Posts Tagged ‘Adesoji Solanke’

What a break! Myanmar…is…amazing! To think that this country was largely closed for so many years, yet possesses such hidden and endangered monumental pieces of history, it deserves your visit. After my NEO survey (you do this early in your LBS MBA life) suggested I needed more adventure, I decided to go on the trek to Myanmar instead of the more popular Japan trek because of the former’s unique appeal; lay on top of that the lure of original Asian food and my continued interest in frontier markets. After grueling exams, a block week and minimal sleep, Myanmar did not let me down.

Me, trying to get a selfie with some incredible Pagodas in the background

Me, trying to get a selfie with some incredible Pagodas in the background

 

My fun notes…

When I took the first stab at this blog post, I had spent two days in the country and was drawing the curtains on an exhausting day in Bagan. Visiting the temples therein were the day’s highlights, coupled with using some of my negotiation skills from local markets in Nigeria to the benefit of my mates in local markets here.

On day 1, we met with a few prospective students of London Business School, had drinks with some diplomats and on-the-ground professionals, and helped ourselves to leisurely meals. I found the history of Myanmar’s political evolution quite interesting and reached the conclusion that solid execution of a clear and consistent economic development plan will be key to keeping the country’s economic momentum going and elevate it on the league of globally minded countries. On a separate note, one interesting observation was that the restaurants tended to have separate or combined Thai, Burmese and Western menus. While not fully sure why this is the case, I think it’s the outcome of receiving such a diverse pool of tourists over the years.

On day 2, we flew a small plane for 60+ minutes to Bagan from Yangon (former capital of Myanmar). Here we spent the day visiting ancient Buddhist temples (about 3,000 remaining vs. peak count of over 10,000), some undergoing refurbishment after a 2016 earthquake caused damage to legendary structures. We also took a horse cart ride round town to see more temples and watch the sunset from atop one of the town’s largest ancient temples. In-between and afterwards, we tried multicultural meals at different restaurants. Coming from London, the perspective on pricing was important. For the quality and volume of food we had, we found London about 3-4x more expensive – no surprises!

Sun setting picture of temples in Bagan

Sun setting picture of temples in Bagan

Day 3 was an early start. 5am and we were off to the fields for a hot air balloon ride across Bagan. The sights were incredible. There were at least 10-15 balloons in the air simultaneously. We found the operational quality outstanding and weren’t surprised to hear the manager of Balloons over Bagan say they operate by UK standards. Watching the sunrise over the many temples that litter Bagan, was, as you can already imagine, nothing short of beautiful. We subsequently grabbed electronic bikes, riding round town to take in more views of the ancient town. Overnight, we took a long bus ride to Inle Lake. Other than being chased by a stray dog late at night, it was a smooth experience.

Touring Bagan on electric bikes with my MBA mates

Touring Bagan on electric bikes with my MBA mates

Day 4 for me was one for conquering my fears. Since falling off a jet-ski in Miami in 2015, I’ve harbored some fears about extensive and potentially risky water adventures. Discovering that Inle Lake involved a lengthy boat ride renewed some of those extant fears but I braved them and went with the flow. Barring the occasional strong waves which sent the boat tilting one way and an engine misdemeanor in the middle of nowhere, it was a nice sunny ride. The town also boasts some ancient temples, some of which were also under repairs. Subsequently we visited a warm spring resort where I crushed any remaining water-related fears, thanks to encouragement from my MBA mates. This day ended with a cooking class, with some students taking turns to prepare Tempura.

We took an early morning flight on Day 5 to Ngapali (“Napali”), welcomed by video cameras of the local news stations. This was scheduled to be a lazy day. Ngapali’s main highlight is its pristine beach front. If I rated the previous hotels and days’ activities a B (due to my uber-high standards) then this day was definitely an A, with Bagan in close competition. We spent the day on the beach, in the pool and reading books (I was reading Margin of Safety by Seth Klarman, CEO of Baupost Group). As I reflected on the previous two days, I had learnt three things: 1) our fears are for the most part just a mental block, 2) confronting our fears openly in a safe environment where helping hands exist is often a sure winning strategy, and 3) it pays to be open minded, as help can sometimes come from the most unexpected places. The day ended with karaoke on the beach front.

