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 Thailand – Team Theptarin Hospital

Berkeley-Haas MBA students Dulce Kadise, Hieu Nguyen, Suraj Patel and Lexi Sturdy worked with Thai hospital, Theptarin, to create a sustainable growth strategy for its sister foundation which aims to build healthier lives by preventing diabetes and its complications.

Striving to Achieve a Dream

To be Thailand’s leader in treatment and prevention of diabetes – A tall vision for Theptarin, a family-run, 80-bed hospital located in Bangkok.  As a young doctor at a public hospital in Thailand over 40 years ago, Dr. Thep Himathongkam had a dream of what eventually became Theptarin Hospital. Experiencing the bureaucratic challenges of the public system, he decided to start a private, for-profit hospital where he could create a specialized, interdisciplinary approach to address diabetes. But Dr. Thep’s dream to expand excellent diabetes care and prevention goes well beyond the walls of his hospital; he wants to see it spread throughout Thailand and eventually the world, which is why he created the Foundation for Development of Diabetes Care Management nearly 15 years ago.

Haas-IBD team with Dr. Thep Himathongkam and his family

Haas-IBD team with Dr. Thep Himathongkam and his family

Our IBD team was tasked with helping this Foundation develop a sustainable growth strategy for it to achieve its mission of preventing diabetes and its complications in Thailand and its neighboring countries. But throughout our work with Theptarin we learned how challenging and difficult it can be to regulate and run a for-profit hospital that has responsibility to its shareholders while carrying out a dream to fight diabetes throughout the region.

After conducting several case studies and interviews with elite health institutions from around the world, we concluded that in order for the Foundation to grow as leadership wanted, it would need its own strategy, brand and structure. One of the key struggles the Hospital and its subsequent Foundation faced was the overwhelming interconnected nature their work. To help create a clear distinction between the two entities we created a new mission and set of guiding principles for the Foundation along with a suite of decision-making tools. By doing so, we hope to provide a clear identity for the foundation and help leadership make mission-driven decisions as it grows.

Dr. Thep’s dream is courageous and inspiring, we hope that by distinguishing and defining his Foundation, as well as running a fabulous hospital, he can effect change throughout Thailand and its surrounding region. This change has already begun with the trainings that the Foundation currently provides, which have inspired clinicians to improve diabetic care in their own regions.


The IBD team experiencing the engaging trainings provided by the Foundation

The IBD team experiencing the engaging trainings provided by the Foundation

Here’s a Youtube video of another fun teamwork building activity provided by the Theptarin Foundation: https://youtu.be/uKkVD53FOx8

Getting a Taste of Thai Culture

During the three weeks we spent in Bangkok, we conducted several interviews to test the hypothesis we had developed. However, these interviews turned out to be more than useful tools for our work; they gave us a glimpse into the Thai culture.

One of our favorite interviews was with a long-time patient and member of the Foundation’s committee. He invited us to his home to conduct the interview, which he described as a typical middle class Thai home as he gave us a brief tour. His wife and his dog were also there to welcome us. During the interview he told us stories about his family and his life. Before we left, he insisted that we try a variety of Thai desserts. These included mostly coconut treats, but also durian, a classic Asian fruit. Lexi seemed to tolerate it. On the other hand, Dulce really disliked it, and tried her best to hide it in front of our generous host.

The Haas-IBD team visiting a long-time patient and foundation committee member while getting a taste of Thai culture

The Haas-IBD team visiting a long-time patient and foundation committee member while getting a taste of Thai culture

Another interesting interview was with one of the top government officials at the National Health Security Office. This interviewee gave us a great overview of the healthcare system and the relationship with the private sector. As we were heading out, we took a picture together. This time it was Hieu’s turn to encounter a cultural difference, as he hugged our interviewee during the group picture, a faux pas in Thailand when engaging with those of high position, resulting in a concerned, but amused, look from our client.

Living the Theptarin Lifestyle

Given that we were living at the Hospital during our stay, we had no choice but to embrace the healthy lifestyle promoted by Theptarin.  On the first day our IBD team was given a tour of the facilities by Tanya, the assistant director for Theptarin Hospital and Dr. Thep’s daughter. We took the elevator to the 14th floor and viewed our hotel-like suites within the hospital’s Lifestyle Building. Tanya mentioned that the building embodied a part of her father’s dream – a place where patients and the general public could convene to learn about and practice healthy living.

Soon afterwards, Tanya provided a tour of all the services in the Lifestyle Building. “We take the stairs here,” she said. After walking down six flights of stairs, we reached the eighth floor, which included a spa, outdoor pool, and fully functional gym. “Let’s see your fitness. This machine measures body composition. Who wants to go first?” she smiled.

Hieu eagerly awaiting his body composition results

Hieu eagerly awaiting his body composition results

One by one we input our information and had the machine assess our body composition through electric pulses. A composition dashboard was subsequently printed, where Hieu’s eyes immediately honed on his 23% body fat metric. Everyone on the team was similarly surprised, and together we formulated a plan to live the Theptarin Lifestyle. The plan was simple – a daily 7am workout, small portions in Theptarin’s cafeteria for breakfast and lunch, alternating days of 7pm workouts, and sleep by 11pm.

After sticking to the Theptarin Lifestyle for three weeks, each team member achieved better body composition. Hieu was able to lose 1kg of body fat and replace it with 1kg of muscle, dropping his body fat to 22%. Success!

