Spring Break Treks: Camels, Monks, and Business Leaders

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Nearly 200 Berkeley MBA students criss-crossed the globe over spring break in the pursuit of camel riding, finding spirituality, meeting key business leaders, and building even stronger bonds with some of their new closest friends. Spring break trekkers traveled to Israel, Japan, Cuba, and Morocco and brought back with them a wealth of new experiences. Here are some of their stories:


The five tour leaders who guided 55 travelers through Israel wanted their guests — 47 of whom had never been there before — to experience of the “reality” of the country, based on personal experience and not on the perception of the small Jewish state they get from the news. Romi and Noa Elan, Adi Rubinovich, Yaron Leyvand, and Nadav Shem-Tov, all MBA 14 — believe they accomplished just that.

On several occasions, the leaders shared personal stories, such as how relatives died while fighting in the military, or introduced their relatives to their travel mates in person. In Tel Aviv, for example, some tour leader family members manned the stations of a scavenger hunt.

The tour group visited religious sites of both Christians and Jews, walked along the Syrian border, floated in the Dead Sea, and woke up early to climb Masada.

For Elan, who grew up in Israel, seeing the country through someone else’s eyes was illuminating. While climbing Masada, one guest commented, “This is the coolest thing ever.”

“Just hearing that about these things that I had taken for granted was amazing,” Elan says.

The tour group also visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, which Elan thought showed the students “the context for the state of Israel and why some policies may seem so strict.” The group also spoke with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, a former businessman who got his start by co-founding a high-tech antivirus software company. “He laid out governing in business terms,” Elan says, “and how he intends to solve the issues of Jerusalem.”


Fifty-six Haas students traveled to Japan during spring break and toured the cities of Hiroshima, Kyoto, Atami, and Tokyo.

Highlights included waking early to listen to the holy sutras, living as monks do at the Buddhist temple in Mount Koya, and dining on vegetarian delicacies.

Ryo Itoh, MBA 15, helped lead the tour, which he described as a mixture of “culture, fun, andbusiness.” The group also visited a Toyota plant and Softbank, one of the largest telecom companies, and the atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima.

While everyone was really “cooperative,” getting 50-plus people on a bullet train in a one-minute window was a logistical challenge, Itoh says. So were some food allergies, which the group remedied by writing up cards with food instructions in Japanese to bring to restaurants.

In Tokyo, some students enjoyed a one-night homestay in which they were picked up by a Japanese host family and enjoyed an evening with a local family.

The trip concluded with a final dinner of more than 70 people, including Haas alumni in Japan and recent admits for the class of 2016.


Eleven Haasies traveled to Cuba for the spring break, where they took in a lively salsa show in the colonial city of Trinidad, and half the group woke up early to trek to a secluded waterfall.

Brad Malt, Paul Cole, Matt Richards and Billy Blaustein, all MBA 15, even jumped off a 40-foot cliff into a swimming hole at the base of the waterfall. “It was really cool and definitely a highlight of the trip,” Malt says.

The students received one credit for an independent study called “Innovation in a Closed Economy,” looking at how the recent changes and loosening of restrictions are affecting Cubans. The MBA students had lunch with a Cuban veteran who worked closely with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and shared his perspective on the embargo, recent changes, and how they are affecting Cubans.

The group also came to Cuba with two dozen baseballs and hats donated by the Cal baseball team to hand out to Cubans, who were grateful for the American gifts. On the students’ drive to the Bay of Pigs, Malt said they spotted a baseball field in town and pulled over for an impromptu pickup game. They didn’t have a bat, so a local Cuban lent them a partially broken wooden one. As they played, more and more townspeople came either to watch or to join the game.

“It was one of the more memorable experiences of my life,” Malt says.


The Morocco trip started off small, with five people asking to tag along as Moulay Driss Belkebir Mrani, MBA 15, planned a visit to his homeland. In the end, Mrani ended up leading 66 people through Essaouria, Marrakech, Ouarzazate and the desert of Zagora.

The group enjoyed sightseeing, shopping, and camel riding, but there was also a purposeful business angle weaved into the trip. Mrani took the group to meet the CEO of the OCP Group, otherwise known as Office Cherifien des Phosphates, the world’s largest phosphates exporters and Morocco’s largest corporation. . “We had lunch and discussed the future of the fertilizers industry and the impact on farming in the world,” Mrani says.

The group also visited a mining complex and the site of a new university and met with a woman’s cooperative, where they learned about oil production.

