Updates from IBD United Kingdom – Team RIU

IBD London: A Developed Country assignment doesn’t protect you from uncertainty, chaos, and self transformation

EWMBA students Arun Arunagiri, Ben Kagonyera, Sharon Kam, and Pavithra Krishna spent two weeks researching the feasibility of a startup budget hotel investment in Central London for a group of investors.

Hi!  We’re team RIU — an enthusiastic bunch hailing from the US, India, and Uganda!

Brainstorming in country, from L-R: Pavi, Sharon, Ben, & Arun. T-E-A-M spells TEAM :D

Brainstorming in country, from L-R: Pavi, Sharon, Ben, & Arun. T-E-A-M spells TEAM 😀

We’re a diverse team who had never met each other prior to the IBD course, but working together came very smoothly almost immediately since we all had the same goals in mind — to work together harmoniously and to do the best job for our client.  We also were brought together by the fact that we knew that the most valuable asset from this class would be the insights and perspectives from each other.

In our super tiny hotel elevator!  It’s amazing we had enough space to take a #selfie!

In our super tiny hotel elevator! It’s amazing we had enough space to take a #selfie!

Getting to know each other and the client was pretty easy — we sought to help our client develop a business plan to enter the budget hotel market in Central London.  In reviewing the research, though, we were overwhelmed with the amount of information and the depth of our ignorance — ARR / RevPar / ADR — what were all these terms and, more importantly, how could we master our knowledge to bring something thoughtful and meaningful to our clients?

Day of arrival presentation & Hypothesis pivot

Meeting up with our clients after work in one of London’s few “al fresco” patios

Meeting up with our clients after work in one of London’s few “al fresco” patios

What a pleasure it was to meet our clients in person!  For the first full comprehensive presentation of our initial findings, our client set up a meeting with several of his contacts, including a hedge fund investor and the Head of Business Development for Four Seasons Europe.  Given our position in Silicon Valley and our preliminary research, we were able to provide some insightful commentary on the impact of the shared economy and potential impact of AirBnb.  Our core studies helped determine and analyze key metrics to focus on with regard to supply and demand metrics and how it would impact the potential markets for hotels and hospitality.

Our financial analysis of the current business model, however, remained unclear.  Given the high prices of real estate in London, would our client be able to overcome the required hurdle rates for them and their investors?

Pics or it didn’t happen!  Photos of our team with industry thought leaders in the hotel & hospitality industries

Pics or it didn’t happen! Photos of our team with industry thought leaders in the hotel & hospitality industries

Our first conversations in a pub in central London would shape the research in the ensuing days, which included touring dozens of hotel rooms in targeted areas and interviewing hotel managers, owners, research analysts and industry experts.  Our days of research and interviewing were intense, exhausting, as well as exhilarating — we were able to meet and interview and learn from a variety of perspectives and personalities amongst one of the most diverse cities in the world.

A collage of but a few of the many hotels we investigated in our research of London hotelling

A collage of but a few of the many hotels we investigated in our research of London hotelling

But in tandem with our research was the opportunity to learn more about London as tourists — for three of us it was the first time venturing into Europe!  We got to partake in cultural events such as watching the sunset from the London Eye, enjoying high tea, and enjoying some of the best chicken we’d had in a city notorious for the lack of food options.

What a view!  Beautiful sunset panoramas from the London Eye

What a view! Beautiful sunset panoramas from the London Eye

There’s no business like High tea business @ Sketch all you can eat & drink!

There’s no business like High tea business @ Sketch all you can eat & drink!

At the end of our research, at day 9, we’d finally come to some difficult, but conclusive insights.  First and foremost, the London market would not sustain profits necessary to attract investors and necessary returns for the proposed budget hotel model.  While the term “pivoting” on an original idea is one that is thrown around pretty often in Silicon Valley, it presented an intimidating challenge halfway through our in-country experience.  Feeling somewhat deflated, many questions circled our team at this tenuous juncture: how could we pivot in a way that could reframe the proposal into one that would work for our client?  Given this initial setback, could we reconcile what we’d done out of country to the expectations in country?  In light of time that was passing faster and faster, how could we help the client get the most of our time?  Getting to know the clients better and seeing them not just as clients, but as real people who we wanted to help only increased the sense of urgency of the task at hand.

