Leaving on a Jet Plane: Four Summer IBD Teams Depart for IBD In-Country Experiences

2017 Evening Weekend IBD Students

The IBD Evening Weekend MBA (EWMBA) Teams are on their way to their in-country destinations where they will spend the next two weeks working with their IBD clients before presenting their final recommendations on July 14th.  Despite only having a short 6 weeks to prepare, IBD teams are ready to start their time with their clients, face-to-face.  Teams are traveling to Harare, Phnom Penh, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo.  Are they ready?  Faculty Mentor and Instructor, Frank Schultz shares that his students “can’t wait!  They have been preparing with such intensity for their in-country time.  They have formed very good relationships with their clients via skype, google hangouts, etc, but are anxious to work directly with their clients.”

While the teams have been digging into the scope of the project and learning about their client’s industries, they have also been focusing on team dynamics.  ACT Team Lead, Praveen Settipalli is impressed with all that his team has accomplished in a short 6 weeks.  “Our team has quickly bonded and formed a trust that has helped us to divide and conquer our workload and be able to deliver what we promised to our client.”  

In addition to great team dynamics, the Team Leads must put all of team members’ skills to work.   This may be one of the hardest parts of the role, but when it is done right, it is one of the most rewarding.  Sushant Barave, the Team Lead for Samai Distillery, has found this part of the journey “personally satisfying”.   He has been working with a “great bunch of Hassies” who “in several aspects, are at a higher level of expertise in specific subject matters, than me”.  Sushant has looked to his peers to provide a “high level of expertise in specific industries and functions” and he feels that his peers “strengths have created a tremendous learning opportunity for all of us, (that) hopefully set (them) up for delivering a quality product to their client.”  

It should be no surprise that the time in-country makes the whole process more productive and manageable.  It is difficult trying to communicate via video platforms across time zones,  language differences, and cultural nuances.  Teams and clients are excited to break down those barriers and dig into their projects face-to-face.   

Team Lead, Kalyan Pentapalli, and his team are ready to get to Sao Paulo to work with their client Aramis Menswear.   With no retail experience on the team, they have had to get up to speed quickly. This is exactly the experience that they hoped to get by signing up for IBD.  “In the past month, I have learned so much about consulting and retail, more than I have learned in the two and a half years of being in the MBA program,”  Kalyan shared.  

Cambodia’s first rum distillery. Founders Daniel and Antonio grew up in Venezuela, soaking in rum culture and drinking the best rums of the world

Sushant couldn’t agree more with his classmate, Kalyan.  “I am super excited about getting to Cambodia. I feel it is all coming together.  Over the last 6 weeks, we have already been able to apply several concepts we grasped as part of our coursework at Haas. Part of our project focuses on operations, and I can see our (Berkeley-Haas) Operations Professor talking about inventory management concepts that we are trying to apply.  We are also be looking at the quality of financial statements as well as pricing and expansion which bring together the knowledge we have gained at Haas. One of the main reasons I wanted to be a part of IBD was to see how we can apply what we learned in the classroom to the real world.  This is where the rubber meets the road. In a couple of days we start to find out what works and what doesn’t in a practical setting. This is the most exciting part. In some ways, most of our work in Berkeley has been on paper and now it’s time to test it.  We are going to do that over the next two weeks.“

IBD Team & ACT 2015

This summer, two teams are working with repeat clients, ACT and Samai Distillery, and having the past IBD exposure has helped with efficiently this year.  Samai’s Co-Founder, Daniel Pacheco learned a lot from the “previous year where communication was not great before the team arrived.   It was hard for us to understand capabilities and expectations and also because things change so fast being a startup.  But with this team, we discussed these points from the very beginning and were able to have a more effective approach.”  These insights benefited this year’s Samai team and they were able to define a clear scope and identifying which deliverables would be the most useful.

