Updates from IBD South Africa – Team African School for Excellence

EWMBA students Susan Hseih, Melissa Tsang, Cameron Passmore, and Kate DeLeo worked with African School for Excellence, a non-profit organization based in South Africa.

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Johannesburg, South Africa

7:15am Breakfast

Our guesthouse in Melville, Life on 3rd, serves breakfast every weekday morning from 7-9am. There is a self-serve selection of cereals, yogurt, fruit, and toast, along with coffee, tea, and juice. Once we’ve settled into “our table”, one of the women who work there (Lydia, Beulla, or Blessings) will come and take our “hot breakfast” order. So far, every day has been an offering of eggs, bacon, and mushrooms. Between our group, we’ve had the eggs almost every way conceivable — scrambled, fried, hard boiled, an in an omelette. One day we’ll have to ask for them poached. The information booklet in our rooms says that the breakfast offering runs the gamut from American to traditional South African. Five days in we are yet to see an option other than eggs, bacon, and mushrooms. Regardless, the food is tasty and is a great way to begin our days.

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8:00am Pickup

Our client, Jay Kloppenberg, the co-founder of ASE, comes to pick us up after breakfast. We are heading to the flagship school in Tsakane, a township about 40 minutes southeast of Johannesburg. The site is remote and there is no good way for us to get there ourselves, so we appreciate his hospitality. Even though it is winter break, there is a holiday program called Accelerate running at the school to recruit students for the following year, and Jay continues to have meetings on site as well. As we head further and further out of JoBurg, the roads are becoming more and more remote. When we turn off the highway onto the road into the township, it feels as if we are in a different world. Paved roads turn into dirt streets and it seems as though the entire community is milling about. As it turns out, the unemployment rate in the area is nearly 80% so majority of the community remains close to home every day. Most see their children’s education as their single opportunity to employment, which adds a deeper appreciation as to the symbolism of the school as we enter the school grounds.

9:00am – 1:00pm African School for Excellence (ASE) visit

We arrive at the school and are the only car there. The school looks empty, and we are not even sure if anyone is there. Not long after we park, the head of school, Berkia Banda, comes out to greet us and asks to have a word with Jay in private. We later learn that Mr. Banda had just gotten off the phone with a Grade 8 scholar whose father has just passed away. This interaction serves to remind us that while the school is an oasis to the students and community, it cannot overcome all the ills that the students face.

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We are then greeted by four Grade 9 scholars who are at school over their break to help out mentor students in the Accelerate program. Jay asks them to show us around, and the eight of us head down the hill toward the school. As they begin the tour, teaching us about the school and sharing personal anecdotes about their favorite classes and teachers, we naturally break off into pairs, each of us taking our own route throughout the school with our personal guide-peaking into classrooms and exploring the library.

Once the official tours end, we start having personal sessions with teachers and students. Topics range from how everyone became involved with ASE to the plot of a novel that one scholar is writing to how to say “hello” in the language that another scholar invented. The one message that reverberates across each conversation is everyone’s love of the school. The feeling is palpable and contagious.

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2:00pm Lunch

When we arrive back in Melville, we pick up some salads downtown to supplement leftovers from last night’s dinner. We had ventured to a neat little restaurant called Ant Cafe, recommended to us by Bernard, the owner of our guesthouse. The food was great, but we severely misjudged the portions and ended up with more food than could fit on the table. But it was nothing that couldn’t be solved by some creative combining…of a chair placed at the end of our table to hold the excess. Needless to say, we didn’t finish it all. As an added bonus, a local overheard our conversation about our upcoming weekend trip to Cape Town as we were waiting for our food and shared her insider knowledge of the best restaurants and trails to try as a “thank you” for our work in the community!

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3:00pm Work Session

We eat lunch back in the guesthouse courtyard before heading into the boardroom to do some work. “Boardroom” may be a slightly misleading term. It consists of a table in an indoor/outdoor room. Fortunately, it has power, heat, and wifi. Sort of. Despite showing full connectivity, there are pockets of time where the internet slows to a crawl. The effect on our progress on our slides for Monday’s mid-trip meeting with Jay is drastic, but it gives us time to test out the whiteboard. It turns out that “whiteboard” is also a misleading term. We learn too late that what we thought was a whiteboard easel is in fact just an easel without paper loaded on, and the dry erase marker is a Crayola. At least we’ve left our mark.

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6:00pm Break

We take a brief break from work to retreat to our rooms before dinner. We have adjoining rooms with two single beds in each. The rooms are cozy and although we’re in Africa, we are appreciative of the heating system and heated blankets in our rooms. We quickly check the WhatsApp stream that we share with our fellow EWMBA students who are in country to check on the progress of our colleagues across the world. After sending a quick update to the group and to our friends and families back home, we order an Uber – which luckily enough for us is operates in Johannesburg (one of three cities served across South Africa!) and file out to dinner.

7:00pm Outing with ASE team

During one of our weekly calls while we were still in Berkeley, we told Jay that we wanted to take some of his team out to get to know them and to show our appreciation. He ended up picking a spot nearby that we had read about in a few travel books and were curious to try. The reviews were an interesting juxtaposition of a “not to be missed” restaurant and a dive bar.

We arrive with Jay to meet two members of his team that were supposed to already be there. A quick sweep of the place doesn’t show them, and the hostess tells us they are actually preparing for a large group so there might not be space for us. We are making our way to the door, assuming they’ve gone elsewhere, when Jay, who is on the phone with the others in our group, says “What? The secret room?”. Before he’s off the phone, our hostess starts walking towards some occupied tables, indicating we should follow. She goes between them and reaches out to the floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases against the wall, opening a hidden door to this aptly-named secret room.

