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Wedu Thailand Blog

  • Mar 05, 2014

    The team had a good time in Cambodia and the trip proved to be a lucrative decision for market research. Upon return, the team has been very busy with translating the information into the final financial model. The team has been brainstorming about what the final product should look like and how it should operate to meet and exceed client expectations. The team is learning that sometimes having a lot of open space, a realm of options, and a large range to work in can also be overwhelming. The team strategically spent the whole day on just designing the model on paper. But thankfully, the skills required to develop a paper template are just common sense and implementing client requirements.





    One of our team members, Sneha had the unique opportunity to be on a Wedu panel to interview a rising star applicant, Sonia Akter. Sonia is a girl from Bangladesh and is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Economics at the Asian University for Women (AUW). Sonia is from the village Tangail. According to her, child marriage is one of the largest social issues in her native country. Sonia’s elder sisters were married off at a very young age and did not get to study at a collegiate level. Sonia however has the support of her mother and is keen on doing her masters either in Australia or in India. Sonia is certain of returning back to her community and serving her village post attaining her master’s degree. It was Sneha’s first experience being on a Wedu panel. She found Sonia to be very mature and confident for her age. Sonia came across as an ambitious girl with a strong commitment to change society. Sonia said she was looking for mentorship, as she needs guidance to become an even stronger leader. So, it appears that Wedu definitely has the right candidate on board. Sonia has funds to complete her undergraduate degree because of a scholarship she received from her school. However, she is fervently looking for funding for her masters. On being questioned by Sneha, Sonia agreed to a student loan option if not being given a scholarship. This was a perfect situation for the FISA model to come into play. Sneha further questioned Sonia about her future dream job and the details of her masters. Sneha felt confident that Sonia fit the bill for the FISA model.


    The team also met with David Law, an alumni currently residing in Bangkok. The team had some authentic northern style Thai food and a great chat about living and working in SE Asia. Being one of the last few days in Bangkok, the team is trying to take advantage of quality time to look around and get some souvenirs for friends and family.  Hopefully they will have enough space in their suitcase to make it home with all their stealth bargains!

  • Mar 01, 2014

     Street food and street shops are definitely one of the most fascinating parts of life in Bangkok. These small businesses not only attract Thai natives, but also visitors from all over the world. 


    Team Wedu is not a stranger to this type of lifestyle; all team members frequent these little shops daily for the best that Thailand has to offer. For Team Wedu, a normal day in Bangkok starts with taking the MRT (subway) from Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre station to Si Lom station. This is about a 5-minute subway ride. Once the team exits at Si Lom station, they will encounter more than 1000 little shops on the street from the station to the office where Wedu is located. 





    The variety of the shops and street food is just amazing. Some examples of these entities include all sorts of fruit, Thai noodles, coffee, Thai tea, snacks, Chinese dumplings, fried and grilled chicken, pancakes, fried rice, and even Sushi!! But the assortment does not stop at food; it includes shoes, dresses, blouses, pants, suits, lingerie, plastic containers, leather goods, clocks, makeup…the choices never end! These shops and food start from early in the morning and run very late into the evening. Thai people are hard working and Si Lom Street is always busy. Team members always try, but can never navigate through Si Lom without buying something before reaching the office everyday. 


    Every team member has his or her favorite product or food item.  Daisuke loves his chicken rice and Richard cant live without his sweet chili sauce. Sneha loves her veggie papaya salad. As for Christy; she is totally addicted to Thai tea and can’t believe that only 25 baht (about 75 cents) will buy her such a phenomenal dream beverage. She will undoubtingly miss her jaunt through the busy market for her caffeine buzz every morning.  





    This weekend, Team Wedu will be heading to the Chatuchak market and are looking forward to utilizing their stealth bargaining skills to purchase many souvenirs and interesting gifts for their friends and loved ones.  Wish them luck on finding and making the best deals!

  • Feb 26, 2014

    One of the major reasons for the team to visit Cambodia was to meet with the Rising Stars. Rising Stars are young women with a unique passion for the development of their community and country. They have proven leadership potential and are interested in pursuing a university degree at the undergraduate or masters level, but they are unable to cover the full expenses of their education. Wedu helps these rising stars accomplish their dreams and make a difference in society.


    The team met with Monirath, Phearong and Chhorvy who are current Rising Stars with Wedu. The team also had a future rising star join them who brought a different perspective to the discussion. The conversations started off with basic introductions of everyone at the table. The current Rising Stars spoke about how helpful Wedu has been to their growth as a student over the past few months. The icebreakers were discussions about Cambodian social norms and places to visit. With time, the Rising Stars felt comfortable talking about how they support their families and make ends meet with just a few bread earners at home. It was a humbling experience to hear them discuss their financial obligations and conditions they live in.