Two weeks can go by very quickly and with so much to accomplish, clients and students are anxious to hit the ground running. Kalyan’s team has already presented their full day agenda and wish list for customer and stakeholder interviews to Aramis.  Fabio Davidovici, Aramis’s Strategic Planning Director, is anxious for the team to arrive so they can “have great discussions and clever insights”.  Samai’s co-founder’s goals are to get them more familiar with the business, then they will spend time gathering as much data as needed to finalize their deliverables.  “We hope these deliverables will not just be a one-off report, but tools that can be used by us to work more efficiently moving forward…it was also very valuable for us to be able to pick the teams brains about areas that might be outside the agreed scope,” shares Daniel Pacheco.  ACT’s Team will stay in their client’s home for the two weeks that they are in Harare.  Praveen says they are excited to experience the intensity and productiveness of a work and living situation.   He also mentioned that his client has a pool and so that makes the six-day work week more appealing.   

On the eve of their departure, we are excited to get all of our Berkeley-Haas students safely to their destinations and started on their team and personal IBD journeys.  We are confident in their abilities to provide their clients with valuable insights and recommendations.  As one of our 2017 Full-Time MBA Team Lead’s shared after returning from her in-country experience, “IBD really is all it’s cracked up to be.”  We expect the same reaction from our Evening Weekend MBA teams.

Updates from IBD Cambodia – Team Samai

FTMBA students Jenelle Harris, Bruno Vargas, Neha Kumar, Charlie Reisenberg and Marcelo Kabbach spent their Summer IBD project working with Samai Rum Distillery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodia’s First Rum Distillery

Our team of five was assigned to consult for Samai Rum Distillery, located in Phnom Penh. Founded by Daniel Pacheco and Antonio Lopez de Haro in 2014, Samai is Cambodia’s first and only distillery. Samai relies solely on products grown in Cambodia, including sugar cane molasses from the Cambodia countryside. As a growing enterprise, Samai looked to us to help strengthen their internal operations (finance, accounting, and inventory management) as well as refine their marketing and expansion plans to ensure steady sustainable growth.

A Day in the Life of the Cambodia IBD Team

Thursday, May 19, 2016

After spending the week getting caught up to speed on the inner workings of Phnom Penh’s food and beverage scene, our team was eager to get our hands dirty in a liquor masterclass, taught by Master Mixologist, Paul Mathews. For two hours we learned about the flavorful blends of various grades of gins and tricks for how best to combine them with complementing tonics and garnishes, such as cinnamon, cucumber, and lime. In attendance were many Phnom Penh restaurant owners, bartenders and other local expat movers and shakers including a mezcalier – one of only thirty in the world.

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Team Samai at the gin masterclass hosted by Samai’s primary international distributor, La Familia, at their retail store, La Casita.

Following the gin masterclass, the crew headed back to Samai to experience their first Samai Rum night. Every week the Samai Distillery opens its doors to the public so that new and devoted Samai customers can enjoy hand-crafted cocktail beverages prepared by Samai’s internal team of bartenders. The most popular cocktail on the menu is the infamous 21 Points, cheekily named by co-owner Antonio. (A while back local bartenders were challenged to create Samai cocktails to be ranked out of 20 points. This drink scored 21.) 21 Points features the Samai Dark Rum, cola, lime, bitters, and fresh sugarcane. We can attest that it is as delicious as it sounds! We spent our evening interviewing customers, bartenders, expats and locals to gain deeper insight into their perspective of Samai and the overall beverage scene in SE Asia. These insights were an invaluable contribution to our formulation of marketing and expansion strategies.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

The next morning we met with the founders to present our initial findings. Given that Samai is a growing start up, our scope had fluctuated quite a bit over the past few weeks as we learned more about their business needs. In week 1 the team presented a new inventory tracking tool, content and reformatting recommendations for their in-progress website, an updated financial model, an expansion forecasting tool and initial research into new bars that Samai should consider supplying to in the coming fiscal years. All of these tools will enable Samai to approach growing (particularly internationally) very strategically and thoughtfully, taking into consideration the relevant financial, sales and production constraints. They will also be able rely on a strong marketing framework so that their story is communicated to the world in a consistent and meaningful way. Needless to say, it was a productive first week!

After meeting with the founders for two hours and getting their feedback on our submissions and next steps, we prepared for a weekend trip to Singapore. Given that Singapore is on top of the list for Samai’s expansion, we decided as a team to travel there to visit our target bar/restaurant list in person to provide them with more pointed expansion recommendations. We focused our itinerary on the Singaporean venues featured on the infamous World’s 50 Best Bars.