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Over wine, tisers and barbecue ribs, we begin to relax in the informal atmosphere where we get to truly know everyone. The one founder shares his background and love of education as well as some of his favorite stories from his students. The other shares her personal struggles to get through college and how her family has helped drive her success. The others share how much they truly care about and love the students, underscoring just the students reliance on the teachers for strength is a two-way street. We are all sorry to have the night come to a close.

10:30pm Arrive back at our guesthouse

We reflect on the fun night on our way back but have to admit that we’re somewhat relieved to be heading to bed. We typically cap the night off with one final text message to our loved ones back west before either turning to a book or quickly turning on the TV, which seems to consistent primarily of bad U.S. movies from the 90’s (or earlier). While it’s been a long day, we’re excited for the adventures to come tomorrow!

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Updates from IBD China – Team CreditEase

Berkeley-Haas Evening & Weekend MBA students Jason Eaves, William Huang, Arthur Ng, and Harish Srinivasan participated in a summer IBD project in Beijing, China with CreditEase’s P2P Online Lending platform Yirendai.

First week in country

The team received a warm welcome from the clients during our first day visit at the Yirendai office. We presented the day of arrival presenation to the Yirendai CFO (Dennis Cong, Berkeley-Haas EWMBA Alumnus) and the senior management team. Our client had also arranged meetings for us with other CreditEase departments on Tuesday, which included Wealth Management, Personal Loans and Risk Management. To fully understand the internet finance industry in China, we performed personal interviews with our clients, industry experts and end-users. Our team members were able to obtain several good insights which helped us identify opportunites for Yirendai to further improve their marketing, operations, product development and business development functions.

First day of arrival lunch with clients at the Yirendai office (Chaoyang District, Beijing)

First day of arrival lunch with clients at the Yirendai office (Chaoyang District, Beijing)

LendIt Group Dinner with CEO of CreditEase Mr. Ning Tang (Restaurant 1949, Beijing)

LendIt Group Dinner with CEO of CreditEase Mr. Ning Tang (Restaurant 1949, Beijing)

Mobile Finance and Online P2P Lending in China

We were very fortunate to be physically in Beijing to attend the 2015 China Mobile Finance Conference/LendIt China with our clients during the first week of our in-country work. With a growing mobile user base, China has elevated the use of mobile services and online P2P platforms to include services such as mobile payments, Internet finance, transportation, home renovation, and lodging.

The LendIt conference featured several guest speakers and panelists including executives from leading Chinese mobile and P2P lending companies, representatives from P2P regulatory associations, and executives from U.S. P2P lending companies/ including Ron Suber from Prosper and Jeremy Todd from Orchard Capital. All speakers offered their key insights on the growing Chinese P2P market and the steps that need to be taken in order to continue the momentum. After the conference day, our client invited us to an intimate dinner with their leadership team and the US executives where we had the opportunity to network and learn more about global P2P trends directly from the top experts in the field.

2015 Mobile Finance International Summit/LendIt China (National Conventional Center, Beijing)

2015 Mobile Finance International Summit/LendIt China (National Conventional Center, Beijing)

Taste of China

With such a large population and so much cultural diversity, Beijing had not only the traditional northern cuisines, but also a good variety of regional foods from all over China.

Peking Duck- the signature dish of Beijing

Peking Duck- the signature dish of Beijing

We are very fortunate to have worked with Kelly Zheng (Corporate Strategist for CreditEase), who kindly took us to several specialty restaurants for dinner, even after a long day of work. The cultural experience of Chinese dining certainly surprised us and some of the foods were also quite challenging to eat.

Team dinners with our client (Kelly Zheng) at traditional Beijing style restaurants

Team dinners with our client (Kelly Zheng) at traditional Beijing style restaurants

Culture, History, and Art of China

As China has emerged to become a major economic power – with annual double digit growth rates – it is easy to overlook its heritage in light of the modernization happening throughout the country. While there are countless office buildings and skyscrapers under construction in the city center, China’s rich culture has remained at the foundation of its rapid forward progress. While in-country we took some time to visit historical sites and experience the performing arts.

Chinese “Face Change” performance originated from the Szechuan province

Chinese “Face Change” performance originated from the Szechuan province

The Great Wall of China, just outside of Beijing

The Great Wall of China, just outside of Beijing

Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty Emperor located in Beijing

Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty Emperor located in Beijing

Final Thoughts

Despite only two weeks of in-country work, our team was deeply immersed in the local business culture, food, and way of life. We observed that Chinese financial technology firms can have ambitious goals while having fun at the same time. During the process of coming up with recommendations, we leveraged the strengths of each team member and used the frameworks we learned at Haas. In our final presentation, we introduced our Berkeley-Haas innovation process to Yirendai’s executive management team and got positive feedback on our strategic recommendations related to brand awareness, net promoter score, partnerships, innovation process, and data strategy.

Berkeley-Haas IBD China Team presented CAL gear to the Yirendai management team

Berkeley-Haas IBD China Team presented CAL gear to the Yirendai management team

Updates from IBD Ghana – Team Reach for Change

EWMBA students Michael Fitch, Wei Kwan, and Nachiket Torwekar spent their Summer IBD project working with Reach for Change in Accra, Ghana.

A Day in the Life of the Ghana IBD Team

Our group of three was assigned to consult for Reach for Change, a Swedish based social impact incubator that primarily focuses on improving the lives of children and young adults.  They were founded as the non-profit arm of the Swedish investment company Kinnevik group.  Reach for Change currently operates in 16 nations worldwide, with a six locations in Africa.  We were assigned to work for the program office in Accra, Ghana which also housed the management team for the entire African continent.