Heading back to Berkeley the team vowed to try to continue the Theptarin Lifestyle for as long as possible!

Updates from IBD – Team Singapore

Meet the Team:

-Niki Ariyasinghe an Aussie banker/consultant and bitcoin aficionado

-Moe Poonja a techie and DJ from Chicago

-Diego Vidaurre a Chilean banker and part-time magician

-Gavin Abreu a Mexican central banker and salsa dancer

We were all selected for this project given our prior banking experience.


The Country

When Singapore achieved its independence, in 1965, the country was battling unemployment and serious social and economic problems.  However openness to foreign investment and promoting the creation of new companies helped the country overcome its economic foes and become one of the world’s largest financial hubs.  The result?  Well today Singapore is the third richest country of the world in per capita terms and the World Bank has ranked them the easiest country of the world to do business.


The Project

Developing a strategy for a large financial institution in Singapore to better engage clients through digital tools allowing them to improve the customer experience. However the project had a catch to it. Instead of one client, we had two clients with two different perspectives and two distinct needs.

*Details of the client and project cannot be fully disclosed due to a signed NDA

The Process

We first started by reviewing the industry.  What are the industry standards and what are the innovations that are threatening to disrupt the industry?  To do this, we focused on the large financial institutions in North America and Europe and startups in Silicon Valley.  After we grew familiar with the industry, we talked to client-facing employees at financial institutions to gain a better understating of the costumers needs along with fintech companies with their latest disruptive innovations.  Armed with this knowledge we flew to Singapore, well equipped to offer emerging trends within the industry.  Once there, we interviewed numerous employees of the company and identified their pains and areas of opportunity.  We ideated (using post-its, of course), identified commonalities and ultimately looked to find efficiencies or enhance the customer or banker’s experience.


And came up with a list of recommendations that could help them alleviate their pains and embrace digital tools.

The Final Presentation

We set up a final document with these recommendations and only days before our final presentation we learned that instead of presenting to our sponsor (the Head of Products) we were actually going to present our findings to the CEO of one bank and COO of the other large institution.  We worked diligently to prepare the presentation and tailor it so it is relevant despite having two separate stakeholders with two different recommendations.

We had already taken Cort Worthington’s class so we welcomed the opportunity with confidence and rocked the presentation!


Updates from IBD Cambodia – Team SVC

Jamaur Bronner, Kelvin Mu, Carolina Paz, and Anette Urbina are full-time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Cambodia.  Their client is Sam Veasna Center (SVC), a non-profit organization that helps preserve Cambodian wildlife through ecotourism.

Saving the World, One Bird at a Time

I’m not sure if you remember Captain Planet and the Planeteers, but it was a Saturday morning cartoon that was quite popular in the United States in the early 1990s.  The show centered around 5 ethnically diverse kids from around the world who each had the power to control an element of nature and would occasionally combine their powers to collectively summon the superhero Captain Planet.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers was an environmentally conscious cartoon series that aired in the early through mid-1990s

Captain Planet and the Planeteers was an environmentally conscious cartoon series that aired in the early through mid-1990s

These young heroes took on maniacal Eco-villains that were destroying the environment through pollution, crime, war, unethical science, and poaching.  After vanquishing the baddies, Captain Planet would end the show with his catchphrase “The Power is Yours!” – implying that we all have the power to end environmental destruction if we work together in unity.

Fast forward twenty years from the end of the TV series in 1995 to 2015 Cambodia.  The heat is stifling, the air is dusty, and dozens of extravagant hotels and restaurants stood eerily unoccupied.  This is Siem Reap in the “low season” – the May through September slog when tourist levels lull and the country is blanketed by the relentless summer heat.

Nevertheless, Cambodia – and Siem Reap specifically – is still just as fascinating and endearing as any other time of the year.  The majestic temples of Angkor Wat sprawl over 200 acres 3 miles north of town.   The Siem Reap River snakes through the core of the city, and in the evenings the bridges and side streets erupt with lighted signs for night markets and the ever-popular Pub Street.

Angkor Wat is one of the seven wonders of the world, and looks especially incredible at sunrise

Angkor Wat is one of the seven wonders of the world, and looks especially incredible at sunrise

The Haas team sent to Siem Reap was as diverse as that cartoon show – an American, Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Canadian – and the project could have easily been spun into one of the show’s plotlines.  Our client, Sam Veasna Center (SVC), is a ten year old non-profit organization that promotes conservation through ecotourism.  SVC’s clients are taken to remote areas of Cambodia to partake in birdwatching tours, and a large percentage of their tour fees are reinvested into local villages to provide incentives for sustainable living practices.  Former poachers and hunters in the village are now SVC’s greatest advocates for conservation, serving as forest rangers who carefully monitor Cambodia’s dwindling wildlife.  SVC contributes 50 cents of each dollar of revenue towards conservation and community improvement efforts.

SVC regularly meets with representatives of the communities it supports and provides funding for village projects, as can be seen here

SVC regularly meets with representatives of the communities it supports and provides funding for village projects, as can be seen here

How dire is Cambodia’s environmental situation? The country’s national bird, the Giant Ibis, is listed as a critically endangered species, with only about 250 of these birds left in the world.  Even SVC’s founding is a tragic testament to the formidable wildlife challenge.  SVC’s founder Sam Veasna died of malaria in 1999 while surveying the Northern Plans for the now extinct kouprey.