The remaining days we saw our directives and work change as a team to meet the uncertainty of the work before us.  We learned to fully trust and depend on each other.  We learned to recognize that obstacles were inevitable, but that together we could work through them.  Most importantly, we learned that we could come together as a team more strongly than we could produce individually.

The final presentation

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It took days of additional research, late nights, and a relentless search for truth, (which harked back to the initial “Viking” experiment we had in class, which implored us to focus not on all information, but rather the most pertinent information).  We presented in front of our clients and a leading industry analyst in the hotel and hospitality space on our final insight findings and how the client could re-approach their investments in the hospitality sector to achieve a richer return that would satisfy their initial return requirements.  This discussion led to a final reframe of approach, and we celebrated as a group at the end of our two weeks over dinner and a beautiful walk through London with our client and their families.

Farewell London -- a walk to remember :)

Farewell London — a walk to remember 🙂

 

Updates from IBD Hungary – Team SMark

Taking Unique Anti-Counterfeiting Technology To The Global Market

Jonathan Chen, Ryan Liu, Taylor Marcus and Kati Pease

Our team arrived to Hungary on July 5 to develop a go-to-market strategy with SMark, a Hungarian startup with a state-of-the-art anti-counterfeiting solution. Our client wanted us to be able to celebrate Independence Day, so we arrived to a barbecue complete with decorative napkins. Over the following two weeks, we continued to enjoy similar Hungarian hospitality. We were continually shown new things and treated to many great things Hungary offers while working together to develop their marketing plan.

The Haas and SMark team upon arrival

The Haas and SMark team upon arrival

Our Fourth of July BBQ in Hungary!

Our Fourth of July BBQ in Hungary!

The SMark and Haas team kicked off the first morning with a deepdive of the unique anti-counterfeiting technology in order to better understand where to focus when going to market. SMark is an irreproducible authentication solution that transparently and immediately checks authenticity. The state-of-the-art solution uses security labels and verification devices. It was helpful to meet SMark’s engineering leads in-person to dive into the product overview and discuss details.

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Meeting with the SMark team to understand the technology of their product.

Meeting with the SMark team to understand the technology of their product.

Following the meeting, we took some time to visit a neighboring national park in Szilvásvárad for team bonding. We went on a hike, which included feeding deer and taking a short train ride.

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Team-building hike through the park.

Team-building hike through the park.

We presented our project overview to a broad audience that included SMark employees, inventors, investors and potential investors. There was a translator for those who preferred Hungarian, so our team made efforts for our statements to be as concise and as jargon-free as possible. To permit for translation, we would pause numerous times on each slide, which ultimately felt like a welcomed opportunity to develop our own thoughts.

Presenting with a translator.

Presenting with a translator.

In order to be able to help with their go-to-market strategy, our team recognized the importance of learning more about SMark’s future customers, existing customers and partnerships. We also wanted to learn about the current startup and tech ecosystem in Hungary to better understand how to take a startup to market.

In our work at Haas, our team identified a few key industries that could adopt SMark’s technology to battle counterfeiting, and our client arranged meetings with various companies. Given anti-counterfeiting challenges in electronics and with car parts, we visited Samsung and a Hungarian car part startup. At Samsung, we were able to tour the factory where LCD TVs are made to see the assembly line and better understand the supply chain.

Which Audi car part is counterfeited?

Which Audi car part is counterfeited?

SMark’s pilot customer is a Szent Tamás, a premier winery in Hungary’s Mád region. We spent a day in Mád to learn more about the wine industry and both their historical and future challenges. It was inspiring to see Szent Tamás’s excitement about SMark’s solution and equally as exciting to see SMark’s ability to update the product based on customer feedback. And thanks to SMark’s continuous hospitality, we also had an incredible wine tasting and tour of the vineyards.

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The team enjoying our experience and incredible scenery at the Szent Tamás Vineyards and Winery.

The team enjoying our experience and incredible scenery at the Szent Tamás Vineyards and Winery.

One of SMark’s partnerships is with Patria Printing House, Hungary’s oldest printing company, to print their unique labels. We learned more about the technology for the labels as well as future partnership opportunities. We also toured the printing house to see how books, documents, and, of course, labels are printed to understand the process.