Updates from IBD Cambodia – Team SVC

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

Saving the World, One Bird at a Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presentation Day

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

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

Dinner and documentary on our last night with SVC

Dinner and documentary on our last night with SVC

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

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

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

 

Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team WCS in Cambodia

Berkeley-Haas Part-Time MBA students Timothy Black, Henry Lawrence, Alex Lin and Ennis Olson are working on an IBD project with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Cambodia.

Our team had the opportunity to work with Sansom Mlup Prey (SMP) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to evaluate the future financial sustainability of Ibis Rice. WCS started SMP in 2009 with the goal of helping farmers work their land using methods that protect the wildlife in their region. In particular, protection of the critically endangered Ibis – Cambodia’s national bird. By following farming methods that protect the habitat, SMP purchases rice from these farmers at a premium. This organic fragrant jasmine rice (phka malis) is then sold at a premium on the market as Ibis Rice – the only Wildlife Friendly rice in Cambodia.

Since it’s beginning, SMP has grown to distribution in over 100 markets, hotels, and restaurants in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Our goal was to evaluate the financial sustainability of the Ibis Rice program so WCS can understand at what point in time it can function as a standalone business with no dependency on grants or donors. To help SMP achieve financial independence we set about understanding their operations, rice farming and milling practices, and their sales channels to look for opportunities. We prepared our day of arrival presentation and highlighted the efforts we planned to dive into deeper during our two weeks in Cambodia.

Siem Reap

After 25 hours, 3 planes, and 4 airports we landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia – the home of Angkor Wat. As we walked out of the airport into the humid, wet rainy season of Cambodia, we found our driver amongst the crowd and walked towards the minivans in the parking lot. Then we walked past the minivans to where our tuk tuk awaited. Somehow we managed to fit into a single tuk tuk along with all of our luggage!

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As the rain started, we piled in, our driver put on a plastic poncho, and we were off – dodging cars, motorcycles, pedestrians, and the occasional wildlife on the way to our hotel. Our adventure had already begun.

The next day we had to ourselves to explore the temples of Siem Reap – in particular Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world. SMP arranged an opportunity for us to take in the awe-inspiring temples before we dove into work with our clients. We took in the sunset on the outskirts of Angkor Wat where it was already 80 degress at 5:45am!

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Angkor Wat at sunrise

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Temple – with Australian photo bomber in the background!

The following day we were greeted at the hotel by SMP’s delivery driver Mr. Samoeun. SMP has only one form of transportation – a remorque – and that became our mode of transport all week as well! A reqmorque is a motorcycle with a flatbed attached on the back. With the sun beating down at 95 degrees with 70% humidity, our very sweaty team piled into the remorque and headed off to the office.

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The Remorque

The last stretch of road to the office was unpaved and quite muddy from the rains of the previous evening. Our vehicle got stuck and was unable go any further, despite Samoeun’s valiant efforts. We hopped out of the remorque and after several attempts was able to free the wheels from the red, muddy clay. We tried our luck and got back on only to get stuck again – get out, free the remorque and try again! We navigated the last 50 yards or so on foot and arrived very hot with slightly muddy shoes, but in one piece. It was an unexpected, but interesting first trip to the office – and all before 9am!

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Haas and SMP together for the first time

After a warm welcome from Chinda (SMP’s Sale and Operations Coordinator) and Sochitra (SMP’s Accounting Coordinator), and some introductory discussion on Ibis Rice, we accompanied them on a round of daily deliveries to several of SMP’s customers in the area.  It was insightful to see their delivery process as well as learning more about SMP’s customer relationship management. But the adventure wasn’t over yet.

As part of our delivery ride, the client took us to the old rice mill they had used until several years ago when they switched to a mill near Phnom Penh. When we arrived, we expected to see the sacks of rice fililng the warehouse. What we hadn’t expected was our client saying, “there is also a crocodile farm out back – want to see it?” As we made our way around back we passed the crocodile jerky being dried in the sun.