Clockwise: A fisherman in Inle Lake putting on a show for us; Me in my rice farmer hat after the Inle Lake boat ride; Great shot of me by Hiroshi after a beautiful day in Ngapali as the sun set

Clockwise: A fisherman in Inle Lake putting on a show for us; Me in a rice farmer hat after the Inle Lake boat ride; Great shot by Hiroshi after a beautiful day in Ngapali as the sun set

Day 6-7 saw us head back to Yangon. This was another leisurely day spent trying food at really local restaurants, market shopping, visiting the first KFC location (a Zinger burger with fries and a drink costs GBP2.96 vs. GBP4.79 in UK), watching the sunset from the Shwedagon Pagoda (most sacred temple in Myanmar), drinks with the expat community, viewing colonial buildings and the stock exchange (massive building with only four listed stocks), trying out street food and wrapping up with a boat party.

Wrapping up an excellent trek to Myanmar with a water-fight themed boat party in Yangon

Wrapping up an excellent trek to Myanmar with a water-fight themed boat party in Yangon

Two random observations:

  • Justin Timberlake is really popular and is probably spoken about every day. If you want to say thank you in Burmese lingua, just say ‘Justintimberlake’ really fast!

 

  • With two students having forgotten their phones in the taxi and each time it was returned to our hotel, I couldn’t help but think the Burmese must be really honest people.

 

Needless to say, this was an incredible trip. Now that London Business School will for the first time offer a Global Business Experience (GBE) trip to Myanmar, this is a country I highly recommend for its unique experiences and growth opportunities.

Till my next post, “pyan tot mel”!

To learn about my serious takeaways from our trip to Myanmar, get on my LBS Student Blog page to read Part 1 – My serious notes.

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LBS MBA and MIM students in Myanmar (Inle Lake region)

LBS MBA and MIM students in Myanmar (Inle Lake region)

What a break! Myanmar…is…amazing! To think that this country was largely closed for so many years, yet possesses such hidden and endangered monumental pieces of history, it deserves your visit. After my NEO survey (you do this early in your LBS MBA life) suggested I needed more adventure, I decided to go on the trek to Myanmar instead of the more popular Japan trek because of the former’s unique appeal; lay on top of that the lure of original Asian food and my continued interest in frontier markets. After grueling exams, a block week and minimal sleep, Myanmar did not let me down.

My serious notes (Quick takes on the economy, banking system and real estate market)…

  • The country reminds me of Ethiopia. Rather, what Ethiopia could be in a few years with a little flexibility towards foreign investments. Myanmar, a country of c.60mn people, is seen by some investors as the next growth frontier (IMF: 7.3% GDP growth in 2015) given its relatively lower wealth in the South East Asian region and the still basic nature of goods and services currently available.

 

  • As with many countries when they start opening up with an intention to attract tourists, the airport, hotels and restaurants are some of the early areas that attract investments. Myanmar possesses quite a decent and functional airport (significantly better than that of my home country, Nigeria) as well as a number of high quality hotels and restaurants connected by very good roads. The conscious attempt to develop the country with tourists in mind is quite apparent. While we went during low season, the number of hotels/resorts and feedback from locals suggests things gather significant momentum between August-January.

 

  • On a separate note, we heard about a heating up in the real estate market, largely demand-side driven. As I dug further on this issue, I discovered from locals that Myanmar is predominantly a cash-based economy. Also, real savings rate is negative, at the regulated 8%, considering inflation is 11-12%. Therefore, most of the professionals I met mentioned locals keep stacks of cash and/or gold at home or invest in real estate given the lack of low risk alternatives. This means that while the locals may be concerned about a bubble, the heating up could be sustained until maybe structural changes are made to improve the intermediation of the banking system.