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Discussion and tour at Patria Printing House.

Discussion and tour at Patria Printing House.

We also met with VCs, Hungarian-based startups, and multinational tech companies to understand the business side of startups and tech companies. Each meeting reinforced how numerous brilliant inventions have originated in Hungary as well as the country’s focus on going global with their businesses.

After a week of meetings in Budapest, we arrived at the SMark offices in a renovated warehouse in Miskolc to synthesize our findings from previous meetings, tours and conversations. SMark’s office is rather similar to a Silicon Valley-based startup, complete with beanbags and a comfortable atmosphere.

The Haas team at the SMark offices, complete with beanbag chairs.

The Haas team at the SMark offices, complete with beanbag chairs.

Our team focused on how SMark can refine its pitch to potential customers and VCs to have an effective go-to-market strategy. Together we developed a one-sheeter and pitch deck that articulates SMark’s product and competitive advantages. We also shared suggestions on digital marketing and relationship management for future business development and sales/marketing opportunities. Working with SMark was an incredible experience for all of us to apply many of our learnings from Haas classes from marketing courses to supply chain management to help a startup grow its technology from an invention to a business.

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Updates from IBD Brazil – Team Bematech

Berkeley-Haas Part-Time MBA students Janice Chien, Dan Krebs, Reid Yokoyama, and Roma Zhu worked with the Brazilian point of sale company Bematech.

Olá from Curitiba, Brasil!

Bematech isn’t a company you may be familiar with in the US, but thanks to Team Bematech, the company will hopefully make some waves in the competitive point-of-sale market in the United States.

A Rollercoaster of Emotions

Bematech is a publicly traded point of sale company in Brazil (BEMA3:BZ) which has dominated the Brazilian market due to the sale of monitors, cash registers, and printers for Brazilian businesses. Most importantly, Bematech produces fiscal printers, which are required by businesses to track the government tax of each sale.

Through acquisition, Bematech entered the US market and sells kitchen display systems and all-in-one point-of-sale hardware. The point-of-sale industry, thanks to companies like Square, Clover, Revel, and hundreds more, is undergoing a rapid transformation, and Bematech wanted us to identify key trends and strategies to grow their presence in the US market.

Unfortunately, no one on the team had any familiarity with point-of-sale hardware! Our pre-country work included rapid learning, interviews with distributors and merchants, and of course, PFPS tactics:

Employing PFPS tactics!

Employing PFPS tactics!

At our darkest moments, we felt the request was impossible and as part time students, the demands of work and family life meant it was difficult to put in the time that the project required. But, we were able to hone in on several key strategies to pursue in country and arrived in Curitiba with several to present to Bematech.

Building Trust…

Meeting the leadership team in Brazil was eye-opening. We were briefed on Brazilian culture, but experiencing it in person was incredible: everyone was extremely friendly, gave us their favorite recommendations for our weekend trip to Rio de Janeiro, and wanted us to get the most out of our trip.

Haas gear travels well and makes a great client gift!

Haas gear travels well and makes a great client gift!

…and finding a purpose

Although our goal was to help with a US growth strategy, Bematech took us to their factory where they make their fiscal printer. Given the government move to online tax tracking, the fiscal printer’s lifespan is limited. There, we were warmly greeted on the factory floor and watched workers assemble printers and repair broken ones (Operations 101, anyone?)

We were warmly welcomed at the Bematech factory

We were warmly welcomed at the Bematech factory

A view of the factory floor

A view of the factory floor

It was here that we realized that our class project, presentations, and final grade had a higher purpose. We had a chance to help Bematech transform beyond their traditional business model. Doing so would ensure the workers in this factory would continue to have jobs in the future. Our team was even more motivated to work on our final presentation.

We also got to test a new product that will hit the market later this year:

Janice may or may not have purchased 25 cervejas :)

Janice may or may not have purchased 25 cervejas 🙂

Have Cal gear, will travel

Locals gave us enough recommendations to spend a whole month in Rio, but we had to settle for a weekend getaway between our in-country weeks. Suffice it to say: the weather was beautiful, we played volleyball with locals, and churrascarias and caipirinhas did not disappoint.