One of the most memorable parts of the trek was the road trip to the desert in Zagora. There, under the stars, the group listened to tribal songs, lit a huge camp fire, and smoked in the “hookah corner.”

For Mrani, one of the greatest aspects of the trek was showing his country to his peers and re-discovering it himself.

“When you spend a week day and night with people, you get to know them better,” he said. “And to be in the desert in the middle of nowhere, in tents with food and music … Well, it was surreal and pretty amazing.”

India Day 2 – Medical Innovations by Apollo Hospitals

This article was contributed by Haas student Helen Cai and Haas intern Micah Sanders.

The Haas Group is warmly welcomed by the village’s school children.

The Haas Group is warmly welcomed by village schoolchildren.

It is Jan. 4, 2014, Day Two of the UGBA193i Travel Study course. The day started off bright and early: Everyone met in the lobby and piled into the bus at 5:30 a.m., ready for the 4-hour drive ahead to the Aragonda Village in the Chittoor District. Professor Solomon Darwin had arranged a visit for the students to the village on the outskirts of Bangalore to observe the work of Apollo Hospitals, one of the largest health care groups in Asia, in rural India. They drove across state borders and saw beautiful sights such as the Indian sunrise, monkeys climbing on trees, and twin mountains in the countryside. Accompanying the Haas group today were senior managers of Apollo Hospital, as well as the son of Apollo Hospital’s CEO, Dr. Umapathy.

Around 10:00 a.m. Professor Darwin and the students were greeted by the president of the village. She has been in office for the past six months, winning her election with over two-thirds of the popular vote, and is also actively involved in providing water for the entire town. The technology of the water purification system has greatly improved since she was elected; it is now able to process 1,000 liters of water per hour. After seeing the facilities for water provision, the group of students arrived at the chairman of Apollo Hospital’s guesthouse. They were able to see the contrast between different standards of living both within the village and compared this to their own Western lifestyles.

They first visited AIVN, the elementary school funded by the chairman of Apollo Hospitals, Dr. Reddy. The Haas group was showered with kind notes, flowers, and friendly waves from the students at the school, who ranged from pre-kindergarten to 5th grade. The kids were so adorable; no one could resist smiling and introducing themselves. Seeing the pristine setting as well as the quality of education really impressed the Haas students and showed the extent of the chairman’s commitment to education as a solution to various rural community problems. The visit concluded in a flag-raising ceremony and the Indian national anthem.

Next, the students traveled a short distance to the local Apollo Hospital clinic, which provides free operations and examinations that are worth between 3000-5000 Rupees. The students saw the long lines of people waiting for care, demonstrating the importance of the hospital in village life. They participated in a video-conference with Dr. Reddy, who spoke passionately about working for a purpose you find enjoyable—he himself was a cardiologist before heading Apollo Hospitals and continues to work every day to create meaningful change.

india-telemedicineStudents saw open innovation in action when they observed a real-time telemedicine conference with an Apollo Hospital doctor and 25-year-old military man who was experiencing arthritis and swelling in his fingers and feet. He was diagnosed with chikungunya fever and prescribed a typical solution: steroid injection. The entire exchange took place with a nurse practitioner explaining the patient’s case and statistics to the doctor, who was then able to provide his counsel, to be administered by the nurse, within a 15-30 minute time period. The doctor explained how this cost-effective nature of telemedicine allowed for more frequent appointments with patients and had all but replaced regular patient care in rural areas. Patients wanted in-person care, but were usually convinced by being able to see the doctor on a more regular basis. During the entire process, students were joined by the president of the village and a doctor and administrator of the hospital.

One main point of telemedicine that was emphasized is that the doctor only needs a nurse on the other side of the camera to administer any treatments. Apollo Hospitals has set up a school of nursing in Aragonda as well, which provides training and is currently compiling a database of medical records for the 7000+ villagers by going directly to their homes and educating them.

The Haas group boarded the bus for the long ride back with a greater understanding of the medical challenges many Indians face.

Haas Undergrads Head to India for New Course – Day 1

This blog post was written with the assistance of Haas intern Micah Sanders.

Haas students greet local children in India.

Haas students greet local children in India.

For more than three years, Erika Walker, executive director of the Haas Undergraduate Program,  and Solomon Darwin, associate director of Haas’ Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, have carefully planned and strategized on a travel study course in India. Their goals: to expose students to unique learning opportunities not available in a traditional classroom and to encourage global thinking. Their dedication finally paid off this year as UGBA193i, the open innovation course for emerging economies, kicked off in Bangalore earlier this month.