 

  • While the average Nigerian has 3-4 bank accounts, it’s not uncommon to find a local here with no bank account; and where he/she does, its one bank account with balances sometimes as low as $10 equivalent.

 

  • The Kenyan government can take a cue from Myanmar on the negative implications of lending and deposit rate caps (13% and 8% respectively in Myanmar), to observe the stifling impact on credit availability to the private sector.

 

  • The banking system, with 14 private banks, is largely dominated by big business men, partly due to a shortage of alternative funding sources for their businesses. There are 14 other government-linked banking entities. Commodities (gold and other precious materials) are a key driver of economic activity and one professional mentioned that the military still has back-end control despite the 2015 elections which further entrenched democracy in the country.

 

  • The most incredible thing I discovered is that loan sharks here lend for as high as 12% per month. Even when the loan is collateralized with gold (sometimes kept in mattresses), the lending rate drops to only 8% per month! These monthly rates are almost equivalent to 100-150% per annum on the same principal, ex fees (NB: In Africa, micro lending rates tend to range 2-5% per month, on average). Clearly prohibitive and points to the weak intermediation role of the banks in this economy. One professional mentioned 1) that banks often ask for 200% loan collateralization, 2) prefer this to be land, and 3) the banks rarely have credit committees. Consensus seemed to be building among the locals that a banking crisis may be around the corner.

 

Was this post too boring for you? Then get on my LBS Student Blog page to read Part 2 – My fun notes!

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Term 1 ends. Random musings.

Posted by: Adesoji Solanke
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I survived! We made it through what has been nothing short of an extraordinary past few months. As the saying goes – time does fly when you’re having fun. But I remember vividly, days when I was drowning under mountain high and rising to-do lists and all I could say was: one way or another, I’ll make it to term end, and here we are. I must say, that nothing can sufficiently describe to anyone, the experience of the London Business School MBA other than simply experiencing it; and so far, many of my mates will agree it’s been busier than even a full-time job!

As I type this up, it’s the night just after a marathon weekend of final exams – grueling! Many are gearing up for what will be a phenomenal week at one of LBS’s flagship December treks, in Val Thorens – the Snow Trek (FOMO). Many are setting out with friends anew to countries around Europe and elsewhere, and others heading back home to family and friends. For others, it’s the perfect time to finally explore the UK and get out of the Baker Street bubble. And for some, it will be a holiday busy with case preps, interview preparations, networking, retrospection, planning for what comes next…and reading The Goal (-_-).

I envy the MBA2019s. As an MBA Student Ambassador, I was excited to congratulate some of those who recently received their admission offers from LBS. More exciting however, is that they will be first to explore the revamped LBS MBA offering. The option to waive the language exit requirement and tailor your core courses are some of the brilliant changes to the core MBA programme I sometimes wish were retrospective. Nevertheless, just as I found it reassuring to hear alumni say how much better the MBA is, now versus when they were here, I’m glad I can already convey a similar message to the incoming class.

How do you think about impact? So, we all want to be successful but to what end? What is the essence of our success and what will its impact be? As I draw the curtains on term 1 and look forward to an exciting year ahead, it is perhaps pertinent to draw on Stephen Covey’s Habit 2 in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – Begin with the end in mind. Framing the end is often an ongoing process (and the GLAM course required us to do this) but it’s important to have it in mind as a guide for today’s actions and decisions. Excel’s Solver won’t optimize for you here (#DMDjokes).

Okay, this post is as random as the title suggests but I think it has achieved its objective nonetheless – to give an insight into the LBS MBA student experience. Thus, to you, my Japanese friends, and those gearing up for the Japan trek: ‘Meri-Kurisumasu’ and ‘Yoi otoshi o’! Sayonara!

My random study group - American engineer, Brazilian banker, British pharmacist, Nigerian analyst, Indian PR consultant, Italian consultant

My random study group – American engineer, Brazilian banker, British pharmacist, Nigerian equity analyst, Indian PR consultant, Italian consultant

 

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