Updates from IBD Beijing

 

EWMBA students Tiffany Barbour, Ketaki Gangal, Benjamin Kim, and Jaimin Patel are currently in Beijing, China, working on an International Business Development (IBD) project with CreditEase. EWMBA student Leanne Chu is managing the offshore project operations in Los Angeles, CA and San Francisco, CA.

Our Project

Our mission was to help CreditEase understand the Wealth Management (WM) industry in the U.S., and develop an implementable strategic framework recommendation for offshore investment by CreditEase target customers using U.S.-based investment vehicles. After six weeks of intense research and interviews with industry experts in the U.S., we were ecstatic to finally be in Beijing!

picture1

A Day In The Life…

We started each morning with a call to sync up the Beijing and US teams, discuss the learning and findings from the previous day, as well as plan our next steps. Work life in the Beijing office was very similar to the U.S., except the workday typically started around 9:30a. Once the office doors opened, though, it was off to the races with product team meetings and client conference calls scheduled throughout the day and usually in different buildings across the city. No need to go to the gym… these walks definitely kept us fit.

picture2

Team interviews with various product team leads and current WM customers.

Meeting with the product teams and current customers for an hour at a time was so illuminating. Every conversation seemed to double our learning, which helped us generate new insights and even better ideas for the market entry strategy.

picture3

Team photo in our cubicles.

Between meetings, we would spend time at our cubicles debriefing the previous meeting, formulating new ideas, and connecting with our nearby neighbors from the Corporate Strategy team.

The Country and Culture

Even though the project kept us continually busy, we managed to find time to take in the sights, learn the history of China, and of course enjoy the delicious cuisine.

picture4

Jaimin and Ben at the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu.

picture5

Team photo in front of entrance to the Forbidden City.

picture6

Delicious lunch spread in a local restaurant.

picture7

We also took some time to enjoy a traditional tea ceremony…

picture8

… and then learned how silk is made.

picture9

Team photo with our hosts: Bing, Kelly, and Meichen.

Our overall goal was to wow the client, and we did just that! The senior management in attendance for the final presentation were highly engaged, asked lots of questions, were genuinely impressed by our ideas. If you had asked any of us about Wealth Management, Fintech, or CreditEase two months ago, there would have been a number of blank stares. Now, we feel like experts in training and are eagerly awaiting the day when we can invest with CreditEase in the U.S.!

Nan ga def! Mangifi!

Nan ga def! Mangifi!

Welcome to Dakar. Nestled in the Cap-Vert peninsula, Dakar is the westernmost point of the African continent.

picture1          A beautiful beach in Ile de Goree, off the coast of Dakar

A city of contrasts where gleaming Range Rovers and broken Renault cabs jostle for space on the same lane, towering beachside mansions overlook decrepit shanties. And bold new-age enterprises, dysfunctional government and age-old agriculture makeup the Senegalese economy.

The first thing that strikes you in Dakar is the construction. There is an undercurrent of urgency in a city bursting at its seams as people from all over Africa, and around the world flood to it, seeking opportunities in a resurgent Africa. We visited and met scrappy entrepreneurs in a number of incubators in Dakar – working on bringing technology to transform deep social causes. 

picture2           Dakar is bustling with construction

Africa has leapfrogged the traditional banking system, with mobile banking. With over 100% mobile penetration, mobile payments and mobile money transfer are slowly replacing the cash based economy. Our host InTouch hopes to make this readily accessible to a wide swath of the population with a digital point-of-sale system as an aggregator of payments. From day one, we hit the ground running to figure out a strategy for expansion and growth for InTouch’s products.

picture3             Tigo is one of the top 3 mobile money operators. In the foreground is a                                                          rebooting Windows screen.