     





    It was very clear that student loans are a rare concept in Cambodia. Wedu indeed has a market that they could well capture with the right product. There is an immense need for funding higher education for these bright young women who seem so passionate about working for their community and country. Each one of these girls said they would chose to return to Cambodia on completion of their degree to help contribute to their country. The team took a lot of time to discuss FISAs and made efforts to convey that a FISA was different from a loan. The very thought of being under debt made the Rising Stars very uncomfortable. The team realized that communicating financial details to the parents of these Rising Stars could be a useful option.


    The team then got down to discussing the intricate details of the FISA model with the Rising Stars. The team ran some numbers with them on futuristic salary and the amount to be paid back based on the investment made by Wedu. The debate on how much is ‘too much’ to pay back the loan revealed a lot about the affordability of a decent lifestyle post-graduation and securing a good job. Despite assuming a random salary of $1000/month, the Rising Stars still found it tough to accept paying back $100/month to Wedu. The team found it interesting on how the rising stars negotiated to bring down the payback amount to 3% from the proposed 10% pay back on their income.  The Rising Stars also spoke about how grateful they were to have mentors who Skype in with them for over 4 hours/month. These mentors not only boost their confidence but also guide and inspire them to focus on their goals and future dreams.  

  • Feb 24, 2014

    Cambodia was an extraordinary experience for the Thunderbird team as it gave us incredible insight as to Wedu’s potential in the Cambodian market.  The team had the honor to meet with several professionals, which expounded on the mentality, historical significance, and cultural differences that may play positively towards effective implementation of Wedu’s financial model in the future. 


     



    Currently, Cambodians operate in the “right now” with their mentality and decision-making focused more on immediate survival mode than future thinking and strategy.  This barrier creates a more cash and carry society with a hand to mouth mentality. Cambodians are not contemplating or focused on saving money and investing; they are focused on just making enough money to pay rent and support their families. Moreover, an additional challenge presents itself when listening to Cambodian students explaining their living costs and basic needs products cost increasing relative to their income.


     However, one legal professional was encouraged by the 2015 Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), as this multinational agreement has the potential to change the cultural mentality by introducing methods of expediency in trade, transportation, and infrastructure, ultimately creating more opportunity for other countries to exploit Cambodians for their outstanding services and labor.  Moreover, it is believed that this increase in income resulting from the initiative will create room for more future oriented, projective thinking in the way of investment, education, obtaining and insuring assets, and the like.


     



    This paves the way for incredible opportunity for Wedu, as Cambodians will have more disposable income and the reoriented mindset to invest in their futures by and through education, investment in capital, and entrepreneurial endeavors.  In essence, Wedu is on the brink of creating incredible change in women’s education in Cambodia.  The Thunderbird team is excited to assist Wedu in realizing its goal. 

  • Feb 20, 2014

    The team had a change of plans this past week.  After in-depth, intense discussions with the client, and the team’s recent experiences in Myanmar, the team realized it needed to get its “feet wet” by making a trip to Cambodia.  Those familiar with the tragic genocide administered by the regime (called the “Khmer Rouge”), will understand why the cultural climate, economic situation, and education system in Cambodia is what makes it the prime market for innovative funding for higher education.  





    A day and a half of meetings confirmed that the team had made the correct decision to do ground work in Cambodia. The people are eager for education, and the legal system is such that FISA’s will be a welcomed product.   The team was privileged to meet with two locals doing business in Phonm Pehn.  Their insights into the education system, current politics, and culture were invaluable.  The team met with a well-connected, highly educated and experienced Cambodian lawyer.  His insights and comprehensive understanding of the legal structure will lay the groundwork for Wedu in Cambodia. On Wednesday afternoon, they met with the managing directors of the Perpetual Education Fund, a foundation that provides similar funding services in Cambodia.  They currently have 250 students in the program and have found that 95% are actively paying back on their loans.


     



    The team’s trip has been a huge success; perhaps the only real failures have come in their ability to make it to the local markets.  They have failed 100% of the time.  The first night they tried to go to the “night market” only to learn that it is only open on the weekend.  The next night they attempted to make it to the “Central Market” only to learn it closed at 4:30pm.  They hold high hopes of making it to the “Russian Market”, and perhaps even making it to the night market on Friday night.

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