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