BizVenture is a week-long programme that exposes New Zealand high school entrepreneurs to the opportunities awaiting them in Southeast Asia. A collaboration between SEA CAPE and Young Enterprise, the programme's experiential nature promotes curiosity and learning about the region.
Participants spend a week in a Southeast Asian country where they learn about the business community and culture by visiting a range of established and emerging businesses. They meet local entrepreneurs and key players in business and trade. Throughout the week, the students collaborate on a business presentation and pitch document with their counterparts from a local school. The week culminates in a business challenge where all students come together to pitch their business idea to their peers, invited guests and a panel of judges.
BizVenture is an opportunity for young Kiwi entrepreneurs to extend their global business knowledge and their understanding of the trade environment. It builds upon New Zealand's great track record for fresh thinking on the world stage and encourages lasting connections with Southeast Asia.
SEA CAPE's inaugural BizVenture took place in Bangkok, Thailand from 28 September - 5 October, 2019. Read all about it here.
*The programme was formerly known as the Business Challenge and has taken groups of students to Singapore (April 2018, January 2019), and Vietnam (April 2019).
As one of five students who were selected to represent their Global Kaitiakitanga Project businesses in Thailand, I can say that this experience has certainly helped me to see the differences in sustainable business culture between Thailand and New Zealand. Getting to experience this alongside 9 other driven, intelligent students was also incredible, and getting their perspectives on the things we saw and learned helped me to consider other possibilities and see things through a new, well-rounded paradigm.
As we drove down the motorway to Central Bangkok, I noticed many similarities between Vietnam and Thailand, however made some distinctions: Thailand roads are less chaotic, and the buildings and city layout are much more Western. I also noticed that the streets were cleaner, but there was still a massive need for change. With Thailand being in the top 5 countries contributing to ocean plastic pollution, serious action needs to be taken. I learned through the business visits - particularly NZTE, Patom Organics and PIM that Thailand is working towards a sustainable future by reducing their single use plastic - things like straws and plastic bags. I was glad, therefore, to receive a reusable straw on the first day! But more than this, I was super happy that Wrapt had quite a good chance at succeeding here for this reason. We learned that 7/11 is looking towards a more sustainable future, particularly with the younger generations' interest in taking care of their country.
I also noticed straight away that Bangkok was quite green around the city centre compared to Ho Chi Minh. There were more trees and less rubbish, but the problem was more in the rivers and streams along the highways and in the slum villages. As mentioned earlier, the people of Bangkok are now paying more attention to these problems and are making changes to help reduce their use of single use plastics. Me and my team - made up of one other New Zealand student and a Thai student - worked together to put our learnings from the week into a presentation that showed how these findings have helped us in understanding Wrapt's potential in Thailand, and what we could bring back to New Zealand to help push our businesses further.
In 2017, Thailand contributed to 27.4 million tonnes of plastic waste - of this 4.2 million was generated in Bangkok alone. These overwhelming statistics helped us to see the need for Thailand to work towards a more sustainable future.
Sustainability in Thailand is mostly driven through cultural, social, and most importantly economic sustainability. This is because there is a large number of the population living below the poverty line and their top priority is to make sure that they can survive from day to day and have enough money to live and feed their families. The Klong Toey community is a good reflection of this. We saw that they were struggling and in turn, so was the environment. This opened our eyes to the outcomes that living in such poor conditions can have. We realised that to make a real change in environmental sustainability, there first had to be a change in economic sustainability so that they can think about life in the future, not worry about life in the present.
However, environmental change can be made with the help of large corporates like the CP Group and
SCG through the idea of a circular economy, caring for your resources, and caring for your waste just as Tetrapak and Fiber Pattana do by giving back to communities and those who don’t have the resources to make a change themselves.
I really loved Tetrapak's recycling of waste to make a variety of products including fireproof roofs, chairs, tables and walls. Wouldn't it be amazing if all of the buildings in Bangkok were made from recycled materials? It's companies like Tetrapak that I look up to, the companies that truly care about making a change and push for their innovations to be made a reality.
Another company that I really loved was Patom Organics. Not only was the atmosphere incredible and green and relaxing, the food delectable and the shop amazing - their mission was just awesome. Patom helps farmers that have been taken advantage of by allowing them to become organic farmers, the produce of which they use in their cafe. They also host markets where the farmers can sell their organic produce. I instantly fell in love with Patom as human welfare is one of my biggest concerns. I felt like buying the whole store to support these farmers but restrained myself and bought a Thai tea latte and a 10 baht rice dessert.
Team Wrapt briefly discussed in our pitch that if we were to ever launch in Thailand, we would certainly source our freeze-dried fruit and vegetable powders from local organic farmers to help the sustainable circle go around.
I would love to thank the Young Enterprise Scheme and SEACAPE for planning this once-in-a-lifetime journey. We all came back with minds filled to the brim with Thai business knowledge, and I personally came back with a fresh, clean head - while the week was insanely busy, I was able to let go of all the stresses of business and school back home and focus solely on Wrapt in Thailand. Bangkok, I will be back, and this time without any giant drops of any kind.
This business trip to Thailand has allowed me to grow and develop as a person. My business knowledge has grown enormously, and I have also gained the confidence to trust myself. I never thought in my wildest of dreams that I would be able to have this opportunity. From the moment I met the group, we all bonded instantly due to our similar values and passions. I have felt supported and safe to step out of my comfort zone. This trip has provided me with the resources to put myself in a fast-paced and forwardthinking environment. I have fully immersed myself in the culture offered and made the most of every opportunity.
