Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team SVB in China

Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang and Orian Williams are Part-Time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Shanghai, China with Silicon Valley Bank.

Enabling Entrepreneurship in China

Did you know that Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) helped Mark Zuckerberg with banking when he was just a little-known hoodie-wearing startup entrepreneur? SVB has been helping entrepreneurs succeed by providing unique financial products and services in the US. Our team is here to help them succeed in China.

Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang, and Orian Williams are EWMBA students working on an International Business Development (IBD) project in Shanghai, China. The scope of the project is to study credit quality in China for Silicon Valley Bank, specializing in banking with startups.

On our last day in the iLab at Berkeley before departing for the in-country engagement, we went through a brainstorming exercise with Frank Schultz, our IBD faculty mentor. We were glad that he was still smiling after all the hard work we put him through.


IBD-SVB Team + Frank

Week 1

The temperature in Shanghai was noticeably cooler than normal. This was a pleasant surprise and we took it as a good sign for our two weeks stay in Shanghai.

Our team of four arrived at Shanghai on three different flights. Contrary to the typical hours-long flight delays at the Shanghai Pudong Airport, our flights were all surprisingly on time. The first thing that struck us was the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Oftentimes, two moving parties were just centimeters apart while moving in different directions at high speeds. Just when it seemed like a collision was unavoidable, miraculously both parties maneuvered out of each other’s way. It was like two partners on a dance floor moving around swiftly without stepping on each other’s toes. This city seemed to thrive in harmony, without needing any verbal communication.

We met our sponsor, Arman Zand, from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) for dinner the night before we officially began our work in the SVB office in Shanghai, China. In the Chinese culture, business and social gatherings are often conducted around good food. This occasion was no exception to that. Over several dishes of the local gourmet, we shared bits and pieces of our personal stories.

After dinner, our team kicked off our first official in-country working session in the hotel lobby to prepare for a meeting with the CEO the next day.

svb2First In-country Work Session

On our first in-country day at work, we put our knowledge of the Chinese culture and language to work immediately. We met our first interviewee, a startup incubator, at a building that provided office space and support to about 20 startups. Unlike the typical cubicle setup, each “office” was a 2’x4’ desk space which barely provided enough room for a computer, a cup, and a few miniature personal items.

svb3Startup Incubator in China

It almost caught us off-guard that our first meeting was conducted exclusively in Mandarin. It sure put some of our team members’ Mandarin to practice. A full hour of interviewing in Mandarin along with the writing of some names and terms in Chinese made our first in-country interview a very productive one.  As we found out later, the interviewers spoke more freely and provided more information if the meeting was conducted in Mandarin.

svb4Starbucks at Client’s Office

Did you know that a cup of Starbucks coffee is more expensive in Shanghai than in San Francisco? Our team discovered this because 3 of the 5 meetings on day one were at Starbucks. We were beginning to wonder if Starbucks was also where startups pitched to VCs, but that was not the focus of this project.

On day two of the in-country portion of our IBD engagement, our client helped arrange meetings with several well-known venture capital firms to better understand investor behavior in China. We tooled around the city in a gently used mini-van with our team of four plus our handler provided by the firm, and our driver. The weather was a lot warmer than in the Bay Area so thankfully we left our woolen clothing at home. We had one more meeting to go before having dinner with our sponsors’ team at a local Shanghainese restaurant.

Our itinerary had been non-stop since our arrival, but the team was eager to perform well.  The experience was amazing, but this first week had certainly tested our stamina.  This was one of the few IBD projects
with a public company this summer and so we all considered ourselves quite fortunate to have such a practical consulting experience.

svb5Local Breakfast

We decided to go native and got breakfast from a local vendor outside our hotel. Nothing too adventurous, just some steamed pork buns, although one of us did ask for a spicy one.   We also found a dry cleaning place that would wash dress shirts for one-tenth of the price that the hotel was charging. Did we mention that we love China?

We had a few more external meetings left over from earlier in the week and then some internal meetings to help us collect our thoughts. Performing internal and external interviews for the client gave our team twice the consulting experience.

svb6PFPS Exercise

To draw insights and align our observations from our interviews and observations from the last three days, we applied what we had learned from Problem Finding and Problem Solving (PFPS) class.

Our client invited us to their World Cup themed team-building event.  We were told that fun team building activities are not common in Chinese company offices and definitely were new concepts to SVB local employees. SVB tried to build a more collegiate and social culture in its office, and we saw that everyone was able to build off the energy and make the rest of the day more productive.

svb7World Cup Fun

At night, we met up with one of the EWMBA Seminars in International Business (SIB) classmates and we hung out at Nanjing Road.  Nanjing road was an interesting blend of old and new Shanghai.  Most of the original architecture and building fronts were kept but large billboards had been raised over them.  We also took the subway for the very first time.

svb8Nanjing Road

Over the weekend the team took the opportunity to recover from the late nights during the workweek. On Saturday we visited the Tianzi Fang district and the Yu Garden. The highlight of the day was our dinner at Lubolang, one of the best restaurants in Shanghai. We saw a photo of Hilary Clinton who had previously dined there. Their Xiao Long Bao (soup filled dumpling) was excellent.

svb9Best Dinner

On Sunday the team traveled to the outskirts of Shanghai for the local alumni chapter event held at the Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental.  We met Ann Hsu, the Shanghai alumni chapter coordinator, and her husband Tom, who used to work in M&A. Tom said he knew Professor Goodson – small world.

We enjoyed an all you can eat brunch buffet with mimosas. Some of the team members even took a dip in the pool afterwards. It was a nice opportunity to get some fresh air in the countryside, but we wanted to get back and work on some additional analysis for the project.

svb10Sofitel Alumni Event

Week 2

During Week 2, the Seminars in International Business (SIB) class visited the SVB office. The CEO gave a presentation about doing business in China and how SVB positioned itself as the model for innovation banking in China.  We even let them hang out in our cell.

svb11IBD Met SIB at SVB

Week 2 was an intense workweek as the team prepared the final report and presentation to the CEO. On Thursday and Friday, we made our final presentations to the CEO and SVB credit team.  We knew our work had paid off when the client told us that they finally have some tools to play with in China.  We celebrated our success at our client sponsor’s house over drinks and barbecue.  Thanks to Haas and Silicon Valley Bank, another great IBD project!

 

Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team WCS in Cambodia

Berkeley-Haas Part-Time MBA students Timothy Black, Henry Lawrence, Alex Lin and Ennis Olson are working on an IBD project with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Cambodia.

