A Day in the Life of Team Resultados Digitais (RD) in Florianopolis. Where are we and why?

Written by Emily Gordon, Manav, Khurana, Ejededawe Okogbo, James Parnham, & Raphy Chines

It’s another cloudy day in Florianopolis, Brazil. May is considered Fall in Brazil and the clouds are rolling over and engulfing the hills, blocking out the sun. But no amount of poor weather can dampen our moods.

Floripa, as it is known to the locals, is called both the “Magic Island” and “Silicon Island” in Brazil and is home to 500,000 people. This population triples during the summer, swelling to over 1.5M, because of the 40+ beaches, amazing southern Brazilian food, and huge influx of vacationing Argentines. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of the beaches.

We are here working for Resultados Digitais (RD), a digital marketing platform similar to HubSpot, and one of the sexiest companies to work for in the entire country. They receive thousands of resumes every month and feature perks like an Xbox and a PlayStation, a $5,000 massage chair, a ping pong table, and weekly Cake Days. Currently sitting at 500 employees and with over 80% market share in Brazil, they are looking to take their company to the next level and expand internationally. That is where we come in.

What are we doing here?

Upon arriving in Floripa, we learned that RD has been tackling this project on three different fronts. First, the CEO Eric has been traveling to different countries in Latin America to get a firsthand perspective on the markets and to help start building the RD brand. Second, the company hired trainees from several different Latin American countries to provide a firsthand cultural perspective and to work in several divisions of RD’s business in support of international expansion. This is the first concrete investment that RD has made into the project and much of our recommendations will be developed from this trainee program. We are the third front. We were unaware of the several other projects already underway to support international expansion before arriving, so we pivoted once we were in-country and decided our time would be best spent by synthesizing these learnings into an iterative playbook that incorporates our research.

Our first task was to interview as many people as possible to understand the company and the work already being done. In the morning, we had interviews set up with the trainees from Mexico and Colombia. In the afternoon, we were set to meet with a couple of RDoers (RD employees) and Bruno, the director of product/engineering.

After our morning interviews, we had a brainstorming session prior to lunch. We used this opportunity to collect each of our perspectives from the interviews and come up with diverging recommendations for RD. PFPS for the win!

2 Hour Lunches. We were warned!

Frank, our Faculty Mentor, repeatedly told us about 2 hour lunches in Brazil, and he wasn’t exaggerating! Different RDoers often invited us to lunch. Then to coffee. Then to grab dessert. It was almost impossible to do a lunch in less than two hours! Today’s lunch was with the executive team at a Brazilian steakhouse. The food was delicious, even the chicken hearts, and we were lucky enough to spot a Brazilian celebrity from the 80s who was described as “Brazil’s Aerosmith.”

How can we work after so much food?

We tried our best to converge on a few recommendations after lunch, but the Bruno interview was looming (Was the product scalable? How did the development process work?) and the food coma was real.

Bruno gave us a better understanding of how the product team viewed the expansion effort and some of the specific challenges they would face. We spent the next 6 hours in a small, freezing room diverging on opinions of how to best help the company. Tempers flared. Emotions bubbled to the surface. But we got through the day relatively unscathed.

Nighttime lifestyle

After the workday was over, everyone was ready to unwind. Manav and James played FIFA in the office (James is still undefeated), and Ejede, Emily, and Raphy went to the gym in the mall next door. We cooked a home-made meal of beans and rice and watched an episode of Master of None in our laughably large RD shirts before calling it a night. Tomorrow, we needed to be ready for another day of rain, interviews, divergence, buffets, desserts, and Master of None.

 

IBD Team Travels to Stockholm to Help Civil Rights Defenders to Implement a New Innovation Program

Written by Carol Macavilca Paredes, Elizabeth Miller, Ingrid Monroy, Beth Williams and Blakey Larsen

Our IBD Project took us to Stockholm to help our client, Civil Right Defenders (CRD), a nonprofit organization devoted to human rights founded in 1982, to implement a new Innovation Program that will foster the development and launch of innovations. We started with one simple question, how can we apply innovation to human rights? Easy to answer, right? To be honest, none of us knew the answer four months ago.