The Reach for Change office had just recently moved from the Osu area of Accra to the North Industrial Area, known for recycling plans and factories for large corporations.  The office is housed in a newly remodeled building that is still partially vacant but had the great benefit of having a full restaurant as one of their tenants, which is where we had a majority of our meals.  The Reach for Change team had arranged accommodations for us at a local hotel, The Swan Hotel, which was located about 10-15 minutes away from the office by foot.  It was really nice to be able to walk to the office on a daily basis.

7:45 Gather at the Hotel Lobby

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We started the day with some friendly competition to keep ourselves honest. We then took a short walk to the office which was around six blocks away. The mini market workers knew Mike’s name by day three and called out to him every time we walked by. We passed the Qodesh on our way – the largest branch of Lighthouse International in Accra.  Since the addressing system in Ghana is unusable, street names have no meaning since no one uses them, the Qodesh was the landmark we used to help our taxi drivers navigate back to our hotel or to the office.

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8:00 Walk to the Office

Breakfast at La Galette

Breakfast at La Galette

The office is in the same building as a local eatery, that serves “continental” cuisine which meant they served a mix of Italian, Ghanaian, and Lebanese food.  We ate many of our meals including all of our breakfasts here.  The omelet and coffee collection is very good and makes for a great breakfast.  We were regulars by our third day and the staff remembered what our standard order was. We were usually the first customers there and the music started playing only when we walked in.  Given that there were not many food choices nearby other than sidewalk stalls with street food, this was a lifesaver for us on more than one occasion.

9:00 Arrive in the R4C Office

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The Reach for Change office was relatively modern with most necessities available including the very crucial AC system.  We were offered a conference room on the second floor where we worked, brainstormed and presented our findings. The staff stopped by once in a while and chatted with us, gave us information and constant feedback as we progressed on our project.  One added benefit was that there was a mango lady in the area that came by everyday to the door and sold delicious mangoes for around four cedi.

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10:00 Taxi Negotiations

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Around 10, it was the time for the first meeting of the day. The taxis are the main modes of travel within the city. They were freely available but required bargaining since the fares are not regulated by the government and each driver sets his own market rate.  We got pretty good at bargaining by the second day but someone from the Reach for Change staff occasionally helped us out and got us a better deal since foreign rates are still higher than the rate for locals.

11:00 Meeting a change leader

Kaneshi Market

A Change Leader is a social entrepreneur that is funded by Reach for Change that is devoted to a social cause that directly impacts the lives of children and young adults.  We met change leaders in various environments – rural areas, garages, modern office spaces and even in a warehouse in the busiest market in the city. Visiting Change Leaders on-site actually gave us a better picture of the fundamental issues they were dealing with. We typically interviewed the Change Leaders for an hour and also got their feedback on the financial tool-kits that we had prototyped.

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2:00 Partner meeting

We tried to understand the ecosystem that Reach For Change operated in by meeting with all the players including: competitors, partners, other entrepreneurs and Change Leaders.  The partner meetings with UNICEF and VIASAT1 (#1 local TV channel) were extremely helpful in helping us understand what the partners were looking for in the relationship.  Most people we encountered seemed really interested to talk to us and gave candid responses.

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4:00 Back to office and to the drawing boards

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We usually got back to office prior to calling it a night for one last round of discussion the the day’s events and consolidated the findings from our interviews.  We revisited our hypothesis and prepped for the next day’s sessions. The Reach for Change staff would stop by and ask about our day, very eager to hear what we found out.  We then headed back to the hotel in anticipation of heading out for the night to blow some steam.

7:00 Night life @Republic

Live African music at The Republic

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Most of our nights ended with chilling at local bars and cafes. The Republic was a favorite with its street side setting, signature drinks and appetizers.  The Republic is the most popular venue for expats, foreigner and locals to gather in the evening.  We encountered key people from one of the local Hubs on a regular basis at the Republic, which goes to show the power of networking over drinks and food in Ghana.  Live bands and DJs are part of the regular entertainment line up and Friday and Saturday nights are the most lively.  Interestingly enough we were joined by our clients on most of the nights out which enabled us to build a stronger working relationship with them.

The days flew by in a jiffy. We met a lot of inspiring people who were very forthcoming with information and treated us very well. We made many new connections and good friends. The three of us bonded a lot through the tough days and the laid back evenings.  Most importantly, each day we spent there broadened our views and enriched our lives.  We walked away with a profound sense of appreciation for what the organization aims to do amidst a shrinking pool of resources for the Change Leaders.  The Change Leaders drive and sense of mission towards children was admirable.  We were touched by all the stories we heard that inspired each Change Leader to be dedicated towards their cause.  We leave Ghana with a sense of accomplishment knowing that our project has put Reach for Change a step closer towards their goal of helping Change Leaders create more impact in the lives of needy children.

Updates from IBD United Kingdom – Team RIU

IBD London: A Developed Country assignment doesn’t protect you from uncertainty, chaos, and self transformation

EWMBA students Arun Arunagiri, Ben Kagonyera, Sharon Kam, and Pavithra Krishna spent two weeks researching the feasibility of a startup budget hotel investment in Central London for a group of investors.

Hi!  We’re team RIU — an enthusiastic bunch hailing from the US, India, and Uganda!

Brainstorming in country, from L-R: Pavi, Sharon, Ben, & Arun. T-E-A-M spells TEAM :D

Brainstorming in country, from L-R: Pavi, Sharon, Ben, & Arun. T-E-A-M spells TEAM :D

We’re a diverse team who had never met each other prior to the IBD course, but working together came very smoothly almost immediately since we all had the same goals in mind — to work together harmoniously and to do the best job for our client.  We also were brought together by the fact that we knew that the most valuable asset from this class would be the insights and perspectives from each other.