Our team had the opportunity to work with Sansom Mlup Prey (SMP) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to evaluate the future financial sustainability of Ibis Rice. WCS started SMP in 2009 with the goal of helping farmers work their land using methods that protect the wildlife in their region. In particular, protection of the critically endangered Ibis – Cambodia’s national bird. By following farming methods that protect the habitat, SMP purchases rice from these farmers at a premium. This organic fragrant jasmine rice (phka malis) is then sold at a premium on the market as Ibis Rice – the only Wildlife Friendly rice in Cambodia.

Since it’s beginning, SMP has grown to distribution in over 100 markets, hotels, and restaurants in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Our goal was to evaluate the financial sustainability of the Ibis Rice program so WCS can understand at what point in time it can function as a standalone business with no dependency on grants or donors. To help SMP achieve financial independence we set about understanding their operations, rice farming and milling practices, and their sales channels to look for opportunities. We prepared our day of arrival presentation and highlighted the efforts we planned to dive into deeper during our two weeks in Cambodia.

Siem Reap

After 25 hours, 3 planes, and 4 airports we landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia – the home of Angkor Wat. As we walked out of the airport into the humid, wet rainy season of Cambodia, we found our driver amongst the crowd and walked towards the minivans in the parking lot. Then we walked past the minivans to where our tuk tuk awaited. Somehow we managed to fit into a single tuk tuk along with all of our luggage!

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As the rain started, we piled in, our driver put on a plastic poncho, and we were off – dodging cars, motorcycles, pedestrians, and the occasional wildlife on the way to our hotel. Our adventure had already begun.

The next day we had to ourselves to explore the temples of Siem Reap – in particular Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world. SMP arranged an opportunity for us to take in the awe-inspiring temples before we dove into work with our clients. We took in the sunset on the outskirts of Angkor Wat where it was already 80 degress at 5:45am!

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Angkor Wat at sunrise

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Temple – with Australian photo bomber in the background!

The following day we were greeted at the hotel by SMP’s delivery driver Mr. Samoeun. SMP has only one form of transportation – a remorque – and that became our mode of transport all week as well! A reqmorque is a motorcycle with a flatbed attached on the back. With the sun beating down at 95 degrees with 70% humidity, our very sweaty team piled into the remorque and headed off to the office.

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The Remorque

The last stretch of road to the office was unpaved and quite muddy from the rains of the previous evening. Our vehicle got stuck and was unable go any further, despite Samoeun’s valiant efforts. We hopped out of the remorque and after several attempts was able to free the wheels from the red, muddy clay. We tried our luck and got back on only to get stuck again – get out, free the remorque and try again! We navigated the last 50 yards or so on foot and arrived very hot with slightly muddy shoes, but in one piece. It was an unexpected, but interesting first trip to the office – and all before 9am!

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Haas and SMP together for the first time

After a warm welcome from Chinda (SMP’s Sale and Operations Coordinator) and Sochitra (SMP’s Accounting Coordinator), and some introductory discussion on Ibis Rice, we accompanied them on a round of daily deliveries to several of SMP’s customers in the area.  It was insightful to see their delivery process as well as learning more about SMP’s customer relationship management. But the adventure wasn’t over yet.

As part of our delivery ride, the client took us to the old rice mill they had used until several years ago when they switched to a mill near Phnom Penh. When we arrived, we expected to see the sacks of rice fililng the warehouse. What we hadn’t expected was our client saying, “there is also a crocodile farm out back – want to see it?” As we made our way around back we passed the crocodile jerky being dried in the sun.

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The next several days we had the opportunity to meet with SMP’s customers and learn about their support for Ibis Rice. We also met with previous customers who no longer purchased Ibis Rice so we could better understand the market and needs of their customers. During the first week we learned a great deal of information not only about Ibis Rice as a product, but also about the operations from orders to deliveries, and the relationship management with customers. We ended our week in Phnom Penh, where SMP and WCS’s main offices are located and spent the next week diving deeper into operations and analysis.

Phnom Penh

Everyone we met in Siem Reap mentioned the traffic of Phnom Penh. Arriving late at night for our final week, we immediately saw what they were talking about. It took our drivers over two hours to get to the airport which is only 10km from the WCS office. Luckily, we stayed close enough to the office that we could walk each morning from our hotel. We set to work immediately meeting with staff and learning more about the work WCS does in Cambodia and the importance of Ibis Rice and SMP to fulfilling their conservation goals.

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We spent the final week really digging in to the data, financials, and marketing opportunities we see for Ibis Rice. Throughout the week we had the opportunity to meet other companies making rice products and even had a few $1 beers at a local bar with a group of expats that work in Cambodian agriculture.

Most of our last week was spent working through the details with SMP and better understanding their sales, marketing, and operations data. Chinda, as Sales and Operations coordinator, was an invaluable resource throughout our stay. Everyone at WCS/SMP was supportive and helpful  throughout the week with additional data, insights, rides to interviews. They also kept us going with Cambodian snacks – we were treated to bananas 3-ways: small banana, medium banana, and chek chean (fried banana!)

The last two days we hunkered down to put together the financial sustainability analysis for Ibis Rice. But it wasn’t smooth sailing just yet. The evening before our final presentation, we were wrapping up our analysis and getting ready to start our presentation. While typing away and engrossed in spreadsheets our team didn’t realize our hotel room was flooding! The water seeped into the hallway and the room across the hall as well. Luckily there was one extra room available at the hotel and we were able to move. Within the hour we were back to our report and getting excited for the final presentation.

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The final day we gathered WCS and SMP staff together and delivered our final report on Ibis Rice. We felt great about the work we accomplished and everyone was excited to hear what we thought about the future of Ibis Rice. Everyone was so engaged in conversation we continued to discuss opportunities for SMP for nearly an hour after the presentation! After we presented, Ross Sinclair – WCS Country Director for Cambodia – invited us to his home down the street where we enjoyed a few beers, cocktails, and pizza to finish out an incredible two weeks.

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One last photo with Chinda and the team!

We were struck throughout our experience by the warmth and hospitality of Cambodia. Regardless of how much or how little they had, the local Cambodians touched us with their remarkable kindness and optimism. There is no more perfect a metaphor for Cambodia than its national bird the Ibis. Through the work of WCS and SMP the country is preserving its resources, the farmers’ lives are being improved, and the Ibis bird is beginning to thrive in the communities growing Ibis Rice. We are all incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with these organizations and to help them continue the success of Ibis Rice for years to come!

Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team Bombay Teen Challenge

Berkeley-Haas Part-Time MBA students Ellie Erickson, Katherine Foos, Cecilia Mui and Tamara Patterson worked with Indian nonprofit organization Bombay Teen Challenge to craft a sustainable and actionable plan to generate profits from products created by women saved from Mumbai’s Red Light District.