We heard from Dr Thitinan from Chulalongkorn University, Dr Pavida from Thammasat University, the New Zealand Embassy, NZTE, Patom Organics, TetraPak, Local Alike, Good Travel, CP Group, Lexicon, Wave One, Kai New Zealand, SCG, True Digital Park and Hubba. Each of these engagements offered us extensive insight into the different sectors of the Thai market.
I found it interesting to hear about how Local Alike works with community’s and teaches them how to build a business and tourism attractions to ensure the community is sustainable. This sector in Thailand must be nurtured as the tourism industry is worth $90 billion. That evening with Local Alike we also did a Thai cooking class that was extremely fun and encouraged me to try new foods. This experience was truly special and something I will remember forever.
I also found Patom Organics inspiring. Their vision is to create a sustainable food system and have a balanced living. It was great to see how their full process is made from direct contact with farmers to selling fresh and organic produce. They are a transparent and involved business. It was lovely to see their ethics and values reflected throughout their business strategy and approach.
When visiting True Digital Park it was inspiring to see their innovative and forward-thinking working environment. I was so happy to see a Google area there, as this is where I wish to get an internship in the future. True Digital offers workspaces for like-minded people to grow and develop ideas and businesses. It was inspiring to walk around there building and see first hand hard working and passionate people following their dreams.
As well as this we visited Hubba who work with companies in unleashing their innovation potential, along with supporting small businesses. Hubba loves Thai startups and wants to promote their success. It has a database of over 400 Thai startups that are continuously being updated so that you know exactly what's going on in our ecosystem. This was an unforgettable opportunity as each student including myself were able to ask specific and direct questions. I also enjoyed this visit as Hubba is partnered with google and after meeting with Hubba I have been able to get direct contacts with Google to help me in the future. One of the key things I have learned on the trip is to put yourself out there and build connections. This skill is something that I can use throughout my whole life.
We also heard from the New Zealand Trade Enterprise, this allowed us to understand how we can enter the Thai market sustainably and economically. Their aim is to intentional grow businesses bigger, better and faster for the benefits of New Zealand. An important take away from this was to thoroughly think through the fine details of your product before bringing it into a new market. These things include - words, images, sizes, colours and ingredients. This is important as what may be an amazing design in New Zealand may not be the same in Thailand due to tradition, culture and environments.
So as I come to reflect on this trip, I am filled with immense joy and knowledge. I was able to work alongside other students from New Zealand and the International school (Shrewsbury) in Thailand. All this knowledge allowed me to present a presentation with 2 other students about how Sam Wixon’s product of an alternative to polystyrene bins would fit into the Thai market. With the expertise gained throughout the week and the experiences we had, we were able to analyse Sam Wixon's company Te Kete ō Tangaroa and confidently create a presentation to the judges that incorporated the Thai culture, specific facts, expert advice and knowledge. We worked with Pride who attends Shrewsbury International School In Bangkok. Our hard work paid off as we came 2nd.
I am amazed that I was able to be emerged in such high business knowledge and be surrounded by experts who are internationally recognised on the global stage in there area. I am excited to implement the knowledge and resources gained from this trip into my future. I know that this is most definitely the area I wish to learn more about at tertiary education. I am about to attend The University Of Auckland in 2020 studying a conjoint in Commerce and Arts. I am constantly inspired to follow my dreams and never limit myself and this trip has shown me to put myself out there and good things will come. I would like to express my deepest thanks to Young Enterprise New Zealand and SEA CAPE for this opportunity! I will remember all the wonderful memories and treasure them as I continue to develop my knowledge in this field.
At the beginning of October, I was fortunate enough to be given the incredible opportunity to travel to Thailand on a trip which has undoubtedly grown my business knowledge and shifted my mindset on the issue of sustainability. Filled with anticipation, nerves but most of all excitement (feelings that had been building over the past 4 weeks) our arrival into Thailand seemed almost surreal. The week that followed was more incredible then one could ever imagine, an action-packed seven days filled with lots of learning about both culture and business, and of course many laughs and good times. This trip opened myself to society and culture which is sometimes hard to understand from 10,000 km away, fundamentally changing the way I view global business and issues.
This unique experience is something which I am extremely grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of and therefore I would like to extend a massive thank you to SEA cape. Your continued Investment into students like us has enabled me to have this extraordinary learning experience which I would have never been exposed to otherwise. This continued funding for trips like these enables students like me and the others on this Thailand trip to grow as individuals, and better equips us to work in business both domestically and internationally in the future. In my application, I discussed how I wanted the opportunity to deepen my understanding of business and sustainability on a global scale, and through your generous support, this has most definitely been achieved.
A Significant thank you also needs to be extended to Young Enterprise, who continue to provide fantastic opportunities for students like me throughout New Zealand ever year. Not only this trip but all throughout the year the support from Young Enterprise has fueled my passion for business. Young Enterprise has enabled my quest for business to go beyond classroom learning, giving me the opportunity for real learning to occur.
As well as the generous funding, immense work has gone into making this opportunity possible and therefore gratitude must further be extended to the two organisations, and in particular Colin, Sian and Brona for all the organising prior and during the trip. The commitment and enthusiasm that these chaperones showed to us was superb, and the respect and compassion they showed us helped create a special team, making the experience even more surreal.