Visiting Cristo De Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro

Visiting Cristo De Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro

Wearing Cal gear also allowed us to meet a few students traveling in country on an exchange program!

Opportunities like these are once in a lifetime and having read several of the Haas in the World blog posts, it’s incredible what Haas students have accomplished all over the world. Hopefully we did our part to represent Haas and make a difference for our client and their customers.

Obrigado – thank you!

Updates from IBD – Team Rwanda

Shaping Sales Strategy in Nairobi Kigali

Berkeley-Haas FTMBA students Jesse Guzman, George Roche and Isabele Schuhmann traveled to Rwanda during Spring 2015 IBD to work with a Nairobi-based software startup company.

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Initiation

Barely into our second semester in early 2015, we embarked on the start of our IBD journey. It was then that we learned we’d be working with a Nairobi-based software startup, helping to develop a comprehensive sales strategy. After a few weeks of getting smart on the company and the market, we developed a point of view. For us, the initial project scope – focused on tactical systems such as employee training, compensation, and retention – did not address a critical strategic concern: customer understanding. We believed this would set the proper foundation for an effective sales strategy implementation down the road. As such, we convinced our client on the value of shifting gears and started focusing on customer insights.

A second change of plans…

On the day before takeoff, our IBD team received a very unexpected email that would dramatically shift both our project scope and experience abroad. Due to unforeseen events, we were asked by our client if we’d instead join him in Rwanda. In the spirit of adapting to the rapidly evolving world around us (as good MBAs should), we accepted his offer and were on our way.

Heading to Kigali changed more than our flight itineraries. Instead of continuing to focus on insights from customers within the humanitarian space, our new objective was to explore new industry use cases and design a structured way to assess and prioritize them. Additionally, we worked with our client to look at the bigger picture, identifying and assessing strategic alternatives for the business.

Life in Rwanda

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Rwanda is a beautiful country. Despite its tragic recent past and continued struggles with poverty, its resiliency is exemplified everywhere – in its cleanliness, smoothly paved and lit roads, and genuinely kind people. During the week, we got to know the city through company visits and coffee shop work sessions.

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On the weekends, we ventured outside of the city. One trip took us to Lake Kivu – an amazingly beautiful and equally dangerous lake that shares its shorelines with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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

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Perhaps our most cherished excursion was our gorilla trek. This was seriously amazing. For an hour, we got to hang with 10 of fewer than 900 wild mountain gorillas left on this planet.

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Fruits of our labor

Following our three weeks in Kigali, and months prior at Haas, our client was pleased with the work we had done for him. In addition to the strategic guidance we provided, we also helped our client develop relationships with more than twenty local Kigali businesses in five industries in which he had previously not operated in. With our support, our client was even able to sign one new contract during our three weeks in-country, and we left Rwanda with several more pending. Overall, it was an incredible experience that I’m confident none of us will forget.

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Updates from IBD Chile – Team Falabella

Berkeley-Haas Full-Time MBA students Pati Silva, Cori Byrum, Carlos Olson, and Rob Kenny participated in a summer IBD project in Chile with the LATAM retailer Falabella.

As we boarded the plane in SFO having just finished a memorable first year in the Full-Time MBA program, we were excited to learn more about Chile, and specifically the retail sector there and more broadly in Latin America.

Our team was comprised of four people with varying knowledge of the region and sector (as well as Spanish language skills!). This meant that we were all very excited to experience something new.

Final preparations coincided with deadlines for group projects and final exams, which meant for a frenzied couple of weeks before we headed for Santiago. Thankfully, we had a couple of days to gather ourselves after we arrived before starting the project in earnest.

We were tasked with helping Falabella better understand the rapidly evolving digital payments space and how this will impact Latin American consumers in the coming years.

Retail is a great way to gain insight into all aspects of society, and Falabella is a strong player in the Peruvian, Argentinian, Colombian, and especially Chilean, markets with strong department stores, home improvement and food retail businesses. Experiencing these first-hand in Santiago gave us a great understanding of the similarities and differences between US/European and Chilean consumers.

Falabella also has a strong presence in the financial sector with a bank, credit card and insurance business, which capitalizes on their strong relationship with their large customer base.