Set Beautiful Free

A Typical IBD Workday

On the day of our final presentation, we experienced the following: 4 hours of sleep, gave a sad farewell to 20+ inspiring ladies (more on them later), drove 4 hours on monsoon-worn roads bogged down with traffic while attempting to finish up our slide deck, held down car sickness, got a flat tire, ate granola bars for lunch (again), presented our final results to the board for 3+ hours, Skyped with the CEO of our client’s oldest customer, ate dinner with the organization’s founder, and at 10 pm decided we should wait to tour the Red Light District another time.  That was Wednesday.

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Human Trafficking

Set Beautiful Free is the customer-facing campaign of Bombay Teen Challenge, a non-profit working to prevent sex slavery.  Mumbai is home to Kamathipura, the 2nd largest Red Light District in the Asian continent with over 40,000 women working in 14 crammed lanes.  When we visited the neighborhood we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of “Johns” swarming the streets.  Our guide informed us that the ratio of men to women in India is 7 to 1, which aligned with what we were seeing on the streets (but contradicted what we found from a quick google search). We saw women standing outside dimly lit doorways with painted faces attempting to make them look fair skinned, waiting for business.  Our driver told us there were many Bangladeshi women, a desired ethnicity.  These women likely started out as girls in their home country with a promise of a desirable job in India.  That fate is true about 50% of the time.  For the other 50% of girls, they are sold to a brothel, locked up and forced into sex slavery.  BTC restores hope and dignity to these women by rehabilitating and empowering them through education and vocational opportunities in a safe environment.  We were tasked with trying to make the sales of the goods made by these women into a sustainable and growing venture.

The initial project scope described the creation of a B2C marketing plan.  While in Berkeley, we discovered B2B was more appropriate and less than a week before leaving we uncovered critical operational gaps we then had to prioritize and address.  Our 20 minute Day of Arrival presentation turned into a 3.5 hour meeting, which established our credibility with the board members, and subsequently, staff were instructed to help us any way possible.  Over the next 6 business days we managed to build trust and gain invaluable insights into the organization.  Everyone recognized our objective participation and tried to help us in order to help the larger mission.  We stayed in Mumbai and at their campus in Badlapur to both learn about doing business in India to test rapid prototyping, as well as work alongside the women to understand their operations and how to best describe their message.  In the end, we completed a marketing plan, the core elements of a business plan, and strategic recommendations and specific contacts for which to follow up.  We even found a local store in Mumbai for them to sell their goods!

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Work Hard, Play Hard

When describing what we initially planned to do in India we said, “We’re basically going to go shopping.” While we did do that, the expanding scope, long travel time, and monsoon rains kept us from exploring much of the city.  We visited the Gateway to India, had tea in the regal Taj Hotel and even saw a movie (for $3!).

Seemingly with everything in India, there are too many more stories to tell about our experience so below are a few highlights and photos that encapsulate our time there:

  • When meeting each other at our first class in May, before we received our project assignment, we joked about a group of all women probably working with a non-profit or in fashion; we ended up doing both!
  • Meeting for over an hour with the General Manager of the Oberoi, a luxury 5-star hotel, provided an insightful conversation about Indian culture and its economic development—more than any research or study could have provided.
  • Meeting with the Consulate General of Iceland and getting his advice on business success, “Go ask my wife!”
  • Interviewing the Founder of BTC in the car for an hour after the 3.5 hour day of arrival presentation while in a downpour through roads flooded with 3+ feet of water, and only 30 hours after having landed in India. Talk about jet lag!
  • Laughing at how the ladies could make a bracelet in 5 minutes while Katie struggled to just start one for 15 minutes.
  • Having a focus group with the women to learn about their dreams, feelings about each other, and favorite movie stars.
  • Eating delicious crab caught at the local waterfall, cooked by the boys from BTC.
  • Giving each other DJ names – you’ll have to ask one of us to find out what they were ;)
  • Braving Mumbai roads for over 15 hours/week during the Monsoons.
  • Learning that if you’re the only one awake in the rural countryside area, all the bugs want to greet (and eat) you.
  • Seeing individuals, who have overcome so many obstacles in their lives, thrive in their element and really come alive when asking for their advice.
  • Opening a new product line and rapidly prototyping with one of their key customers.

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Conclusion

It isn’t often in business school that we get an opportunity to work in a group of all women.  We also got to learn more about India and Indian culture than any tour guide could have exposed us to.  The hospitality, warmth and recognition of human traits across socioeconomic boundaries were amazing to experience.  For instance, some girls told us they liked to spend the money they earned from making jewelry or chicken fried rice and joked with us about snatching vegetables from the garden.  Can’t we all relate to that?  As a reality check however, one of those girls ended up at BTC because of a coincidence when she was being shopped around to be sold to a brothel by a family member. This is just one of many stories of the amazing women hoping to benefit from our work, earn a dignified wage, own a humble home, and provide a future full of potential for their children.

To quote one of the many beautifully decorated trucks we saw, “India is great.”

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Updates from IBD South Africa – Team EPI-USE

BEPA Redefines Corporate Travel Management

Albrecht Wiedersberg, Benya Phetkaeo, Emily Roesing and Paul Hogan are full-time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Sydney, Australia and Pretoria, South Africa. Their team, BEPA, have been visiting London, Sydney, and Pretoria over the last three weeks working on innovative ways to redefine corporate travel management for EPI-USE, a global IT consulting firm.

EPI-USE, a leading IT service provider in the SAP HR space, asked our team to investigate ways to reduce travel expense and to develop a potential business model for the group. Throughout the spring semester, our team had analyzed travel data, interviewed with consultants and travelers from different verticals, and tested potential solutions for EPI-USE.

Led by Haas alumnus and EPI-USE executive Quintin Smith, our team set a game plan and aligned it with key stakeholders; among them was Jonathan Tager, CEO of EPI-USE. Only a few days after the end of spring semester, our team started a great journey visiting EPI-USE’s core regions to get a better picture of the travel situation and to come up with a high impact recommendation.