Before departing on this life-changing experience, our team established 5 goals in which we wanted to achieve throughout this trip, which were:
These five goals that we set out for ourselves remained with us throughout the week and were achieved greatly each day. Throughout the week we were fortunate enough to have over a dozen fascinating speakers present to us, all of which had different messages and experiences to share. These engaging and informative business representatives not only taught us about their personal experiences of business and sustainability but provoked us to reflect for ourselves on how we can become better business people and more sustainability-conscious.
Our visit to the New Zealand Embassy, a local University and a local community on the first day of our trip gave us great insight into the culture and business sphere of Thailand, as well as a political and economic overview of the country. This overview provided me with and understanding of the current instability between the countries Monarch and Politicians, provoking thoughts which remained with me throughout the entire trip surrounding the potential future paths of this country. At the New Zealand Embassy I learnt great amounts about the trade relationship between New Zealand and Thailand, a great overview which was then carried with us throughout the week.
The visit to the Slums of Khong Toei exposed us to unseen levels of plastic waste which consumed the community, a striking reminder of our need for better plastic practices. This made me realise that many of those living in dire situations are too focused on immediate survival to consider the impact their actions are having on the future planet, highlighting the responsibility that I have as a citizen of New Zealand to use my privilege to better the world. This also made evident that fact that it is often businesses responsibility more so than consumers to promote and incorporate sustainability. The learnings from day one provided context for the business visits which followed in the remainder of the week and triggered thoughts and queries that followed us as we met with different people.
Our business visits taught us a lot about the need for sustainability in Thailand and how it’s being encouraged throughout the business community. I was interested to learn about the struggles both the farming and fisheries industry in Thailand are facing, with overuse of chemicals and pollutants killing fish and destroying fertile land. As both vital sectors in the country’s economy, this is deeply concerning for some, however, is still going unrecognised by others due to a lack of environmental education. A common sustainable tactic that was often raised throughout the week was education, which is being used to promote recycling, organic farming and conscious consumerism. We were also introduced to business which was adopting the circular economy method, another interesting way to improve sustainable practices. This made me realise the need for awareness surrounding sustainability in order for people to be incentivised to take action.
Our tours through PIM university and true digital park gave us an exciting look at the future of business and the incorporation of the newest technologies, another exciting aspect of the trip.
All of the talks which were experienced throughout the week were educational in a different way. The Q&A sessions that concluded each talk were fantastic opportunities for more direct questions to be asked regarding sustainability or information for the weeks business challenge. The varying nature of the speakers and the vast variety of topics and industries ensured that something different was gained each time we listened, with new business tips and advice being handed to us every day. The business knowledge we gained on this trip is extremely valuable and unlike any classroom learning, broadening our knowledge with a global context. This knowledge is extremely valuable for us as we return to New Zealand and continue to pursue our YES business.
This experience is definitely one of the best educational opportunities available to young students within New Zealand, as there is truly nothing which can beat real-life business visits and cultural immersion. This opportunity goes well beyond any learning that occurs in a classroom and has grown not only my business knowledge but also me as an individual. I would definitely (and will) recommend this remarkable opportunity to any student who is interested in business, as the opportunities that experience provides are second to none. Thank you very much again for providing me with this extraordinary experience.
The trip to Thailand is one that has expanded me as a person in my cultural understanding and has expanded my business knowledge and provided me with many valuable learnings and contacts. I have made the most of this by always trying to hand a business card to and connect with the speakers that we heard from. I have connected with many of these people on Linkedin now.
It was great to hear that other people from Christchurch would be going on this trip as well so that we could be together for the full length of the journey, we all got along really well! Everyone on the trip was so nice and lovely to talk to and connect with. They were all passionate about sustainability and making a positive change as well as having an interest in business and entrepreneurship. Sharing these similar qualities meant that we all gelled really well together. The Thai students we're also a perfect fit as they brought an insider perspective and a new way of thinking into the groups.
The cultural activities that we did were eye-opening and increased my cultural understanding in Thailand so that in the future it can make it easier to better understand the market, consumer behaviors, and to increase my cultural knowledge of Thailand and the first look into ASEAN (Southeast Asia). My favorite cultural that we did was going to the Khlong Toei community and seeing how life and what they do to merely survive. These people lived in very simple conditions and most were struggling day today. It doesn't take you long to realize the cultural and social wrong in Thailand with the inequity between the rich and the poor. This is what needs to change first as this inequality will only grow and get worse, it is nowhere near sustainable. This was a real eye-opener and it only made me realize how lucky we have it in New Zealand. It was also amazing to have a chance to learn and practice the local language, it was something that I latched onto and really started to enjoy in the end as it opened a whole other world and part of Thailand and the Thai people.
The best business that we had the pleasure and honor of going to was the CP Group. They are one of the largest businesses in Thailand and even the world. Huge conglomerates like that inspire me to see how they can grow so quickly and with such success. Their vertical integration model was interesting to hear about and how they alter their businesses and model their subsidiary around convenience, productivity, and the market they are in. They own all 12,000 7/11s in Thailand, this was valuable as it related to Wrapt, the business that I was working on for the challenge, as it ended up to be a perfect potential partner and would mean that there would be a maximum chance for success in the Thai market. We found out many things about business in Thailand and the Thai economy from the talks at the Thai university in Bangkok and how Thailand is very politically unstable yet the economy is described as kevlar, meaning that whatever you throw at it like political unrest it won't affect its strong and stable economy. Learning about the Thai economy, Thai businesses, and the Thai consumer was useful not only for the challenge but also for my current business, JELF, which is developing bioplastic applications. Bangkok and Thailand is a huge market due to its sheer size (70million population of Thailand, 7million Bangkok) and its focus on environmental sustainability, especially in institutions like schools and big corporates.