The 2015 Haas team is the third group of Haasies to work with SVC.  The first team helped design SVC’s original business model and the second team conducted site-specific investment analyses.  Our task was a fusion of the previous projects; SVC, now profitable, needed help growing the company and branching out beyond its core service offering of birdwatching tours.  Its sponsor, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), had helped SVC identify a number of strategic investments that it could make at its sites, and also had ideas on additional services SVC could begin offering.  WCS and SVC wanted help evaluating those investments, as well as conceptualizing the implementation of its new product mix.


Our project was off to a strong start during the spring semester.  Our clients, SVC Director Johnny Orn and WCS Cambodia Director Ross Sinclair, were available for weekly meetings and helped answer our initial questions as we scoped the project.  Unfortunately, one month before we were scheduled to go on-site, Ross took time off for vacation and some of our project scoping questions had not yet been addressed.  We continued working with Johnny to plan our approach for once we got on-site, but we remained concerned that our vision of project success might not align with Ross’s priorities.

Once we were on-site, we had a Day of Arrival Presentation that was well received by Johnny, and we were able to arrange an in-person meeting with Ross and WCS Technical Advisor Simon Mahood the following day.  It turned out that our plan of action indeed aligned with WCS, and they understood that our primary client for this engagement was SVC, so Johnny had the final say on our deliverables.

The Haas team grabbed dinner with Ross Sinclair and Simon Mahood, managers at WCS

The Haas team grabbed dinner with Ross Sinclair and Simon Mahood, managers at WCS

Our plan in Cambodia was to conduct a thorough financial analysis to come up with strategies for improving SVC’s profitability, conduct competitive analysis to identify best practices and optimal product mix, and to review their marketing strategy and recommend ways in which the organization could grow its reach and brand recognition.

Between the financial documents that SVC maintained and the recently-commissioned marketing strategy document, we realized that the organization had a trove of valuable information, but had not spent time analyzing this information or extracting insights.  Part of the problem was that SVC was shorthanded in manpower and technical ability – even with all of their data, few within the walls of SVC had the time or ability to extract the contents since the data was not laid out in an easily intuitive manner.  Part of our challenge was not only extracting insights and making recommendations, but also equipping the SVC leadership with tools that would improve its ability to track progress and reevaluate the organization’s position in the future.

Presentation Day

On the day of our final presentation, the contents of our deliverables were robust: we created a 129-slide deck, a 23 page Digital Marketing & Brand Management guide, an updated feedback form, an updated booking form, a competitive benchmarking database, and an extensive Excel investment model.  Our presentation was 2 hours long, including time for Q&A, and both Johnny and the WCS representative Kez Hobson were impressed with our findings.  Most importantly, our presentation included concrete recommendations and a proposed implementation timeline that gave Johnny the direction he needed to begin optimizing his organization after we were gone.

SVC hosted us as dinner guests following the presentation, and we enjoyed Khmer food and watched a documentary that described Cambodia’s wildlife landscape nearly 50 years ago.  In the film, one could see the damaging effects that environmental practices have had on the land; in the 1970’s, Cambodia’s forests covered 73% of all land area, today that figure is closer to 48%.  The country has lost more than 7% of its forest cover over the last 12 years, which is the fifth fastest rate in the world.

Dinner and documentary on our last night with SVC

Dinner and documentary on our last night with SVC

We’d like to think that the work we did this semester was a small step in improving the outlook for wildlife in Cambodia.  SVC, as one of the leading eco-tour operators in the country, is playing a pivotal role in protecting endangered species and creating habitats in which they can once again thrive.  We might not have saved the world, but we hope we’ve helped an organization focused on protecting some of the world’s most threatened animals.

From right to left: Haas teammates Kelvin Mu, Jamaur Bronner, Anette Urbina, and Carolina Paz with SVC Director Johnny Orn

From right to left: Haas teammates Kelvin Mu, Jamaur Bronner, Anette Urbina, and Carolina Paz with SVC Director Johnny Orn


Updates from IBD Turkey – Team Indofood

FTMBA students Chris Dulgarian, Joy Henderson, Mijin Sim, and Akshay Yadav traveled to Turkey to complete their Spring 2015 IBD project with Indofood, the world’s largest producer of instant noodles.

Our excitement knew no bounds when we found out who our IBD client was – the world’s largest instant noodle manufacturer, Indofood (brand of noodles is Indomie)! Much to our surprise though, Indofood was facing some hurdles introducing instant noodles to Turkey.

The challenge seemed delicious, but the only problem was that our visit was 4 months after the semester started. Going beyond ourselves as usual, our team valiantly started soaking in the Turkish experience while we were at Berkeley itself, paying visits to yummy Turkish restaurants and reaching out to the Turkish community for insights.

Team Turkey at a Turkish restaurant on Shattuck Ave in Berkeley

Team Turkey at a Turkish restaurant on Shattuck Ave in Berkeley

Soon we realized why Turkey was an uphill challenge for Indomie. Not only was the Turkish food delicious, it was also relatively inexpensive and Turkish people were extremely fond of the diversity of the cuisine available to them. Meals typically had many courses, and the cooks in the house were proud of their elaborate food preparations.

A mini version of the Turkish spread

A mini version of the Turkish spread

When the team arrived in Turkey, we set about talking to as many locals as we could to get a better perspective of the target customers of Indomie. While some families kindly hosted us in their homes, we met other target customers such as youngsters in universities and coffee shops for focused group discussions and noodle tasting sessions.

