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Bright ideas in business

The students who competed in the Business Plan Competition at Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) earlier this month were not just trying to make a profitable plan. They wanted to maximise their potential for social impact as well.

“These ideas aren’t just imitations of successful businesses,” said Chea Ratha, dean of the business and economics department at PUC. “The students identified problems in society and developed innovative solutions to solving those problems.”

Although the judges said that each of the six teams succeeded in building a visionary business plan, one team had to win, and that team was made up of Pea Vanchhay, Sim Pech Chetra and Pov Thyda, all seniors at PUC’s School of Business Administration. The problem that they identified was that many university-age students did not have positive options for activities outside of school, and also did not have opportunities to extend their studies beyond their university.

To solve this problem the team developed an education centre that would serve as a haven for positive intellectual and social interactions between university students. In their plan, the centre targets students from PUC, Limkokwing, National University of Management, Royal University of Phnom Penh and the Institute of Foreign Languages – schools with wealthier students who can afford the US$50 membership fee of the education centre.

The hypothetical centre would provide study space, discussion forums, community service learning projects, high-speed Internet and academic activities such as debates. They estimate the education centre would require an investment of $60,000 dollars and would begin to return on that investment within two years. They also predicted that the centre could draw nearly 10,000 students within three years through aggressive advertising as well as word of mouth.

Pahlaj Moolio, a student adviser at PUC’s School of Management, says that the business plan competition is an ideal example of how to bridge the gap between theoretical learning at universities and practical solutions in the real world. “Universities are a social laboratory,” he explained. “We apply the knowledge we learn in class, see what works and what doesn’t, and then disseminate that information for the betterment of society.”

“This is a connection between what we have been learning and what is actually happening in society,” said Pea Vanchhay about his team’s experience building the business plan. “It is like a bridge between the two worlds.” LIFT



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