Don’t hate, opto-isolate! – Update from South Africa INSiAVA IBD Team

FTMBA students Petar Kralev, Luke Baran, Matthew Hahn, Lucy Hakobyan and Chris Kavcsak spent 3 weeks in South Africa working with INSiAVA a fabless semiconductor start-up that owns and develops silicon light emitting and detecting technology in standard CMOS.


Week 1:

Work hard play hard was definitely the motto of our team and client. Working late nights at the Innovation Hub was well balanced with weekend trips to Cape Town and the South African bush. From constructing the framework equivalent of the movie Inception (frameworks within frameworks within yet more frameworks) in countless powerpoint slides that literally took us to the brink of a Google Slides implosion, to consuming previously unfathomable amounts of red meat and pinotage that are sure to give us heart attacks within 3 months, team INSiAVA was well-immersed in South African culture.

We started off the first week with a heavy 8-hour marathon of a design thinking session with INSiAVA’s CEO and Head of Engineering, which ultimately culminated in a strong value proposition presentation validated by several local customer interviews.



Weekend 1:

To celebrate our great work, we flew to Cape Town that weekend where we sabred bottles of champagne on the terrace of our private 3 bedroom waterfront mansion villa. Don’t worry, we’re professionals.


The next morning we summited Table Mountain, conquering one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. From the top we enjoyed incredible views of the city and the grandiose Lion’s Head peak.



Between delicious authentic African dinners on the waterfront and sophisticated drinks with live music at the hotel, we also managed to mix it up with the local party scene on Long Street, which had a distinctively Bourbon Street feel.


To end the weekend on a strong note, we started with a breakfast of champions – ice cream – on top of Signal Hill, immediately before jumping off a cliff with parachutes strapped to our backs. Paragliding down to the Sea Point gave us 360 degree views of the city and the mountain, the serenity of which was counter-balanced by our immediate regret of crushing copious amounts of frozen dairy before extreme motion and moments of weightlessness.


Week 2:

The following Monday marked the start of another week of top notch work. After several customer and potential partner meetings and interviews, we strove toward validating the value propositions from the previous week. Next up was the Go-to-Market Strategy…which we crushed, as per usual.

Thursday evening we joined forces with our fellow IBDers,, at Capital Craft Brew Academy, a local drafthouse serving up South Africa’s finest microbrews and BBQ. Much to our surprise, South Africa has a vast and pretty darn tasty craft brewing scene. Comparing notes on our experiences thus far we realized that their project was a complete and utter softball. Seriously, from what we can gather they color and take pictures all day. Matthew took away the gold medal for the evening, crushing an entire kilo of beef and an entire platter of gin.


This was of course only to get inspiration to educate our classmates on two chip opto isolators that operate on low voltage low speed on a simple CPU.


And as a testament to the amazingness of the exchange rate, each person spent less than $20.

Weekend 2:

That weekend, our client team took us for a more unique adventure to experience the African wild. INSiAVA graciously hosted us at a private game reserve that is part of the larger Kruger National Park. We went on harrowing game drives that made as though we were part of a National Geographic expedition chasing majestic animals like Elephants, Kudu, and the rare African Wildcat in their natural habitat.



To reflect on our near death experiences, we spent an evening having a traditional braai out in the bush under the most incredible starry night anyone has ever seen. Literally, ever. As the local African wine guided us toward pondering the heavens, we spent hours stargazing and learning about the astrological signs along with useful navigational skills which will surely be used in the near future.


As an environmentally conscious Berkeley student, Chris was deeply troubled by the drought and lack of food strangling the surrounding animals. And when Chris sees a problem, he solves it. After what we can only assume was an intense design thinking process that took place in his head, Chris came to an innovative solution. He gave his dinner back to a nearby bush and watered the plants a bit. This last part may have been a bit misguided as it may have been perceived as a territorial threat to the dominant male rhino in the area, but it’s safe to say he took one for the planet.


Week 3:

During the last week of our IBD project, we visited the Industrial Development Corporation and learned about the strategic investments in the economy of South Africa. Heavy stuff. To unwind, we had a delicious lunch under the supervision of no other than Nelson Mandela in Mandela square of Johannesburg.


The culminating field trip of the week was a tour of University of Pretoria, which gave us perspectives into the education and social developments since Apartheid. Oh and there was Steers, the local equivalent of Burger King. Check it off the bucket list.


And we always remembered to stop for #selfies.


Update 2 from IBD Team Fielo

FTMBA students Dan Cho, Cynthia Song, Peter Stilwell, Rob Uvanovic and Qing Ye spent 3 weeks in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires working with Fielo, a B2B loyalty incentivization platform. Here, they give an insight into life outside the office.