This trip has been absolutely insane and I never thought I would ever be offered an experience quite like this. Never at the start of this year would I have thought I would go to Thailand on a fully paid trip and learn so much with other such talented and inspiring people. The connections that I have made inside of Thailand and outside of Thailand will remain constant and healthy as we are like-minded and passionate about making a positive change. It has been an absolute honour to go on this trip, it has shaped me into a better me and I will never ever forget this. I have already set up a meeting with one business connection from Thailand when they visit New Zealand next year and another, I've been messaging on Linkedin and they are giving me advice with my start-up and pitching for the regional finals of Young Enterprise Scheme. Thank you once again, it was an absolute pleasure and honour to be selected for this trip.
Something which I will never forget.
The lead-up to Thailand was nerve-racking. As we were drip-fed details and information my excitement really built. But finally receiving the BizVenture Thailand Handbook was when it all became quite real! I was about to meet up with 9 amazing students to head off to Thailand!
As I was on this trip as part of my selection for The Global Kaitiakitanga Project I was extra excited. Being able to work on your business overseas, meet experts and explore how your business fits with international markets is something many adult business owners are lucky to be able to do, let alone a 17 year-old.
As everyone began to arrive at the regional terminal the mixture of nerves and excitement really built. We left the terminal and made our way to the strata lounge. It was really awesome to see how 10 strangers could get along so well after only an hour or so. After boarding the plane and then making it through our Singapore transfer, we were finally on the home stretch to Bangkok. As we started coming down to land the vast cityscape of Bangkok became clear, it was nothing like what you see in New Zealand. It was suburbia as far as the eye could see.
When looking back on what we did in Thailand it really breaks down into four key areas; learning about business, sustainability, culture and lastly our presentations. So I am going to talk about my experiences through each of these.
In terms of business in Thailand, I honestly went into this trip somewhat sceptical of how great Thailand would be in terms of business. Knowing that the country was less economically developed swayed this perception. However, my perception of Thailand was fully swung during the trip.
We went to some truly amazing businesses along the way, but one that had a huge impact on my business was our visit to Hubba. Hubba is a business creating coworking spaces for startups, and also providing mentoring to those startups. Hubba was invaluable for me and for the others as they discussed our individual businesses with us and provided us with potential connections and helpful advice. Hubba gave a really good insight into the huge untapped potential in Thailand, they were somewhat behind other countries so there were untapped markets that were just starting or rearing to get going. For example, e-commerce was one area they discussed and the huge increase in internet use for commerce over recent years in Thailand. Another person we met was David, from Lexicon. Lexicon is a digital marketing firm who were set up in Thailand, they focus on using storytelling. David was incredibly helpful in terms of business, both because of his vast range of clients but also his own personal experience staring in Thailand. From David, we learnt about entrance into Thailand, for example, the need for 50% Thai ownership. He was also great in discussing the trends and behaviour of Thai people, this came from his experience in marketing. For example, he was able to tell us that only the very rich and young within Thailand actually actively care about sustainability and make choices based on this.
Overall when looking at the Thai business ecosystem I found that it was a really vibrant and bustling place. This trip really provided me with some excitement towards the future and the potential of countries like Thailand to become the movers and shakers for the world.
Looking at Thailand and sustainability was quite interesting. I found Thailand wasn’t as far ahead as New Zealand however it was evident that in Thai society there is an awareness of environmental impacts and there does seem to be a movement, although small, to make changes. From what I heard, the speakers could see this movement increasing in the near future. One business we went too who really captured this movement was Patom organics, Patom created a business structure that shifted the farmers who supplied their hotel from using chemicals to fully organic products. Patom created a system which was not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable, as part of their system was eliminating the middle man, between the farmer and hotel. This meant the farmers could make more money off their crops along with the lower cost of organics compared to chemicals. We also meet Claudia from Wave One, she was a really interesting speaker. Her work was based around fighting for environmentally friendly practices in big firms. She really portrayed the drive to have a tangible change in firms and not just green-washing. I also found more generally when we were walking around Thailand the amount of plastic pollution was quite astounding. In relation to my business, I am developing an alternative to polystyrene, and seeing the huge amount of polystyrene being used and polluted everywhere was really quite a driver and motivator to really get my bins developed and ready for sale.
Thailand’s culture was incredibly vibrant. Both the traditional culture but also modern culture. One amazing experience we had was dinner at Silom village. This was one experience I don’t think I will ever have again. At Silom, we had a big dinner with lots of different thai dishes followed by a Thai dance performance. This really showed how rich the traditional culture was. Another cultural experience was going to Klong Toei, a slum in Bangkok. We went on a tour with local guides from the slum. This was a really eye-opening and humbling experience, it really showed me how lucky we are in New Zealand. A highlight in particular for me was going to the night markets. This was really awesome for me as bartering was a new experience, and I found it really interesting trying it out. It was definitely enjoyable and I managed to find some good gifts for family and a few things for myself while we were there. Along with this, the street food in these markets was amazing too.
