Monday, August 26, 2013

Singapore Diary - Part 1

Start of Journey
Waiting for boarding pass
As soon as we got breather from Term II exams on 16th August, the focus shifted to the 2 weeks international immersion program in Singapore, one of the top ten financial centers of the world. The enthusiasm of the batch was there to see and it reminded me of my school/college trips. Even though I have had numerous trips to Americas and Europe, a trip to East Asian was a first to me like to many of us and probably first trip outside the country for few of us. We boarded the 12:45 AM flight to Singapore to begin our 2 weeks journey at NUS. Once at the Singapore airport, most of us bought some stuff at duty free shops to take care of essentials for next 2 weeks.
Singapore, we are here
As we stepped out of airport, I was reminded of the sticky weather of Chennai or the hot summers of Delhi. It was totally different from the pleasant weather of Bangalore I have been enjoying for last 5 months. Once we were at our hotel, most of us dozed off to catch the lost sleep of previous night, while the higher mortals went to take a dip at the swimming pool. In the evening, it was time to browse the happenings all around. We went to Bugis mall which was quite close to our hotel. The first day itself, I realized that it is going to be challenging here to satisfy my vegetarian appetite, though my friends with taste of meat loved the variety of delicacies on offer.
First Day at NUS
Next morning, we started our first day at sprawling green and splendid NUS campus. It is lush beautiful and very well maintained. At the university, we were welcomed by Professor Tilak from Department of Economics, NUS. With that we kick started our journey to understand ASEAN economies. The first lecture by Professor Shandre provided invaluable insights to the ASEAN countries, their distribution and economic progress. We also learnt about how ASEAN countries have progressed from 2000 to 2011 after the Asian financial crisis of 1998 and also the impact of recent financial crisis of 2008 on the progress in these countries.
While in India, we keep on hearing about China and its fast paced growth, and it was no exception here. We also learnt that though China can play strong role in US, European economies etc. but they do have big challenge of managing social unrest. This blip aside, China is in fact a major player in ASEAN economy and the impact of growth in China is clearly visible here. An interesting aspect to know was that growth in Australia is directly influenced by growth in China as it exports most of the minerals to China. After that we had discussion on how India fits into the scheme of things at ASEAN and the trade pact, AIFTA, which India has with ASEAN. The drivers for growth in both regions were elaborated as India is a supply driven economy while ASEAN is demand driven economy. As mentioned by Prof Shandre, India has to improve on its policy making, Infrastructure and Innovation in its vision for 2020 and to have big impact on this region.
Later we had superb business insights by Mr. Sameer Arora, founder and Fund Manager, Helios Capital Fund. The discussion was very candid and he had a story for every situation. One interesting question was on the depreciation of rupee if exchange rate changes from 50 to 60 for a dollar. Most of us were caught at wrong foot as all along we have been calculating dollar appreciation and not rupee depreciation. Another takeaway was that there are cyclical changes in the equity markets and we should not be afraid of it. The best time to invest is when the market is slow as then you can get larger returns in long run.
Post Lunch we had meeting with Prof Sekhar for the project on Smart Cities. This is part of our international group project being driven by ITU for United Nations. We discussed the plan and deliverables for the project. With that we ended our first day at NUS.

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