Focus group discussions with locals

Focus group discussions with locals

As we expected, many people instantly fell in love with the taste of noodles. However, there were some concerns ranging from healthiness to awareness and packaging, factors that were potentially keeping customers from buying noodles. The Turkish passion for fresh food and local ingredients was unambiguous and very impressive. The bulk of the local population bought their provisions from bi-weekly organic food bazaars, where one could find an extensive variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and spices.

Visiting a food bazaar in Instanbul

Visiting a food bazaar in Instanbul

To gain more insights on customers’ buying habits and concerns, we gathered as much data as we could through ethnographic interviews, surveys and focused group discussions. The team realized that the two biggest bottlenecks in the sales of Indomie noodles were the lack of awareness about the product and perception of noodles as an alien food.

Even though Indomie had been in Turkey for 5 years, they had not invested in marketing their product, and this resulted in very sparse awareness of the noodles. Even when people knew about them, they would hesitate to buy the pack owing to the packaging and perception of flavor of the noodles. The most popular flavors are Eggplant, Beef, Tomato and Yogurt, and a combination of any of these seem to set off hunger bells for any Turkish person. These factors put together yielded in low sales of noodles.

The team ended up giving multiple suggestions for improving sales such as localizing flavors, introducing larger packs etc., all of which fell under one of the 4 P’s of marketing – Product, Price, Placement or Promotions. The suggestions were welcomed by the management, and they reassured the team that their own findings were on similar lines too.

Chris with his recommendation on using brand ambassadors for advertising

Chris with his recommendation on using brand ambassadors for advertising

With the final presentation delivered to the customer, the team had some free time to explore the beautiful and conveniently located country. We managed to squeeze in a few trips to different destinations in Turkey and Egypt, which were all affordable and close to Istanbul. The most memorable trip was to Cairo, where the entire team got to visit the pyramids for the first time!

The IBD Turkey team in Egypt

The IBD Turkey team in Egypt

Overall, the IBD trek was a real success, and the team learned significant facts about challenges in running the instant noodles business, especially in a nascent market. Meeting the beautiful people of Turkey and seeing breathtaking sights over the country were just the icing on the cake!

So if you go to Turkey and see Tomato and Yogurt noodles on a shelf in a supermarket, remember that the Haas IBD team of 2015 probably had something to do with it. Elveda Turkey!

Elveda (goodbye) Turkey -- the team with our client representatives, Yusuf and Diaa

Elveda (goodbye) Turkey — the team with our client representatives, Yusuf and Diaa

Updates from IBD – Team Indonesia

BekeleyHaas Full-Time MBA students Remona Moodley, Alejandra Pomar, Peter Tidrick and Michael Young participated in a summer IBD project in Indonesia with a large coal mining contractor company (client name withheld due to NDA).

Quick background: Our project was to help increase productivity in the company’s mining operations through an innovative change management solution. In country, we were to pilot the proposed solution.

The first thing we noticed is that Indonesians love to shop – in shopping malls. Jakarta, where our client is headquartered, has 173 shopping malls, the most in the world, 50 of which are massive and have multiple stories. So, it was only fitting that our first team dinner was in a shopping mall – the Grand Indonesia Mall, the largest in the city, located right in the middle of it.  The tapas dinner here was one of the best dinners of the trip and to top it off SKYE, the highest rooftop bar in Jakarta, offered the best views of the city from the top of neighboring Menara BCA building.

2015-05-18 08.54.35


We used this week to get acclimated to the client and the culture and to explore the big city. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. As a result, a large majority of people, do not drink alcohol, therefore business deals and professional networking is done over meals as opposed to drinks as is American culture.

Thus, one of the highlights of the week, was dinner with the CEO. All week, we’ve been amazed by the food. This night was no different. We ate at a Dutch influenced tapas restaurant and everything we had was delicious.

2015-05-20 22.46.53


Mine time spanned from the end of week 2 to the end of week 3. To get to the mine, it takes a day of travel.  We got up before the sun even thought about coming up and bore the non-stop Jakarta traffic to the airport for an early morning flight to Benjarmasin in South Kalimantan. We then met our driver to drive six hours (sometimes it can take up to 10) to the mine site. There’s not much action on this “island” (The Republic of Indonesia is comprised of over 1,000 of them) even though it’s the biggest in Asia and third largest in the world. Most of the people here are farmers. There’s one long narrow road, one lane in each direction, which goes from the airport to mine. Along the road, for 6 hours straight are little small houses made of wood and of varying degrees of completion.  We noticed that there were many houses that the big bad wolf could blow down with a huff and a puff. Luckily, the driver informed us that rainy season consists of only rain and heavier rain; they don’t have the strong hurricane like winds that are common in America.



Once we got to our hotel in Tanjung, a town that neighbors the mine site, we had lunch as a team. We were pleasantly surprised by our hotel being that we’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s the only one in town and the nearest hotel isn’t for another 2 hours. After days, weeks, months of anticipation, we were finally going to see the mine. A collective sentiment came over our team: let’s do this. We got into our 4x4s and headed to the site, completed our mandatory safety induction, got our vests and hard hats, and met a few of the supervisors and superintendents who were at the office. We returned to the hotel exhausted after a long day of traveling and working around 7pm to prepare for a 5:15 start the next morning.  We needed to be present for a 6am meeting and mine was 30 minutes away.

