panel of diverse and distinguished speakers
presented their views on the future of
Asia from February 10-12, 2006 at the
Asia Business Conference entitled "Asia
Inc.: Economic, Social and Political,
Integration and Differentiation." The
event was organized by the Asia Business
Club, HBS; Harvard Asia Law Society, HLS;
and China Caucus, KSG. The conference
had 2 executive roundtables and 16 panels
covering a wide range of subjects on the
business environment in Asia and industries
like venture capital, new media industry,
healthcare, telecommunication and banking.
Mr. Ko-Yung Tung,
Former Vice President and General Counsel
of the World Bank presented the reception
keynote at the Fogg Art Museum. From the
Fogg Art Museum, the conference moved
to the HBS campus. Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda,
President of the Asian Development Bank,
delivered the opening keynote and set
the tone of the conference by saying,
"Asia must build strong regional economy,
well integrated within itself and with
the world including the United States."
He further commented that China should
increase consumption and liberalize foreign
exchange regime. He emphasized that Asia
needs more regional institutions. This
need was later substantiated in the conference
by Eiji Hirano, Assistant Governor of
Bank of Japan.
The irresistible forces of globalization
are reshaping the Asian business models.
Free trade agreements play a pioneering
role in regional integration. However,
trade cooperation has not contributed
as much as expected to the welfare and
development of Asia. Issues like the Asian
version of NAFTA, implications of Asian
Free Trade Area, and the feasibility of
the Asian common market were discussed.
One of the panels addressed the legal
aspect of doing business in Asia and the
panelists brainstormed on corporate governance
and the process of due diligence in China.
Jeremy Goodwin, who specializes in due
diligence in China, said that "China is
not a rule of law market and the enterprises
must take due diligence seriously before
venturing in China."
The Mergers and Acquisitions panel moderated
by HLS Professor Guhan Subramanian attracted
the largest number of conference participants.
HALS coordinated this panel, and the discussion
involved current trends and developments
in cross-border mergers, acquisitions
and buy-outs. Chris Mayer, Partner, Davis,
Polk, and Wardell, said that "the issues
of corporate governance and the requirement
of approval of government before the merger
are the major impediments in the development
of mergers and acquisitions in China."
Mr. Pramod Rao, General Counsel of ICICI
Bank, India's second largest Bank commented
that "mergers and acquisitions are not
growing in India due to the absence of
competition laws and the strong presence
of family owned businesses."
seemed fascinated by private equity opportunities
in the region and emphasized that China
is a hot destination for foreign investment.
Public and private partnership (PPP) is
a new policy area in Asia. It is believed
that this is a positive example of interaction
and interdependence between government
and business. PPP is applied in infrastructure
construction, public health, education,
scientific and technological innovation,
etc. The panel on Banking and Credit in
Asia examined the experiences of countries
at different stages of development and
elucidated the macro-economic trends.
The implications of Asian business culture
for the future of business in Asia are
critical, and the Asian markets demands
high degree of customization. Mr. Cyril
Shroff, Managing Partner of Amarchand
Mangaldas, India's largest law firm speaking
at the executive roundtable said that
the "business models used in other Asian
markets may not necessarily work in India
as India has unique requirements." This
is probably true for other Asian nations,
The panels addressed a wide array of areas.
However, some of the current important
issues which greatly affect the business
propositions in Asia were missing. Such
issues include the impact of the political
situations in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq
on international economic relations/trade;
the future of outsourcing business; and
the efficacy of micro-finance, bottom
of the pyramids measures to alleviate
poverty and unemployment in the Asian
region. The list of speakers was impressive,
but it had a relatively small representation
of China's domestic corporations, industry
leaders and regulators.
Overall, the conference attracted a large
number of participants on the second day,
but turnout was low on the third day due
to bad weather. It led to a shortage of
organizers, lack of coordination with
the speakers and poorly scheduled events.
In a way, students of arguably world's
best management school could not respond
to the challenges of weather and faltered
for most part of the third day in managing
their own conference.
However, credit cannot be taken away from
the respective student organizations of
HBS, HLS and KSG for having 80 distinguished
speakers and coordinating the mammoth
conference. At the end of the day, organizers,
participants and speakers were left with
a positive frame of mind about future
developments in Asia, particularly in
China and India.