The three-unit course is taking 25 students to local and multinational companies in India, including IBM, SAP, Philips, Xerox, and General Electric and Selco, Idiom, and Apollo Hospitals. Students are mentoring Indian youth, helping them build and develop business models for their business ideas. The students are staying in Bangalore, also known as the Silicon Valley of India.

Upon their return in California, groups of five students will begin consulting projects with eight clients to provide strategic recommendations for transforming the companies’ existing business models.

Before heading to Bangalore on Jan. 2, Darwin provided students with a comprehensive overview of open innovation—and the differences in how it works in the U.S. and emerging economies. Darwin introduced the Hindi-Urdu term jugaad, which he said means frugal in English. According to Darwin, students will learn to practice jugaad innovation in India, where resources are constrained and the market has less disposable income. Unlike the margin-centric focus of American companies, emerging markets look at sales volume.

India – Day 1

Rakesh Singh

Rakesh Singh, MBA 95, general manager of Citrix India,

Before corporate visits at Xerox and IDIOM, alumnus Rakesh Singh, MBA 95, general manager of Citrix India, gave students an overview of India’s business and socioeconomic landscape and welcomed students on behalf of the Haas Alumni Network in Bangalore.

Singh noted there are more than 800 companies booming in Bangalore’s IT industry right now. Innovations in technology such as the Internet and other forms of media have made corruption less difficult to track, causing the Indian population to mobilize and create new political parties to produce real change, he said. And in education, the Indian people, young adults especially, are increasingly becoming more aware and convinced of the significance of literacy. His talk underscored the huge role that innovation plays in all aspects of India’s progress and Indian markets.

Xerox Visit

Despite a $1.5 billion R&D budget, students learned that Xerox is focusing on a business innovation model that is geared towards jugaad or frugal innovation, which means innovating out of necessity in the most efficient and least costly ways possible.

After outlining examples of innovation in parking, transportation, and health care, Xerox explained how open innovation might be applied in banking in India, which suffers from unorganized business models, cultural taboos, and customer misunderstandings. Xerox developed a more open business model that included rural areas in which it was able to lower the cost of opening a bank account by 50 times and cut waiting time from three days to only 10 to 30 minutes.


Students learn about DREAM:IN at IDIOM.

Students learn about DREAM:IN at IDIOM.

IDIOM, a design and consulting firm based in India that incubates business ideas and ideas for societal transformation, told students about their startup program called DREAM:IN.  The founders of DREAM:IN, a nonprofit, saw that many Indians knew how to take advantage of circumstances, but only a few were able to maximize their opportunities. Thus, the company teaches people ways to innovate based on their dreams and goals by making better use of assets at their disposal. While DREAM:IN’s target audience are the less educated, the nonprofit is mobilizing young people to innovate and create new jobs through entrepreneurship.

Despite all the talk about innovation, students decided to wrap up their night with a familiar American culinary experience: McDonald’s.

A group shot of the Haas undergraduates at McDonald's in Bangalore.

A group shot of the Haas undergraduates at McDonald’s in Bangalore.

Haas Community Connects in Philippines

By Haas junior Sean Go, BS 15, an international student from the Philippines

Haas Event in Philippines

Throughout the academic year, Cal students—especially those in Haas—network regularly. Sometimes it’s within the context of a social club, other times it’s in the formal setting of a company information session. In many instances, making a new friend is its own reward. In other situations, social capital can be deployed in the future to gain a competitive advantage in securing anything from first-round interviews to corporate deals. In all cases, these relationships are mutually beneficial for the parties involved.

In keeping with this spirit, Cal alumnus Eric Tomacruz, BS 89, MS 91, PhD 94 (all engineering),  and Haas junior Sean Go, BS 15, organized a Cal reunion for Filipino UC Berkeley students and alumni on Jan. 3, 2014, in Makati City, Philippines.

The event was held in Milky Way Café, a local hotspot professionals in the bustling business district visit frequently for its homey ambience and diverse Filipino cuisine. The dishes served included native favorites Lechong Kawali, Bistek Tagalog, and Adobong Kangkong. Diversity also manifested itself through the 20-plus alumni and students who attended, with graduation years ranging from 1969 to 2015.

On the alumni side, there were doctors, dermatologists, professors, venture capitalists, investment bankers, and business owners. While their career paths have turned out to be very different, the alumni shared an enthusiasm for all things Cal. Throughout the event, they recollected their university experiences – from first Bancroft Clothing purchases to last Big Games. Yet, they also learned about each other and how their education led them to their positions today.