2015-06-02 23.40.03


The rest of our time was filled with touring the mine site and meeting and interviewing the mine workers: operators, foreman, supervisors, superintendents and the mining manager who all couldn’t get enough photos with us foreigners. We were temporary celebrities.

We were amazed by how massive the mine site and equipment are. Being Berkeley students, we couldn’t help but notice the trees that outlined the pit and think of the destruction of what used to be at least 200 acres of land covered in trees and filled with life, which took 100s of years to grow and how quickly (2 years) it went from that to…well, a mine site.



On our last day, our client contacts, who have been working with us closely from the beginning of the project gave us the greatest parting gift: Batik shirts! Batik, a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, is a big part of Indonesian culture and history. The client has Batik Fridays, which encourages employees to wear Batik shirts along with jeans.


Updates from IBD Philippines – Team We Care Solar

IBD Spring 2015 team We Care Solar (Sherry Chen, Sarah Tomec, My-Thuan Tran, Dorothy Yang) traveled to the Philippines for their IBD project.

It wasn’t until our team landed in the Philippines that we grasped the extent of the country’s devastating natural disasters. We arrived just a year and a half after Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded. It killed more than 6,000 people and ravaged thousands of communities.

Much of the country had recovered. But among emergency response organizations, there was a sense of urgency. How could they better prepare for the next inevitable disaster? In the Philippines, it is not a question of if the next disaster will strike, but when. The Philippines is the second most disaster-prone country in the world, and Filipinos endure frequent typhoons, earthquakes, floods and tsunamis.

Ruins from the 2013 major earthquake in the Bohol Province.

Ruins from the 2013 major earthquake in the Bohol Province.

One of the biggest challenges in Haiyan relief efforts was access to reliable power. The typhoon severed electricity lines, and some areas did not have consistent access to power for months. Without power, emergency responders struggled to reach more isolated and remote areas with critical help. Search and rescue responders were unable to charge their communications devices to call for additional resources. Without a consistent light source, medical personnel had difficulty providing life-saving procedures at night for victims and women delivering babies.

That is where our IBD team came in. We worked on developing a market entry strategy for Solar Suitcases to be used in emergency disaster response in the Philippines. These Solar Suitcases use solar power to charge lights and other crucial devices. Developed by Berkeley-based WE CARE Solar, the suitcases are primarily used to light maternity clinics in rural areas. But following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, WE CARE saw a tremendous need for the Solar Suitcase in emergency response.

The IBD team with potential emergency response partners after the qualification meeting.

The IBD team with potential emergency response partners after the qualification meeting.

The Philippines was an ideal country to pilot entry of the technology into the emergency disaster sector. WE CARE partnered with Stiftung Solarenergie Foundation Philippines (StS), a social enterprise that works to provide solar energy in rural areas who do not have access to clean, reliable and sustainable energy.

The key question became how emergency responders could gain access to these Solar Suitcases. While there was a tremendous need for the Solar Suitcase, the equipment is cost-prohibitive for many smaller emergency response organizations. WCS and StS did not want to solely rely on grant after grant from foundations and donors. Our job was to develop a sustainable funding model and operational framework that would allow emergency responders to access the kits.

WECARE Solar and StS training emergency responders on power management with the solar suitcase.

WECARE Solar and StS training emergency responders on power management with the solar suitcase.

Our hypothesis that there was a strong market for these Solar Suitcases among emergency responders, and that they would be willing to pay to gain access to these Solar Suitcases during times of emergency. We developed a model similar to Zip Car: Solar Suitcases would be held in warehouses and emergency responder organizations would pay an annual fee that would allow them to get the Solar Suitcases whenever an emergency struck. They would pay a daily “lease” fee whenever the suitcase was in use.

We quickly realized that this was an innovative model. Through interviews with international organizations such as the United Nations, we recognized that most emergency response relied on major funders and donations that flowed in. The chaotic “all hands on deck” environment after a disaster did not lend itself to a structure in which equipment was returned. A leasing model would be a very new model in emergency response that StS would be pioneering.

We were honored to meet dozens of emergency responders who have dedicated their lives to helping communities in distress. Some came from the private sector, others from volunteer-based organizations, and some from government. These men and women spoke passionately about providing crucial help to devastated communities after disasters, time and time again.

As we introduced the Solar Suitcase to these responders, their eyes lit up. They spoke about how the Solar Suitcase could help them be more equipped during emergency response and how it could ensure life-saving disaster relief could reach remote and isolated areas. They talked about the potential to provide crucial light for their emergency operations and charge up their devices— from radios to cell phones to wireless modems—all critical tools in emergency response.

Taken in Coron, Palawan province, a young boy steers his boat away from the docking area. Our team was struck by the resilience and passion for life shared with us by the people of the Philippines.

Taken in Coron, Palawan province, a young boy steers his boat away from the docking area. Our team was struck by the resilience and passion for life shared with us by the people of the Philippines.

Our time on the ground showed us the resiliency of the Filipino people. We are excited to see this model come to life and to see the impact of the Solar Suitcase in emergency response. We hope it will empower first responders and help revolutionize access to power for disaster relief.

Updates from IBD India – Team ISB

A Tour of India by Kyle Bowman, Dickson Cohen, Hannah Davidoff and Sydney Thomas



In less than three weeks, our Haas IBD team visited seven cities in as many states across India. We took four inter-country flights, one train, and three 4+ hour car rides. We spent more time in taxis than sleeping (unless, of course, you count sleeping in taxis) and rarely saw the temperature drop below 100°F. Throughout it all though, as a team, we leaned on and learned from each other to have a great cultural experience and produce a really awesome final presentation for our client.