In our super tiny hotel elevator!  It’s amazing we had enough space to take a #selfie!

In our super tiny hotel elevator! It’s amazing we had enough space to take a #selfie!

Getting to know each other and the client was pretty easy — we sought to help our client develop a business plan to enter the budget hotel market in Central London.  In reviewing the research, though, we were overwhelmed with the amount of information and the depth of our ignorance — ARR / RevPar / ADR — what were all these terms and, more importantly, how could we master our knowledge to bring something thoughtful and meaningful to our clients?

Day of arrival presentation & Hypothesis pivot

Meeting up with our clients after work in one of London’s few “al fresco” patios

Meeting up with our clients after work in one of London’s few “al fresco” patios

What a pleasure it was to meet our clients in person!  For the first full comprehensive presentation of our initial findings, our client set up a meeting with several of his contacts, including a hedge fund investor and the Head of Business Development for Four Seasons Europe.  Given our position in Silicon Valley and our preliminary research, we were able to provide some insightful commentary on the impact of the shared economy and potential impact of AirBnb.  Our core studies helped determine and analyze key metrics to focus on with regard to supply and demand metrics and how it would impact the potential markets for hotels and hospitality.

Our financial analysis of the current business model, however, remained unclear.  Given the high prices of real estate in London, would our client be able to overcome the required hurdle rates for them and their investors?

Pics or it didn’t happen!  Photos of our team with industry thought leaders in the hotel & hospitality industries

Pics or it didn’t happen! Photos of our team with industry thought leaders in the hotel & hospitality industries

Our first conversations in a pub in central London would shape the research in the ensuing days, which included touring dozens of hotel rooms in targeted areas and interviewing hotel managers, owners, research analysts and industry experts.  Our days of research and interviewing were intense, exhausting, as well as exhilarating — we were able to meet and interview and learn from a variety of perspectives and personalities amongst one of the most diverse cities in the world.

A collage of but a few of the many hotels we investigated in our research of London hotelling

A collage of but a few of the many hotels we investigated in our research of London hotelling

But in tandem with our research was the opportunity to learn more about London as tourists — for three of us it was the first time venturing into Europe!  We got to partake in cultural events such as watching the sunset from the London Eye, enjoying high tea, and enjoying some of the best chicken we’d had in a city notorious for the lack of food options.

What a view!  Beautiful sunset panoramas from the London Eye

What a view! Beautiful sunset panoramas from the London Eye

There’s no business like High tea business @ Sketch all you can eat & drink!

There’s no business like High tea business @ Sketch all you can eat & drink!

At the end of our research, at day 9, we’d finally come to some difficult, but conclusive insights.  First and foremost, the London market would not sustain profits necessary to attract investors and necessary returns for the proposed budget hotel model.  While the term “pivoting” on an original idea is one that is thrown around pretty often in Silicon Valley, it presented an intimidating challenge halfway through our in-country experience.  Feeling somewhat deflated, many questions circled our team at this tenuous juncture: how could we pivot in a way that could reframe the proposal into one that would work for our client?  Given this initial setback, could we reconcile what we’d done out of country to the expectations in country?  In light of time that was passing faster and faster, how could we help the client get the most of our time?  Getting to know the clients better and seeing them not just as clients, but as real people who we wanted to help only increased the sense of urgency of the task at hand.

The remaining days we saw our directives and work change as a team to meet the uncertainty of the work before us.  We learned to fully trust and depend on each other.  We learned to recognize that obstacles were inevitable, but that together we could work through them.  Most importantly, we learned that we could come together as a team more strongly than we could produce individually.

The final presentation

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It took days of additional research, late nights, and a relentless search for truth, (which harked back to the initial “Viking” experiment we had in class, which implored us to focus not on all information, but rather the most pertinent information).  We presented in front of our clients and a leading industry analyst in the hotel and hospitality space on our final insight findings and how the client could re-approach their investments in the hospitality sector to achieve a richer return that would satisfy their initial return requirements.  This discussion led to a final reframe of approach, and we celebrated as a group at the end of our two weeks over dinner and a beautiful walk through London with our client and their families.

Farewell London -- a walk to remember :)

Farewell London — a walk to remember :)

 

Updates from IBD Hungary – Team SMark

Taking Unique Anti-Counterfeiting Technology To The Global Market

Jonathan Chen, Ryan Liu, Taylor Marcus and Kati Pease

Our team arrived to Hungary on July 5 to develop a go-to-market strategy with SMark, a Hungarian startup with a state-of-the-art anti-counterfeiting solution. Our client wanted us to be able to celebrate Independence Day, so we arrived to a barbecue complete with decorative napkins. Over the following two weeks, we continued to enjoy similar Hungarian hospitality. We were continually shown new things and treated to many great things Hungary offers while working together to develop their marketing plan.

The Haas and SMark team upon arrival

The Haas and SMark team upon arrival

Our Fourth of July BBQ in Hungary!

Our Fourth of July BBQ in Hungary!

The SMark and Haas team kicked off the first morning with a deepdive of the unique anti-counterfeiting technology in order to better understand where to focus when going to market. SMark is an irreproducible authentication solution that transparently and immediately checks authenticity. The state-of-the-art solution uses security labels and verification devices. It was helpful to meet SMark’s engineering leads in-person to dive into the product overview and discuss details.

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Meeting with the SMark team to understand the technology of their product.

Meeting with the SMark team to understand the technology of their product.

Following the meeting, we took some time to visit a neighboring national park in Szilvásvárad for team bonding. We went on a hike, which included feeding deer and taking a short train ride.

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Team-building hike through the park.

Team-building hike through the park.