On the student side, there were business, economics, architecture, geography, and undeclared majors, all eager to share their experiences and give updates on academic, social, and campus life.

At the end of the day, the event was more than just a networking function, it was a great way to rekindle old friendships and create new ones. Today, Cal is a globally recognized institution known for its academic rigor and reputation for propelling graduates to successful careers. Many alumni clubs across the United States, Europe, and Asia are active in maintaining, nurturing, and expanding their alumni networks. Tomacruz and Go hope this initial Cal reunion can help the Philippines start an alumni community and eventually learn from the existing alumni networking models across the world.

Disruptions with #SFOEmergency en route to Shanghai

Team Thermo-Fisher was due to travel to Shanghai this weekend.  We each had different itineraries: some from the East Coast, others planned to arrive earlier to see the city.

My plans had me on flight UA857 from SFO-PVG (Shanghai Pudong) departing at 1.45pm, Saturday Jul 6.  I spent a lazy Saturday morning with my family, with a leisurely drive to the airport at around noon.

Heading north on Highway 101, we noticed a thick plume of black smoke to the north as we passed Millbrae. As we turned into the airport, we saw that there was a plane on fire on the runway – yikes!  I rechecked the flight schedule: yes, all the flights were still “ON TIME”.  Passengers were still streaming into the airport and there was no indication that schedules were amiss.  The only news I found was a Twitter post stating that an Air Asiana plane had crashed.

As I checked in, the United agent was unaware that there was a major emergency on the runway.  “We’re the last to hear about this!”)  The TSA agents were discharging their duties and duly screening every passenger carefully.

TV screen broadcasting details of Air Asiana flight 214 crash in San Francisco airport.

TV screen broadcasting details of Air Asiana flight 214 crash at San Francisco airport.

When I got to the airline lounge, I noticed that all the planes were stationary outside the window.  There were no takeoffs or landings.  The lounge windows faced north, so I did not have a view of the accident.  No matter: all TV screens were now broadcasting a live feed of the accident with lots of commentary but little information.

Our prayers and thoughts were with the passengers and crew of Asiana 214.  One family exclaimed that this was their alternate flight (yes, Ms Sandberg was not the only one who nearly caught this flight) from  Seoul to San Francisco.  Unlike other delays, there was little complaining or frustration – it seemed as if everyone was thankful to be stuck in the airport instead of in an airplane wreckage.

Details were slow to emerge as I saw the lounge fill up with yet more  anxious passengers trying to catch their flight.  The first news and pictures came through (you guessed it) Twitter (via Path) at https://path.com/p/1lwrZb.  Fortunately, it appeared that most of the passengers managed to evacuate the airplane before it caught fire – thank God!

Then we heard flights were being redirected to nearby airports even as I watched my flight schedule being adjusted out in 30 min increments (the United flight scheduler must be optimistic)  I stood vigil at my gate with 300 other passengers, anxiously checking @FlySFO and #sfoemergency Twitter feeds.  The SFO website was down, so the web was not much help.

Finally, after 3 hours, I noticed the baggage being unloaded from my flight.  Yikes, time to make alternative plans as I frantically dialed United’s customer service hotline.

I’m now scheduled for UA857, leaving tomorrow at the same time.  Less eventful, I pray.

Improving motorcycle based healthcare in India: the conclusion


The view from a rooftop tibetan restaurant on our last night McLeod Ganj: Hanuman Ka Tibba looms over the foothills, as one of the smaller mountains in the range, it rises to a ‘mere’ 18,500 feet (5,639 m).

We made it through 3 all-too-short weeks in India.  At the end of week 2, we left Bihar and returned to Delhi.  Upon analyzing our data, we found that the Last-Mile-Outrider (LMO) motorcycle program was at a tipping point – it had been able to slowly grow in a highly competitive landscape (pharmaceutical delivery by WHP directly competes with large established incumbent pharmaceutical corporations), and needed to take decisive action in order to grow and reach a minimum self-sustaining size and achieve profitable economies of scale.


A typical Delhi street scene: The safari comes to us / Aloo Tikki, fried potato pancake with veggies and spices / traffic melees are quintessentially Indian.