Lastly, our presentations. Creating the final presentations was a really valuable part of this trip. It forced us to really analyse and understand what we had learnt and experienced throughout the week. In fact, all the different things I mentioned above in some way affected the presentation my team and I created. Along with this working with Pride, the Thai student Olivia and I were partnered with was really great. I think having him there really helped us understand more deeply Thailand. The Thai students, in general, were really amazing to work with. They were incredibly welcoming and friendly. And really made our whole trip that much better.
I’d like to express my gratefulness to the Young Enterprise Scheme and SEASCAPE for creating such an incredible and life-changing experience. I’d also like to thank both Shelley from Good Travel who arranged all of our meetings and experiences, as well as Khun Tony our hilarious local guide. Going to Thailand was a truly inspiring and motivating experience, and to anyone on the fence about applying for any of the trips YES has to offer I strongly recommend going for it because it will be one of the greatest things you do.
From being the last one to arrive at the Auckland International Airport to worrying about my luggage exceeding the weight limit, I knew I was in for a treat. As soon as we stepped foot outside the Suvarnabhumi Airport, I felt the thick, humid air cling to my body like a second skin. In that very instance, I knew this was going to be a long, long week. But I couldn’t be any more wrong.
The days flew by, and the hours turned into minutes, and minutes into seconds. Our very first day was well spent taking a stroll at Lumpini Park, that was opened by King Rama VI in the 1920s. It was like a never-ending maze and wearing a knitted jumper in the scorching heat was not the smartest decision.
Nonetheless, it proved to be a great bonding experience and we were all in hysterics upon witnessing three magpies try to fight an alligator over a fish (not sure if I got the animals right, but at least we’re on the same page). As we ventured on our walk, we took in the cultural differences between Thailand and New Zealand as we watched elderly people doing Zumba and going on a jog/run in the middle of the day, with the temperature well above 30°C. Let’s just say we were in awe upon seeing this - although it didn’t quite inspire us to join in.
We were introduced to five Thai students from Shrewsbury International School at our visit to the New Zealand Embassy, where we indulged them in a karakia and waitata. These are the five students who would be working alongside us on the business challenge. The Thai students not only played a significant role in helping us understand and adjust to the Thai culture, but they were also a phenomenon group of young adults that ensured we had a great time during our short, yet invaluable, stay in Bangkok. Even while writing this, I feel nostalgic and am eagerly waiting till I next visit Thailand to meet my friends that I have grown so fond of.
Throughout the trip, we had several Thai language lessons with Khun Tony, who was less of a tour guide and more of a friend. We learnt introductory phrases and simple pleasantries like ‘thank you’ and ‘nice to meet you’, and we tried to put these to use daily. We even managed to sing along to ‘Sabai Sabai’ in the party bus, thanks to the Thai language lessons with Khun Tony. The language was a barrier, however, due to the welcoming nature of the Thai people, we managed to work our way around it. It was comforting to meet such hospitable people wherever we went - from the lady who saved me from being chased by dogs during our community tour at Khlong Toei, to the people who took their time out of their busy schedules to teach us about their businesses.
This BizVenture to Thailand has been an eye-opening experience as it has given me the opportunity to forehandedly witness the contrast between New Zealand and Thailand. I have been able to see the difference between the social classes and become aware of the wealth inequality that has negatively affected the lives of many Thai individuals and families. I have found that due to this wealth inequality, the consumer culture of Thailand has mainly sought to a ‘do not care’ attitude as they do not have the means to care about sustainability - they focus on their current survival. This is because the majority of the population of Thailand is made up of individuals that are on low incomes and all they see is the cheaper and more affordable option which happens to be products that do not have a positive impact on our environment.
However, some people do understand the importance of sustainability like the majority of the businesses we visited, as they have a strong focus on environmental and social sustainability. Hence, my most favourite visit was to Patom Organic Living. It is a hotel and restaurant run by two brothers that strongly focus on sustainable business practices. They try to encourage sustainable living in Thailand by helping farmers grow sustainable and organic produce for their consumers. It is refreshing to see that despite Thailand being a developing country, some of its residents do understand the dire need to create positive and sustainable change to preserve nature for future generations.
This entire experience has shed a new light around doing business in Thailand, especially anything technology-based as they have already embraced the digital age, and with each person on average spending 9 hours and 11 minutes on the internet each day, shows there is, in fact, increasing demand in the Thai market.
The newfound knowledge that I have gained and the connections I have built globally through this trip will be useful for my future endeavours. The students at Shrewsbury International School have become lifelong friends and I would love to visit them soon. This week-long experience in Bangkok was invaluable and was spent with the best people. I can’t thank everyone enough for making this trip turn out the way it did. I feel immense gratitude towards Young Enterprise Scheme, Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence and Good Travel for making this trip possible. Khob khun kha!
The 2019 SEA CAPE BizVenture trip to Thailand was one of the best experiences of my life. At first the idea of travelling to Thailand with a group of people I had never met seemed crazy. Although as soon as I got to meet everyone at the airport, I could tell that it was going to be an amazing experience.