We presented our project overview to a broad audience that included SMark employees, inventors, investors and potential investors. There was a translator for those who preferred Hungarian, so our team made efforts for our statements to be as concise and as jargon-free as possible. To permit for translation, we would pause numerous times on each slide, which ultimately felt like a welcomed opportunity to develop our own thoughts.

Presenting with a translator.

Presenting with a translator.

In order to be able to help with their go-to-market strategy, our team recognized the importance of learning more about SMark’s future customers, existing customers and partnerships. We also wanted to learn about the current startup and tech ecosystem in Hungary to better understand how to take a startup to market.

In our work at Haas, our team identified a few key industries that could adopt SMark’s technology to battle counterfeiting, and our client arranged meetings with various companies. Given anti-counterfeiting challenges in electronics and with car parts, we visited Samsung and a Hungarian car part startup. At Samsung, we were able to tour the factory where LCD TVs are made to see the assembly line and better understand the supply chain.

Which Audi car part is counterfeited?

Which Audi car part is counterfeited?

SMark’s pilot customer is a Szent Tamás, a premier winery in Hungary’s Mád region. We spent a day in Mád to learn more about the wine industry and both their historical and future challenges. It was inspiring to see Szent Tamás’s excitement about SMark’s solution and equally as exciting to see SMark’s ability to update the product based on customer feedback. And thanks to SMark’s continuous hospitality, we also had an incredible wine tasting and tour of the vineyards.

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The team enjoying our experience and incredible scenery at the Szent Tamás Vineyards and Winery.

The team enjoying our experience and incredible scenery at the Szent Tamás Vineyards and Winery.

One of SMark’s partnerships is with Patria Printing House, Hungary’s oldest printing company, to print their unique labels. We learned more about the technology for the labels as well as future partnership opportunities. We also toured the printing house to see how books, documents, and, of course, labels are printed to understand the process.

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Discussion and tour at Patria Printing House.

Discussion and tour at Patria Printing House.

We also met with VCs, Hungarian-based startups, and multinational tech companies to understand the business side of startups and tech companies. Each meeting reinforced how numerous brilliant inventions have originated in Hungary as well as the country’s focus on going global with their businesses.

After a week of meetings in Budapest, we arrived at the SMark offices in a renovated warehouse in Miskolc to synthesize our findings from previous meetings, tours and conversations. SMark’s office is rather similar to a Silicon Valley-based startup, complete with beanbags and a comfortable atmosphere.

The Haas team at the SMark offices, complete with beanbag chairs.

The Haas team at the SMark offices, complete with beanbag chairs.

Our team focused on how SMark can refine its pitch to potential customers and VCs to have an effective go-to-market strategy. Together we developed a one-sheeter and pitch deck that articulates SMark’s product and competitive advantages. We also shared suggestions on digital marketing and relationship management for future business development and sales/marketing opportunities. Working with SMark was an incredible experience for all of us to apply many of our learnings from Haas classes from marketing courses to supply chain management to help a startup grow its technology from an invention to a business.

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Updates from IBD Brazil – Team Bematech

Berkeley-Haas Part-Time MBA students Janice Chien, Dan Krebs, Reid Yokoyama, and Roma Zhu worked with the Brazilian point of sale company Bematech.

Olá from Curitiba, Brasil!

Bematech isn’t a company you may be familiar with in the US, but thanks to Team Bematech, the company will hopefully make some waves in the competitive point-of-sale market in the United States.

A Rollercoaster of Emotions

Bematech is a publicly traded point of sale company in Brazil (BEMA3:BZ) which has dominated the Brazilian market due to the sale of monitors, cash registers, and printers for Brazilian businesses. Most importantly, Bematech produces fiscal printers, which are required by businesses to track the government tax of each sale.

Through acquisition, Bematech entered the US market and sells kitchen display systems and all-in-one point-of-sale hardware. The point-of-sale industry, thanks to companies like Square, Clover, Revel, and hundreds more, is undergoing a rapid transformation, and Bematech wanted us to identify key trends and strategies to grow their presence in the US market.

Unfortunately, no one on the team had any familiarity with point-of-sale hardware! Our pre-country work included rapid learning, interviews with distributors and merchants, and of course, PFPS tactics:

Employing PFPS tactics!

Employing PFPS tactics!

At our darkest moments, we felt the request was impossible and as part time students, the demands of work and family life meant it was difficult to put in the time that the project required. But, we were able to hone in on several key strategies to pursue in country and arrived in Curitiba with several to present to Bematech.

Building Trust…

Meeting the leadership team in Brazil was eye-opening. We were briefed on Brazilian culture, but experiencing it in person was incredible: everyone was extremely friendly, gave us their favorite recommendations for our weekend trip to Rio de Janeiro, and wanted us to get the most out of our trip.

Haas gear travels well and makes a great client gift!

Haas gear travels well and makes a great client gift!

…and finding a purpose

Although our goal was to help with a US growth strategy, Bematech took us to their factory where they make their fiscal printer. Given the government move to online tax tracking, the fiscal printer’s lifespan is limited. There, we were warmly greeted on the factory floor and watched workers assemble printers and repair broken ones (Operations 101, anyone?)

We were warmly welcomed at the Bematech factory

We were warmly welcomed at the Bematech factory

A view of the factory floor

A view of the factory floor

It was here that we realized that our class project, presentations, and final grade had a higher purpose. We had a chance to help Bematech transform beyond their traditional business model. Doing so would ensure the workers in this factory would continue to have jobs in the future. Our team was even more motivated to work on our final presentation.

We also got to test a new product that will hit the market later this year:

Janice may or may not have purchased 25 cervejas :)

Janice may or may not have purchased 25 cervejas :)

Have Cal gear, will travel

Locals gave us enough recommendations to spend a whole month in Rio, but we had to settle for a weekend getaway between our in-country weeks. Suffice it to say: the weather was beautiful, we played volleyball with locals, and churrascarias and caipirinhas did not disappoint.