Finally, and perhaps most surprising to us, Falabella successfully runs large and modern malls. The ones we visited wouldn’t have looked out of place in San Francisco or London. They were also almost universally full to bursting with consumers. It seems like visiting malls is a favorite hobby for Latin American consumers!

Overall, we all really enjoyed getting a great insight into a strong, interesting and diverse company, as well as gaining a better understanding of the Chilean consumer.

Chilean people were so welcoming and friendly (except perhaps when they were behind the wheel of a car…), and we really enjoyed their hospitality. We even managed to stumble across President Bachelet welcoming the Honduran President to Santiago.

While our project didn’t call for any travel outside of the capital, we still managed to enjoy exploring some of the surrounding areas like the wine regions around the Colchagua and Casablanca valleys and the beautiful coastal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

Eager to start our first day at the Falabella office in Chile!

Eager to start our first day at the Falabella office in Chile!

Visiting the Chilean version of Ikea, Homy, with one of our favorite Falabella hosts, Walter.

Visiting the Chilean version of Ikea, Homy, with one of our favorite Falabella hosts, Walter.

We enjoyed visiting the Falabella department stores and observing the similarities and differences to the similar stores we have at home (like Macy’s).

We enjoyed visiting the Falabella department stores and observing the similarities and differences to the similar stores we have at home (like Macy’s).

While Chileans will admit they are not known for their cuisine, we had some delicious meals. Our favorite food item? Definitey empanadas!

While Chileans will admit they are not known for their cuisine, we had some delicious meals. Our favorite food item? Definitey empanadas!

Our wonderful classmate, Katia Glucksmann, hosted our team and visiting IBD Team Boacadio from Peru for a traditional Chilean meal.

Our wonderful classmate, Katia Glucksmann, hosted our team and visiting IBD Team Boacadio from Peru for a traditional Chilean meal.

The Santa Cruz wine producing region was very scenic and a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Santa Cruz wine producing region was very scenic and a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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On a casual walk back from a meeting, we saw Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a miliary presentation that marked Santiago’s welcome to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

On a casual walk back from a meeting, we saw Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a miliary presentation that marked Santiago’s welcome to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Our final presentation with the QuickPay Team! – Pablo, Alvaro, Guillermo

Our final presentation with the QuickPay Team! – Pablo, Alvaro, Guillermo

Updates from IBD Brazil – Team Sony PlayStation

Consoles, Caipirinhas and Coxinhas: Our Journey through Brazil

Steve Boogar, Andrew Hill, Amanda Ogus, Caitlyn Toombs

Greetings from Sao Paulo, Brazil! We have had an action-packed three weeks here working hard and playing hard for Sony PlayStation Brazil’s office. For our project, we were tasked with understanding gamer motivators and the gaming market in Brazil (vagueness of description based on our comprehensive NDA we signed prior to arrival :-).

First day at the new Sony PlayStation-Brazil offices (with a not-quite-to-scale map of South America/Brazil behind us. L to R: Caitlyn Toombs, Amanda Ogus, Andrew Hill, Steve Boogar

First day at the new Sony PlayStation-Brazil offices (with a not-quite-to-scale map of South America/Brazil behind us). L to R: Caitlyn Toombs, Amanda Ogus, Andrew Hill, Steve Boogar

Working Hard

In our first two weeks, we went to the streets (literally) to try to understand in person what we had been researching for the last 5 months. From taxes to currency issues, Brazil’s market has different problems to tackle for all economic goods. Add to that a relatively recent formal Brazil PlayStation presence (2-3 years) with a savvy Brazilian consumer used to asking many questions and researching many price points. As a result, between physical market and custom differences, it was important for us to see the stores ourselves and talk with as many people as possible.

We started with a whirlwind tour of their Retail channels. PlayStation games and consoles are sold in many different types of stores – big to small, electronics to general, malls to street kiosks – and each targets a slightly different consumer. PlayStation takes pride in making the buying experience easy and interactive, with clear descriptions of games and in-store staff properly versed on the eccentricities of all game features and sales data.