Our IBD project has taken us to three amazing countries in three weeks. It’s been hard work but we’ve also had an opportunity to live as South Americans do, embracing their passion for both football and fitness.

The Big Game
The Build-Up
We’re going to the Boca game!” Rob announced, brandishing five tickets and smiling like Charlie when he won the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The group emitted a collective shudder. Boca Juniors…one of the biggest football clubs in Argentina with the most passionate supporters in the country, and possibly the world. Such passion often spilled over into violence with almost 90 deaths at football matches in the previous 10 years.Picture1

And we were going. Our motley crew of two Americans, to whom passion in sport was getting upset because the hotdog at the baseball didn’t have enough mustard and two Chinese whose only previous experience of live sport was watching their grandparents play Mahjong.

As we approached tPicture2he magnificent Bombonera stadium, we could feel tangible tension in the air. This despite the fact that there were no opposing fans since a nationwide ban several years earlier! We walked through approximately 12 lines of police, spread out every 100m or so on the approach to the stadium. Each time we were searched thoroughly, with seemingly something confiscated at every step. By the end, they had even taken away Dan’s pink highlighter. Fortunately, this turned out to be the most traumatic event of the evening.

The Main Event
The game itself was a low quality 0-0 draw but despite this the crowd made an almighty noise and never stopped drumming and singing. We briefly pondered how a drum was allowed into the stadium and not a pink highlighter but couldn’t work it out. Just as impressive were the flags, banners and ribbons which brightened up the stadium, creating a visual cacophony of yellow and blue.

Photo credit: Qing Ye

Photo credit: Qing Ye

The Aftermath
As we made our way out of the stadium into the Buenos Aires night, we reflected on a quite remarkable evening. The Boca supporters had been truly magnificent and we had witnessed nothing but passionate support for their team. The team agreed that it had been a successful evening and returned home reinvigorated for the next day of work, stopping off at the dry cleaner to drop off Dan’s soiled underwear.

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From the moment we landed in Rio, we’ve been in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded us. We would often gaze around in wonder, mesmerized by the synergy of mountains, water, and city. Our team lead, Cynthia, inappropriately noted that in addition to the beautiful landscape, the people were rather attractive as well. Peter wisely offered his opinion, suggesting that this was possibly due to the fact that there was at least one gym or fitness studio per block and an exercise station every few hundred feet along the beach.

Following up on his observation, we attempted to do as the Brazilians do and get our fitness on. Look at Cynthia.

Interesting attempt. Man in green shorts is not impressed.

Interesting attempt. Man in green shorts is not impressed.

Rob did well. Form is on point. Why was his shirt still on? Brazilians were also confused.


Here is Peter and Dan at a gym. The trainer winked and flirted his way to Peter’s million dollar frown.


QING!!…wrong outfit for pushups. No ponytail. Shoeless. Laughing. Sigh


Peter and Dan went on a morning jog along Ipanema beach. Wowza. Would ya look at that!


We celebrated with a coconut.
Drink the coconut Peter.


Good. Fabulous technique Peter.


Time for the team to put all that exercise to good use and jump…!


ROB!! >=( We’ll miss you Rio❤




Update from IBD Team Fielo

FTMBA students Dan Cho, Cynthia Song, Peter Stilwell, Rob Uvanovic and Qing Ye spent 3 weeks in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires working with Fielo, a B2B loyalty incentivization platform. Here, they describe a typical day in the life of a software startup.

Our client is a Brazilian start-up that was founded by one of our very own Haasies – Sanjay. After studying computer science and working in tech in the Bay Area, he decided to go back to his home country Brazil to explore the untapped technology industry. His first “barrel of gold” came from founding the first ever Salesforce implementation consultancy in Brazil. After more than 10 years of successful track record, Sanjay started his second new venture – a 100% cloud based software solution for automating customer loyalty and engagement. He has come to us for go-to-market advice: which industries should his new product focus on? And how can he target these industries?

Now, let’s take you through a typical day of us on client site.

Morning, 8am – Preparing for Innovation Workshop

Today is the big workshop day! After taking PFPS and hearing how multiple past IBD projects have successfully used PFPS to achieve unexpectedly positive results on client sites, we are determined to give it a go. We came up with an innovation challenge for the client: how might we create win-win relationships between consumer product brands and their channel partners?

First things first – post-it notes. We rushed to the stationery to get multi-color post-it notes. We invited the Chief Customer Office, Demand Generation Officer and several key members on their teams to join the workshop. Before the workshop, our team already did our fieldwork with key experts, so that we are ready to bring in insights.

After a brief introduction to PFPS methodology, everyone is ready to brainstorm, synthesize and come up with a How Might We.


Then the teams got creative coming up ideas, and even got some time to eat the local delicacy – empanadas! See Dan and Peter’s impressed (stuffed) faces!