Visiting Cristo De Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro

Visiting Cristo De Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro

Wearing Cal gear also allowed us to meet a few students traveling in country on an exchange program!

Opportunities like these are once in a lifetime and having read several of the Haas in the World blog posts, it’s incredible what Haas students have accomplished all over the world. Hopefully we did our part to represent Haas and make a difference for our client and their customers.

Obrigado – thank you!

Updates from IBD – Team Rwanda

Shaping Sales Strategy in Nairobi Kigali

Berkeley-Haas FTMBA students Jesse Guzman, George Roche and Isabele Schuhmann traveled to Rwanda during Spring 2015 IBD to work with a Nairobi-based software startup company.

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Initiation

Barely into our second semester in early 2015, we embarked on the start of our IBD journey. It was then that we learned we’d be working with a Nairobi-based software startup, helping to develop a comprehensive sales strategy. After a few weeks of getting smart on the company and the market, we developed a point of view. For us, the initial project scope – focused on tactical systems such as employee training, compensation, and retention – did not address a critical strategic concern: customer understanding. We believed this would set the proper foundation for an effective sales strategy implementation down the road. As such, we convinced our client on the value of shifting gears and started focusing on customer insights.

A second change of plans…

On the day before takeoff, our IBD team received a very unexpected email that would dramatically shift both our project scope and experience abroad. Due to unforeseen events, we were asked by our client if we’d instead join him in Rwanda. In the spirit of adapting to the rapidly evolving world around us (as good MBAs should), we accepted his offer and were on our way.

Heading to Kigali changed more than our flight itineraries. Instead of continuing to focus on insights from customers within the humanitarian space, our new objective was to explore new industry use cases and design a structured way to assess and prioritize them. Additionally, we worked with our client to look at the bigger picture, identifying and assessing strategic alternatives for the business.

Life in Rwanda

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Rwanda is a beautiful country. Despite its tragic recent past and continued struggles with poverty, its resiliency is exemplified everywhere – in its cleanliness, smoothly paved and lit roads, and genuinely kind people. During the week, we got to know the city through company visits and coffee shop work sessions.

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On the weekends, we ventured outside of the city. One trip took us to Lake Kivu – an amazingly beautiful and equally dangerous lake that shares its shorelines with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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On another occasion, we hiked Mt. Bisoke, a 3,700 meter volcano at the crux of DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda.

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Perhaps our most cherished excursion was our gorilla trek. This was seriously amazing. For an hour, we got to hang with 10 of fewer than 900 wild mountain gorillas left on this planet.

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Fruits of our labor

Following our three weeks in Kigali, and months prior at Haas, our client was pleased with the work we had done for him. In addition to the strategic guidance we provided, we also helped our client develop relationships with more than twenty local Kigali businesses in five industries in which he had previously not operated in. With our support, our client was even able to sign one new contract during our three weeks in-country, and we left Rwanda with several more pending. Overall, it was an incredible experience that I’m confident none of us will forget.

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Updates from IBD Chile – Team Falabella

Berkeley-Haas Full-Time MBA students Pati Silva, Cori Byrum, Carlos Olson, and Rob Kenny participated in a summer IBD project in Chile with the LATAM retailer Falabella.

As we boarded the plane in SFO having just finished a memorable first year in the Full-Time MBA program, we were excited to learn more about Chile, and specifically the retail sector there and more broadly in Latin America.

Our team was comprised of four people with varying knowledge of the region and sector (as well as Spanish language skills!). This meant that we were all very excited to experience something new.

Final preparations coincided with deadlines for group projects and final exams, which meant for a frenzied couple of weeks before we headed for Santiago. Thankfully, we had a couple of days to gather ourselves after we arrived before starting the project in earnest.

We were tasked with helping Falabella better understand the rapidly evolving digital payments space and how this will impact Latin American consumers in the coming years.

Retail is a great way to gain insight into all aspects of society, and Falabella is a strong player in the Peruvian, Argentinian, Colombian, and especially Chilean, markets with strong department stores, home improvement and food retail businesses. Experiencing these first-hand in Santiago gave us a great understanding of the similarities and differences between US/European and Chilean consumers.

Falabella also has a strong presence in the financial sector with a bank, credit card and insurance business, which capitalizes on their strong relationship with their large customer base.

Finally, and perhaps most surprising to us, Falabella successfully runs large and modern malls. The ones we visited wouldn’t have looked out of place in San Francisco or London. They were also almost universally full to bursting with consumers. It seems like visiting malls is a favorite hobby for Latin American consumers!

Overall, we all really enjoyed getting a great insight into a strong, interesting and diverse company, as well as gaining a better understanding of the Chilean consumer.

Chilean people were so welcoming and friendly (except perhaps when they were behind the wheel of a car…), and we really enjoyed their hospitality. We even managed to stumble across President Bachelet welcoming the Honduran President to Santiago.

While our project didn’t call for any travel outside of the capital, we still managed to enjoy exploring some of the surrounding areas like the wine regions around the Colchagua and Casablanca valleys and the beautiful coastal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

Eager to start our first day at the Falabella office in Chile!

Eager to start our first day at the Falabella office in Chile!

Visiting the Chilean version of Ikea, Homy, with one of our favorite Falabella hosts, Walter.

Visiting the Chilean version of Ikea, Homy, with one of our favorite Falabella hosts, Walter.

We enjoyed visiting the Falabella department stores and observing the similarities and differences to the similar stores we have at home (like Macy’s).

We enjoyed visiting the Falabella department stores and observing the similarities and differences to the similar stores we have at home (like Macy’s).