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The next several days we had the opportunity to meet with SMP’s customers and learn about their support for Ibis Rice. We also met with previous customers who no longer purchased Ibis Rice so we could better understand the market and needs of their customers. During the first week we learned a great deal of information not only about Ibis Rice as a product, but also about the operations from orders to deliveries, and the relationship management with customers. We ended our week in Phnom Penh, where SMP and WCS’s main offices are located and spent the next week diving deeper into operations and analysis.

Phnom Penh

Everyone we met in Siem Reap mentioned the traffic of Phnom Penh. Arriving late at night for our final week, we immediately saw what they were talking about. It took our drivers over two hours to get to the airport which is only 10km from the WCS office. Luckily, we stayed close enough to the office that we could walk each morning from our hotel. We set to work immediately meeting with staff and learning more about the work WCS does in Cambodia and the importance of Ibis Rice and SMP to fulfilling their conservation goals.

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We spent the final week really digging in to the data, financials, and marketing opportunities we see for Ibis Rice. Throughout the week we had the opportunity to meet other companies making rice products and even had a few $1 beers at a local bar with a group of expats that work in Cambodian agriculture.

Most of our last week was spent working through the details with SMP and better understanding their sales, marketing, and operations data. Chinda, as Sales and Operations coordinator, was an invaluable resource throughout our stay. Everyone at WCS/SMP was supportive and helpful  throughout the week with additional data, insights, rides to interviews. They also kept us going with Cambodian snacks – we were treated to bananas 3-ways: small banana, medium banana, and chek chean (fried banana!)

The last two days we hunkered down to put together the financial sustainability analysis for Ibis Rice. But it wasn’t smooth sailing just yet. The evening before our final presentation, we were wrapping up our analysis and getting ready to start our presentation. While typing away and engrossed in spreadsheets our team didn’t realize our hotel room was flooding! The water seeped into the hallway and the room across the hall as well. Luckily there was one extra room available at the hotel and we were able to move. Within the hour we were back to our report and getting excited for the final presentation.

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The final day we gathered WCS and SMP staff together and delivered our final report on Ibis Rice. We felt great about the work we accomplished and everyone was excited to hear what we thought about the future of Ibis Rice. Everyone was so engaged in conversation we continued to discuss opportunities for SMP for nearly an hour after the presentation! After we presented, Ross Sinclair – WCS Country Director for Cambodia – invited us to his home down the street where we enjoyed a few beers, cocktails, and pizza to finish out an incredible two weeks.

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One last photo with Chinda and the team!

We were struck throughout our experience by the warmth and hospitality of Cambodia. Regardless of how much or how little they had, the local Cambodians touched us with their remarkable kindness and optimism. There is no more perfect a metaphor for Cambodia than its national bird the Ibis. Through the work of WCS and SMP the country is preserving its resources, the farmers’ lives are being improved, and the Ibis bird is beginning to thrive in the communities growing Ibis Rice. We are all incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with these organizations and to help them continue the success of Ibis Rice for years to come!

Shrimping in Cambodia

Our IBD project was to develop a business plan for a shrimp farm in Cambodia for the DK Kim Foundation. We arrived in Siem Reap from SFO and were able to see Angkor Wat, Bayon, and the various temples there.

We then made the long trip down National Highway 4 to the coastal town of Sihanoukville, seeing many of the poorer parts of the country along the way.

It was in this beach town where I developed my greatest feel for Cambodia and its people. In addition to spending time along beautiful coastline, we visited a shrimp processing facility, met with local government officials, and went to a local shrimp farm. We learned a lot about the shrimping business, but also had a lot of fun there. We enjoyed the Filipino band at our hotel every night, rode a lot of tuk-tuks, and ate many Khmer meals together.

I was sad to leave Sihanoukville, but we had to go to Phnom Penh the following week for a face-to-face meeting with our client as well as to conduct meetings with two companies that we were looking to partner with in starting the business. These meetings helped to solidify our research and square away our final strategy for building the business. After a fun weekend trip, it was time to buckle down and finish our report in our final week in Cambodia. We only have a day left here, and while I am looking forward to coming back to the US, I will definitely miss my time here in Cambodia. I have learned a lot about the country, its people, shrimp farming, starting a business in an underdeveloped country, but most all I have developed deep friendships with my teammates and had an experience that I will never forget.

—Brandon Yahn