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Lastly, it’s show-time! Final presentations from both teams are full of brilliant ideas and excellent storytelling.

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Although the first time using human-centered design approach, the client left very impressed and loved the energy throughout the workshop.

Afternoon, 3pm – The industry expert interviews

Industry expert interviews is a big component of our research approach. In order to understand the pain points and underlying needs of both vendors and their channel partners, we reached out over 200 industry experts since March.

Rob’s LinkedIn Profile

The biggest challenges of conducting interviews? Getting the interview!

The team had a plan. Step 1, look for Haas and Cal alums on LinkedIn with key words such as “sales enablement”, “channel partners”. Step 2, find their personal email addresses in Cal alum platform. Step 3, send a cold email and wait for replies.

Team busy on the phone doing interviews

Team busy on the phone doing interviews

And then, there was few reply. Perhaps 1 in 20.

The only person who seemed successful in setting up interviews was Rob. So the team turned to Rob for help. In the second phase of outreach, we did two things differently: 1) we added “incentives” in our cold emails – if people agree to chat, we will share research findings; 2) everyone used Rob’s LinkedIn account to send out interview requests.


This time we heard back from 1 in 2 people we reached out to.

We ended up interviewing 51 from a variety of industries and functions.


Early Evening, 6pm – One more client interview…

We interviewed one of Fielo’s existing clients, Oi, Brazil’s largest telecom, at a café, which was a great experience in being able to pull true insights due to the interview being in Portuguese and right outside Oi’s office. During the interview, we were really able to see the way that business is conducted in Brazil, which is done much more through personal relationships. The interview was over coffee, the staple of any Brazilian business meeting, and began with the customary five minutes of small talk and getting to know each other.

This interview proved a critical turning point in our research, as we began to truly understand why our client’s product had the potential to be very successful. Oi walked us through their case study of how they used our client’s product to incentivize shop owners to sell more of their sim card as opposed to their competitors.

Key Takeaways

Seeing how a technology product can move from an idea to incentivizing shop owners and store clerks who work in kiosks and sell hundreds of products every day, to specifically push your product over another, was very inspiring.

It was great to see how open our client was in giving us access to their clients and talking about how important these interviews were towards their progress as a company, while it was really neat to see how much detail a large company such as Oi was willing to give a group of students.

This was very symbolic of the way that we have been treated in Brazil, in that if you ask a question, you will almost always get an honest and detailed answer, as people are always looking to help you.

Updates from IBD London

FTMBA students Songwoo Kang, David Liang, Akira Matsuzawa, Lev Pogosov and Karl Brenner Román are currently in London, England, working on an International Business Development (IBD) project with IMImobile.

Our team was focused on the task at hand and listening intently to every word being spoken to us by the subject matter expert. This was the moment we had been waiting for and were making sure we were fully prepared before making our opinion known. Finally came the moment of truth as we finally sampled the expensive product in front of us.

“Wow, this whisky is amazing.”

And that is the story of how we tasted a 35-year-old whisky (older than any of us!) valued at £500 per bottle.


Selection of Scotch whisky that we sampled.

Let me back up. Prior to beginning our project in London, our team spent 4 nights exploring all that neighboring Scotland had to offer. We started in the city of Edinburgh and road tripped through the northern Scottish Highlands. We even spent a few hours observing intently for any activity at Loch Ness.


Enjoying a lakeside dram of whisky in the Scottish Highlands on a rare sunny day.


Team photo in front of Dunnottar Castle on the east coast of Scotland.

Meet IMImobile


Sadly, our team of Berkeley Haas MBA students wasn’t asked to travel to Europe to simply enjoy the sites and sample Scotch whisky. We also had the important task of helping our client, IMImobile, develop go-to-market strategies for two industry verticals.

IMImobile is a company with a history in technology and began as a business for developing structural engineering software for the design of telco and power transmission towers. It was originally founded in 1997 as Information Management India Software (IMISoft). In the mid 2000s, IMImobile aggressively expanded its businesses and made several acquisitions, backed by prominent VCs such as Sequoia and Firstmark. Today, IMImobile is continuing to expand and has been listed on the UK stock market as of 2014.


Our IBD team discussing the best way for IMImobile to enter a new vertical in a breakout meeting.

A day in the life at IMImobile was similar to a typical 9-6 job. The company had an open seating set up similar to a Silicon Valley start-up minus the severe lack of Apple products. Fortunately, we were seated right next to sales & marketing and product teams so we were able to set up meetings with key stakeholders fairly easily.