The team analyzing the PlayStation shelf with one of the Sony promoters

The team analyzing the PlayStation shelf with one of the Sony promoters

Besides just observations, we conducted many interviews with all levels of stakeholders. We chatted with store managers, Sony promoters and customers to gauge what the shopping experience really felt like and where the pain points lay. With the help of our trusty translator/guru/promoter guides Henrique and Eduardo, we got a rich understanding of the market and heard many salient insights (many of which complemented and reinforced others).

In addition to in-store visits and meetings, we also held a night of focus groups and gamer observations to dive deeper into our target market. It was fascinating to hear from Brazilian gamers and see their passion for PlayStation in person.

Focus Group of PlayStation gamers

Focus Group of PlayStation gamers

Gamer Observations with live PlayStation

Gamer Observations with live PlayStation

PlayStation loves Brazil and Brazil loves PlayStation! (L to R: Leo Zuppiroli - our fearless in-country leader; Amanda Ogus; Heber - fanatic PlayStation gamer; Andrew Hill)

PlayStation loves Brazil and Brazil loves PlayStation! (L to R: Leo Zuppiroli – our fearless in-country leader; Amanda Ogus; Heber – fanatic PlayStation gamer; Andrew Hill)

Of course, no Haas project would be complete without a PFPS post-it map, and we did plenty pulling together our final deliverable!

Clustering and name for our final report

Clustering and name for our final report

 Playing Hard

As the team lucky enough to work with PlayStation, we found that play was very important in all elements of our work. Sony Brazil’s team does a great job of mirroring the passion for the company and the product. Everyone in the office was ready to answer any and all questions we had on the interface, favorite games and other technicalities of gaming that some of our team had little to no experience in (cough Amanda and Caitlyn). Therefore, a big part of getting up to speed for us was testing out the games!

Drew, Caitlyn, and Amanda working hard to get up to speed on their product offering

Drew, Caitlyn, and Amanda working hard to get up to speed on their product offering

Of course, being in Brazil, our play was not only limited to our product. Our amazing host, Leo, gave us on a whirlwind tour of the best culture Sao Paulo had to offer! We had our fill of caipirinhas (delicious fruit cocktails usually made with cachaça, a local liquor – the team’s favorite flavor was passion fruit!), coxinhas (fried deliciousness shaped in triangles stuffed with cheese and chicken, usually) and lots of choppe (draft beer).

Leo and the team enjoying caipirinhas and coxinhas at Veloso Bar, one of our favorite places in Sao Paulo

Leo and the team enjoying caipirinhas and coxinhas at Veloso Bar, one of our favorite places in Sao Paulo

We also took time to explore the city by walking to parks, visiting museums and shopping for Havainas, Brazil’s popular sandal maker!

A view from a run through scenic Ibirapuera Park - a hidden oasis in the big city

A view from a run through scenic Ibirapuera Park – a hidden oasis in the big city

We also explored outside of Sao Paulo for a weekend in Rio! Rio was just as great as everyone described – beachy, bustling and colorful. From site-seeing at the Corcovado to enjoying feijoada with some locals (thanks to a fellow business school classmate, Grace, for the intro!), relaxing at the beach to running up the Escaderia Selaron stairs in a brief rain shower, Rio did not disappoint on our last weekend in Brazil.

The amazing Corcovado in person - apparently we weren't the only people interested!

The amazing Corcovado in person – apparently we weren’t the only people interested!

Escadario Selaron stairs – just as beautiful and colorful in person, even on a rainy day

Escadario Selaron stairs – just as beautiful and colorful in person, even on a rainy day

Our combined Haas IBD teams together in Rio!

Our combined Haas IBD teams together in Rio!

Overall, our team had a very enriching and enjoyable three weeks in Brazil, and we thank the IBD staff and our friends at Sony for all they did to make this happen!

#brahaasil

#brahaasil

Updates from IBD Finland – Team Tekes

Full-time MBA students Adrian Gomez, Anita Kotagiri, Daniel Reddin, and Andrea Soto traveled to Finland for their IBD project to work with Tekes – The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

It’s 8pm and there’s no sign of the sun setting any time soon. As we hop off the plane we can feel the slight chill in the air despite it being summer. Everything is clean, simple, and impeccably designed. Welcome to Finland!