Our project

Our client, the Max Institute of Healthcare Management (MIHM) at the Indian School of Business (ISB), is a new organization that was part educational body part think tank, with a mix of on-the-ground NGO sprinkled in. Our project revolved around helping them achieve their ambitious/audacious goal of transforming healthcare in India. Our task was to develop a strategic plan, with a special emphasis on helping them become a thought leader in the Indian healthcare space. So, you know, no pressure.



Right away, we knew we were going to be dealing with big, hairy questions and ambiguity.  Between learning about the complex, dichotomous world of Indian healthcare and the confounding pursuit of “thought leadership” (how does one achieve what one cannot define?), we expected very few simple, clean answers. In light of that, we built a project plan around incremental steps toward actionable suggestions for our client.

During our time at Haas, we conducted basic research on India’s healthcare system to get the lay of the land, then moved into case studies to gain more focused insights on what steps other organizations had taken in their path to prominence. We then set up interviews with as many stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem as possible so that we could gain a three-dimensional view of India’s healthcare landscape. Using those interviews, we hoped to identify gaps that the Institute could fill and concrete recommendations for them to take in the short and long term.

Somehow, it worked. Over the course of our project, we interviewed around 50 people spanning the public and private sector, as well as Indian and global organizations. We spoke with CEOs, country directors, and partners at organizations like the World Bank, GlaxoSmithKline, Brookings, ICICI Lombard, and the Kaiser Family Foundation. None of us could believe the access we got or how helpful and frank our interviewees were.



Armed with candid insights from the sector’s major stakeholders, some key frameworks we’d come across through our Haas-based research, and some handy dandy PFPS skills, we prepared a final product that our client was very happy with.

Experiencing India

Spending time in so many different parts of India, we all quickly realized the diversity of India. From the food to the dress to the language, each place had a unique character. Chandigarh was our first stop. Our newfound friends and coworkers at MIHM helped us explore the local sights – from the rock garden to the Elante mall – and even took us to a local bar to experience live music! Even with this excitement, we couldn’t believe how quiet it was. It felt like a sleepy college town which, we came to learn, definitely made it an outlier amongst Indian cities.

A few days later, we were on a flight to Hyderabad. As the home of the larger ISB campus, we were able to meet a number of students at a Saturday night event who shared with us their love of healthcare and amazing recommendations of places to visit and eat. In between exploring the big tourist spots like Charminar, Golconda Fort, and Birla Mandir, we tried the famous Biryani at Paradise, watched a Cricket game from a local sports bar (go Mumbai Indians!) and had dinner at a rooftop bar in Jubilee Hills.

We woke up before the crack of dawn on Monday morning to head to the airport for Bangalore. We only had one day in Bangalore so we had to make it count! We definitely saw why it was called the “Silicon Valley” of India. The high-rises were beautiful (and expensive!) and the weather was perfect at a balmy 90 degrees. We didn’t have much time to enjoy it though, the next day we were able to sleep in until 4am to head to the airport to our next destination – Mumbai.


Once we reached Mumbai, we were greeted by the loudest and craziest taxi line any of us had ever seen. We stood there dazed and confused for about 10-15 minutes until we began to pick up signals on how to navigate the situation and eventually found a cab. Dressed in suits, we squeezed into the back of a small Tata in 100 degree heat. But as we passed extreme poverty on our way to the hotel, we were given a new appreciation for our predicament. We passed a long winding shanty-town and gazed at men, women, and children struggling to survive in the heatwave. Throughout our time in India, we learned that almost 1,000 people died due to the extreme heat. These conditions continued until we rolled into the parking lot of our grandiose hotel which seemed extremely out of place. Some of us couldn’t help but wonder where the employees of the hotel lived and how they felt about coming to such a different world to work each day.

Throughout our time in Mumbai, in addition to our interviews, we also took a cooking class with a woman from the East of India who taught us about the very different Assam culture. Because the east of India borders with China, it has an interesting confluence of foods and practices. Another humbling experience was our visit to Ghandi’s house. From reading his letters to learning more about the past injustices in India, this experience helped us appreciate India’s impact on the course of history.

Our last morning flight took us to Delhi. We definitely found our time there to be the highlight of our trip. We visited the Taj, explored the shops at Delli Haat, and did a morning bike tour around Old Delhi. On the bike tour, we rode through the old trading center, a large swath of butcher shops, stopped for a Chai break, and made it back to our hotel in time to quickly change the head out to our next interview.


Halfway through our last week in India, we had a traditional Indian experience of the train! To head back to Chandigarh for our final presentation, we took a 3 hour train from Delhi. When we first arrived at the train station, we were all pretty terrified. The floor was covered with people sitting on the ground eating, sleeping, and hanging out. There was nobody around who spoke english who could help us figure out which train to take. Plus, the trains that passed us looked like they came out of a 1950s movie. Once we navigated the station to figure out which train to take, entered our cars and found our seats, we were pleasantly surprised. For about $10 each, we received a three course meal, full liters of water, and a ride straight to Chandigarh.

Our last few days in Chandigarh were spent diligently focused on completing our deliverables for our client. Luckily, our hard work paid off as our presentation went really smoothly. We were able to enter the beginning of the end of our India trip feeling accomplished.