Our work consisted of working closely with stakeholders and account managers on the front lines to build out use cases they could implement in their sales pitches. We conducted almost a dozen internal as well as external interviews, targeted our newly forming Haas Alumni network to find connections in the travel industry, and leveraged the extensive Haas business library resources to gain a deep understanding of the market. Songwoo also championed us to victory with Bain & Co. inspired slides complete with Harvey balls, 2×2 matrices and “low hanging fruit.”


Hard at Work in the office.


Hard at work at a company social on a rare sunny day in London.

Exploring London

We couldn’t live in London without exploring the local sites and customs. During our evenings after work, we immersed ourselves into the London culture by enjoying the pub culture, museums, and even catching a play from ‘ol Billy Shakes’. Another thing that can’t be missed is the local cuisine. The UK often gets a bad reputation for food, but we thoroughly enjoyed our meals of fish & chips, bangers & mash, meat pies, and late night doner kebabs.


Soaking in some culture by watching ‘Taming of the Shrew’ at the Globe Theatre.


There was a very steep learning curve at the client, but no hurdle was too high to climb


While visiting Stonehenge, we took time to appreciate the sights and observe the local wildlife


Making friends with the locals was a high priority. Some bonds will never be broken.

Our Takeaways

At the end of the day, this trip was about delivering quality advice to our client. We spent countless hours researching, presenting our drafts to the stakeholders and pivoting our findings in order to provide them with the highest value deliverable this side of the Mississippi. On our last day at the client, we delivered two presentations for the client’s management. Both of the meetings were attended by the CEO with our proposed journeys and go-to-market strategies being very well received. One of our team members even received a soft internship offer for the summer.

We all entered the project with hopes of learning how to become better consultants, to improve our presentation skills, and gain experience working internationally. What surprised us the most was how different working styles were for a culture that is so similar to ours. In our short time, we gained a solid understanding of the multi-channel mobile communications industry, immersed ourselves in UK (and Indian) culture, and made some great friends and connections with the IMImobile team from both London and Hyderabad!


The team presented our project counterpart  and Haas alum, Sudarshan Dharmapuri, with his very own Haas flag that we can proudly fly on his boat. (Boat purchase pending)


Team giving the final presentation to the IMImobile leadership.


We even coordinated our outfits for the final presentation to achieve perfect synergy and symmetry with the client.


In the Land of the Inkas

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Have you ever heard of sphagnum moss? Neither had we. Our team, FTMBA 2017 students Mitul Bhat, Katrina Gordon, Pan Lu, Hady Barry and Mostafa AbdelAziz, had the chance to explore this new world of small, absorbent, flowering plants through our Spring 2016 IBD project. We were assigned to work with Inka Moss, a Peruvian social enterprise, and one of its investors, NESsT, an early-stage impact investor, to develop a US go-to-market strategy for the sphagnum moss that Inka Moss collects and processes. Sphagnum moss is a highly absorbent type of moss that is used to grow specialty plants like orchids. It is used in its other forms as a soil conditioner, for decoration, or even as a natural water filter.

The “Moss” Diverse Team in IBD History

Inka_2 copyBetween ethnicity, nationality, languages spoken, professional experience, religious background, dietary preferences and sleep schedule, the members of our team were different in every way. This diversity in experiences and points of view made our experience quite unique!



Exploring Peru

In an effort to get to know Peru before starting work, we arrived early to explore different parts of the country. We hiked Machu Picchu, checked out the glaciers of Huaraz, and challenged our bodies at elevations over 5000m (16,000ft) high. We also quickly learned we love Peruvian breakfasts and walking around the beautiful streets of Lima!

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Ceviche por favor!

In between working, we were able to discover the city and find what makes this beautiful place tick. To our surprise, food became a pivotal part of this trip. Lima is a culinary powerhouse, and the ceviche, Chinese fusion ‘chifa,’ sandwiches, meats and local fruits definitely made the long hours together and many revisions of our project so much easier.

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Getting Down to Business

We devised an elaborate plan to create a helpful strategy for our client, which meant our schedule was packed: defining target customers, developing positioning of products, creating a go-to market plan with detailed messaging, pricing, distribution, and marketing tactics, and finally an implementation plan to boot!


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…and Night!

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Highlands visit

To give us more context, our client arranged for us to visit Inka Moss’ production facility in the Highlands. We had to wake up at 5:30 am to catch a 7-hour bus ride from Lima to Jauja, but we were very excited to gain a better understanding of where the moss is grown and the collect, cleaning, drying and packaging processes.

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Most importantly, we had the unique opportunity to interact with the community and understand the impact that Inka Moss has had in the communities it works with. After spending one day in the community up on the mountain, the next day was filled with sharing and interpreting the information and insights from our trip, brainstorming on our next steps, getting to the bus station, and a 10-hour bus ride! The traffic was insanely bad, but we finished 5 movies, 2 books and caught up on 2 days of sleep. Success!