Our team spent the first week in Sydney and London where we met with local travel managers, consultants, and members of EPI-USE’s leadership team. Everyone we met was incredibly helpful and great to work with. In our first week, Susan from the London office and Yaron from the Australian office made it very easy for us to get started! After an intense week of analysis and a short sightseeing weekend we packed our bags and first results to transfer to South Africa where the very exciting final phase of our project was to take place.

epi-use1Paul Hogan at Bondi Beach

epi-use2Sydney skyline

epi-use3Working lunch with Yaron

The next morning, we were all excited to meet Quintin who introduced us to the EPI-USE team and made it really easy for us to start work. Over the following days we further investigated travel in the local office while summarizing our results and working on the final project deliverables. We designed and ran a survey within EPI-USE to find out how consultants value comfort and time in business travel, and validated the survey results with a representative survey among Australian, UK, and US business travelers. Based on the survey results we developed a financial model and estimated the potential impact of an incentivization model for EPI-USE.

epi-use4Our team at work

However, our time in South Africa was about a lot more than models and slides only; during the first days in the country, Quintin introduced us to the team with a big dinner at a great restaurant. It only got better from there: Quintin invited our team to spend the weekend at a South African game farm where we had a truly outstanding time. Not only was the place one of the nicest lodges we had ever seen, Quintin and the game farm staff made it very special for us. We were invited to morning and sunset tours where we saw lots of animals, great scenery, and the beautiful night sky. It was also action-packed: The team learned to set up a proper (and amazingly big) fireplace, to shoot a rifle, and to read tracks and signs of the African bush. Finally, in a traditional bosberaad Quintin and our team decided the strategy for our last week of project work.

epi-use5The awesome lodge where we spent almost three days

epi-use6The team getting ready for a bush ride

epi-use8Quintin and team BEPA at sunset 

epi-use9Right before sunset – It took 5 minutes and the sun was gone!

epi-use10Before the BBQ comes a serious fireplace workout

epi-use12Delicious IBD project

epi-use13The team happy after a big meal

As if that were not enough, on the way back from this fantastic weekend Quintin announced the next adventure: Our team would go to another game farm the day before our final presentation. Equipped with this extra portion of motivation and due to the great support of Quintin, the EPI-USE leadership team, and everyone in the EPI-USE offices we had a polished final presentation document in place only a few days later.

The day before our presentation, we got up very early. Everyone was excited about what was going to happen since Quintin had not reveal what exactly our team was going to do this day. The day did not disappoint our expectations: We went to a farm that was focused on veterinary work with rhinos and witnessed how a professor examined three rhinos. This required the rhinos to be darted, a process where the rhino has to be anesthetized for a short period of time to carry out the examination work. This was a big spectacle as a helicopter had to spot the rhino before it was darted and we could witness the veterinarian’s work first hand. It was very impressive to see the rhinos close-up. They are outstandingly huge and powerful animals!

epi-use14A helicopter is used to locate and dart the rhinos

epi-use15The rhino after being darted – Everyone takes care that it does not fall down uncontrolled

epi-use16The rhino is sleeping while the veterinarian examines it

epi-use17A break at “4U2P”

On our last day, we gave a very successful final presentation to a large EPI-USE audience including the group CEO and all key stakeholders. When it was time to say goodbye a couple of hours later and over a glass of champagne we felt very happy and proud of the result we had delivered. However, even more important was the feeling of gratefulness for our very special memories. Or, to say it in Quintin’s words, our team felt our IBD experience with EPI-USE and particularly with Quintin was truly “a treat”!

Updates from IBD India – Team SAP Ganges

Spring 2014 IBD FTMBA students Carmela Aquino, Dora Chai, Chasen Goudeau, Charles Guo, and Nate Wojck are in India working with SAP Labs India.

The road to the heart of the city teased us with twinkling night-lights in the distance, as we made our way past midnight into this strange, foreign town that would be home for the next 3 weeks. We would come to learn over the next few days and weeks that Bengaluru, or Bangalore as it was once called by the British, was once known as a “pensioner’s paradise” – for its relatively cool climate compared to the rest of the country.

These days, it was known more for being the technology capital of India, home to sprawling campuses of many of the world’s largest technology firms. We walked into Bangalore anticipating another version of Silicon Valley on the other side of the globe. We were not prepared for what we came across, a city that was both developed and yet steeped in so much tradition, both modern and yet traditional, and altogether unpredictable. What we learned over the next three weeks was that this would be a theme rippling across our experiences in India .

After 5 months of planning and 24 hours of travel, our team had finally arrived in Bangalore to carry out fieldwork for SAP Ganges, a project incubated by SAP Labs India, the research and innovation arm of SAP. For the next 3 weeks, we would be working with the SAP Ganges team to serve India’s unorganized retail industry, which is composed of several tiers of mom-and-pop shops, or  kirana stores.  They are small shops  that sell a rich variety of consumer packaged goods and bulk items such as rice, and could be found on practically every corner of most Indian cities. India’s 8 million plus kirana stores  account for more than 90% of the country’s multibillion retail industry, far outpacing the reach of modern big-box outlets, presenting immense opportunities and daunting challenges at the same time.

Reaching Indian Retail’s Last Mile

Our team had been preparing for this project for months, with numerous weekly phone calls with our project stakeholders from SAP, both in Palo Alto and Bangalore, and our IBD coach. We had interviewed subject matter experts and industry professionals to gain initial insights into our task. We had conducted research on best practices that could be applicable for the project. But the bulk of our work had to be done in-country, as it was only through fieldwork that we could find ourselves truly gaining the understanding needed to answer our questions. How could SAP truly help bring light to the whole unorganized retail value chain? How could we help bring SAP technology to kirana storeowners, many of whom had relied on pen and paper their whole life to account for their business?

sap1Team SAP Ganges visiting SAP America in Palo Alto in February 2014

Upon reaching Bangalore, we met with the entire SAP Ganges team. The diverse background of the team members, and more importantly, their shared passion for SAP Ganges impressed us. Many of them had switched into the project initially as volunteers. With the help of many of the members of the team, we set out to validate our initial hypotheses in the field by talking to kirana owners, CPG distributors, organized retail players, and CPG companies

The true highlight of the project was speaking with kirana owners, who surprised us with how unique they all were in their aspirations for their businesses and the practices they maintained that kept their businesses alive and thriving. Still, we found that many common things remained – many of these shops would have been around for more than a decade and had developed close community relationships. It has been customary for many Indian households to call the nearby kirana shop to pick up ingredients or household items, over going to a modern supermarket. It was also customary for many of these shop owners to offer revolving lines of credit to loyal customers, to be settled at the end of the month – offering a unique credit service that could be challenging to maintain.