Work hard, travel hard was definitely the motto of our team. We worked 3 weeks in Sweden and visited 2 countries, Finland and Norway.

It was hard work, but we also had a lot of fun in beautiful Stockholm, a city with 14 islands and, in the summer, 18 hours of daylight.

Our first week in the CRD office was a whirlwind: We started by introducing our project to the entire CRD staff, who gave us a warm welcome. In the days that followed, we had a lovely meal at Communications Manager’s house with Swedish pizza…

…and participated in the Stockholm Internet Forum 2017, focused on the Internet Freedom for Global Development, in order to interview innovation experts for our project.

During our second week, the most memorable highlight was to be in the CRD office when it was revealed that the organization had won a court case in which they had been working for four years. Representing 11 of about 4,700 people included in the police registry of Roma population, CRD won the court case against the Swedish state in the Svea Court of Appeal. The state was found guilty of ethnic registration and discrimination and was ordered to pay 30,000 SEK in damages to each of the 11 Roma plaintiffs. We were moved by the words of Robert Hardh, Executive Director of CRD to all the staff the day they received the news, that these are the days they live for.

Also, we had an unexpected but happy news for us: two and a half days of holidays. We decided to visit the IBD Finland team in Helsinki. At the recommendation of our client, we went to Finland by boat. The ferry ride was 15 hours of fun!

We also went to Bergen, during that holiday. We took a full day tour to see some of Norway’s most beautiful fjord scenery. We experienced the scenic Bergen Railway, the breathtaking Flåm Railway, and the narrow and dramatic UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord.

Our team was surprised to experience a uniquely Swedish challenge: doing laundry. In Stockholm apartments, washers and dryers must be booked weeks ahead of time in order to wash your clothes. With limited options, our team had to cancel plans one evening to get our laundry done. The team at CRD said we were real Swedes now!

One fun fact is that in Sweden, purchasing alcoholic beverages isn’t a simple matter. There are no privately owned liquor stores nor do grocery stores sell wine or any liquor. Sweden has a state-run chain of liquor stores called Systembolaget, the only retail stores allowed to sell alcohol. Problems arise due to their opening hours (especially for unaware visitors like us). The stores generally close at 6pm on weekdays, at 3pm on Saturdays and all Systembolaget are closed, without exceptions, on Sundays and holidays! So you need to keep this in mind and don’t wait (like us) until 2:50 pm on Saturday to run to the store.

Last week. We had our first fika in the office and our final presentation. Fika is a tradition in Sweden, is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it.

Que Alegre! Updates from Guatemala City

Written by Peter Wasserman, Ian Collazo, Kevin Schuster, Michelle Hernandez and Rachel Garrison

FTMBA students Peter Wasserman, Ian Collazo, Kevin Schuster, Michelle Hernandez and Rachel Garrison traveled to Guatemala City during May 2017 to work with the fourth-largest, family-owned, home goods, hardware, toy, and baby retailer in Guate mala: Cemaco.

Guatemala City

Our team arrived in Guatemala City during an exciting time for retail. Last year, the retail industry grew 13%, with growth driven by middle/high-end of the market in Guatemala City. Our client Cemaco benefited from these demographic trends, increasing revenue despite growing competition, doubling the number of stores, and receiving recognition as one of Guatemala’s most recognized brands.

Cemaco came to IBD looking for big ideas to meet aggressive revenue and profitability goals.  Among the five pillars for growth highlighted in the 2020 vision, our team was tasked to develop strategy and implementation roadmap to become the dominant e-commerce retail player in Guatemala.

The Initial Research

E-commerce is nascent but growing in Guatemala City. In 2016, e-commerce grew by 20%, mainly used by the young, urban, upper class.  Cemaco launched their beta e-commerce site in April of this year, allowing us to work in parallel with the team and project.

Prior to arriving in Guatemala City, our team conducted secondary research on the industry, competition, company, and customers to make the most of our time in-country. We sent a survey to 600 active and 250 lapsed Cemaco customers and received 80% response rate. This amazing level of loyalty and commitment from the customer base was incredible – we were excited to meet the team and customers during the coming weeks!