Down to the Wire

In the end, it was our mission to turn all our experiences into actionable insights and devise a holistic go-to-market presentation for Inka Moss to use to enter the US market.

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Happy client, happy team! As we presented to our client during our final presentation, our goal was to offer Marco insights and actionable next steps that would enable Inka Moss to hit the ground running. If you asked any of us four months ago what sphagnum moss was, we would have had little to say—but now we can’t stop talking or thinking about it!


Updates from IBD Cambodia – Team Samai

FTMBA students Jenelle Harris, Bruno Vargas, Neha Kumar, Charlie Reisenberg and Marcelo Kabbach spent their Summer IBD project working with Samai Rum Distillery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodia’s First Rum Distillery

Our team of five was assigned to consult for Samai Rum Distillery, located in Phnom Penh. Founded by Daniel Pacheco and Antonio Lopez de Haro in 2014, Samai is Cambodia’s first and only distillery. Samai relies solely on products grown in Cambodia, including sugar cane molasses from the Cambodia countryside. As a growing enterprise, Samai looked to us to help strengthen their internal operations (finance, accounting, and inventory management) as well as refine their marketing and expansion plans to ensure steady sustainable growth.

A Day in the Life of the Cambodia IBD Team

Thursday, May 19, 2016

After spending the week getting caught up to speed on the inner workings of Phnom Penh’s food and beverage scene, our team was eager to get our hands dirty in a liquor masterclass, taught by Master Mixologist, Paul Mathews. For two hours we learned about the flavorful blends of various grades of gins and tricks for how best to combine them with complementing tonics and garnishes, such as cinnamon, cucumber, and lime. In attendance were many Phnom Penh restaurant owners, bartenders and other local expat movers and shakers including a mezcalier – one of only thirty in the world.

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Team Samai at the gin masterclass hosted by Samai’s primary international distributor, La Familia, at their retail store, La Casita.

Following the gin masterclass, the crew headed back to Samai to experience their first Samai Rum night. Every week the Samai Distillery opens its doors to the public so that new and devoted Samai customers can enjoy hand-crafted cocktail beverages prepared by Samai’s internal team of bartenders. The most popular cocktail on the menu is the infamous 21 Points, cheekily named by co-owner Antonio. (A while back local bartenders were challenged to create Samai cocktails to be ranked out of 20 points. This drink scored 21.) 21 Points features the Samai Dark Rum, cola, lime, bitters, and fresh sugarcane. We can attest that it is as delicious as it sounds! We spent our evening interviewing customers, bartenders, expats and locals to gain deeper insight into their perspective of Samai and the overall beverage scene in SE Asia. These insights were an invaluable contribution to our formulation of marketing and expansion strategies.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

The next morning we met with the founders to present our initial findings. Given that Samai is a growing start up, our scope had fluctuated quite a bit over the past few weeks as we learned more about their business needs. In week 1 the team presented a new inventory tracking tool, content and reformatting recommendations for their in-progress website, an updated financial model, an expansion forecasting tool and initial research into new bars that Samai should consider supplying to in the coming fiscal years. All of these tools will enable Samai to approach growing (particularly internationally) very strategically and thoughtfully, taking into consideration the relevant financial, sales and production constraints. They will also be able rely on a strong marketing framework so that their story is communicated to the world in a consistent and meaningful way. Needless to say, it was a productive first week!

After meeting with the founders for two hours and getting their feedback on our submissions and next steps, we prepared for a weekend trip to Singapore. Given that Singapore is on top of the list for Samai’s expansion, we decided as a team to travel there to visit our target bar/restaurant list in person to provide them with more pointed expansion recommendations. We focused our itinerary on the Singaporean venues featured on the infamous World’s 50 Best Bars.

Update from IBD Team Seva

Seva-HV Desai IBD Team – Clare Schroder, Laura Stewart, Lizzie Faust, Rene Castro, Santiago Marchiori.

Altruism. It is the defining characteristic of those we have met here in India working for the HV Desai Eye Hospital (HVD). Two months ago the Seva-HVD Haas IBD team came together in pursuit of financial sustainability for the non-profit eye hospital. HVD aims to prevent needless blindness regardless of one’s ability to pay, and they do so through subsidizing those unable to pay with the profits from those able to pay, as well as donations. In India, this model is not unique to HVD, yet it is far less common in our own countries of Argentina, Chile, and the U.S. HVD’s tireless dedication to this work is evident in the significant time they have spent supporting our work here in India. Their goodness comes through in their hospitality, ensuring our own comfort and enjoyment of the city. A hospital board member even welcomed us to his chocolate factory on Sunday, where we indulged in chocolate, organic foods, ice cream, a hike, a temple visit, and a local village wedding.

