IU in Thailand

Seven decades of relationship-building resulting in IU’s longest-standing partnership

Savvy business students at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business MBA Program are getting a chance to hone their business consulting skills through the Global Business and Social Enterprise program, known as GLOBASE.

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[Words appear in lower-left corner: Indiana University presents]
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[Words appear: GLOBASE …  Global Business and Social Enterprise. The words are white, except for the letters that spell out "GLOBASE" in the five words underneath it]
 
[Video: A closeup of the sleeve on a red T-shirt. On the sleeve is the IU trident with the words "Kelley School of Business" underneath it.
 
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[Words appear: GLOBASE is a 7-week course …]
 
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[Words appear: … since the program began in 2009 with GLOBASE Peru.]
 
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[Words appear: In Chiang Mai, Thailand, students are working with Flying Squirrel Outfitters. The Flying Squirrel logo appears.]
 
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[Words appear, running over the next few seconds of video: Students practice working in a team environment, under deadline and within an unfamiliar business culture.]
 
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[Words appear: … paving the way for generations of future business leaders.]
 
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The rapidly growing business consulting industry is expected to reach over $500 billion in profit this year. Savvy business students at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business MBA Program are getting a chance to hone their business consulting skills through the Global Business and Social Enterprise program, known as GLOBASE.

The goal: to gain international leadership experience doing a project that has the potential to change people's lives.

GLOBASE was founded in 2009 and has served more than 50 small- to medium-sized business and nonprofit clients in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Working directly with entrepreneurs and nonprofits in emerging economies around the world, the teams give them tools to tackle their unique business challenges.

Over 1,000 Kelley School of Business students have participated since the program's inception. GLOBASE is structured as a seven-week course followed by a six- to nine-day excursion around the country and to businesses. The heart of all GLOBASE courses is an international consulting experience.

Twenty-five first-year MBAs work in teams to consult with business clients in five locations around the globe. Four second-year MBA students lead the project, with one faculty member and one staff member who provide guidance to the MBA student leaders.

GLOBASE has been working in the ASEAN region through projects in Vietnam, and this year marked the first project in Thailand.

Students taking part in Globase.  View print quality image
Kelley School of Business students learn more about Flying Squirrel Outfitters, a small social enterprise in northern Thailand, working with rural communities manufacturing hammocks. Photo provided by IU Kelley School of Business

"GLOBASE projects are carefully selected to create positive social impact," said Rachel Fleishman, assistant director of global programs for the Kelley School of Business MBA Office. "Our teams work with nonprofit organizations and support 'pillar of the community' businesses. They give their clients tools to clear barriers to growth, identify expansion opportunities, find markets for their products, hire the best talent and plan for the future."

The ultimate goal is to solve real-world business challenges that affect real people -- farmers, factory workers -- all while learning as future business leaders to explore and grow their talents.

ASEAN successes

Drawing upon the success of GLOBASE Vietnam the program decided to expand further into the ASEAN region in Thailand.

Thailand and Indiana University recently celebrated 70 years of partnership, IU's longest-standing international partnership. The country is home to more than 1,100 IU alumni, many of whom are involved in business ventures abroad, making this a great partnership for IU students.

In Thailand, the students are working with Flying Squirrel Outfitters, a company run by IU alumnus Brian Carraway, who graduated from what is now the IU Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 2007. Carraway operates a small social enterprise in northern Thailand, working with rural communities manufacturing hammocks.

Some of the hammocks made by Flying Squirrel.
Some of the hammocks made by Flying Squirrel Outfitters. Photo provided by IU Kelley School of Business

He came to the country after graduating from IU during a rough economic time where more job opportunities existed in the Southeast Asia region. He immediately fell in love with the country and didn't want to leave so he moved full time to Thailand.

"I'm an entrepreneur at heart and wanted my own business, but to have a company with a positive purpose is my calling," Carraway said. "I had friends working with NGOs, nonprofits and social enterprises, and knew I wanted to do more meaningful work as well, not just hustle for money. I learned from others about social enterprise business and how running a 'for-profit' company that does some good in the world could exist."

Carraway met his future business partner, who was trying to bring more work to local women in northern Thailand through a hammock weaving operation. The two immediately hit it off and began working together on developing new products. They ultimately created Flying Squirrel Outfitters, which provides sustainable economic opportunities to women in the area. The business has been in operation for three and a half years and is continuing to grow.

"This has been the most challenging and rewarding endeavor of my life," Carraway said.

A game changer

Flying Squirrel Outfitters started out selling travel hammocks to tourists in Thailand. Now the company manufactures reusable shopping bags and totes, providing an alternative to single-use plastic bags. The products are made from upcycled plastic bottles recovered from Thai beaches.

The Kelley GLOBASE team came to help Carraway and Flying Squirrel Outfitters better understand and focus their marketing efforts and strengthen accounting practices.

Brian Carraway talks to students. View print quality image
Brian Carraway, owner of Flying Squirrel Outfitters, works with Kelley students. Photo provided by IU Kelley School of Business

"I can't say it enough, but it was such an honor to work with the students and faculty through the GLOBASE program," Carraway said. "The experience with my team far exceeded expectations. I even got a little choked up during the final presentation because of how professional and serious they took our business and offered extremely helpful deliverables and insights. I had never had anyone look so closely at the business and felt they genuinely were working to help me with real problems. This is simply game-changing for us."

It was also game-changing for the GLOBASE students taking part in the work. Meg Del Col is a first-year MBA student planning to major in marketing and hoping to create social impact.

"I heard about GLOBASE when I was applying to IU and knew I would love to participate," Del Col said. "What really drew me to the program was being able to help these people in a completely different culture from me while also learning more about that culture."

In Thailand, Del Col and her team wanted to give Carraway something valuable to help him develop his business further. Del Col saw firsthand the impact of the business on the local community, including the seamstresses who work with Flying Squirrel Outfitters.

The end result provided by Del Col and the GLOBASE team was a marketing program and financial spreadsheet to keep Flying Squirrel Outfitters' finances all in one place.

"The experience of working with Brian was something I will never forget," Del Col said. "It was amazing going to Thailand and being in a completely different culture. The Thai people are so wonderful and accommodating, and it was great to learn more from them and hear their stories. By learning about different cultures and where people come from, I gained a greater understanding of how I should interact with them."

And that is the reason Fleishman says the GLOBASE program exists.

"GLOBASE is important to Indiana University's mission of educating global leaders in business," Fleishman said. "We are challenging our students while allowing them to apply their knowledge and solve problems in a global context. And that has real, long-lasting impact for future generations of students."