Arrival in Guatemala City

Arriving on Saturday, May 13th, we were greeted by the Cemaco team for a tour of the city.  We stopped by a local market, picked up groceries, and of course visited a Cemaco store.

First Days at the Office

Our day of arrival presentation gave us helpful feedback to move forward with our proposal. Meeting with the team, we felt incredibly welcome. Not to mention, it was Peter’s birthday! The team took us out to lunch and we celebrated over cake!

Learning about the market

To learn about the market, we focused our time visiting Cemaco and competitor stores, going to the warehouse to see the e-commerce logistics firsthand (and ride a forklift together!), and conducting in person interviews at Cemaco stores. These experiences helped us understand

  • What obstacles/profitability challenges Cemaco will face: Labor is very cheap in Guatemala. From a logistics perspective, Cemaco has been very flexible and fast, figuring out how to package and deliver e-commerce orders in 1-2 days
  • How Cemaco sets itself apart from the competition: Cemaco is a customer first company that puts its stores at the center of its experience. Cemaco stores are welcoming, bright, and customers enjoy spending time browsing the wide variety of products
  • Why customers love Cemaco: As an established, family owned company with Guatemalan roots, customers are extremely loyal. They feel that they can find everything they need for their homes at Cemaco, and expect to find high-quality products.

Weekend trips 

As our classmates pointed out to us, our team didn’t just work…our client Cemaco planned amazing weekend trips for us. First, we went to Lake Atitlan, where we enjoyed an amazing view of the lake, mountains, and volcanoes went on a nature hike with swinging bridges and saw ancient Mayan ruins.

On our second weekend, we hiked the Pacaya volcano where we roasted marshmallows on top and visited the beautiful, historic Antigua.  Walking down the cobbled roads, we took in the architecture and culture of the city – from carrot ice cream to a speakeasy bar called “No Se,” we tried to find all the hidden gems that Antigua had to offer.

Final Presentation

Back at work, in our final presentation, we recommended that Cemaco prioritize its growing B2B business through an e-commerce platform, and developed a customer-first omnichannel experience plan for both existing and new customers. We were especially excited about our plan to partner with apartment buildings in the nearby Zone 4, known as the “Silicon Valley of Guatemala City,” where first time renters were moving out of their parents’ home before getting married. The team took us out to drinks to celebrate!

In Conclusion

Guatemala is an amazing country and the people are incredibly warm and welcoming. We were so impressed by the culture that Cemaco has created and kept strong over the past 40 years, encouraging their employees to move across functions, pursue continuing education, push for corporate social responsibility, and experiment with new business strategies. We are excited to see what’s next for Cemaco!

Greetings from Team Nando’s

Starting our project

The first thing we realized as soon as we stepped out to the field was that Malaysians take eating out very seriously (they eat out on average 5.6 times a week).  Our project was no small task: we had to analyze the customer journey for both our client and its competition, to identify what works best for the Malaysian customer.

In less than 5 days, we had already visited over 10 Nando’s locations and more than 20 competitors, interviewing employees, managers and customers – and probably gained a few pounds while at it!

Our first group Nando’s meal – the first of many. If you have not tried Nando’s famous Peri Peri chicken, we recommend you get to it!

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Uber drivers who don’t speak much English and don’t know the streets make for very fun rides…if you finally make it to your destination on time!

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One very important highlight of our trip: location! Nando’s chose an Airbnb for us, in the middle of KL center, which provided us easy access to all main dining locations. The biggest perk of it? We had an infinity pool on the rooftop! Our daily morning routine included gym and pool to help us cope with jetlag.

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Arriving to Malaysia in the middle of Hari Raya

Over 60% of Malaysia’s population is Muslim – and we arrived during their main festivity. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the day that marks the end of the Ramadan fasting month, and many Malaysians take these days off to travel and spend time with their families. Every mall we visited was packed, which meant plenty of customers for us to interview and observe for the project.

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Visiting Nando’s offices

We visited the central support office multiple times to meet with different key stakeholders, from Human Resources to Operations to Marketing, digging deeper into Nando’s culture, brand and operations.