Once we made it to Thailand we were lucky enough to be able to meet with a wide range of companies from around Bangkok focusing on sustainability as well as with some professors from a local university this gave us the opportunity to learn about sustainability and how its implemented in Thailand from many different perspectives. Sustainability and pollution are becoming huge issues in Thailand and the government is starting to recognise that as they have announced Thailand 4.0 that aims to tackle inequality and to bring Thailand into the 21st Century while reducing their waste and carbon emissions. Although there is still a long way for Thailand to go before it can become an environmentally friendly country as there are many people that don't know about the issue and due to extreme inequality there are many people living in poverty that are unable to spend the extra money on an environmentally friendly option as they are still struggling to survive.
Throughout the trip we were lucky to be able to engage with the Thai culture through activities such as exploring the local community Klong Toei and watching some traditional dancing. We were also able to learn some basics of the language such as ‘yindettdai ruu juk’ which means nice to meet you. During our trip we were able to work with some local Thai students. Meeting with these students and getting to know them was one of the highlights of the trip as they were all extremely friendly and enthusiastic constantly answering our questions and helping us with learning the Thai language.
This trip is something that I will never forget it taught me so much about Business in Thailand and Thailand's culture as well as many new thoughts, ideas and skills that I will be constantly coming back to throughout my education and future business endeavours. Alongside all the many skills and ideas that I have gained from this trip I have also gained many new connections in Thailand as well as new friends in both Thailand and New Zealand. One of the best parts of this trip was being able to get to know and work alongside other highly motivated New Zealand and Thai entrepreneurs creating a network of young entrepreneurs for us to utilise in the future. This trip was an amazing opportunity and I will always be grateful to Young Enterprise and SEA CAPE.
Spending a week in Thailand, immersing myself in the culture, business environment and lifestyle, has shaken me from my small view of the world back in New Zealand. Having been a student in a previous BizVenture trip to Vietnam - my only other international experience besides Australia - I had preconceived ideas about how Thailand - and all Southeast Asian countries for that matter - operated. However, as the week progressed, I discovered more and more how unaware I was not only of business culture, but also of Thai people and their views and opinions, and how this applies to business. This helped me to realise that living and doing business in one country is not the same as any other - and regardless of their close proximity, neighbouring countries are still very different in their culture and views.
I must admit: I came into Thailand expecting to understand their business culture due to my learnings in Vietnam. However, after the first day, as we toured around Bangkok, one thing that stood out to me was the country’s greener environment. Although not comparable to New Zealand, Bangkok’s skies were bluer, streets cleaner and city greener than Ho Chi Minh City. This advancement in environmental sustainability was enforced throughout the week, as many businesses we visited displayed action against, or awareness of, the degradation of our earth. This was in stark contrast to Vietnam, where many were unaware of why we, as New Zealand tourists, tried to reduce our plastic usage and reuse plastic water bottles. I found this quite interesting, given the two countries’ proximity.
This early realisation made me eager to learn more about the country’s awareness of environmental sustainability, forming the basis for our main learnings on the trip.
After an eye-opening Monday, learning about Thai history, politics and business culture, as well as experiencing the community lifestyle of Khlong Toei, I felt equipped with background knowledge to help me better understand Thai culture and therefore the businesses we would visit throughout the week. One thing I particularly noticed was Thailand’s dedication for their king and the royal family - highlighting our oblivion (and perhaps indifference) as New Zealanders towards our queen and the royal family. Although Thailand’s government has cycled between monarchy and democracy, the country’s economy has remained consistent and is slowly growing. Respect for the monarchy is an integral part of Thai culture, and a point to consider when doing business in Thailand that is perhaps not of much importance in New Zealand.
From a New Zealand standpoint, respect for our people and place - kaitiakitanga - is an increasingly important part of business. As a collective group of kiwi students doing our bit for the environment through our businesses, we were all eager to learn about the implementation of sustainable practises in Thai businesses. As David from Lexicon said: “Sustainability is becoming a business model”. Sustainability is certainly a business model in New Zealand, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Thailand is waking up to the importance of environmental sustainability.
I thoroughly enjoyed the range of businesses packed into our schedule. Although at first glance, all businesses may not have seemed environmentally driven, all incorporated sustainable practises at least to some extent.
As the sole trader of a plant-based, eco-friendly food business Top That! Meal Toppers, I was particularly intrigued by Patom Organics. If it wasn’t evident from my camera-happy frollicking upon arrival, it surely showed that while listening to Khun Arrut speak about the history of the business, to its work in the Sampran Model Movement transforming farmers’ lives by helping them transition to organic, I closely aligned with this business’ values and was so inspired by their transformative work! It was also mentioned that the increase in food allergies and intolerances among consumers is partly due to our exposure to chemicals or additives which weaken the immune system - something I have researched myself and try to solve with my own business. It was also quite a surprise to see an organic farm in Thailand, when the idea of environmental sustainability is relatively new to Southeast Asia. This was a great business to explore early, as it challenged what I thought I knew about Thailand and set the scene for the rest of the trip.
Another insightful visit particularly relevant to my business was TetraPak and Fiber Pattana. I learnt that the colour coded recycling bins used in Thailand caused confusion and were therefore not an effective method of collecting and managing waste for recycling. We agreed that the most important solution to our plastic problem (collectively “Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle”) is to reduce the amount of plastic or packaging produced in the first place. One way Top That! Is working to help reduce plastic waste is through its “Re-Use & Save Scheme” This scheme encourages customers to return their empty packets to Top That!, where they will be refilled and sent back at a discounted price. This will be a first taste at recycling for many and will encourage consumers to reorder (as the scheme works through reorders on Top That!’s website). When explaining this scheme during Top That!’s presentation on Friday, the judges mentioned that there may be some hygiene issues I would need to work around to make the scheme successful. I have since been in contact with my local Environmental Health Officer about this, and have therefore found this visit, and the trip as a whole, very valuable in the development of my business towards environmental sustainability.
