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A recent addition among Booth student groups, the Private and Family Business Group started back in 2010, under the name Family Enterprise Group. Providing a forum for private and family business issues, the group today has about 25 members, who host discussions on the particular challenges of such entities, particularly in emerging markets. The group hosts small dinners, lunch ’n’ learns, off-campus cocktails, workshops, speakers, and discussions. Not all members are part of a family business; some want to know what it would be like to work for a family-run firm.

Chicago Booth Magazine checked in with two of the group’s current leaders, both of whom are international students at turning points in their careers facing a big question: Should they stay in the United States and better their skills in corporate America, or return home to put their Booth education to use growing the family business?

One of four student group chairs, Full-Time MBA student Nipun Mahajan is part of CureChem, a chemical distribution family business with a head office in Johannesburg and other offices strategically located throughout southern Africa and India. Early in his career, he worked for his father as a general manager in Zimbabwe and South Africa, concentrating on finance and operations. Later, he interned with Amazon to understand the effectiveness of their supply chain. “I wanted to see how Amazon did it on such a big scale,” he says. 

Now he’s torn, as he feels he could learn still more if he returns to Amazon after he earns his Booth degree. He has turned to students in the Private and Family Business Group for their advice on managing his “should I stay or should I go” situation.

Full-Time MBA student and co-chair Yok Jirasak Chirathivat joined the student group because he wanted to explore how family businesses are run and answer the question: “Why are some successful, while others fail?” he said. 

He’s one of 60 family members of Central Group, a 70-year-old business empire in Thailand begun by his great-grandfather (See “All in the Family”). The Bangkok-based conglomerate owns and operates shopping malls, department stores, electronics retailers, and restaurants, and it also distributes fashion, electronics, and cosmetics brands. It has a presence throughout Thailand.

Before coming to Booth, Chirathivat worked for the family firm in data analysis and strategy. When he returns, he plans to work on e-commerce and expansion into Vietnam. A skills gap brought him to Booth, and he savors the balance he’s found studying both finance and marketing. He especially values the Booth students he’s connected with through the group. “They inspire me,” he said.