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We even got our own Nando’s shirts – we used these while interviewing customers in restaurants in stores, to make customers more comfortable about sharing their experiences with us.

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Visiting Nando’s Casas

We visited over 10 Nando’s restaurants in Malaysia to interview staff and customers.  All employees were extremely helpful and cooperative in providing us the information we required to shape our project.

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Visiting competitors

While in country, we split into two smaller groups to be able to visit as many competitors as possible. After a couple of days, we were almost professional mystery diners, ready to identify what differentiated each restaurant and what Malaysian customers experienced at each location.

One single mall had over 100 restaurants. So many choices!

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Some restaurants used technology for certain steps of the ordering process. This sushi restaurant had iPads to place orders with.

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Design thinking –  Airbnb style

Most of our work was field based, and we spent many working hours in restaurants – which meant we had to debrief late at night.  Luckily, all of us proved to be night owls. Our Airbnb walls were quickly turned into impromptu boards for our design thinking exercises, which ran until late hours at night.

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You don’t have 2 minutes?

Probably one of the most interesting parts of our project was having to intercept customers after their meals, in order to obtain their insights. You know how you feel when people approach you at the mall and try to ask you some questions for research? Well, put 5 MBA students at it, and see if you can say no! We will probably have to trademark the phrase: you don’t have two minutes? 

Exploring Malaysia

Besides visiting what seemed like hundreds of restaurants, we also played tourists during our free hours. One of the most fun areas in KL is Changkat Bukit Bintang, where you can find restaurants, clubs, and a night food market which offers bbq frogs, to satay, and of course the infamous Durian! We were adventurous enough to try it, but we never got over the smell.

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Buyer Beware

The first thing we did was the one thing we had been warned about. We entered the secret room. The shopkeeper said that he kept all the good bags in the back. To get through there, we went through a small door in the rear of the shop, through an antechamber with walls all made of mirrors, and into a narrow room with the lauded purses. The negotiation intensified quickly. The price was shouted louder, even if it did not go lower. From nowhere a second man appeared, standing behind me. The shouting went back and forth and I started to get nervous. Another Haas student had come with me, and we towered over these small Chinese men, but they were aggressive. I decided I did not want the bag and told the men. They remained unconvinced. After 5 minutes of practiced negotiations, we were able to get out of the secret room and get on with our shopping.

sapchina1Negotiating and understanding the culture was key to having an impact on SAP’s new product launch into the US. They knew the Chinese market well, but we had been brought in as consultants and ambassadors on the US small and medium business market. They were fantastic hosts, spending significant time with us helping us understand the depth of their product. They also took us to beers at the hot spots in Shanghai. We used design thinking to match our insights of the US market to the capabilities of the product to help them focus their development efforts on lighthouse customers to maximize their impact. This small but friendly team is taking on some established software players in the US.

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It was a great experience to understand the growing software industry in China and the challenge of taking a new product to a new established market. The team has a lot of work ahead, but we hope that we were able to add some focus and clarity to the path to take. And the work ahead does not mean that we did not celebrate along the way. Ganbei!

-Team Red Dragons

Updates from IBD Senegal – Team In Touch SA

EWMBA students Marc Valer, Nikhil Pai, Ramy Bebawy, and Zack Bailey traveled to Dakar, Senegal during summer 2015 to work with Senegalese start up company In Touch SA.

Senegal — Three Grown Men in the Back of a Taxi

With a population that’s mostly unbanked, Senegal is a thriving market for money transfer companies and mobile wallet providers who used their understanding of the local market, to disrupt the banking industry.

Our client, In Touch SA, is a Senegalese startup that is looking for opportunities to partner with payment providers to create an aggregated payment platform that can be used to offer valuable services for store owners. They recruited our team, the Dakar Bears, to validate their initial value proposition, evaluate potential partnership opportunities and develop a recommended go to market strategy.

The Dakar Bears team: Marc Valer, Nikhil Pai, Ramy Bebawy and Zack Bailey

The Dakar Bears team: Marc Valer, Nikhil Pai, Ramy Bebawy and Zack Bailey

The Initial Research

We realized early on that the informal nature of the Senegalese economy made it hard to find useful online resources and that most of our work would be based on in-country interviews. So we focused our strategy on narrowing down the list of questions to answer, working with In Touch to set up a thorough interview schedule and using our own networks to find additional contacts to interview in Dakar.

