Business leaders, foreign investors and professors from the University and abroad addressed key issues regarding business in Asia during panel discussions at the 21st annual Asia Business Conference at the Ross School of Business this past weekend.

The conference is the longest-running business conference about Asia in the United States that is organized by students. Business graduate student Rama Ghanta, who co-chaired this year’s conference, said the primary purpose is to educate students and others about “the challenges of doing business in Asia.”

“Being aware of the changes in Asia is very important to students,” Ghanta said.

The conference originally focused on Japan — and was called Japan Day — when it started 21 years ago. However, the conference has now expanded to encompass discussions of multiple countries in Asia. This year’s conference featured panel discussion about Japan, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Korea and India. It also held panels about technology, corporate social responsibility and energy and the environment.

Business graduate student Carrington Renfield-Miller, the conference co-chair, wrote in an e-mail interview that the conference drew 217 people, including students, alumni and area professionals. The event was sponsored by the Ross School of Business’s Student Government Association, the school’s Center for International Business Education and the University’s Center for Chinese Studies and the University’s Center for Japanese Studies among others.

Ghanta spoke before the University’s Board of Regents meeting on Jan. 20 asking for financial support for the conference. Ghanta wrote in an e-mail interview last night that they didn’t receive any funding for the event from the regents.

In an interview after speaking on a panel about China, Marty Kahn, CEO of the Ann Arbor-based business ProQuest, said the University’s longstanding commitment to the conference reflects its presence on the global stage.

“It’s really startling how international the University of Michigan is,” Kahn said.

Kahn, whose company sells databases in China, added that it’s important for students to “recognize that the global economy is not just a flow of goods, but the flow of ideas.”

Venkatesh Prasad, a group and senior technical leader for Ford Motor Co., spoke during the technology panel. He said in an interview at the event that he is pleased with the opportunities the conference offers for University students.

“I think this is a really rich experience for those students (and) for those who come as panelists,” Prasad said. “The past meets the present to create the future.”

Business graduate student MJ Kamal, said in an interview at the conference that he enjoyed the event and its broad appeal.

“It’s a nice break from everything else,” Kamal said. “It’s very good for students who are not in the Business School.”

— Daily News Editor Joseph Lichterman contributed to this report.

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