Although our team generated a set of actionable recommendations for the LMO program, a part of us wanted to ‘lose’ some paper work, or perhaps a computer would crash.  This would buy us at least another week in India, a place that had begun to feel like home.  We schemed while consuming possibly unsafe amounts of Indian street food, but alas, no paper work was lost and our cloud storage actually worked for once.  Sealing our own fate, we presented our findings to the leadership at WHP.  A summary of the recommendations:

Optimize motorcycle routes by:

  • Gradually raise sales goal in order to achieve self-sustainability- Improve sales conversion rate by:* Changing the sales model from “visit & sell” to “call & deliver”

    in order to reduce non-value generating follow-up visits

    * Adapting frequency of visits based on economic order quantity

    * Reviewing outlets based on sell-trough and success of 4 verticals

    * Test more entrepreneurial approach in 1 district: let LMOs manage all

    day-to-day operations

Implement a structured hiring and training program that:

  • Incorporated structured interviews and short exams
  • Involves high-performing LMO riders in coaching and mentorship
  • Implements a mechanism for anonymous upwards feedback
Aphay Kumar, one of our favorite LMO's showing off his ride.  Note the SkyMed (WHP's brand) bag on the back!

Abhay Kumar, one of our favorite LMO’s showing off his ride.  SkyMeds (WHP’s brand) are strapped on the back!

We have high hopes for not only the LMO program, but WHP’s vision as a whole.  Their rapid prototyping approach to implementing self-sustaining, market based public health, has left a strong and positive impression on a rag-tag group of two consultants and a former military officer.  We look forward to internalizing the lessons from our project and spreading the word on WHP and the ability for small organizations to make big impacts in the world of development.

And of course, we managed to sneak in some weekend adventures.  The first weekend our team pilgrimaged to Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj, in the state of Himachal, in the foothills of the fabled Himalayas.  Dharamshala is the home of the Tibetan exile government and our experience was as if we spent a weekend in Tibet itself.

[Clockwise] Prayer wheels / monks need to stay out of the sun too / bustling downtown at sunset / the team hanging out at a snowmelt river

[Clockwise] Prayer wheels / monks need to stay out of the sun too / bustling downtown at sunset / the team hanging out at a snowmelt river 

On the second weekend, we made a pit stop at the town of Bodh Gaya, in southern Bihar, where we visited the very location that Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as Buddha, attained enlightenment over 2500 years ago.  Finally, we finished our sight-seeing with the obligatory Taj Mahal visit.

A monk from Myanmar gave us a monastery tour / leaves from the legendary Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa) / Tammy and Wolfgang ponder enlightenment in the rain

A monk from Myanmar gave us a monastery tour / leaves from the legendary Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa) / Tammy and Wolfgang ponder enlightenment in the rain

Parting shot

The guestbook at the Tibetan Exile Museum: FREE TIBET

Signing off from Sydney

Team Iconic was in Sydney, Australia working with THE ICONIC to analyze their online retail profitability by category, drawing on market research and categorical analysis to recommend best practices for category strategy.

After three weeks at THE ICONIC (among fashionistas and hardcore ex-consultants-turned-CEOs) we can honestly say we made a difference in helping the company’s profitability! In the meantime, we played as hard as we worked, as Haassies do.

THE ICONIC team after our final presentation—they loved it!

THE ICONIC team after our final presentation—they loved it!


Exploring Queensland’s wild life


Whitsunday Island’s Whitehaven Beach


Hamilton Island (no cars, only buggies!)


Alex and Albert’s Great Barrier Reef adventure

Meeting up with Haassies JT Klepp (class of '98) and Team Hong Kong (Steve & Richard) on Alexey's 30th birthday.

Meeting up with Haassies JT Klepp (class of ’98) and Team Hong Kong (Steve & Richard) on Alexey’s 30th birthday.


Some of the best food in the world (and most expensive!) Exotic? Yep!

Thanks for an unforgettable, irreplaceable experience, Haas. We learned a ton from each other, about the retail industry, financial models, market sizing, consumer insights and—especially?—client services. Our team will be bonded for life!

Risky business meets its match as team Triplejump hops, skips, and jumps through Auckland


Team Triplejump is working for a company providing human capital risk management solutions through a cloud-based platform. They want to expand the business globally and are exploring a licensing strategy for major banks and accounting firms around the world.


The Haas network remains strong even in the farthest corners of the world.  We were welcomed at the airport by ’04 alum, Ross McConnell, a Non-Executive Director at Triplejump, who served as our liaison for the project and hosted us in the New Zealand countryside for our first weekend in town.









Arrival in Auckland, New Zealand










Pukekohe, New Zealand


Following some sightseeing and a drive on the beach, we ventured into Auckland on our first night where a future member of the Haas class of 2015 joined us for dinner and drinks in the Central Business District of Auckland.