While Chileans will admit they are not known for their cuisine, we had some delicious meals. Our favorite food item? Definitey empanadas!

While Chileans will admit they are not known for their cuisine, we had some delicious meals. Our favorite food item? Definitey empanadas!

Our wonderful classmate, Katia Glucksmann, hosted our team and visiting IBD Team Boacadio from Peru for a traditional Chilean meal.

Our wonderful classmate, Katia Glucksmann, hosted our team and visiting IBD Team Boacadio from Peru for a traditional Chilean meal.

The Santa Cruz wine producing region was very scenic and a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Santa Cruz wine producing region was very scenic and a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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On a casual walk back from a meeting, we saw Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a miliary presentation that marked Santiago’s welcome to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

On a casual walk back from a meeting, we saw Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a miliary presentation that marked Santiago’s welcome to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Our final presentation with the QuickPay Team! – Pablo, Alvaro, Guillermo

Our final presentation with the QuickPay Team! – Pablo, Alvaro, Guillermo

Updates from IBD Brazil – Team Sony PlayStation

Consoles, Caipirinhas and Coxinhas: Our Journey through Brazil

Steve Boogar, Andrew Hill, Amanda Ogus, Caitlyn Toombs

Greetings from Sao Paulo, Brazil! We have had an action-packed three weeks here working hard and playing hard for Sony PlayStation Brazil’s office. For our project, we were tasked with understanding gamer motivators and the gaming market in Brazil (vagueness of description based on our comprehensive NDA we signed prior to arrival :-).

First day at the new Sony PlayStation-Brazil offices (with a not-quite-to-scale map of South America/Brazil behind us. L to R: Caitlyn Toombs, Amanda Ogus, Andrew Hill, Steve Boogar

First day at the new Sony PlayStation-Brazil offices (with a not-quite-to-scale map of South America/Brazil behind us). L to R: Caitlyn Toombs, Amanda Ogus, Andrew Hill, Steve Boogar

Working Hard

In our first two weeks, we went to the streets (literally) to try to understand in person what we had been researching for the last 5 months. From taxes to currency issues, Brazil’s market has different problems to tackle for all economic goods. Add to that a relatively recent formal Brazil PlayStation presence (2-3 years) with a savvy Brazilian consumer used to asking many questions and researching many price points. As a result, between physical market and custom differences, it was important for us to see the stores ourselves and talk with as many people as possible.

We started with a whirlwind tour of their Retail channels. PlayStation games and consoles are sold in many different types of stores – big to small, electronics to general, malls to street kiosks – and each targets a slightly different consumer. PlayStation takes pride in making the buying experience easy and interactive, with clear descriptions of games and in-store staff properly versed on the eccentricities of all game features and sales data.

The team analyzing the PlayStation shelf with one of the Sony promoters

The team analyzing the PlayStation shelf with one of the Sony promoters

Besides just observations, we conducted many interviews with all levels of stakeholders. We chatted with store managers, Sony promoters and customers to gauge what the shopping experience really felt like and where the pain points lay. With the help of our trusty translator/guru/promoter guides Henrique and Eduardo, we got a rich understanding of the market and heard many salient insights (many of which complemented and reinforced others).

In addition to in-store visits and meetings, we also held a night of focus groups and gamer observations to dive deeper into our target market. It was fascinating to hear from Brazilian gamers and see their passion for PlayStation in person.

Focus Group of PlayStation gamers

Focus Group of PlayStation gamers

Gamer Observations with live PlayStation

Gamer Observations with live PlayStation

PlayStation loves Brazil and Brazil loves PlayStation! (L to R: Leo Zuppiroli - our fearless in-country leader; Amanda Ogus; Heber - fanatic PlayStation gamer; Andrew Hill)

PlayStation loves Brazil and Brazil loves PlayStation! (L to R: Leo Zuppiroli – our fearless in-country leader; Amanda Ogus; Heber – fanatic PlayStation gamer; Andrew Hill)

Of course, no Haas project would be complete without a PFPS post-it map, and we did plenty pulling together our final deliverable!

Clustering and name for our final report

Clustering and name for our final report

 Playing Hard

As the team lucky enough to work with PlayStation, we found that play was very important in all elements of our work. Sony Brazil’s team does a great job of mirroring the passion for the company and the product. Everyone in the office was ready to answer any and all questions we had on the interface, favorite games and other technicalities of gaming that some of our team had little to no experience in (cough Amanda and Caitlyn). Therefore, a big part of getting up to speed for us was testing out the games!

Drew, Caitlyn, and Amanda working hard to get up to speed on their product offering

Drew, Caitlyn, and Amanda working hard to get up to speed on their product offering

Of course, being in Brazil, our play was not only limited to our product. Our amazing host, Leo, gave us on a whirlwind tour of the best culture Sao Paulo had to offer! We had our fill of caipirinhas (delicious fruit cocktails usually made with cachaça, a local liquor – the team’s favorite flavor was passion fruit!), coxinhas (fried deliciousness shaped in triangles stuffed with cheese and chicken, usually) and lots of choppe (draft beer).

Leo and the team enjoying caipirinhas and coxinhas at Veloso Bar, one of our favorite places in Sao Paulo

Leo and the team enjoying caipirinhas and coxinhas at Veloso Bar, one of our favorite places in Sao Paulo

We also took time to explore the city by walking to parks, visiting museums and shopping for Havainas, Brazil’s popular sandal maker!

A view from a run through scenic Ibirapuera Park - a hidden oasis in the big city

A view from a run through scenic Ibirapuera Park – a hidden oasis in the big city

We also explored outside of Sao Paulo for a weekend in Rio! Rio was just as great as everyone described – beachy, bustling and colorful. From site-seeing at the Corcovado to enjoying feijoada with some locals (thanks to a fellow business school classmate, Grace, for the intro!), relaxing at the beach to running up the Escaderia Selaron stairs in a brief rain shower, Rio did not disappoint on our last weekend in Brazil.