Arrival in Senegal

Arriving on Saturday July 4th, we were greeted by our enthusiastic host, Omar Cissé, the founder of In Touch SA. He gave us a quick tour of Dakar and seeing that we were in good shape, despite 30 hours of travelling across many Time Zones, he took us to meet the In Touch SA team who were working on a presentation for a client meeting the next day.

The team having our first meal in Dakar

The team having our first meal in Dakar

After settling into a spacious Dakar apartment in the up and coming area of the “Sacre Coeur III”, we immediately headed out to a local mall to purchase SIM cards, gaining a first hand knowledge of the mobile providers, and to set up our mobile payment accounts, both of which were relevant to our project.

A self serve machine for the Tigo Cash mobile wallet in Dakar

A self serve machine for the Tigo Cash mobile wallet in Dakar

Communicating our goals

Our day of arrival presentation to the In Touch SA team helped us validate our initial strategy and gather useful feedback. Having continuous daily interaction with the team ensured we were always in sync. It also allowed us to dynamically shift our interview schedule based on our findings.

Our Day of Arrival Presentation

Our Day of Arrival Presentation

Learning about the market

The first week, we focused on interviews with relevant players in the local payments market. These were conducted with an In Touch SA representative to help with the translation since our team did not speak French or Wolof. By the end of our two weeks we had completed 16 interviews, ranging from a Marketing Director for the largest money transfer company in Senegal to small store operators. Our interviews helped us in many ways:

  • Understand how the informal Senegalese economy works and why consumers and store owners use the money transfer services.

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Local consumer goods store owner and a pharmacist that used money transfer services to supplement their day to day business

Local consumer goods store owner and a pharmacist that used money transfer services to supplement their day to day business

  • Learn about the nascent startup ecosystem in Dakar and sectors where future mobile payment opportunities may exist, such as the education, health services and transportation sectors.
The team with Yann Lebeux, the Director of the CTIC startup accelerator, who walked us through the startup ecosystem in Dakar

The team with Yann Lebeux, the Director of the CTIC startup accelerator, who walked us through the startup ecosystem in Dakar

The team with Africa Consultants International (ACI) a non-profit organization that talked to us about opportunities in the education, and health services sectors where they have a lot of experience

The team with Africa Consultants International (ACI) a non-profit organization that talked to us about opportunities in the education, and health services sectors where they have a lot of experience

  • Clarify the vision, strategy and partnership goals for the major payment providers in Senegal to look for opportunities that In Touch SA could use.
The team with Alioune Kane, Marketing Director for Orange Money, a mobile wallet offered by Orange, the largest Senegalese mobile operator

The team with Alioune Kane, Marketing Director for Orange Money, a mobile wallet offered by Orange, the largest Senegalese mobile operator

The team with Awa Dia, Group Communication Manager for Wari, the largest money transfer service provider in Senegal who explained Wari’s long term vision and partnership goals

The team with Awa Dia, Group Communication Manager for Wari, the largest money transfer service provider in Senegal who explained Wari’s long term vision and partnership goals

  • Find opportunities for strategic partnerships with companies that could help In Touch SA distribute their technology through an existing distribution network.
The team and Omar Cissé with Bagoré Bathily, founder of La Laiterie du Berger, the biggest producer of dairy products from local milk in Senegal

The team and Omar Cissé with Bagoré Bathily, founder of La Laiterie du Berger, the biggest producer of dairy products from local milk in Senegal

Formulating a strategy and our final presentation

After collecting all the data, it was time to use these insights to formulate a proposed strategy for In Touch SA and work on our final presentation. We made use of what we have learned in Haas courses, such as Problem Finding, Problem Solving, to organize our ideas, develop a work plan and execute on it.

The team working on our final deliverables in In Touch’s main office

The team working on our final deliverables in In Touch’s main office

Organizing our findings through a diverge/converge exercise

Organizing our findings through a diverge/converge exercise

On our second to last day in Senegal, we presented our findings to the entire In Touch SA team. The presentation included an overview of our research methodology, an evaluation of their value proposition, an assessment of partnership opportunities and our recommended go to market strategy.