Haas Dinner at Agents & Merchants in Auckland with Ross McConnell (Haas ’04) (top center)  and Andrew Hinton (A new Haasie! Class of 2015) (top left)


We then enjoyed a traditional Kiwi roast (for the meat-eaters among us) with the team Sunday night before getting to work Monday morning.



Our Project

Since January we have been working with Triplejump, exploring expansion opportunities for their human capital risk solution.  Triplejump provides a breakthrough solution to managing human capital risk for small and medium sized enterprises and has been successful offering this solution through its franchise network in New Zealand for the past seven years.  Though successful, the franchise business model is not scalable on a global level, and Triplejump has been exploring licensing their IP to commercial banks and accounting firms which can serve as distribution networks, bringing these solutions to their clients around the world.  We have been researching a number of value propositions to the potential licensees, above and beyond the proven revenue and profitability benefits this offering would bring.  Initially we were tasked with looking into the hypothesis that there was the potential to reduce the capital reserves required by banks under Basel III, by reducing the risk of issued loans to firms which utilized human capital risk solutions. After much research and a number of interviews with industry experts in the US, we found that this was unlikely and had to change our focus.  Fortunately, our work uncovered several other potential value opportunities.  We explored those with the strongest potential value: increased cross-selling enablement, regulatory risk management, and an improved lending portfolio, but a lot remained to be uncovered in country.



Our Work in New Zealand

During our first day in the office we sat down with the CEO of Triplejump, Cecilia Farrow, who patiently answered all of our questions, brainstormed with us about our plan of attack, and provided us with much of the proprietary information we couldn’t access while were in the States.  We could not believe what one day could do for our understanding!  Later that first week we walked through the in-process minimum viable product with the head of technology, so that we had an in-depth and up-to-date understanding of the product and could get all of our technical questions answered.


working @ TJworking @ TJ 2

Hard at work in Triplejump’s headquarters


Armed with our pre-trip research and a greater understanding of Triplejump’s offering, we entered the field where we had the opportunity to interview some of Australasia’s leaders in the banking sector, including Sir Ralph Norris – former CEO of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and former CEO of Air New Zealand, John Body – Head of Private Banking at Australia New Zealand Banking Group, and several leading private bankers with Bank of New Zealand.  Through these interviews, we gained incredible insight into the perspective of our potential licensee market and validated many of our hypotheses, while also opening the door for others.


At the end of the first week we also had the opportunity to attend the annual Triplejump Advisor Conference.  Here we met with many of the current financial advisors who operate through Triplejump’s franchise network, and were able to gain a better understanding of their work from a first-hand perspective.  We also managed to have a little bit of fun at the same time!

Advisor Conference

Triplejump Advisor Conference



Sharing Our Findings

Our final day of work was filled with presenting the findings of our project – so much more in depth than we could have ever imagined just three months prior!  We began the day by presenting to some of the bankers that had shared their time with us, and who could one day benefit from licensing the Triplejump solution.  It was interesting to hear their reactions and provided valuable insight into how our work will be received by actual customers.


We then had an in-depth session with the Board of Directors.  How incredible to have the opportunity to present our work to them!  And we learned so much from their questions and comments.  It was such a great way to bring the work full circle and to see how much of it will actually be used!


presentation 1 presentation 2 presentation 3 presentation 4

Presenting our findings



Finally, we presented to the team at Clearpoint, who is developing the platform for the new system, as well as key investors.  What an incredible, whirlwind day.  It took a lot to get here but it was incredible to see all of our hard work come together and hear how much it meant for the business.



And a little Kiwi culture

On the weekends, we managed to squeeze in a little bit of fun and some Kiwi culture.  We caught dinner while fishing in Tairua, made our own mini hot tubs at the famous hot water beach in the Coromandel, witnessed the beauty and the vineyards of Waiheke Island, enjoyed even more vineyards and beaches in Omaha, saw the black sand beaches of New Zealand’s west coast, and soaked up some Maori culture at the Auckland Art Gallery.


omaha beach

The team at Omaha beach


It’s hard to believe three weeks could fly by so quickly.  We wish all the best future success to the entire team at Triplejump, and know we will see them again as I am sure we will all be back!