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The groom, a family member, and the bride

At the wedding, we quickly came to realize this was the marriage between poorer members of society, the people HVD seeks to help. And while we were unprepared for the wedding and had nothing to offer, the bride’s family gifted each of us with a coconut.

Overwhelming altruism isn’t the only new experience we’ve had in India. We’ve tried unfamiliar foods (our stomachs regretting only a small percentage), learned burping in public is socially acceptable, and seen eyeballs in the eye bank.

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Col. Deshpande showing us a cornea in the eye bank

We have also experienced the famous (or infamous?) Indian head shake/nod/wiggle. We had heard from our pre-departure cultural interviews that the quirky motion indicates agreement, meaning yes or please continue, so during our day of arrival presentation we felt prepared when the head shakes began.

We quickly took a nose-dive though, as the head shake changed to an inexplicably clear “no” head motion. How did we get the number of people blind in India wrong? Was our average cost of surgery that off? As each of us presented, we panicked in the same way, over explaining the more vigorously they shook their heads “no.” Our cultural interviews hadn’t prepared us for this – thanks Arun.

We progressed into our first week still uncertain about the head shaking, but happy to be in country, seeing the hospital we had heard so much about. We worked alongside doctors to brainstorm patient experience improvements, visited competing hospitals, and conducted over 20 patient interviews.

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 Laura, Clare, and Santi doing some PFPS-style brainstorming with 7 residents

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Santi interviewing a patient

During those interviews, we began with, “How was your experience at HV Desai?” Head shake.

“Your experience has been ‘yes’? Could you elaborate on that?” It was after this interview, a few days in, that we mustered the courage to ask why people so often vehemently disagreed with us with their head shake while affirming yes verbally. We learned any head motion is a sign of agreement and we felt much better about our first week.

The patients have confirmed that HV Desai has incredible eyecare quality, value for money, the most advanced technology, and the most experienced doctors. We rarely heard about their altruism or their charity playing an important role in the eyecare provider selection process for the paying patients, the patients we need to attract more of to achieve financial sustainability. This finding is one we’ve seen not only in patient interviews, but also through industry research. Moreover, patient surveys and Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) data analysis have revealed the importance of amenities and eye lens differences. Again, not charity.

Here we are, five business students in India telling a nonprofit hospital to change their branding for the paying segment from a focus on charity to a focus on quality and affordability.

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Santi, Lizzie, Clare, Rene, and Laura being tourists, led by Outreach Coordinator Pravine

Unlike the staff and management, the altruism is not our target segment’s main motivator for eyecare. Our job now is to convince leadership that in addition to a shift in branding, building upon and reinforcing the most important needs of the paying patient – specific amenities, price transparency, shorter wait times, eyecare excellence – will create financial sustainability. Growing profits is not just for corporations, but also for a nonprofit hospital that can now provide even more free surgeries to those unable to pay.


Hallo Jumbo! The Future of Dutch Supermarkets

FTMBA students Shipra Agarwal, Scarlett Li, Joan Mao, Shantanu Mittal, and Matt Mueller traveled to Veghel, Netherlands, to work on an International Business Development (IBD) project.

We have had a fantastic time so far on our trip to the Netherlands for IBD. On our first weekend in country, we met up with 30 other Haasies who were in Amsterdam for a course on Design Thinking. It was also the birthday of one of our Dutch classmates. Needless to say, we had a really fantastic amount of fun.

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Our Project

Due to our client’s NDA, I can’t share much of the details of our project. What we can share is that we are working on a long-term strategic proposal related to how they best serve their customers. The work experience so far has been very informative. During our first week, we visited more than 20 grocery stores to observe key differences with the US market and interviewed a large set of customers on their habits and motivations. We were really surprised by the number of differences in something so simple as grocery shopping and how much a solution would need to be tailored to each individual market.

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In addition to our visits and interviews, we have met with a number of key stakeholders in our project across the company. Everyone has been nice and genuinely interested in learning what we are working on, and how they can help. It has been great to have the support needed to deliver on our project and provide real value to the client.

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Finally, we had the chance to lead multiple consumer focus groups to test out proposals. It was a great experience to interview and lead a discussion for a large group of Dutch consumers. We also received valuable feedback on our work and got a new perspective on how our ideas stand up to a different culture. We are now working hard to summarize our work and present two concrete solutions to Jumbo that address the initial problem presented to us.

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Culture and Country

Enough about work. Traveling to the Netherlands has given us a fantastic base to explore the country and Europe in general. As we mentioned above, we spent our first weekend in the Netherlands in Amsterdam with a big group of Haasies exploring everything the city had to offer. We saw a great set of museums (highly recommend Van Gogh), toured the canals and celebrated our classmate’s birthday in traditional Dutch fashion. One of our best memories was grabbing food from the local grocery store and sitting down in Vondelpark on a nice sunny day to watch the crowds. During our second week on IBD, we spent a memorable evening in the city of Rotterdam. We had the chance to go to a 500-foot observation tower and got a view of one of the largest ports in the world.