Our main focus was understanding the market landscape and the adoption of InTouch’s current product. We had already prepared a couple of solutions before landing in Senegal – so that we could quickly validate our hypothesis and present to InTouch.

picture4           Usability research at gas station where the product is deployed

 

picture6          Market validation with local retail stores

We visited CTIC (an incubator) and Jokkolabs (a co-working space) in Dakar. It was fascinating to meet and interact with the entrepreneurs from all over the world working on making a deep impact on some of the social challenges in Africa.

picture5                        Visiting incubators and co-working spaces in Dakar with Yann LeBeaux

Vincent, the Innovation director at UNICEF was looking to use data analytics to become a nimble and agile organization. Adam at Voto was working on technology that could be used to gather survey data from social workers in far-flung regions. Malick at Africa Mobile sought to build a service to reach uneducated massed via web and mobile communication tools. And Bagore & Edouard at La Laiterie du Berger are looking to create a distribution channel for milk produced in rural Senegal to meet the burgeoning demand in cities like Dakar. We also met a passionate Daouda Gassama at the AEME who is bringing in an age of energy efficiency to Senegal.

picture7          Met the passionate Daouda Gassama and his wall of energy efficient lights at the AEME

As a part of our secondary research, Mike also figured out that Senegalese eat 29 Kgs of fish every day. One of our goals was to consume 29 Kgs of fish in 2 weeks. Thus began a search of the local Ceebu Jen (thiéboudiène), Yassa Poisson, Grilled Thiof, Crevette et lotte, and all sorts of deliciousness. Incidentally, we also found that Ravi does not like to wait for his food – a point made amply clear while waiting repeatedly for the local made-to-order Thiof.

picture8      Food was always on our minds in Dakar

Yogesh earned the nickname of “Yekini” given his uncanny resemblance to the professional Senegalese wrestler Yekini. That and his love for fish heads and sparkling water.

picture9           Apparently Yogesh bears an uncanny resemblance to the wrestler Yekini

Our gracious hosts took us sight-seeing over the weekend to Sine Saloum islands in South Senegal. This was a weekend of touring the local villages, fishing in the delta, pickup soccer on salt flats, seeing our first ever sun halo and attending a local wrestling competition. Evenings were spent taking in the spectacular African sunsets and more eating.

picture10     Amazing Sine Saloum

 

picture11    Spectacular African sunsets

This was one of the best experiences we have had at Haas. Thanks InTouch team for hosting us.

picture12     We can fit in the back of a beat up Renault or a horse cart

An Invitation to Help Transform Agriculture in Ethiopia

Like all the other IBD stories, ours is a story of international travel. Of exploring a country for the first time. Yes, we tried new food and saw amazing new things (our oldest known human ancestor, 12th century churches carved into hillsides, and much more).

img_7852

 

We survived the government shutdown of the entire country’s internet. (Yes, really) We fit all of us PLUS our intrepid client/guide into his tiny car from the 80’s.

img_4433

Collectively, we even tried every single domestic beer brand (not as impressive as it sounds, considering there are only nine of them) and lots of Ethiopian buna coffee.

img_1825

But more interestingly, it’s also a story of agriculture in a country where over 80% of the population depends on the sector for their livelihoods. It’s a story of a country determined to achieve middle-income status in the next 10 years and of the proud and optimistic people across numerous sectors who are working to make this a reality.

img_7792

So it’s not really a story about us. It’s a story about an invitation. An offer to share a vision and contribute in some very small part to projects that could one day help an entire country produce key crops more efficiently and effectively. Reaching this goal will mean food security for 100 million people. Exports that provide income for public investment in roads, health systems, and schools. An opportunity for children to become educated and pursue jobs that will help their families have more than the generation that came before them.

img_7958

This is a story about Ethiopia. About the people who work here every single day with the hope that someday, together, they will reach these goals. So instead of talking any more about us, we’d like to share the story of just two of the many amazing people we’ve met over the last two weeks.

Taressa

Input Supply and Distribution Head at the local government level an hour outside of Addis Ababa

Taressa is young, a sharp dresser. He seems out of place in his surroundings – the local branch of the Ethiopian Agricultural Bureau. The office where we conduct our interview is cramped with three desks, one computer, several filing cabinets, and shoulder-high piles of what could be anything from reams of paper to leftover and forgotten agricultural inputs. By lining chairs up between the desks, we find room for everyone to sit.

img_0667

As Taressa tells us about his job, the most incredible thing is that he doesn’t seem at all frustrated by a system we view as infuriatingly outdated and redundant. Each day, Taressa spends up to eight hours on the phone collecting transaction data from 20+ primary cooperatives (agricultural distribution centers) under his office’s jurisdiction. When no one else is using one of the two working computers in the office (the one in front of us is off the “functional” list) he can update an excel sheet with his findings. If not, or if the electricity is out, he records information by hand and waits for an opportunity to update the excel sheet. Once updated, he prints it out and walks or catches a ride to the center of town to hand deliver the sheet to another office. When we ask about emailing it, he laughs. There is no internet in the office.