Team PAG-Hercules: Driving Profits in the Chinese Auto Market

Meet Team PAG-Hercules:

Thomas Ho was initially bashful about his mandarin skills since he left Taiwan 15 years ago to move to the US. Be assured, the team would have been left lost, starving and ridiculed were it not for his language skills. Sarah Swigart ensures the team gets fresh air (tough in Beijing) and exercise. When the air quality index, or “AQI,” is better than mildly unhealthy she enforces group runs and Heyrobics (Swedish exercise dance class a la Richard Simmons). Shivaun Iten is the team’s key social coordinator. She leads the charge with hot restaurants, neighborhoods and tourist attractions. She also ensures that while we travel the world, we stay in touch with national gossip of Amanda Bynes, Kardashians and other scandals. Scott Bailey has impeccably groomed facial hair and freshly pressed dress shirts that give the client a credible signal that he is a consultant. He may be a hipster on the inside, though. Scott is currently working on the Triple Crown – the epic challenge to eat fried rice at all three meals, followed by a barbequed scorpion for dessert.

Credible Signal: He's a consultant

Credible Signal: He’s a consultant

Project:  The phrase “you’re one-in-a-million” implies uniqueness and value.  However, with 1.3 billion people in China it means that you share that distinction with 1,300 others. China is a massive marketplace, and growth opportunities make it a very exciting economy. Relatively new companies can have sales volumes that dwarf the American leaders because of this population / transaction advantage. Did you know that in 2012 the Alibaba online auction platform had more transactions than Amazon and e-Bay combined ?

The automobile industry is primed for rapid growth and will be very profitable for companies who can capitalize on increasing domestic consumption spending. PAG Asia is a private equity firm with growing interests in the automotive space. A PAG portfolio company, “Hercules” (code name), is a successful financing leasing firm located in Beijing. PAG is investing in its growth and asked the Berkeley-Haas team to research operational leasing best practices and evaluate how those lessons may be applied to the Chinese market. As an industry first-mover, Hercules Leasing is primed to capture large and lucrative market share.

The team creates a custom Audi A6

The team creates a custom Audi A6

The progression of our project is largely dictated by the state of the Chinese Internet. “The internet is down today” and “you can’t Google Chinese history” are two phrases which capture the connectivity and censorship of the country. Our research has been impaired by this connectivity, and when available, we connect through UC Berkeley VPN to access IBISWorld, Bloomberg and Facebook.  For five days the team had to share one Ethernet cord for the two PC’s in our group of four people.

Deep down a quiet, deserted alley in the bustle hipster neighborhood of Beijing there is a wonderful brewery – The Great Leap Brewery. Filled with expats, there were friendly dudes playing banjos on the patio, with the locals continuing to chain-smoke in any public areas. These hearty beers were worth the seedy neighborhood. In comparison, domestic beers tend to be light and are prone to counterfeit production. Another beverage option is Miju – a fruity rice wine served in a mighty bamboo bucket. Sharing encouraged. During working hours we hydrate with Milk Tea with Pearls (“Bubble Tea”) from our favorite chain, CoCo’s. Other milk tea brands, such as “I Eat Tar” are not up to our standards.

A consultant’s lifestyle can be sedentary and unhealthy. However, Heyrobics is the exciting and fun exercise class that makes you dance, jump and sweat like crazy. Using fun music and easy-to-imitate dance moves, you get a cardio workout with intense pushups and core work as well. This style of class originated in Sweden, and the Beijing chapter is taught by Europeans (the French or Swedish accent gives an extra intensity to the orders they are yelling at you). The pink mini-shorts are also very inspiring.  Sarah and Shivaun are considering launching a California franchise.

Heyrobics: The team that sweats together, stays together.

Heyrobics: The team that sweats together, stays together.

One weekend Shivaun and Scott joined another IBD team in Hong Kong. Wanting to enjoy the blue skies which don’t exist in Beijing they went for a hike.  Bad news: they lost Michael Larcher for several hours when he took off running without a map, phone, money or keys. Good news: That afternoon, they ran into a mob of teenagers oogling over Chinese-born Korean pop-star Victoria of K-Pop. The teens were appalled that they were not familiar with this sensational personality. Ashamed, the group then bought new neon wardrobes at Uniqlo and 6 inch platform heels to better fit in. Just kidding.

Speaking of fashion, China is land of the luxury stores! On every corner, joined to every hotel, office and food court there is a plethora of high-end aspirational brands shining in its windows: Prada, Louis Vuitton, Montblac, Hermes, Rolex, etc. It was not uncommon to have multiple stores of the same franchise within a 1-mile radius. This came in handy when a 3-day trip to a client site in Shanghai turned into an 8-day affair. Shivaun and Sarah had only packed for 3 days, so they simply worked with a personal shopper at Gucci. Just put that on the expense account. Oh wait? No expense account? …shoot….