Our final presentation

Our final presentation

Out and about in Senegal

Our two weeks in Senegal were full of experiences that helped us gain a better perspective of the country. The In Touch SA team also went out of their way to show us a good time and give us a chance to experience Senegal on a more personal level. We had a ton of fun, learned a lot and made some new friends, as well.

On our second day in Dakar, we went to the beach with some of the In Touch SA team. We had a great time playing pickup soccer (football) games with locals in the sand.

Dakar Bears with with In Touch SA team after the Pickup soccer game at the beach

Dakar Bears with with In Touch SA team after the Pickup soccer game at the beach

We were also invited to participate in a weekly soccer game at a nearby college, where we eked out a win. With the exception of Marc, the Dakar Bears contribution to this feat is somewhat questionable.

An exhausted and sweat drenched team after a soccer game at the local college

An exhausted and sweat drenched team after a soccer game at the local college

Over the weekend, Omar, In Touch SA’s founder, took the entire team on a trip to the N’Dangane on the Sine Saloum, where we visited the house where Léopold Senghor, the first Senegalese president, was born and visited some of the islands in the area, where the locals graciously welcomed us.

The house where Léopold Senghor was born

The house where Léopold Senghor was born

There is always time to talk about business even on a boat on our way to some of the islands in the N’Dangane area

There is always time to talk about business even on a boat on our way to some of the islands in the N’Dangane area

Marc and Zack showing pictures to local kids on one of the islands in Sine Saloum

Marc and Zack showing pictures to local kids on one of the islands in Sine Saloum

During our second week we were invited to attend the French National Day celebrations in Dakar

Attending 14th July festivities organized by the French embassador

Attending 14th July festivities organized by the French embassador

We also visited the local market, Marché Sandaga, where we bargained hard for gifts and souvenirs.

A textile factory in the local market

A textile factory in the local market

We also had a lot of fun dining and discovering Senegalese cuisine

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From Dibiterie to Thieboudienne family style meals we explored a wide variety of Senegalese dishes

From Dibiterie to Thieboudienne family style meals we explored a wide variety of Senegalese dishes

We took more than 60 taxi trips around town, where we learned what it takes to tell taxi drivers where to go, while bargaining hard for our taxi fares (a standard practice).

Post it notes with what we should ask the Taxi drivers in order to take us there

Post it notes with what we should ask the Taxi drivers in order to take us there

Timelapse of our team in the back of the numerous taxi rides around town

Timelapse of our team in the back of the numerous taxi rides around town

In Conclusion

Senegal is a country of many opportunities. We met entrepreneurs working hard on disrupting the status quo and a lot of people who were proud and happy to share their culture. In the short time we spent there, we gained a solid understanding of the local payments industry, immersed ourselves in Senegalese culture, had a lot of fun around town and made some great friends on the In Touch SA team who further enhanced this amazing experience.

This might have been our first trip to Senegal, but it won’t be our last!

Jai-rruh-jef

[Thank you in the Wolof language]

Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine is a 49m (160ft) tall bronze statue unveiled in Dakar in front of 19 African heads of state in April 2010

Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine is a 49m (160ft) tall bronze statue unveiled in Dakar in front of 19 African heads of state in April 2010

The picturesque view of the beautiful city of Dakar from the African Renaissance Monument

The picturesque view of the beautiful city of Dakar from the African Renaissance Monument

 

Updates from IBD Hungary – Team National Toll Payment Services of Hungary

Working to Bring Hungarian Road Tolling to the USA

In the summer of 2015 our Haas IBD team (Mayank Gupta, Jason Silver, Udayan Naik, and Andy (Xi) Chen) spent two weeks in Budapest, Hungary.  Our task was to develop an actionable US market entry strategy for the National Toll Payment Services of Hungary.  Our client developed, owned, and operated the entire Hungarian toll system for private and commercial vehicles.  They knew there was huge potential in the US market, but they did not know where to begin when it came to potential projects and contacts.