Throughout our three weeks in India we experienced so many different cultures, foods and people. However, there were a few things that didn’t seem to change. We were shown “aggressive hospitality” all across India – from people going out of their way to help us find our next stop to waiters running across a restaurant to make sure we didn’t have to pour our own water. Almost every cab driver drove a Suzuki Maruti or Tata Indigo and preferred to roll down his window to ask directions from a stranger instead of using a map. When an Indian shakes his or her from left to right, bobbing a bit, it means “yes,” not “no.” And as a group of four Americans, someone will always ask to take a picture with (or of) us.


Updates from IBD China – Team YY

IBD Team YY Spring 2015 (Ariana Alisjahbana, Claire Bianchi, Patrick Scandling) worked with YY Inc.–a Chinese social media company in Guangzhou, China.

There is a Chinese saying that goes, “People in Guangzhou eat everything with legs–except for the table.”

We were pretty excited about China’s “foodie city” when we heard we’d be going to Guangzhou. We did not go home disappointed.

The three of us spent three weeks there for our IBD project with YY Inc. YY is a live streaming social media company with applications in entertainment, online gaming, and education. China’s technology industry is growing at lightning speed and YY is one of the main players. YY is listed on NASDAQ with a $3.5 billion market capitalization and has approximately 400 million users.

YY China 1

A sampling of the food we ate in Guangzhou

YY China 2

The IBD Team with YY Inc. Left-right: Patrick Scandling, Simon Wang (YY), Claire Bianchi, Jonah Busch (guest), Ariana Alisjahbana, Alvin Sun (YY)

Our first day in the YY office, we experienced the classic cross-cultural miscommunication experience. We had been working with the YY team for a few months with a certain expectation of what the client wanted. When we met on the first day, it turned out the client expected something completely different! Rather than an international expansion strategy, the client wanted an overview of technology trends in Silicon Valley.

Luckily we were able to pivot quickly to follow the client’s request. We learned that meeting face-to-face–especially if there are language barriers–is key to this type of work.

YY China 3

Team YY hard at work in the office

The YY office gives a glimpse into life at a Chinese tech company

The internet technology industry is relatively new in China–YY is one of the companies that capitalized on the country’s growth. YY started as a live chat platform for online gamers. Now it has expanded to entertainment, online dating, and education. YY is perhaps best known for being the leader in monetizing virtual goods. The majority of YY’s revenue comes from selling virtual items such as roses, chocolates, gifts, and cars.

The YY office sits in contrast with the others in the Tianhe Creative Industry Park. You cannot miss it–there are two Teslas parked in front of the building every day and occasionally two Porsches.

YY China 4

Two Teslas parked in front of the YY office

Inside, YY has an open office floor plan. Perhaps the most unique aspect of their office culture is that everyone takes a 30 minute to an hour nap after lunchtime! One of us practiced this habit throughout our time at YY.

YY China 5

A typical day in YY’s office after lunchtime

Guangzhou is one of China’s five largest cities and the culinary capital of Southern China

Most Chinese technology companies are in Beijing, but YY is one of the few headquartered in Guangzhou. It is the largest city in Southern China with over 14 million people. For Americans, Guangzhou is most famous for being the place where railway workers came from back in the 19th century.

Unfortunately, we arrived in late May when temperatures hover around 28-35ºC (82-95ºF). Humidity levels were between 90-100%. Guangzhou has the famous Chinese big city smog since it is the capital of China’s manufacturing province. The city itself is impressively clean with efficient metro and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. Taxis were also plentiful and cheap.

YY China 6

The Guangzhou skyline taken on a typical day

Traveling around China allowed us to see different sides of the country

We travelled to different parts of China on the weekends. Patrick and Claire went to Shanghai and Beijing with the IBD Shanghai team. Ariana went to Chengdu in Sichuan Province to see the pandas.

YY China 7

In Sichuan Province, Pandas can’t stand the heat and need air conditioning

YY China 8

Qingsheng Mountain in Sichuan Province filled with 2,000 year old temples

Every city was different from Guangzhou and had its own charm. Shanghai was perhaps the most westernized of the Chinese cities. Beijing was the leader in history and culture. Chengdu had the best nature and a laid-back lifestyle.

We enjoyed our IBD experience and look forward to seeing how the Chinese technology industry develops in the coming years.

YY China 9

Team YY and Team Thermofisher (Shanghai) on top of the Great Wall

Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team SVB in China

Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang and Orian Williams are Part-Time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Shanghai, China with Silicon Valley Bank.

Enabling Entrepreneurship in China

Did you know that Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) helped Mark Zuckerberg with banking when he was just a little-known hoodie-wearing startup entrepreneur? SVB has been helping entrepreneurs succeed by providing unique financial products and services in the US. Our team is here to help them succeed in China.

Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang, and Orian Williams are EWMBA students working on an International Business Development (IBD) project in Shanghai, China. The scope of the project is to study credit quality in China for Silicon Valley Bank, specializing in banking with startups.

On our last day in the iLab at Berkeley before departing for the in-country engagement, we went through a brainstorming exercise with Frank Schultz, our IBD faculty mentor. We were glad that he was still smiling after all the hard work we put him through.

IBD-SVB Team + Frank

Week 1

The temperature in Shanghai was noticeably cooler than normal. This was a pleasant surprise and we took it as a good sign for our two weeks stay in Shanghai.