The amazing Corcovado in person - apparently we weren't the only people interested!

The amazing Corcovado in person – apparently we weren’t the only people interested!

Escadario Selaron stairs – just as beautiful and colorful in person, even on a rainy day

Escadario Selaron stairs – just as beautiful and colorful in person, even on a rainy day

Our combined Haas IBD teams together in Rio!

Our combined Haas IBD teams together in Rio!

Overall, our team had a very enriching and enjoyable three weeks in Brazil, and we thank the IBD staff and our friends at Sony for all they did to make this happen!

#brahaasil

#brahaasil

Updates from IBD Finland – Team Tekes

Full-time MBA students Adrian Gomez, Anita Kotagiri, Daniel Reddin, and Andrea Soto traveled to Finland for their IBD project to work with Tekes – The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

It’s 8pm and there’s no sign of the sun setting any time soon. As we hop off the plane we can feel the slight chill in the air despite it being summer. Everything is clean, simple, and impeccably designed. Welcome to Finland!

After a somewhat restless night thanks to jet lag and the four hours of twilight that constitute night at this time of year, we were anxious to meet our client for the first time. After a wholesome breakfast of omelets and traditional Finnish rye bread prepared by chef and two-day early arriver, Adrian, we set off to meet our client at Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

The morning with our client began, of course, with coffee. As it turns out, Finland has the highest coffee consumption per person in the world! It quickly became apparent that the next three weeks would entail constant caffeination – a fact we well appreciated following a hearty meatball lunch on that first day.

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After several hours of discussion with our client on Day 1 and reaching an agreement on the scope of our project and the planned activities for the weeks ahead, we were excited about what lay ahead of us – interviews with CEOs of leading Finnish companies, meeting with the Office of the Prime Minister, mentoring participants in a clean-tech startup competition, conducting workshops with Finnish entrepreneurs and presenting to the Steering Committee, a group of extremely senior executives responsible for Tekes’ clean-tech program. It very quickly became clear to us that this project was extremely important and was truly going to have an impact in shaping Finland’s future.

After many back-to-back interviews with entrepreneurs, academics and Tekes personnel throughout the week, we were fortunate enough to have made some Finnish friends along the way. The Finnish people are incredibly warm and inclusive, willing to go out of their way to show us around and invite us into their friendship circles. They are proud of Finland.

After a demanding week the team decided to take a trip across the Baltic to Estonia, a country that, up until now, really only popped to mind when thinking about Eurovision contests. The boat ride to Tallinn was a bit tough (many people got sea sick!) but the trip was definitely worth it! We had a blast wandering the narrow streets and alleys of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town and sampling some extremely good food.

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In our second week we continued to meet with Finnish entrepreneurs and innovators. We hosted “Cleantech Power Morning” with a number of influential players in the space. Taking advantage of having these 25 people in one room, we ran a number of exercises and administered a short survey in order to test and validate our emerging hypotheses about cleantech and the innovation ecosystem in Finland.

Following the session, our client was excited to finally take us to what he constantly referred to (especially when around Helsinki natives) as “the cultural capital of Finland”, his home-town of Turku. We took this opportunity to meet with the CEO of Clewer, a water recycling firm, and the leaders of the Future Studies department at the University of Turku’s School of Economics (the “Haas of Finland”, as our client called it). We capped of the day with a wonderful dinner and a quick walk around the town before jumping on a bus back to Helsinki.

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Being so close, we knew that we could not return home without making a trip to Russia! We boarded an overnight cruise ship for St Petersburg, excited for a weekend of new experiences. This city was incredible. As a previous capital of Russia, it had strong economic and social capital in the 19th and 20th centuries. As such, their citizens built incredible architecture with strong European influence. We had a great time exploring the beautiful city and even took in an opera at the world-famous Mariinsky Theatre.

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Returning to Helsinki for our third and final week, we were excited about our progress so far but expectant about the deliverables that would soon be due. during this week we had the privilege of visiting with one of the leaders of the Prime Minister’s innovation initiative. She provided us with high level information and confirmations of the government’s goals for the Finnish innovation ecosystem.

More than twenty five interviews later, the moment of truth was growing near. Having gathering tons of information over the past sever days, it was time to start pulling it all together to form our proposal and recommendations for how to spur on cleantech innovation in Finland.  Our team set off to the task of completing the final draft of a 90 page report for the client and a final presentation to the Steering Committee.

Our presentations throughout our time in Finland were filled with engaging discussions and our final presentation was no exception. We were further motivated in our work with Tekes by the confirmation of how important our findings would be to the organization. After one final session of business card exchanges and handshakes we conducted our final meeting with our client.

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Being our last week in country, we wanted to make sure we did not leave without experiencing more of the culture. Our team took a traditional Finnish sauna, complete with a dip in the chilly Baltic Sea, and went out with Finnish friends to watch the sunset from the top of Helsinki’s tallest building. We also took the chance to visit the medieval Finnish town of Pörvöö, half an  hour away from Helsinki. There we enjoyed a laid back afternoon strolling around the town, visiting a cathedral from the 1200’s and buying Salmiakki, the traditional Finnish candy made from licorice root (an acquired taste, for sure).

Once back in Helsinki, our team prepared for departure from this place which had exceeded our expectations. With luggage carrying at least ten collective pounds of Finnish rye bread and chocolate wafer sweets, we departed our hotel for our next destination.

Our IBD project and our Tekes client made for an unforgettable time in an unexpected place.