Our team donned safety vests and went on site to see mobile toll enforcement in action!  From left to right: Xi “Andy” Chen, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Mayank Gupta

Our team donned safety vests and went on site to see mobile toll enforcement in action! From left to right: Xi “Andy” Chen, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Mayank Gupta

Over the six weeks in Berkeley, our team worked extensively to learn about the Hungarian toll system as well as the US tolling market.  This was entirely new territory for this team of silicon valley engineers and was a daunting task.  In fact, the biggest challenge initially was scoping the project.  The team quickly found that trying to wrap our head around this topic without expert help would be impossible.

As the trip approached we made key contacts in academia, industry and government agencies.  These were essential to our final solution and taught us a valuable lesson.  People are willing to help out total strangers more than you might realize, and these discoveries might mean the difference between a dead end and amazing insights.

The central control room.  Andy really enjoyed the multiple monitor display that filled the entire wall.

The central control room. Andy really enjoyed the multiple monitor display that filled the entire wall.

Ultimately we delivered a solution that the client deemed “better than he expected”, that was “very professional”, and which was created through “impressive teamwork”.  We hope that with our recommendations and by connecting our client to key experts, this will be the first step in their successful entry into the US market.

The war room!  This is where all the magic happened over the two weeks.  Synthesizing the knowledge we gained in country with the methods learned at Haas to create an action plan for the client.

The war room! This is where all the magic happened over the two weeks. Synthesizing the knowledge we gained in country with the methods learned at Haas to create an action plan for the client.

Final presentation day!  From left to right: Mayank Gupta, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Xi “Andy” Chen

Final presentation day! From left to right: Mayank Gupta, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Xi “Andy” Chen

While the work was the reason we came to Budapest, do not be mistaken that we did not enjoy the city as well.  Budapest is a beautiful, vibrant city full of welcoming locals.  Our client treated us better than we ever could have hoped for.  The pictures below show just some of our on site visits…and oh the gigantic two hour lunches.  These were of course some of the most rewarding experiences as we exchanged insights on our relative cultures over delicious food and often great beer and wine!

The lunches and dinners with our client were lengthy and delicious affairs.  They gave us an opportunity only to not discuss business, but even more importantly, to bond as friends and learn about Hungarian culture.

The lunches and dinners with our client were lengthy and delicious affairs. They gave us an opportunity only to not discuss business, but even more importantly, to bond as friends and learn about Hungarian culture.

Our first dinner with Zoltan and Tibor at a traditional Hungarian restaurant on the Buda side of Budapest.

Our first dinner with Zoltan and Tibor at a traditional Hungarian restaurant on the Buda side of Budapest.

 

Updates from IBD South Africa – Team African School for Excellence

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

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Johannesburg, South Africa

7:15am Breakfast

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

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8:00am Pickup

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

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

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

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

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

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2:00pm Lunch

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

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3:00pm Work Session

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

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6:00pm Break

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

7:00pm Outing with ASE team

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

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

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

10:30pm Arrive back at our guesthouse

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

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Updates from IBD China – Team CreditEase

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

First week in country

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile Finance and Online P2P Lending in China

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

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

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

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

Taste of China

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

Peking Duck- the signature dish of Beijing

Peking Duck- the signature dish of Beijing

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

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

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

Culture, History, and Art of China

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

Chinese “Face Change” performance originated from the Szechuan province

Chinese “Face Change” performance originated from the Szechuan province

The Great Wall of China, just outside of Beijing

The Great Wall of China, just outside of Beijing

Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty Emperor located in Beijing

Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty Emperor located in Beijing

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Updates from IBD Ghana – Team Reach for Change

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

A Day in the Life of the Ghana IBD Team

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

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

7:45 Gather at the Hotel Lobby

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

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8:00 Walk to the Office

Breakfast at La Galette

Breakfast at La Galette

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

9:00 Arrive in the R4C Office

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

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10:00 Taxi Negotiations

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

11:00 Meeting a change leader

Kaneshi Market

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

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2:00 Partner meeting

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

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4:00 Back to office and to the drawing boards

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

7:00 Night life @Republic

Live African music at The Republic

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

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