After a somewhat restless night thanks to jet lag and the four hours of twilight that constitute night at this time of year, we were anxious to meet our client for the first time. After a wholesome breakfast of omelets and traditional Finnish rye bread prepared by chef and two-day early arriver, Adrian, we set off to meet our client at Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

The morning with our client began, of course, with coffee. As it turns out, Finland has the highest coffee consumption per person in the world! It quickly became apparent that the next three weeks would entail constant caffeination – a fact we well appreciated following a hearty meatball lunch on that first day.

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After several hours of discussion with our client on Day 1 and reaching an agreement on the scope of our project and the planned activities for the weeks ahead, we were excited about what lay ahead of us – interviews with CEOs of leading Finnish companies, meeting with the Office of the Prime Minister, mentoring participants in a clean-tech startup competition, conducting workshops with Finnish entrepreneurs and presenting to the Steering Committee, a group of extremely senior executives responsible for Tekes’ clean-tech program. It very quickly became clear to us that this project was extremely important and was truly going to have an impact in shaping Finland’s future.

After many back-to-back interviews with entrepreneurs, academics and Tekes personnel throughout the week, we were fortunate enough to have made some Finnish friends along the way. The Finnish people are incredibly warm and inclusive, willing to go out of their way to show us around and invite us into their friendship circles. They are proud of Finland.

After a demanding week the team decided to take a trip across the Baltic to Estonia, a country that, up until now, really only popped to mind when thinking about Eurovision contests. The boat ride to Tallinn was a bit tough (many people got sea sick!) but the trip was definitely worth it! We had a blast wandering the narrow streets and alleys of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town and sampling some extremely good food.

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In our second week we continued to meet with Finnish entrepreneurs and innovators. We hosted “Cleantech Power Morning” with a number of influential players in the space. Taking advantage of having these 25 people in one room, we ran a number of exercises and administered a short survey in order to test and validate our emerging hypotheses about cleantech and the innovation ecosystem in Finland.

Following the session, our client was excited to finally take us to what he constantly referred to (especially when around Helsinki natives) as “the cultural capital of Finland”, his home-town of Turku. We took this opportunity to meet with the CEO of Clewer, a water recycling firm, and the leaders of the Future Studies department at the University of Turku’s School of Economics (the “Haas of Finland”, as our client called it). We capped of the day with a wonderful dinner and a quick walk around the town before jumping on a bus back to Helsinki.

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Being so close, we knew that we could not return home without making a trip to Russia! We boarded an overnight cruise ship for St Petersburg, excited for a weekend of new experiences. This city was incredible. As a previous capital of Russia, it had strong economic and social capital in the 19th and 20th centuries. As such, their citizens built incredible architecture with strong European influence. We had a great time exploring the beautiful city and even took in an opera at the world-famous Mariinsky Theatre.

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Returning to Helsinki for our third and final week, we were excited about our progress so far but expectant about the deliverables that would soon be due. during this week we had the privilege of visiting with one of the leaders of the Prime Minister’s innovation initiative. She provided us with high level information and confirmations of the government’s goals for the Finnish innovation ecosystem.

More than twenty five interviews later, the moment of truth was growing near. Having gathering tons of information over the past sever days, it was time to start pulling it all together to form our proposal and recommendations for how to spur on cleantech innovation in Finland.  Our team set off to the task of completing the final draft of a 90 page report for the client and a final presentation to the Steering Committee.

Our presentations throughout our time in Finland were filled with engaging discussions and our final presentation was no exception. We were further motivated in our work with Tekes by the confirmation of how important our findings would be to the organization. After one final session of business card exchanges and handshakes we conducted our final meeting with our client.

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Being our last week in country, we wanted to make sure we did not leave without experiencing more of the culture. Our team took a traditional Finnish sauna, complete with a dip in the chilly Baltic Sea, and went out with Finnish friends to watch the sunset from the top of Helsinki’s tallest building. We also took the chance to visit the medieval Finnish town of Pörvöö, half an  hour away from Helsinki. There we enjoyed a laid back afternoon strolling around the town, visiting a cathedral from the 1200’s and buying Salmiakki, the traditional Finnish candy made from licorice root (an acquired taste, for sure).

Once back in Helsinki, our team prepared for departure from this place which had exceeded our expectations. With luggage carrying at least ten collective pounds of Finnish rye bread and chocolate wafer sweets, we departed our hotel for our next destination.