While the business visits provided valuable insights into the Thai business environment and how sustainability is perceived and incorporated into Thai business, I am a huge fan of culture and cuisine and really enjoyed this aspect of the trip. I was intrigued by Thai cuisine - as Thailand has never been colonised, there was very little Western influence on the cuisine and, unlike Vietnam, whose cuisine hints to French and Chinese influence (eg. bahn mi and breads; or the principal of yin and yang applied to the composition of dishes), Thai cuisine is very traditional and combines flavours unusual to Western cultures. For example, one of my favourite dishes was Bua Loy; a dessert of glutinous rice dumplings and soft-poached egg served in a sweet coconut milk sauce. A close contender was Sohm Choon - a fruity dessert of lychee, mango, grapes and fried shallots (yes, shallots!) served in a jasmine syrup. Both of these desserts combine flavours which are unusual to Western tastes, but as a major foodie I was keen to try these and absolutely loved them! One thing I wanted to take away from this trip was a new point of view on cooking, with a desire to be inspired by Thai flavours and cooking methods to incorporate into my own business. A meal topper inspired by these flavours may be difficult to introduce onto the New Zealand market, however, would be a suitable fit on the Thai market as these flavours are familiar and consumers would therefore be intrigued to see them combined into a crunchy meal topper or snack.
Thailand has certainly inspired me to become even more adventurous and creative with my food - something I hoped to take away from the trip!
All in all, I am extremely grateful for YES, SEACAPE and all of the people and organisations involved with making the Thailand BizVenture trip possible. This opportunity has been incredible, and although I have become attached to the lifestyle and the people I met through the trip, I am excited to apply my learnings to my own life and business back in New Zealand. Becoming aware of new cultures and business environments has been eye-opening, and I am excited to travel in the future and explore new markets and opportunities for my business!
When I sat down to write my reflection, I had no idea how to start. How can I possibly fit such an intense trip into a couple of paragraphs? But none the less I am going to try.
Stepping into the airport on Saturday the 28th of September 2019, I was filled with nerves and a massive case of imposter syndrome. Seeing everyone in their matching SEA CAPE backpacks and hats was even more intimidating and I started to wonder what I was doing there. At this point, I had no idea I would be stepping into one of the most incredible experiences of my life and within a week these strangers would grow to become some of my closest friends.
As we arrived in Thailand, we were tired from two sleepless flights filled with giggles and a lot of getting to know each other. The hotel was gorgeous and at this point, it still didn’t feel real. After a quick change, our first day consisted of a guided walk around our local area, a stop at a cafe/art gallery, a dip in the hotel pool for some of us and a filling hotel meal. The aim of the first day was to tire us out and it definitely did just that - after a little more bonding for the whole team everyone was knackered and we were asleep as soon as our heads hit our pillows.
The second day was just a taster of how busy and full-on our trip was going to be. We visited
Chulalongkorn University to hear from two amazing speakers about Thai history and economics. This was followed by a trip to the NZ Embassy and a talk with NZTE.
At the embassy, we met the 5 Thai Students from Shrewsbury International School that we would be working with over the week. The Thai students stayed with us for the rest of the day as we visited the Klong Toei, had our first Thai language lesson and visited Silom Village for a delicious dinner and performance.
Whilst visiting the Klong Toei we saw a very different side of Thailand. It showed us how in some places sustainability just isn’t a priority as people are more focused on survival. I think we forget about this, we forget that although we are lucky enough to have the option to swap to sustainable products some people don’t even have access to clean water so a reusable straw or banning single-use plastics aren’t the most important things to them.
Although the buzz of excitement on the way back from dinner made it seem like we could have stayed up for hours we were all exhausted and fell asleep as soon as we made it back from the briefing and up to our rooms.
We were told at the airport before we left that every day would get more and more hectic. I think it is important to acknowledge that Colin never lied in saying this because somehow the third day DID manage to get even busier than the last. We visited Patom Organic Living, Tetrapak, Fiber Pattana recycling plant, attended a cooking class and presentations from both Local Alike and Good Travel.
Day four started off with a visit to the CP Group and PIM (Panyapiwat Institute of Management) CP Group is one of Thailand's largest private companies. The group is one of the world's most powerful conglomerates and it was impressive to hear about the scale and success of the group.
This was followed by a trip to True Digital Park where we were toured around their new space filled with innovative businesses, lots of artificial intelligence and large co-working spaces. This was one of my favourite visits from the whole trip as it was inspiring to see such a community within a building, the energy within the space was amazing and I could really see myself joining as a member if only it wasn’t on the other side of the world.
Back at the hotel, we were met by the Thai students for another Thai language lesson and afterward, the night was topped off with a dinner in a cute vegan café and our first of three trips to a Thai market.
We always wondered if the trip would slow down. Surely it couldn’t stay as busy the whole way through. But it did!
Day five was just as impressive with talks from Lexicon about the power of storytelling, Claudia Anghel about taking opportunities and building a personal brand, Kai NZ about their challenges and experiences within different industries in the Thai market and SCG about their “eco” labels and what they are doing as a company to make things more sustainable.
