businessmn who went to Cameroon to sell his new product, an energy drink (i.e. Red Bull). Pretty straightforward and nothing overly complex from a movie-making perspective (i.e. not quite ready for Hollywood), except that he portrayed the Cameroon people in blackface and had them mumble and basically jump around like apes. The video was basically a 10 minute portrayal of every African stereotype you have ever heard about. I (and the rest of the Americans) were blown away. After the video, the teacher started talking and we fully expected him to express some dismay about the portrayals, but nothing of the sort transpired. Instead he congratulated him on the excellent work and told him to keep plugging along. To top it all off, turns out he produced the video for a class about multi-cultural business relationships!!
In the afternoon I attended the marketing practicum. The class started with two guest speakers (including the founder of Silkspan, a Thai startup, who was actually pretty interesting). After the guest speakers several students gave quick presentations about their ideas for their business plan projects. I found it very interesting - one girl wanted talked about an "Image Production Company" that would help politicians, actors/actresses, etc. to project a "good" image. It basically sounded like a PR-type or agent company and I found it interesting that this type of service didn't already exist. In fact, it seems like services that we largely take for granted in America as part of the business landscape don't really exist in Thailand. (Although I should mention, that I doubt this to be true. Or at least find it hard to believe - I'll have to do some more research.) Another student wanted to start a car wash company...
... but by far the best presentation was by a girl who is trying to become a singer/dancer, i.e. the Thai Britney Spears. She is planning on totally revolutionizing the Thai music scene. She talked for a couple minutes about her plan to always be at the bleeding edge of fashion/dancing/music/etc. and that she would constantly change her sound and styles. Then she showed a 10 minute video of her modeling and dancing (with the sound off so we don't really know if she can sing). The video was really high quality and it showed her in a ton of different productions with backup dancers, lighting, smoke, the whole deal. Turns out she has already been performing for a number of years. She designs all her own outfits and has a team of choreographers who she works with to come up with the dances (although to be honest, she is highly "influenced" by American artists - i.e. Madonna, Beyonce, etc.). A couple of the UNC guys went up to her after class with some suggestions on how to "reach out to Hollywood" - "Babe, I'll make you a STAR!"
Last night, Marc and I went out with some of the UNC guys to dinner and drinks. We ended up at this place called Bed Supperclub - apparently, it is one of the nicer clubs in Thailand and it definitely was a lot different from most of the places we have been to so far. It is in this oval-shaped, warehouse-styled building that is really futuristic looking and inside instead of couches there are beds. It was much more like a club in New York or Tokyo and the people seemed to be mostly locals with money. It was still really cheap though - $60 bought us a bottle (in NYC that would be more like $200-300). It was hip hop night and they had this live Thai rap group that was unbelievable - I have to give P. Diddy a call about bringing some Thai rap to the States! It sounds a little like a reggae/rap mix and the mcs rap over each other like the Beastie Boys. After that they played the traditional stuff you hear anywhere else (although they went a little deeper into the catalogue than normal) and rumor has it I may have danced my ass off... including a stint on top of a stage-like thing doing the Hammer dance when they played "You Can't Touch This." Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home so you'll have to use your imagination. Good times...