Our IBD project and our Tekes client made for an unforgettable time in an unexpected place.

Updates from IBD South Africa – Team loveLife

Robert Heath, Rupal Nayar, Alfonso Perez Grovas, and Julia Wasserman are full-time MBA students working on an International Business Development project with the South Africa-based loveLife Leadership Academy (an associate of the New loveLife Trust).

The First Days

Our first week in Johannesburg was a waterfall of informational meetings and interviews that shed light on everything we thought we understood upon arrival. One day of marathon meetings stands out in particular, though. The main event that day was with the CEO, Grace, where we presented our kick-off slide deck and initial insights to get her feedback. Her interest in the insights and perspectives we were bringing to the loveLife Leadership Academy really provided a refreshing view on the value we could provide with our combined professional and MBA experiences.

Grace’s message was ever-so inspiring, wanting to do right by the young people of South Africa and provide them with opportunities they deserve. She described loveLife’s history and evolution. She described a desire to channel the risks that youth are willing to take and transform them from negative outcomes into positive opportunities and investments into their own future as well as the community and macro economy.

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The “loveLife Way”

Rather than preaching the ways of the world, loveLife inspires youth and builds their self-esteem by empowering them with the message that they too can have on the world. I think I’m most impressed by how they not only say this, but they practice it themselves. At work and in life, the concept of “sawubona” is practiced— it means “I see you.” When you walk into a room or pass someone on the street, you acknowledge each and every person  regardless of position or social standing. And the sentiment is always well-received with a response of “yebo.” Historically, black South Africans were so used to being ignored and seen THROUGH that they make it a point to say this to ensure every person is seen for who they are. It is beautiful. It really just manifests in everything they do. At work, everyone has a voice, regardless of station and I absolutely love that. We haven’t encountered anyone who has been off-putting, and this environment inspires us to begin everyday nice, fresh and happy.

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South African Realities

South Africa is plagued by deep injustice and historical inequality. With a current government that is hindering many social efforts that began after Apartheid and with loveLife under that government’s thumb for funding, they are incredibly grateful we are here. It feels empowering and humbling at the same time. We are using so much knowledge gained from life and the MBA in a real way, and loveLife is really looking to us to help them.

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Key Insights

For example, just a couple of days later, our meeting with Grace was put into context when we visited a y-center (community youth centers where loveLife programming is delivered) about 3 hours from Johannesburg. During this visit, we split up and held four separate meetings with varying groups of youngsters to really go in depth about their personal experiences and their views on the programs. From this, we gained more valuable information than anyone could have imagined we would. We utilized design thinking methodologies in order to derive many significant insights as we brought our distinct interviews together.

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This formed the basis of our workplan for the following week and led to completely re-shaping The Academy’s strategy for revenue generation. Over the following week, we performed even more interviews with potential customers and gathered critical demographic data and statistics to provide a solid case for each of our recommendations that included customer segmentation, pricing, positioning, communication, and product offerings. Although targeting individual learners was an original plan for the loveLife Leadership Academy, we provided a detailed plan for delaying this and re-focusing on youth already in workplace environments, offering products to companies that range from workplace integration to on-the-job training.

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The delayed plan for addressing the individual learner segment coordinated nicely with our secondary project – recommendations on strategy for developing a digital platform. We used many of the same insights to define the features we recommended for this platform, features that could significantly improve learner experience and engagement as well as alleviate so many of the logistical issues of organizing and delivering programs to individuals, all while allowing The Academy to maintain even more quality control over the content. Other features of the platform further allow The Academy to take advantage of its unique position within the current educational opportunities for youth and use this in their brand strategy.

In conclusion…

During that first visit to the Y-center, in demonstration of loveLife’s unique approach, we were greeted in the “loveLife way” with dancing ice-breakers and conversation to understand where the youths there came from and how loveLife has helped transform their lives, sublimating their natural youthful tendencies toward risk into positive actions that help them and their communities. We truly believe this unique approach can transform the future of South Africa by meeting youth’s hunger for knowledge and opportunity along with transforming the way companies and the government provide the resources and work environments that will help the society thrive. We look forward to following all of The Academy’s success over the next year!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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