Our team of four arrived at Shanghai on three different flights. Contrary to the typical hours-long flight delays at the Shanghai Pudong Airport, our flights were all surprisingly on time. The first thing that struck us was the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Oftentimes, two moving parties were just centimeters apart while moving in different directions at high speeds. Just when it seemed like a collision was unavoidable, miraculously both parties maneuvered out of each other’s way. It was like two partners on a dance floor moving around swiftly without stepping on each other’s toes. This city seemed to thrive in harmony, without needing any verbal communication.

We met our sponsor, Arman Zand, from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) for dinner the night before we officially began our work in the SVB office in Shanghai, China. In the Chinese culture, business and social gatherings are often conducted around good food. This occasion was no exception to that. Over several dishes of the local gourmet, we shared bits and pieces of our personal stories.

After dinner, our team kicked off our first official in-country working session in the hotel lobby to prepare for a meeting with the CEO the next day.

svb2First In-country Work Session

On our first in-country day at work, we put our knowledge of the Chinese culture and language to work immediately. We met our first interviewee, a startup incubator, at a building that provided office space and support to about 20 startups. Unlike the typical cubicle setup, each “office” was a 2’x4’ desk space which barely provided enough room for a computer, a cup, and a few miniature personal items.

svb3Startup Incubator in China

It almost caught us off-guard that our first meeting was conducted exclusively in Mandarin. It sure put some of our team members’ Mandarin to practice. A full hour of interviewing in Mandarin along with the writing of some names and terms in Chinese made our first in-country interview a very productive one.  As we found out later, the interviewers spoke more freely and provided more information if the meeting was conducted in Mandarin.

svb4Starbucks at Client’s Office

Did you know that a cup of Starbucks coffee is more expensive in Shanghai than in San Francisco? Our team discovered this because 3 of the 5 meetings on day one were at Starbucks. We were beginning to wonder if Starbucks was also where startups pitched to VCs, but that was not the focus of this project.

On day two of the in-country portion of our IBD engagement, our client helped arrange meetings with several well-known venture capital firms to better understand investor behavior in China. We tooled around the city in a gently used mini-van with our team of four plus our handler provided by the firm, and our driver. The weather was a lot warmer than in the Bay Area so thankfully we left our woolen clothing at home. We had one more meeting to go before having dinner with our sponsors’ team at a local Shanghainese restaurant.

Our itinerary had been non-stop since our arrival, but the team was eager to perform well.  The experience was amazing, but this first week had certainly tested our stamina.  This was one of the few IBD projects
with a public company this summer and so we all considered ourselves quite fortunate to have such a practical consulting experience.

svb5Local Breakfast

We decided to go native and got breakfast from a local vendor outside our hotel. Nothing too adventurous, just some steamed pork buns, although one of us did ask for a spicy one.   We also found a dry cleaning place that would wash dress shirts for one-tenth of the price that the hotel was charging. Did we mention that we love China?

We had a few more external meetings left over from earlier in the week and then some internal meetings to help us collect our thoughts. Performing internal and external interviews for the client gave our team twice the consulting experience.

svb6PFPS Exercise

To draw insights and align our observations from our interviews and observations from the last three days, we applied what we had learned from Problem Finding and Problem Solving (PFPS) class.

Our client invited us to their World Cup themed team-building event.  We were told that fun team building activities are not common in Chinese company offices and definitely were new concepts to SVB local employees. SVB tried to build a more collegiate and social culture in its office, and we saw that everyone was able to build off the energy and make the rest of the day more productive.

svb7World Cup Fun

At night, we met up with one of the EWMBA Seminars in International Business (SIB) classmates and we hung out at Nanjing Road.  Nanjing road was an interesting blend of old and new Shanghai.  Most of the original architecture and building fronts were kept but large billboards had been raised over them.  We also took the subway for the very first time.

svb8Nanjing Road

Over the weekend the team took the opportunity to recover from the late nights during the workweek. On Saturday we visited the Tianzi Fang district and the Yu Garden. The highlight of the day was our dinner at Lubolang, one of the best restaurants in Shanghai. We saw a photo of Hilary Clinton who had previously dined there. Their Xiao Long Bao (soup filled dumpling) was excellent.

svb9Best Dinner

On Sunday the team traveled to the outskirts of Shanghai for the local alumni chapter event held at the Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental.  We met Ann Hsu, the Shanghai alumni chapter coordinator, and her husband Tom, who used to work in M&A. Tom said he knew Professor Goodson – small world.

We enjoyed an all you can eat brunch buffet with mimosas. Some of the team members even took a dip in the pool afterwards. It was a nice opportunity to get some fresh air in the countryside, but we wanted to get back and work on some additional analysis for the project.

svb10Sofitel Alumni Event

Week 2

During Week 2, the Seminars in International Business (SIB) class visited the SVB office. The CEO gave a presentation about doing business in China and how SVB positioned itself as the model for innovation banking in China.  We even let them hang out in our cell.

svb11IBD Met SIB at SVB

Week 2 was an intense workweek as the team prepared the final report and presentation to the CEO. On Thursday and Friday, we made our final presentations to the CEO and SVB credit team.  We knew our work had paid off when the client told us that they finally have some tools to play with in China.  We celebrated our success at our client sponsor’s house over drinks and barbecue.  Thanks to Haas and Silicon Valley Bank, another great IBD project!