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While in Rotterdam, we also had one of the best dinners on the trip. The meal was a 10 course rampage through everything Indonesian. We all left happy and full for our drive home to Veghel that night.

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Finally, our group split up and spent last weekend in both Prague and Berlin. In Prague we walked around the entire city, saw a thousand-year-old church and ate a large quantity of pork knuckle. The weather was fantastic, and it was a great chance to explore the fairytale like city. In Berlin, Shipra visited her cousin, and walked along the Berlin Wall and visited the famous Brandenburg gate.

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That is about all we have to say at this point. We are finishing up our final deliverable now and getting ready to head back to the US. Thanks for taking the time to read about our experience!

IBD in Zimbabwe Week 1

FTMBA students Sebastian Pflumm, Rodrigo Calmet, Julian Garzon, Benjamin Irarrazaval, and Chloe McConnell were in Zimbabwe working on an International Business Development (IBD) project.

The first week of our International Business Development project flew by for us five Haasies based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Our project is to develop and teach a two-week entrepreneurship program, named ACT (Apsara Capital Trust), to young Zimbabweans who are passionate about social change. Our client Henri Lambert, owner of Apsara Capital, founded the intensive design-thinking program two years ago to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Zimbabwe that catalyzes economic development and fights unemployment. While our IBD team is a diverse mosaic of nationalities and backgrounds, we share a common work ethic, sense of humor, composure, and dedication to our project.

First Day of Class

Irene, our local and indispensable program manager, picked us up at 6:45 a.m. on the morning of Monday May 16th. Having worked on lesson plans, Powerpoints, online pre-courses, and logistics for the past two months in Berkeley, our team was anxiously quiet on the bumpy car ride to the first morning of class. As we looked out the window onto the Harare streets, we noted the contrast between the huge houses, malfunctioning street-lights, and large pot-holes. We didn’t know what to expect, both in terms of our students’ skills and the general classroom experience. It was not only our first time in Zimbabwe, but also our first time teaching a structured program. Additionally, due to unexpected problems with our Colombian teammate’s visa, we were one team member short. As we pulled into the school at 7 a.m., we were surprised to see that many students had already arrived. The school, our office for the next three weeks, is a large house in the Milton Park neighborhood recently converted into a center for entrepreneurship named Udugu Institute. The students cautiously mingled with each other as we checked them in. Their backgrounds range from the founder of the University of Zimbabwe Entrepreneurship Club to a preacher-turned software developer to a young amateur rapper.

ACT_1_fvChloe McConnell teaching the Introduction to Design Thinking class on Day 1.

Our biggest take-away from the first day, was how passionate, excited and bright our students are. They are willing to work hard to change their communities for the better and we left the day incredibly excited to help them realize their dreams.

Diverging and Converging in the Classroom        

Over the next 5 days, we experienced the sun-soaked winter Zimbabwe days as we ran the students through the design thinking process while simultaneously teaching them the business skills necessary to launch their ideas. As the intensity of the work built throughout the week, so did the comradery within the teams. Breaks and teamwork time starting filling up with laughter and heated discussions. The teams’ focuses range from waste management to organic farming to increasing employment opportunities for semi-skilled workers.

ACT_2_fvRodrigo Calmet working with a team on insight generation.

Luckily, our Colombian classmate Julián finally received his visa to enter Zimbabwe after five lonely days in Johannesburg. We welcomed him with salsa music and a whiteboard full of messages from the students in local languages.


The students welcoming Julián Garzón to Zimbabwe after he finally received his visa!

ACT_4_fvJulián Garzón with the winners of the marshmallow challenge.


A passionate team working late into the night on their business idea.

Adventures Outside the Classroom        

We are staying in the walled neighborhood of Gunhill at the Guinea Fowls Rest Inn and eat out most nights. Harare has a plethora of food options ranging from the local sadza and stewed meat to tempting Thai eateries. Our favorite spot, named Amanzi, hosts trivia every Wednesday. The five of us, Henri, and Irene formed a team named after the tasty South African Cabernet Sauvignon we were imbibing and were immediately hooked on trivia. Our excitement did not make up for our sub-par knowledge of miscellaneous facts, leading to an underwhelming middle of the pack finish. We committed to practice for the next week.

During the days, we’ve explored Harare by accompanying students on their fieldwork. When visiting the Central Business District and the Avondale and Barrowdale shopping markets, we noticed Zimbabwean’s positivity and friendliness despite the distressed economy.