 

store visit 2Speaking with a FMCG distributor at a kirana store

sap2Our team and our client visiting a kirana store in Bangalore

nate&chasenNate and Chasen discussing notes from our interview at our first kirana visit

These kirana shops keep themselves stocked by relying on their distributors, who would visit the shops on a weekly basis to take orders and fulfill them by ordering from the CPG companies. Since each distributor was dedicated to only one CPG brand primarily, any given shop could be dealing with more than 40 distributors. Accounting is done primarily through pen-and-paper, and shopkeepers rely on their books, intuition, and memory to estimate how much inventory is in their shop and how well they are doing financially. Still, these methods are not foolproof. SAP Ganges, with its all-in-one Point-of-Sale device offered a better way for these shop keepers to keep track of their sales, manage their customer credit lines, and keep stock of their inventory. But would shop owners be amenable to it? Our work lay in understanding how to reach SAP Ganges’ target kirana storeowners with the message that would truly appeal to them.

Surprises

Along the way, we were surprised by many things. We had assumed that certain aspects would be more important than others in selling the SAP Ganges solution. And yet kirana owners would surprise us with how they valued some things over others, and completely disregarded certain aspects that we had initially surmised to be important.

For instance, we initially thought the price of the device was too high for kiranas to fully absorb. However, throughout our interview process we learned that many of the upper-tier kirana owners were receptive to the price and possessed a willingness-to-pay that was much higher than what we assumed. We quickly learned that these storeowners saw value in one of the device’s most subtle features, which was the ability to print a receipt and give it to their customer. Phone orders are extremely popular in India, and shopkeepers spend significant time handwriting their bills for their customers. SAP’s solution would allow them to more quickly prepare these bills and provide a more professional invoice than the handwritten alternative. As a result of our discovery and understanding of the value of being more professional for shop owners to compete with emerging organized retailers, we decided to focus our messaging on selling SAP Ganges as “the next generation of affordable point-of-sale technology that promises simple and professional business management.”

kirana1An owner of a kirana store that sells primarily bulk goods

sap3The Nandi Departmental Store, our first kirana store interview

On the contrary, we were also surprised by how many storeowners were unreceptive to change. Many of these kirana owners had worked in their shops for decades. To them, technology was an unnecessary distraction from their current business operations. Even though we could see the value, in particular the efficiency, that SAP Ganges provides, we began to understand why these owners were resistant to adoption. Given the success of their business to-date, they didn’t see the need to invest in a device to make their business better. These owners also have yet to be exposed to the modern technology and retail systems of the United States and other developed countries; therefore, they couldn’t even imagine the benefits that such a technological solution could deliver.

Ultimately, we knew we needed to be sensitive to the kirana owners’ behaviors and practices and couldn’t force a product onto them. Therefore, we decided to focus our marketing efforts on a specific target segment of kirana owners that could envision the benefits SAP Ganges would provide them.

The interviews and visits were immensely helpful in that they provided us a first-hand exposure to SAP Ganges’ target customers, the unique role they play in the Indian society and the transformation India’s retail industry has been going through. Through our visits to the distributors and a local wholesale market, we came to appreciate the entrepreneurial spirits of Indian businesses, from the likes of the Reliance Industries Limited and Tata Group that touch every aspect of Indians’ life to Mr. Raghuram M.V.’s small distribution company which supplies packaged goods to thousands of kirana stores in Bangalore.

sap4Team SAP Ganges visiting distributor Mr. Raghuram M.V.

Not Just Work

Outside of our 5-day work schedule, our team still found time to hang out and explore India. During our first full-weekend we took a trip down to the southern state of Kerala, which was recommended to us by our client. They told us about the houseboats we could rent to explore the Kerala backwaters. These boats were decked with full kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. We could stay overnight and our boat staff would cook for us while exploring the waters. Our client introduced us to  a friend who owned one of these boats and we moved quickly to finalize our transportation plans to Kerala.

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sap5View from our houseboat on the Kerala backwaters

We decided on hiring a driver to drive us down to Kerala and back over the weekend. Drivers in India are pretty affordable, and hiring one is much better than trying to navigate the insane driving in India. Flights to Kerala last only about an hour, but since we planned the trip on such short notice, flights were expensive and we would’ve had to figure out transportation once we landed. Little did we know that the trip to Kerala would take 14 HOURS one-way! We left late Friday night in order to beat the traffic and didn’t arrive to the houseboat until about 2:00pm on Saturday. Granted we stopped to see elephants along the way, but the trip lasted much longer than originally anticipated. Not to mention that driving on Indian highways at night is one of the most terrifying experiences ever. Once you get to Kerala, the highways become one lane in both directions. In the middle of the night, our team woke up to find ourselves driving head-on with another car on the highway! At the last minute our driver would swerve back into his appropriate lane, all in an effort to pass the slow-moving car that was in front of us. It was like a crazy game of chicken, waiting to see which driver would flinch first in order to avoid a head-on collision. This practice of passing up others on the highway was the norm in India, and only us Americans were the ones who seemed to be terrified. We learned how to deal with this by just closing our eyes while we were in the car—ignorance is bliss right?

Kerala was amazing, however. Once we boarded our houseboat, our captain took us to a remote Indian village where we spent $50 on live crab, prawns, and fish. This much seafood would’ve cost over $100 in the States. Our cook prepared the best meal for us as we rode the backwaters and drank Kingfisher (one of India’s most popular beers). During the night we docked, played games, laughed, and listened to the rain while sitting on the deck of our boat. It was such a relaxing experience, aside from the mosquitos, that brought our team closer and gave us a deep appreciation for India.

seafood1Picking up some fresh seafood from a village in Kerala!

seafood2Tons to choose from!

Beyond Kerala, our team got to explore Goa, New Delhi, Agra, and Mumbai. We didn’t know how huge of a country that India is, and one needs more than a month to explore all that it has to offer. As a team, we found Mumbai to be such an incredible place. We were disappointed that we only got to spend one night there (for work purposes) but we were able to get a glimpse into how amazing it was. Our client took us to the Gateway of India, where we posed for photos after being heckled by a photographer. (Indians are very persistent!) We saw the Taj Hotel and ate dinner at Leopold Café, both sites of the devastating terrorist attacks that Indians refer to as “26/11.” Mumbai was the last trip that our group would take outside of Bangalore, and it marked an incredible end to our exploration of India.

mumbaiTeam SAP Ganges visiting Mumbai

Departure

Our departure from India was bittersweet. While we were excited to return to warm showers, consistent electricity, and American cuisine, we knew that we would never be able to experience India the way we did again. IBD was a once in a lifetime opportunity that allowed us to fully immerse ourselves within the richness that is India.

Despite India’s complicated and long history of British governance, we were impressed by how resilient the people of India are. Practices and customs that we observed on our trip dated back to India’s early history, and there are very few societies that have been able to maintain their cultural integrity throughout hundreds of years.

