From January 8th - 25th, 16 tertiary students from across New Zealand participated in the Tertiary Market Immersion Programme (TMIP). Led by SEACAPE staff, the students visited Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore to learn about doing business in Southeast Asia and the opportunities and challenges that the region presents.

Throughout the programme, students worked in teams to develop a business idea for a New Zealand company or entrepreneur wanting to enter the Southeast Asia market. Each group focused on a different industry: food and beverage, e-commerce, SME innovation and entrepreneurship, and social enterprise, and presented their idea in Singapore at the end of the programme.

In Vietnam, the students were amazed by the richness of the culture, the resilience of the people and the dynamism of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. They learned about Vietnam’s rapidly growing and entrepreneurial business culture through their interactions with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), several global businesses, and Vietnam’s first unicorn – VNG to name a few. The group also had a lively exchange with local students at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City before rounding off their visit at the New Zealand Embassy in Hanoi.

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Contrasts started to become apparent as the group arrived in Thailand for the second leg of the programme. At the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) head office in Bangkok they learned about Thailand 4.0 and the Thai government’s vision for economic growth through infrastructure development, trade and investment hubs, innovation parks and creating liveable smart cities. The group met with SEACAPE’s ASEAN@50 Fellows, Dr Thitinan Pongsudhirak and Dr Pavida Pananond, at Chulalongkorn University where they learned about the political and economic environment in Thailand as well as the challenges to the economic upgrading of the country. In a day-long session at Hubba co-working space, the local NZTE office briefed the participants on the Thailand Market and arranged an excellent line-up of speakers for the students with a strong focus on social entrepreneurship and innovation.

Singapore marked the final leg of the programme and saw the group come together with Young Enterprise students participating in SEACAPE’s Business Challenge programme. Highlights in the ‘Lion City’ included meeting NZ High Commissioner, Dr Jonathan Austin, and NZTE’s East Asia Regional Director, Clare Wilson at the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, visiting Facebook's AsiaPac HQ, hearing from Singapore-based Kiwi entrepreneurs, and using a co-working space to work on their business pitches. A visit to Singapore Management University allowed the students to hear an academic perspective on Singapore’s development.

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On presentation day at ANZ’s Singapore office, each of the four groups pitched their business idea to an audience including a panel of judges, the Business Challenge participants, and a number of invited guests. Their ideas covered cold chain logistics in Vietnam, the social enterprise landscape in Southeast Asia, an environmental management app and advisory service, and a pitch to develop the coffee industry in Thailand.

Now that the students are back in New Zealand, they are busy writing up their final reports on their business ideas. Keep an eye on our website for the student's accounts of their experience on the Tertiary Market Immersion programme 2019.

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