Chloe McConnell taking a Kombi into town with the students for fieldwork.

On Sunday, our first day off, we embarked on a group neighborhood run, relished in a long breakfast, and drove out of town for a hike. The beautiful rocky landscape of Ngomakurira is rife with green algae-spotted rocks and cave paintings. The scenery was ideal for group portraits and we took the time to stage some shots.  We then hit the driving range for a fun, but competitive, putting tournament to round out the day.


Rodrigo Calmet, Julián Garzón, Sebastian Pflumm, Benjamin Irarrazaval, and Chloe McConnell (members of Team ACT), pose during a hike in Ngomakurira.

Concluding Week One

Our first 6 days of teaching left us exhausted, yet exhilarated. We feel at home in Harare and are inspired by the work and ideas that our students have developed. We are ready to work closely with our students to develop business models, financial plans, and a tight story that they will pitch to investors next week.



Exploring Automotive Markets in India

FTMBA students Thomas Jacobson, Irene Liang, Justin Simpson, Elmer Villanueva, and Marshall Witkowski are currently in Bangalore, India, working on an International Business Development (IBD) project.

I looked left, saw open road, and took a bold first step across the street. A horn sounded and three motorbikes whizzed by, just several feet in front of me. Having forgotten again that traffic comes from the right, I stepped back to the curb defeated. Elmer, as usual, had fearlessly crossed ahead. With a new break in traffic, I darted into the road. I’d nearly made it to the median when I had to dodge one last tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) that appeared out of nowhere!

Safely on the median now, I contemplated the next half of my journey. I waited patiently for several minutes. Discouraged by the never-ending traffic, I decided to try crossing like the locals: walk slowly and deliberately one step at a time and just pray that the traffic doesn’t hit me. After a terrifying 30 seconds and amidst a cacophony of car horns and my own adrenaline-filled heart beating out of my chest, I finally reached the far side and raised my fist in triumph at my successful road crossing! I turned around to celebrate with my teammates, only to sadden at the sight of them still on the other side. They hadn’t made the journey with me. I had to wait several more minutes as they crossed one-by-one, each person utilizing a different strategy to get across.

India Mysore Thomas & Marshall Cross Street

Our Project

Having now been in country for ten days, our IBD group has been hard at work on our client project. From the moment we touched down, our client has been extremely hospitable. They’ve provided us all the resources we need to succeed and we’ve truly enjoyed the experience. All of the top executives have made themselves available to us and everyone we’ve met is eager to meet us and help in any way.



Last week, we also travelled to Mysore to tour the manufacturing facilities of our client. We spent several days learning about their processes and how their products are currently made. They held nothing back, showing us everything from start to finish. We gained great insights from the trip and it really helped to solidify our understanding of their capabilities and shape our thinking for our own product recommendation.


This past Monday, we were able to visit the Mercedes-Benz Research & Development India office. It’s a large complex of about 4,500 employees and they shared with us all about their engineering work. When Mercedes-Benz first brought their cars to the Indian market, they uncovered some interesting insights about the local market. Their car horns are typically designed for 10,000 uses, which should last the life of the car. But here in India, horns are used much more often and customers were complaining that their horns were dying within just several months! Mercedes-Benz had to install a new car horn designed for one million uses.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit a prominent local startup that’s developing its own electric scooter. This visit was made possible through one of our Haas classmates, proving already how valuable our new networks can be! We were excited to learn about their growing business and they were excited to hear about life in Silicon Valley.


We’re looking forward to the final week of our stay and the culmination of our project. Our final recommendation will be delivered to the client before we leave, and we sincerely hope that they will find it useful.

The Country and Culture

We’ve gotten a thorough taste of Bangalore during our time here. The food, mostly vegetarian, has been delicious. My personal favorite dish has been the breakfast dosa, which is similar to a pancake and is served folded over a mix of spiced vegetables. Others in the group have really taken to puri (pictured below), which is a deep-fried bread that rises and fills with air before being served.


Last week, while in Mysore, we took a short break from work to visit the Mysore Palace. It’s a former residence of the royal family and a beautiful complex only about a century old.


After our hard first week of work, we spent the weekend near to the village of Masinagudi, deep within the jungles of Bandipur National Park, also known as the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The weekend was largely used to relax and rejuvenate, and we took the opportunity to go on a jungle safari. We saw many deer and monkeys, a variety of birds, wild boars, a couple wild elephants, one mongoose, and the prized sightings of a couple large bison and two wild leopards! I loved how freely the animals were able to roam and, in fact, a couple wild elephants went on a nighttime adventure while we were there and caused quite some damage in a nearby village.

After all of our travel in the first week, we plan to stay in Bangalore for the second (upcoming) weekend and explore the city more. We’re having a great trip and really enjoying our IBD experience!