There was never a dull moment in India. Every street, corner, temple, market, and car-ride was a surprise that kept us so intrigued. There were so many moments that our team would sit in silence while in traffic just observing what went on before us in the streets. We asked many questions in order to get a better understanding of what we were seeing, but we left knowing that there are just some things we won’t understand about India.

We left India with all sorts of feelings and thoughts. It is chaotic yet it is vibrant with abundance of life. It is blessed with thousands of years of history yet exhibiting enormous potential reclaiming its historical prominence in the world. It could be overwhelming yet you can always expect to be greeted with a friendly smile. It is such a rich place that is so indescribable, and no one will understand how different of a place it is until you visit.

We loved India, and we hope India loved us back.

departureFinal departure from Bangalulu International Airport with blessing from our dear Indian friends

Updates from IBD Thailand – Bangkok, Krabi, and Vientiane, Laos

Spring 2014 IBD students Christen Chen, Garima Dhingra, Zane Keller and Andrew Mitsch are in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Week 1

Our team arrived in Thailand on Sunday, May 18th. One of the things you first notice when you arrive in Bangkok is the climate. To say it’s warm and humid here would be an understatement: daily high temperatures routinely reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) with humidity in the 70-80% range. Needless to say, the best time to explore the city is in the morning and evenings when temperatures are cooler.

shell1Morning in Bangkok

We are staying in the Sukhumvit neighborhood of Bangkok. Sukhumvit is a very modern neighborhood bustling with street life, soaring office and residential towers, and a vibrant mix of western and eastern stores and restaurants. The neighborhood is bisected by Sukhumvit Road, one of the main thoroughfares in Bangkok. This has worked to our advantage since the road is served by both the MRT (subway system) and SRT (monorail). We have found the public transit system here to be cheap, efficient, and safe. Transit is an especially favorable option due to local traffic and road conditions, which we will describe in a later post.

shell2The Sukhumvit skyline

On the second day of our trip, we woke up to the surprising news that the Thai military had declared martial law in response to recent political unrest. This development took a further turn when the army declared on the fourth day of our trip that a coup was in progress. Despite these alarming headlines, we thankfully saw little change in day-to-day life in our neighborhood in Bangkok.

shell3Coup in Thailand (source: CNN)

When we aren’t working on our project, we have enjoyed the local cuisine and coffee shops which are prevalent throughout the neighborhood. Thai food, which is most well known for being spicy, can also be surprisingly sweet and comes with various forms of meat (generally chicken or pork), seafood, and vegetables. To the surprise of the vegetarian in our group, it is relatively challenging to find strictly vegetarian food in Thailand.

Our first week in Thailand was an interesting one between the coup, the surprisingly modern and western environs of Sukhumvit, and the bustling street life of Bangkok. This weekend, three of our group members are heading to Chiang Mai, well known for its rich history. The fourth member will be staying in Bangkok and exploring the Rattanakosin neighborhood which includes sites such as Wat Pho, a well-known Buddhist temple.

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Week two

During the second week, we finally had the opportunity to meet with our client in their office (the political situation previously delayed us from meeting with the client in-person). During the meeting, we discussed our project plan and scheduled some interviews with some of the client’s employees as well as several external parties.

shell5Discussing our IBD project with our client as we walk through the streets of Bangkok

shell6Meeting with our client in their office

We conducted these interviews throughout the week. When conducting these interviews, time zone differences often created a significant challenge: since our client is a multinational company, many of the employees that we spoke with were located in Europe or the United States. As a result, we conducted many of our interviews early in the morning or late at night from various locations. Additionally, employees in different geographical regions have different conversational styles: in Thailand, they prefer to build a relationship first before speaking, whereas in Europe and the U.S. the employees preferred highly structured and direct conversations. Subtle differences such as these are what make the IBD experience a true learning opportunity.

At the end of the second week, half of our team headed to Vientiane, Laos while the other half headed to Krabi, Thailand. Krabi is a quaint beach town located in southern Thailand which is lower profile than its sister beach town Phuket. On the first day, the group climbed up the famous Tiger Mountain; 1,200 steps the team finally made it to the top. The breathtaking views made the hour long climb worth the effort. Meanwhile, the pair that went to Laos enjoyed the French-influenced city of Vientiane and the relatively undeveloped countryside of Laos. When the team arrived back in Bangkok, the political tensions seemed to have eased a bit as the curfew was extended from 10pm to 12am.

shell7IBD team members visiting a Buddha garden near Vientiane, Laos 

shell8IBD team members riding an elephant near Krabi, Thailand

Week three

On the last week, the team was able to extract some great insights from internal employees of the company. Because the Thailand market in which the client operated was underpenetrated, we were able to gain best practices from other parts of the company. These insights were very informative in when forming our final recommendations to the client. On Friday June 6th, we presented our conclusions to three members of our client’s country management team. The recommendations were well received and we discussed the next action items as well as possible future consulting projects.

Updates from IBD China – Entering the Largest and Fastest Growing Market in the World

Spring 2014 IBD Student Joseph Kim shares his IBD team’s experiences in Shanghai China.

Our team is working in Shanghai, China for a large lab equipment distributor to improve the partnership and product selection process.  We had the chance to interview current customers from top research universities and leading multi-national companies while in Shanghai.  Although the project was challenging at first, as none of the team members had scientific backgrounds, the team pooled its collective experiences together and delivered clear process recommendations that will be implemented both internally and externally.

When we found out that we would be working for a lab equipment distributor, we looked at each other in bewilderment; first, we weren’t entirely sure what the company did, and secondly, we weren’t sure why they had selected a group of MBA’s all with finance backgrounds instead of a group of scientists in white lab coats.  Upon doing some company and industry research, we quickly learned that the company was a mature, industry leader in a growing Chinese market but that the U.S. parent company wanted to continue to grow its already large footprint.  It became clear that given our backgrounds we could help analyze the market opportunities and introduce processes that would increase success in product launches and finding new relationships.