One of the four Pradas in this square kilometer

One of the four Pradas in this square kilometer

We have thus enjoyed all these diverse experiences in just one country. With an exciting 2 weeks done, we are looking forward to the unexpected adventures, more spicy noodles and our final client presentation to Hercules Leasing CEO.  Also, we hope to get a “test-sitting” with a professional driver in an Audi A6L, the preferred vehicle of Chinese government officials.

Shanghai skyline

Shanghai skyline

Franklin Templeton Team Continues Travels with Visit to Istanbul

Team Franklin Templeton is traveling through the Middle East and Eastern Europe working with Franklin Templeton, a global money manager, on a project to help better understand the business opportunities throughout their “CEEMEA” region (Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East, & Africa), and to provide a go-forward recommendation for business penetration in Israel and Turkey.

Following our 9-day visit to Israel, the Franklin Templeton IBD team traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, where we met two new business representatives who cover the region.  Our first three days in Istanbul were jam-packed as we met with financial regulators, banks, pension funds, and independent advisors.  Similar to Israel, the people here have all been so welcoming, generous with their time, and excited to speak about the opportunities they see in Turkey, one of the most exciting and fastest-growing markets in the world.

Even before we landed, it started to become clear that Turkey is a huge opportunity, in both scale and scope.  Our flight into the city gave us the first glimpse of Istanbul’s sheer size (over 13mm and growing).


Our flight took us over the heart of Istanbul and the Bosphorus – the strait that divides the European and Asian sides of the city, and one of the world’s busiest waterways

After 2 days on-the-ground, and with 8 meetings under our belt, we were in agreement that this market is ready for FT’s full attention.  Our interview questions thus shifted away from “market opportunity” and towards “market penetration” as we started to learn more about regulatory licensing, personnel, corporate structure, and capital adequacy requirements, should FT execute a local-presence plan.

Despite an intense schedule of meetings, the team was also able to appreciate some of the sights and sounds that make this such a remarkable and vibrant city.  We took a half day on Saturday to explore some of the most famous areas of Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque from afar

The Blue Mosque from afar

Inside of The Blue Mosque

Inside of The Blue Mosque


Picture inside the Hagia Sophia

We were also afforded the opportunity to taste some of the local cuisine, set amidst some of the most beautiful hillsides and waterways we have seen during our travels.

Our first evening in Istanbul, hilltop restaurant along the Bosphorus.

Our first evening in Istanbul, hilltop restaurant along the Bosphorus

Team dinner after our final meeting.

Team dinner after our final meeting

During our project work we were reminded how global the Haas and IBD network truly stretches, as our group ran across our own Dean Lyons in our hotel!  The Dean was visiting Istanbul to host an event for alumni and local business/education representatives about Innovative Leadership.   We were invited to attend and, as always, Dean Lyons’ speech was inspirational and brilliantly said.  We all really enjoyed being able to hear his thoughts and meet fellow Haas alum 6,500+ miles from Berkeley.


Dean Lyons presenting on Innovative Leadership

Even on the streets of Istanbul, we found locals wearing shirts and hats that reminded us of home.


Prior to our final meeting in Istanbul, we found a local security guard in a not-so-official security uniform

Ultimately, our mandate in Istanbul is to provide a recommendation of whether (and how) to enter the local asset management market.  As part of our project, we are to consider both the economic, political and socio-economic conditions of both Turkey and the 100 other countries in the CEEMEA region for Franklin Templeton.

While in Turkey, we were witness to a bit of the recent political unrest, a condition that has been absent for many years.  In seeing the citizens’ demonstrations against certain restrictive government policies, we were reminded that the business opportunities that come from entering an emerging market also come with a set of risks.  These risks are different in each of the countries we are evaluating, but are at the heart of what justifies our project.  Naturally this makes providing a thoughtful recommendation critical, and uniquely challenging, for each market.

The city center where citizens congregated to protest select government policies

The city center where citizens congregated to protest select government policies

Ultimately, our group is very excited about the opportunities we found here in Turkey.  As we work toward our final presentation, to be delivered on Thursday to FT’s local executives in Dubai, we must develop a thorough and high-impact recommendation.  Our presentation will help position FT in this rapidly growing economy and pave the way for FT to be a market-leading money manager as Turkey’s global economic position continues to rise.