The night was filled with a visit to Hubba, a business aimed at growing startups within Thailand. Here we met the Thai students again and prepped for our business challenge the next day. After planning and a lot of discussion with the founders of Hubba, we spent the rest of our evening at the second market of the trip, which was a lot more packed, hectic and busy.
Overall the trip was perfect. I learned so much: my knowledge of Thailand business practices has grown immensely, and I feel as though I am much more confident in my understanding of both Thai culture and the sustainability within the country.
It was also incredible to meet other likeminded people who are just as passionate about business and what they are doing. After spending the week with everyone it is safe to say that the imposter syndrome disappeared, and we ended up leaving as one big supportive team. The connections I made with the other students attending the trip, the chaperones that supported us throughout the trip, and the businesses and people we met in Thailand are relationships that I will treasure and continue to build on in the future.
All in all, the trip will be something I talk about for years to come. I am so grateful for both SEA CAPE and YES for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to increase my knowledge through this once in a lifetime trip. At the beginning of the year I never dreamed of anything like this and I can truly say it was a life-changing experience. I hope that this reflection has expressed just how interesting, educational and transformative the trip was. It was such an unbelievable experience and I hope that any YES students reading this will apply for any and every opportunity that is offered to them because you never know where Young Enterprise could take you.
Thank you again to everyone who made this trip possible for me and everyone involved.
On the first day of business we had a short tour of Bangkok, soaking in the city life. My first impressions that it was a humid, smoggy and smelly, a dirty place to live. And that's true. However, that's only what the tourists see.
In reality, I have learned that Bangkok is a bustling hub of innovation, and creative solutions; continually adapting to political change (of which many countries would describe as instability) and external instabilities such as the anti-globalisation trend.
BizVenture2019 has been an experience unlike any other. The range of cultural and business experiences have fostered a greater understanding and appreciation of the Thai economy. With sustainability at the heart of our discussions it was interesting to learn how these values were integrated into existing business models. The three pillars of sustainability are: environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability.
There are a number of notable businesses and cultural activities which support at least one of the three pillars.
Goodtravel was one. They provided planned trips, to sometimes exotic places, around the world with social, environmental and economic sustainability as a focus. To be environmentally sustainable Goodtravel intentionally selects the most environmentally sustainable accommodation available (while balancing this with finances), such as on BizVenture2019, we stayed at the ‘Narai hotel’. For example, all water was bottled in reusable glass bottles. Their Social sustainability focus was visiting communities which are developing or from developing countries. The travellers will work with the communities and good travel will donate funds or resources to further those community’s development. Economic sustainability; keeping all their activities will local providers. I was very impressed by Goodtravel as these goals were clear and solidified in their business model. It is these clear values which I believe every New Zealand business should then revolve their business models around as well as my own.
Another business we connected with that has sustainability at the centre of its considerations is Patom Organic Living. Patom fulfil the environmental pillar by working with farmers to remove chemicals from their practices, resulting in a chain of positive flow-on’s such as increased revenue for farmers, reduced costs of production, and better consumer and farmer health. They work to build more direct supply chains between farmers and hotels in an attempt to cut out the middleman who would otherwise take the majority of the profits; demonstrating both social and economic sustainability. With NZ’s horticultural industry being a central part of our economy, we could take some of these practices and apply them to ourselves, in line with New Zealand’s 100% pure campaign.
Despite Thailand's continual change to a more sustainable economy, there often only incentive to do so if it provides a positive economic return. For example, SCG claims to be developing their business into a more environmentally sustainable model. However, it appears to be in the interests of reducing their costs of production. They have created their own label to certify that their products meet a curtain environmental standard and are producing reusable bags out if their cement bags. Questions must be asked. Is the environmental label a PR stunt? After all, they are verifying themselves. Why don’t they store the cement is larger bags or paper bags to reduce their environmental footprint? However, due to their repurposed cement bags selling so successfully why would they want to produce less? After all, it’s making them good money. As consumers we must be aware and critical of companies who claim to be environmentally sustainable. We must attempt to be aware of the green washing that entices us to use a curtain product.
During our time in Thailand we visited the Thai New Zealand embassy. We discussed New Zealand’s
Trade relations with Thailand as well as the complex politics around pressuring another government to
do something differently. While we were there, we spoke to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and they detailed to us how through them New Zealand Businesses can get a foot in the door into a Thai market.
Working with the students from Shrewsbury International school was a pleasure. They provided immense support to the group in regard to our language skills and communication, a deeper understanding of business in Thailand through their own personal connections and their own behaviours towards Thai goods and services. These factors helped each group develop a comprehensive presentation discussing how sustainability would apply to our own businesses if they were operating in Thailand.
The connections I have built in Thailand have been phenomenal. Just a few are, the directors of Hubba (a start up co-working space), The CEO of Patom Organic Living, Shelley Bragg from Good travel, and students and teachers from Shrewsbury International School.
BizVenture2019 has been my most condensed period of education ever on two main topics that I am passionate about, sustainability and business. I have vastly expanded my understanding of what it means to be sustainable business, overseas market opportunities and barriers, and I have built lasting connections. I will be able to take back these learning to my own business ‘Te Tuitui Matauranga’, producing drought seeds, which will shape our direction and vision, as well as a re-evaluation of our future goals and values.