 

tf1Rickety, pedal-powered wagons share the road with luxury vehicles on newly paved roads

Although the team was prepared to conduct a lot of analysis and have customer interaction once in Shanghai, we underestimated the large culture shock, especially for the members of the team who hadn’t worked overseas before.  Shanghai and its 24+ million citizens kept us on our toes and there wasn’t a dull moment that passed by.  Whether it was being hoodwinked in expensive cab rides or trying to find a restaurant that met all four team members’ dietary needs, we quickly realized that working in a developing country would be challenging even if our surroundings appeared to be developed.  Luckily for us, there were two other Haas IBD teams to share travel and experiences together.

tf2Even the chefs wanted to join the three Shanghai IBD teams at the world renowned restaurant, DTF – Din Tai Fung

Even with the language barrier, our best insights about the business came from interviewing customers.  We learned how culture can affect so many aspects of a business.  For example, one customer pointed out that Chinese workers prefer opening windows instead of turning on the A/C like her French counterparts.  Albeit a subtle difference, the smog and dust accumulation from opening a window affected lab results given the sensitivity of experiments, leading to opportunities for our client to introduce more durable machines.

tf3Overcoming language barriers and Questioning the Status Quo by feeling the sign loudly

Overall, IBD was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We had the chance to put our MBA core learning to work from start to finish and had a blast while delivering recommendations that we know will make a difference.

tf4PFPS invades Shanghai

Updates from IBD China – Team YY

Spring 2014 IBD Team YY (Brandon Cato, Justin Harnoss, Peter Garai, Simon Yoo) worked with Chinese social media company YY in Guangzhou, China.

Our team spent three weeks in China working with social media company YY.com, identifying growth opportunities for the firm. We had a fantastic experience, coming away deeply impressed by the people we worked with, the Chinese internet industry and the country’s culture.

yy1The Team at the YY office (L-R: Peter Garai, Justin Harnoss, Simon Yoo, Brandon Cato)

YY is a Chinese internet company listed on NASDAQ with a market cap over $3.5 billion. They provide a live p2p streaming product and have been wildly successful in attracting amateur performers and their fans to their platform but also have services in a number of other verticals, including dating and education. While we already knew some of the impressive numbers associated with our client and the Chinese internet industry during the semester, our in-country experience really opened our eyes on how advanced their products and services are. We were blown away from the smart people we worked with, the state-of-the-art technology and the advanced monetization models we saw at YY.

One particular business practice we thought everyone should immediately adopt is quite simple though: after lunch, employees are permitted to take a nap until 2pm! Some of them have serious gear with them: foldable beds, eye covers, noise-cancelling headphones help turn the otherwise buzzing office into a silent snooze fest in the early afternoons.

yy2Nap time at YY!

yy3The team hard at work with the YY Bear

After three weeks of work, we capped off the project by presenting our recommendations to the management of YY. While we don’t know yet whether any of them will come to fruition, we definitely gained a lot by learning about how the hottest industry works in the largest economy of the world!

yy4Dinner after our final presentation

Guangzhou may not be on everyone’s radar as a top tourist destination, but the third largest city in China with a population of 11 million is growing at a blazing pace. The downtown area is already full with impressive skyscrapers, lit up in bright colors at night, and everywhere we went we could see at least 3-4 new ones being built. The growth was also represented by the Aston Martin, McLaren, Lamborghini dealerships located within a few blocks from our hotel, and their products on the road.

yy5We couldn’t find the color in the catalogue

The huge size and growth are accompanied with crazy traffic, as 5-6 lane roads slice through the city everywhere, and the local driving style left us with a couple of scares each time we were cabbing around the city. We quickly learned that pedestrians here are at the bottom of the food chain and one should carefully look in all directions even on a pedestrian crossing with a green light in a one way-street!

Weather-wise the time of our visit was less than ideal, the rainy season greeted us with showers, high humidity and temperatures around 90 degrees almost 24/7. Luckily, air conditioning was available everywhere, but the weather certainly did not encourage long walks outdoors.

yy6Dragon’s Boat Festival treats being prepared

yy7Guangzhou’s impressive skyline at night

The city has less expats than the others we’ve visited (Hong Kong and Shanghai) and thus is a bit tougher to get around for foreigners, but we didn’t have major problems. The language barrier was the greatest hurdle, but colleagues at our client and the hotel staff were always very helpful, and our sign language skills have definitely improved during the three weeks, while thankfully almost every restaurant had picture menus. Speaking of food: exploring the Cantonese cuisine was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. On occasions we had dinner with our clients who recommended us the best dishes, otherwise we just leaned on our awesome picture analysis skills to figure out what we are ordering (and what we definitely do not want to order).

During the weekends we visited Hong Kong – which is only a 2 hour train ride away – and Shanghai, were we met with Team Galderma. Both cities were phenomenal and we really enjoyed exploring the different faces of China. Unsurprisingly Hong Kong was the most “international” of the three, Shanghai showed its heritage as China’s most cosmopolitan city while Guangzhou made the impression of a city that at its current pace of development may very well present a picture much more similar to the other two in five years. We’ll have to check it out again!

yy8IBD Teams Galderma and YY join forces in Shanghai

IBD Updates from China – Team SAP Business One: Parts I, II & III

Team SAP Business One aka “Shanghai Knights” Andrew Hinton, Oseyi Ikuenobe, Ryo Itoh and Yavuz Alkan– worked with SAP in Shanghai to help with the launch of a new software product in China and the United States. They were located at SAP Labs (the innovation and development organization of SAP) in Shanghai’s Technology Park at Pudong.

Part I – “Change is Gonna Come”

Prior to arriving in Shanghai we had several iterations with the client on the scope of our project. We oscillated between a validation of the launch strategy for China, and evaluation of possible launches in English speaking countries (including the US). We arrived in China with a clear scope in mind and armed with our “arrival presentation” we went to our kickoff meeting.  We hadn’t gotten through half of our slides before our project sponsor Robert Chu (EMBA ’06) stopped us to tell us something that would change the course of the next 3 weeks.

sapchina1“Shanghai Knights” @ SAP Office

He had decided that he was now a lot more interested in deciding between two courses of action for the product. SAP was trying to figure out if they should continue developing the product till it was complete or roll it out in a beta form and iterate based on customer feedback.  He also wanted to understand how this decision affected a launch in the US.

This was a shocking development, but we were prepared for a change and were delighted that we would be focused on something that would be meaningful to Rob. But there was more! Rob also mentioned that he would be leaving a few days later for 2 week business trip to the US – ironically spending a few days in the Bay Area. But wait, there’s more! Since the product was still in development, and there was a major release that week so most of the people we needed to talk to, would be too busy to talk to us until the following week.

So our first week was off to a rocky start but we were up to the challenge! To help deal with the pressure we spent most of our time outside the office exploring the sights of Shanghai and going on culinary adventures all over the city.

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sapchina3Hai Di Lao HotPot in Pudong

sapchina4Tai Di Fung with the two other Shanghai based IBD Teams

sapchina5The Bund (with a new friend we made)

sapchina6Nan Jing Road

 

Part II – Settling in

The bombshells dropped on us in the first 2 days seemed like an insurmountable number of hurdles, but all put together they actually gave us a chance for success. We were happy to have most of the first week to ourselves to do research related to our new scope – as most of the pre-work we had done was China specific. So we set about our task of researching and creating analytical models and lining up interviews.