But he doesn’t seem upset. He smiles the entire time we’re talking and is optimistic that there are ways to improve the system. He takes us to see a primary cooperative and animatedly discusses different options for digitizing their inventory tracking system.

img_8687taressa-2

Meeting Taressa gave us a newfound respect for the young people who dedicate their time and talent to improving the lives of smallholder farmers. And we left with the hope that our project can in some small way make his job slightly easier, and in turn help to improve others’ livelihoods.

Melaku Admassu

20 years working for DuPont Pioneer, the only private multinational company with current permission to sell seeds in Ethiopia

We met Melaku, the Country Manager for DuPont Pioneer  Ethiopia, at his administrative headquarters on Peacock road in Addis Ababa. We entered the building, which looked like a converted private residence, and were welcomed by an older man wearing a tweed suit and a warm smile.

img_4476

Melaku has worked for Pioneer in Ethiopia for twenty years and, though his humble demeanor won’t allow him to say it out loud, is largely responsible for the international company’s success in a country whose agricultural industry is almost entirely dominated by public sector enterprises.

At the end of our interview, during which Melaku showed extensive knowledge of both the agricultural sector in Ethiopia and innovative marketing and business practices, we asked him one final question and received an amazing answer –

Q: What is your background and why do you do this work?=

A: My background is in agronomy. When I was young, my father was a teacher but he also farmed the land. I still remember when one day a government extension agent came to our farm and he said “you should use this fertilizer” and my father, he said, “why do I need this? All I know is manure.” And the man said to my father, “Okay, don’t use it for your own sake. Use it because you are a teacher and you need to show everyone else that this works and will make their crops better.” And my father said “I’ll do this for the people.” I still remember that.

When I started this work as pioneer employee, I went to this smallholder  farmer and asked him. “Please try this improved seed.” He looked at me and said, “you know I have two wives and sixteen children to provide for. If I take your seed and it doesn’t work, you’ll be responsible for killing my family.” And I said, “Okay, I believe in this seed. I’ll take the responsibility.” He planted the hybrid corn seed I gave him as a sample (free of charge ) plus my advice on agronomy management and he harvested three fold of what he used to harvest from the same plot of land, secured food for the whole year, and started convincing his neighbors later the community.

Now, 20 year’s later, he is a big man. We promoted him from a Pioneer Extension Partner (model farmer) to a seed dealer and he has expanded from half a hectare of cultivated land to 16 hectares. His productivity has increased and his  income is also growing because he is implementing  best practices. Before, he had to decide which of his children could attend school, because he didn’t have enough money for uniforms and supplies for all of them. Now, four of them have graduated from university and the rest are all attending school. He has upgraded the grass roof of his house to corrugated iron, bought a television and radio, and now has a mobile phone to be able to keep better track of  agricultural market information. I was talking to him last month and he was going to another city for his son’s graduation. He was taking his younger wife with him I asked him, “oh, how long will your drive be?” and he replied, “We’re flying! I want my wife to experience riding in an airplane.”

Melaku smiles and says, “This is what our seed can do. It helps people. And when I see their success, it is my success. It’s like all their good fortune, it’s in here,” he touches his chest, “not just in their pockets.”

We feel similarly about our project and our time here. It’s a class, it’s an adventure, but it’s also a labor of hope. Hope that the project recommendations we make here will someday help the people we’ve met do their jobs more efficiently and, in turn, help farmers grow better crops for their children, their communities, and their country. If our project recommendations put more money in the pockets of the people who truly need it, their good fortune will be reward enough for our work. We are grateful to Haas for providing us with an amazing experience and an opportunity to go “beyond ourselves.”

ibd_ata

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.

intouch6

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

intouch22

intouch23

intouch25

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.

ase1

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.

ase2

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.

ase3

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.

ase4

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!

ase5

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.

ase6

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.

ase7

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!

ase8

 

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

rfc1

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.

rfc2

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

rfc4

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.

rfc5

10:00 Taxi Negotiations

rfc6

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.

rfc7

rfc8

rfc9

rfc10

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.

rfc12

rfc11

4:00 Back to office and to the drawing boards

rfc14

rfc13

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

rfc15

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.

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

riu8

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.

smark3

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.

smark5

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.

smark9

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.

smark11

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.

smark14