Summer 2014 EWMBA students Timothy Chen, Karthik Jalamangala, Eric Ma, and Go Nagatani are working on an IBD project with the Yachay City of Knowledge in Ecuador.
Seeing is Believing
It all became real for us at 10.45 am on July 7th, when we came to a mileage sign along the road that said Yachay City was 2.5 km ahead. Yachay City was indeed thriving. During the six weeks before that, we had spent a great deal of time researching and talking to people about the Ecuadorian government’s grandest landmark initiative, Yachay City.
However, our imagination of the progress done on the city did not match up to what the city had accomplished since going live in 2013. Set in an exquisite location surrounded by the Andes, the rapid pace of development of the University, the living complexes and the dorms gave us the theme for our work in country – “Seeing is Believing!”
A view of the Andean Valley Setting of Yachay City of Knowledge
The Grand Vision
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced Yachay (“Knowledge” in Quechua) as a multi-year initiative, to be completed by the year 2031, to build a smart city that was to be home to a university, a technology park, a tourist destination, and a smart urban living area. The development is accordingly divided into multiple development phases.
The objective of the Haas IBD team was to help plan the US launch of Yachay City by coming up with a marketing strategy to attract US investors. The project goals included making recommendations about US investor outreach via media articles and advertising, events, and key metrics to track the success of the outreach. However, the Yachay project for Haas was expansive in scope and a one of the challenges for the team was to hone the project scope to something manageable for the short timeframe of the program. This project was a wonderful opportunity to put our education at Haas to good use.
Journey to the Middle of the Earth
A view of the Pululahua volcanic crater, now a green valley
After a good night’s sleep after the long journey from the US, we visited the Equator Line Monument, called the La Mitad del Mundo and a former volcanic crater area called Pululahua. Both spots were exciting spots to visit with some interesting activities at the Equator museum to prove the balance of the earth at the center of the earth. Both spots were within one hour’s driving distance from Quito and cheap transportation options such as a cab at the hotel were available.
The team at the Equator Museum
That same evening, we met with our client contacts at a coffee shop and had a great time catching up with them. It was good to meet with the folks with whom we had spent six weeks talking with prior to our arrival in Ecuador. We caught up on not only our travel but also discussed Ecuadorian culture and the impending final week of the football World Cup.
Work Begins In-Country
The first working day of our trip we went to Yachay City, a 3 hour drive north of Quito. The drive took us through a picturesque route full of winding roads overlooking the Andes. Arriving in Yachay City – seeing the students in classrooms, the Yachay logo everywhere, the active construction – was a surreal experience. Once there, we got to play the role of prospective investors and received a pitch for investment from the investment promotion team.
We had a first-hand experience of how investors hear about Yachay City’s progress. During the pitch, we got to tour of the University campus and some of the associated areas of the campus. This included some beautiful sculptures by local artists depicting Yachay, the community and the learning experience.
A view of the recently constructed dorm buildings
Some of the advertisements pasted on the walls of Yachay City
An example of the beautiful sculptures made by local artists in Yachay City
We also had a chance to meet with another group of consultants working on a master strategy for Yachay investment.
On the second day of our official visit, we presented our introductory presentation to the investment promotion team with our preliminary research data and proposals for the remaining two weeks of the trip. We received some excellent feedback from the team about our presentation and great recommendations about the marketing strategy recommendations that they would need from us.
The IBD Yachay team with the Yachay EP Investment Promotion Team
Over the rest of the week, we met with several teams at Yachay related to investment incentives, entrepreneurship, marketing and communication, and, of course, the investment promotion team, our client. What struck us most was how passionate this group of young individuals was. There is a very strong sense of pride in Ecuador and what is possible for this country in the next few years. There is a sense that their time of greatness has come and that they will be a force to reckoned with in Ecuador.
At the same time, we also discovered that Ecuador has a long road ahead of it full of challenges, including changing its perception in political and economic circles. Also, Ecuador faces aggressive competition from well-established technology parks around the world, some of whom we had a chance to talk with. Also, we got a chance to speak with many potential investors and anchor partners of Yachay in some of the focal industries such as Information and Communication Technology and Life Sciences. They all displayed excitement about wonderful possibilities for Yachay but at the same time they exhibited cautious optimism about their role in the future of Yachay City.
World Cup Football
As Friday rolled around, we had a chance to socialize with the Yachay team. As mentioned above, they are a group of young and passionate individuals who love to work hard and play hard. We had a good time exploring one of Quito’s busiest Friday night spots, Foch Square. Our clients and associated team members were excited to spend the evening with us and were very generous in showing us around this part of town. The energy was palpable when we went out to dinner and socialized – a perfect end to a busy week.
A gorgeous view of Quito City from Teleferico
On Sunday morning, we visited an area called Teleferico, where we took a cable car (Gondola) ride up to a height of 4100 meters. The view of Quito was spectacular from this spot and we could see how expansive the area is. Next, we visited the Virgin Mary statue, which watches over the entire city. This again was a spectacular view. We spent Sunday afternoon watching the football World Cup final in a local restaurant with our client. After a busy week, this was a nice way to kick back and enjoy the great game.
The legendary statue of the Virgin Mary
The Final Leg of the Project
The focus of working week two switched to creating our final deliverables. The final deliverables included a presentation on Thursday to the Yachay CEO, Mr. Hector Rodriguez. We spent a lot of time consolidating all of our insights from the prior seven weeks of the project. We focused on structuring our final presentation and final report as a marketing strategy document that would help give the client a strategy of focusing not only on Yachay as a smart city but also focusing on Ecuador as a country that is on the cusp of something wonderful. Related to the strategies presented, we also created a set of marketing tactics that will help ensure that the strategies can be successfully deployed and measured in the US. The eventual outcome of this effort is to bring widespread investor interest to Yachay City.
After the presentation, the Haas IBD team with Yachay CEO, Mr. Hector Rodriguez (center) and Investment Group Director, Daniela Calero
Needless to say, this was a massive team effort with many, many long hours spent working on data research, story boarding, draft and mock presentations, oftentimes with team meetings running deep into the early hours of the morning for multiple days in a row during the week. On the Thursday before our departure, we had a very useful discussion with the CEO. He gave us insightful feedback on our presentation and expressed appreciation for the work we put into our IBD project to help give his team a new direction in ensuring unified communications and investment promotion strategies.
We spent the evening with the investment promotion and communication teams. We went on a grand tour of old town Quito in the San Francisco area visiting old churches and the cobblestone roads of the area. Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the “El Ventanal” restaurant while taking in a picturesque view of Quito.
The Yachay IBD project has been a very insightful and fantastic project which afforded our Haas IBD team with a wonderful opportunity to experience Ecuadorian culture and to be part of an exciting project that can alter the future of this country.
We wish the Yachay City the very best of success with investment attraction!