We were surprised by how much we relied on what we had learned from our core courses as we began to piece together our analysis.  We used marketing frameworks from marketing and strategic brand management, entry decision strategies and game theory from our strategic management course, and problem framing techniques from PFPS.

2sapchina11Shanghai Knights @ Work

We had decided to reframe the questions we were asked by thinking about the real issue SAP was facing, ensuring that our work would be truly useful for SAP. True validation of our approach came at the end of the second week when after a presenting an update to Rob.

To celebrate our progress/success and to continue the tradition of exploring Shanghai through our stomachs we had some more great food and even managed to arrange a birthday cake for Ryo – thanks to expert usage of Google Translate (it pays to have the MBAA VP of Technology on your team) and smiles.

2sapchina2Ryo’s birthday at Di Shui Dong

We ended the week with an amazing trip to Beijing with members of one of the other IBD teams in Shanghai. We visited the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square the Forbidden City. We also got to enjoy a great dinner at a famous roast duck restaurant. Our trip to Beijing also gave us the opportunity to experience China’s famous sleeper trains and the high-speed train back to Shanghai.

2sapchina3Sleeper Train

2sapchina4The Great Wall

2sapchina5Summer Palace

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2sapchina8Tiananmen Square

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2sapchina10Forbidden City

 

Part III – The Home Stretch

By week 3, we had interviewed a Senior Director in SAP’s main office (with a spectacular panoramic view of Shanghai) on Nan Jing West road, the owner of the product we were working on, members of the customer engagement team as well as a product evangelist. We were struck by how passionate they all were about this new product and the fact that it was the first major SAP product to be conceived and built entirely in China.

3sapchina1The Jing ’An temple is across the street from SAP’s Nan Jing West Road Office

The highlight of our project was meeting with one of SAP’s customers in Shanghai. We got to spend several hours with them learning about their business and how SAP’s solutions could help them grow their business. It was amazing to see the impact that technology could make on small businesses.

3sapchina2Visit to Ryss – an SAP customer

The meeting was particularly memorable because they treated us to a feast for lunch after our interview was over. It was probably the best meal we had in our entire three weeks in China. Our lack of Mandarin or Shanghainese language skills were alleviated by two great SAP employees Bo and Yolanda who were great translators and guides throughout the customer visit.

Our time at SAP was rewarding as we feel we added value to a very important strategic area for SAP. We got to experience life as SAP Shanghai employees – complete with eating lunch in the cafeteria (and the local Family Mart), interacting with great people like Rambo who helped us with the temperamental AC in our team room (it was quite warm in Shanghai during the day).

3sapchina3Final Day at SAP (with Emily Tai)

We did our final presentation via conference call with Rob (who was in the US almost the entire time we were in Shanghai) and it was high fives all around when he ended the meeting by telling us we had done a great job and he was happy with what we had done – joking that he wishes he could email our professors to give us an A! We promptly shared our faculty mentor’s email address with him!

Thanks to SAP, IBD, and Shanghai for a great experience! Special thanks to Emily Tai who in spite of her busy schedule was our contact throughout the project and a great host!

3sapchina4Final Dinner on our last night in Shanghai

3sapchina5Goodbye Shanghai we’ll miss you!

Updates from IBD New Zealand – IBD in Auckland

Spring 2014 IBD Team New Zealand (Scott Furumoto, Katie Lewis-LaMonica, Peter Trujillo, Kan Yan) is in Auckland working with a technology startup.

 

The IBD project was a wonderful journey for Team New Zealand. It offered an opportunity to solve a challenging problem, experience the hospitable client company culture, explore stunning wonderlands, and try amazing food!

Our Work

Our project is a great story about the birth and development of a technology start-up. Our task was to validate the early assumptions of the business idea about a data management solution targeted at investment funds “that integrates and validates multiple data streams, empowering asset managers with accurate data that drives effective decision-making and enables firms to achieve superior returns for customers.”  We developed a global go-to-market strategy for the new software solution, and prepared sales and investor presentations to engage potential customers and investors.

The founder of our client company is a passionate and ambitious practitioner who is determined to create a global brand. However, the insights from interviews with US fund managers before we landed in New Zealand signaled that there are huge differences between the technology sophistication among various markets, and that there is much more competition than originally assumed. Our assignment to validate the original global market entry assumptions became a challenge, as we had to convince our client, who has 20+ years of experience in the industry, and who has a successful consulting practice, that some of his original assumptions were incorrect.

Starting from our first day in country, our team proactively reached out to local asset management companies and tried to secure on-site interviews through cold calls! Even today, we still cannot believe that within two weeks, we reached out to 23 local funds and 13 industry experts, and finally ended up with 14 additional interviews!

clearpoint3Kate on an interview call, Scott busy sending out interview invites

The interviews and online research, combined with the PFPS-style diverge and converge exercises, helped us reshape the geographic market segmentation. Our thoughtful methodology proved by a sophisticated model and input from industry experts finally helped us win the acceptance of our client.

None of us come from a consulting background so the work style was a new experience for all of us. We worked very hard every day: arrived at the office as early as 8:00am, a client meeting usually up until noon, followed by a debrief, then a lunch in front of the laptop around 2:30pm, and often left as late as 11:00pm to catch the last bus back to the hotel. Our hard work and effective team collaboration led to three well-appreciated final deliverables. Looking back, we really appreciate this experience. We pushed our limits, and cultivated friendships.

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Our Client Company

IBD-in-country provided us a great opportunity to learn the local culture. Kiwi’s are hardworking but really enjoy life. They exhibit great work life balance, have a very laid-back atmosphere, and as an aside are extremely open, friendly, and hospitable people. As a technology company, our client has an open floor office space, friendly working environment, periodic entrepreneurial speeches, and weekly community activities. Moreover, the Kiwi wine culture really impressed us! – The wine fridge, weekly wine shipment to the office, and in-office happy hour after close of business.

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Exploring NZ

NZ is in a very strange part of the world, with a big mix of natural beauty in a country the size of California. There are large snowcapped mountain ranges, lots of volcanoes and thermal activity, rolling green hills, wine country, and beaches:

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clearpoint12Everything is backwards!

 

They have a melting pot of Asian culture in Auckland that makes for delicious food everywhere:

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In all IBD was a great experience. We learned a lot of hard skills as well soft skills that will surely be very useful in our future. And we also had a lot of fun. It was a LOT of work but we are very proud of what we accomplished and glad we had this experience.