Mana Marketing Mission: A global MBA student team boosts Mana’s branding and marketing

We are four MBA Students coming from different countries namely, Philippines, Bosnia Herzegovina, India, and Kenya, studying at Asia School of Business (ASB) in collaboration with MIT Sloan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

Action Learning (AL) is part of our MBA program where we get to work with different companies and provide concrete solutions to business problems. In our 4th term, we worked with Mana Earthly Paradise to help increase their brand awareness and occupancy rate through a marketing communication strategy. To be able to work closely with the Mana team, we stayed in Mana eco-lodging for almost a month and it was truly a unique experience. 

In this article, each person from the team shares honest observations and insights from their experience staying at and contributing to Mana.

 

 

 

Allenie

 

I am Allenie Caccam from the Philippines, I have been working in the aviation and tourism industry for five years before I did my MBA. I like traveling and involving myself in different environmental and sustainability projects which is also why I wanted to be part of the Mana AL project. Staying in Mana for almost a month and working on this project taught me a lot about purposeful and conscious travel. It made me realize that living in the city, being accustomed to a fast-paced life, and being used to the convenience of having everything in an instant have become the norm and it is difficult to unlearn it.

When I was given the opportunity to slow down, be close to nature without the interruption of devices such as TV or AC and consume healthy food made with fresh organic ingredients, it took me sometime to adjust. Most of us travel because we want to visit places, to see and experience new things, but the moment we reach our travel accommodation we tend to go back to our usual lifestyle and look for the things that we wanted to take a break from in the first place. 

It made me also evaluate how eco-friendly and sustainable the travel decisions I make – one that goes beyond just segregating waste or avoiding single use plastics. Mana Earthly Paradise took sustainable lodging to a whole different level, from the artistic earthbag houses that are cool enough at night (but you probably need a fan in the morning) to the recycled water used in the facilities, even as drinking water. Compared to other resorts, the sustainability practices of Mana are well-integrated in how the lodging functions.

The Mana Tour was insightful, and it was particularly interesting for me that Mana as an eco-lodging tries to participate in community development through the Mana Market, a store that acts as a venue for locals to showcase their sustainable products for guests. It felt that I wasn’t just staying in an accommodation, but more of being welcomed in a community. 

 

 

Kevin

I am Kevin, hailing from Kenya, and a strong proponent of sustainability and social impact. When I first learned about the Mana Action Learning project, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of it. I had heard about Earth Company and the work they do promoting social entrepreneurship and supporting changemakers and was excited at the opportunity to work with them. Spending a total of 4 weeks at an Ubudian Earthly Paradise didn’t sound too bad either! 

It wasn’t long after starting the project that I faced my first moment of truth. What I expected to be a straightforward marketing strategy turned out to be laden with latent nuances.

How do you profitably run a business venture with a strong set of values and purpose? As a resort run by a social enterprise, Mana has to strike a balance between purpose and profit, a tough but necessary endeavor. In an industry littered with superficial eco-friendly practices intended as marketing stunts, it was refreshing to find an establishment built with sustainability practices at its core. This however, presented Mana with a unique set of challenges, from finding and establishing partnerships with like-minded service providers, to providing an experience that serves eco-conscious travelers while being inclusive to other types of travelers, who might gain an education on sustainable travel.

Navigating this business dynamic turned out to be a great learning opportunity for me. The warm cheer spread by the entire Earth Company and Mana team rounded up what was an invaluable Action Learning project for me!

 

Jishnu

 

I am Jishnu from India, and I worked at Google for 5 years before joining the Asia School of Business. Throughout my undergraduate I practiced social entrepreneurship as a part of ENACTUS, a global organization present in 40+ countries. After coming to Malaysia, I got a chance to work with Malaysian Green Technology Corporation to design a business model for recycling in the country. With a keen interest in sustainability I saw working with Mana as a great opportunity to learn about the challenges and opportunities in the conscious travel space. 

Before spending a considerable amount of time on this project, I had many questions. Can someone who wants to earn a competitive salary still work to do good for the world? How much can a business compromise on profitability in order to fulfil its sustainability ambitions? How do you truly represent the value of a place like Mana? 

Now after 3 months, although I might not have found all the answers these are my takeaways: 

  • It’s inevitable that enterprises will have to incorporate sustainability as a part of their core business and moving swiftly now can serve as a competitive advantage. Similar to the trend in tourism, where many studies have shown that a considerable percentage of travelers are now looking for more conscious travel choices, consumers in other industries are becoming more aware as well. This growth would mean that by working in sustainability one doesn’t always have to compromise on economic progress.
  • Mana is a true Next-Gen Eco-resort, in that everything from its purpose & design to even the value chain are committed to doing good for the planet. Over the years, the narrow focus of corporates on profitability and increasing shareholder value has led to widespread consumerism and wastefulness. This has to change. It’s high time that companies move from the singular objective to a triple bottom line approach – People, Planet & Profit.
  • Finally, in my opinion the true value of Mana is that it can serve as an inspiration for all those who visit. An inspiration to not be afraid of challenging norms while focusing on doing the right thing. Visit, meet change-makers, reflect, learn and use that inspiration to make a difference in as small or big a way you can. 

 

I wish the team all the very best as they continue on this journey! 

 

 

Azra

 

I am Azra and I come from a small European country with colorful history, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have 4 years of experience in retail in Bosnia and Corporate & Investment banking in Italy and Germany. Before joining Asia School of Business in 2018, I was managing my family business where I deepened my passion for entrepreneurship. Outside the office, while I was living in Milan, I volunteered for a non-profit association, YearOut, which promotes international volunteering for countries in Africa, Asia and Central America.

During my stay in Bosnia, as a Strategic Planning Consultant, I joined NGO “Projekt ABC” that promotes various volunteering programs. Through all my educational and work experiences I was always interested in social-impact projects, and that is one of the reasons I chose Mana Earthly Paradise as my first preference for the Action Learning Project. However, that was the beginning of a story that would bring me much more than just a learning opportunity. 

When you think of nature, the first thing that comes to mind to most of us is energy, life, inspiration. Although the project was quite challenging and a new field I learned a lot from, I would like to show the other side, what Mana to me truly is. We call it back-to-the-roots experience, where you get a digital detox and you fully immerse into the nature. Geckos, friendly spiders, enormous butterflies coming into your way in your morning run and the most delicious food that you actually don’t get fat from!

Isn’t it an Earthly Paradise? From one hyperactive metropolitan, living one month in a nature was quite a challenge. But I was impressed by magically green color of rice fields, peaceful environment and the closeness and culture of community. Mana’s staff would always greet you with a smile, their excellent service made our work easier. Making friends in the dorm was inevitable part that I liked. Greeting repeated guests, who discovered and enjoyed Mana’s probiotic & organic food, made me feel like I was already a part of this close community.

With an objective to achieve positive outcome of the project I was unaware of the outcome Mana gave to me. Tri Hita Karana  – three causes of well-being, harmony with God, harmony among people, harmony with nature.