Phnomenal Times

Written by Sushant Barave, William Conry, Daniel Conti and Joe Layton

For our IBD project, we’re working with Cambodia’s first and only rum distillery, Samai, based in Phnom Penh. Our team is partnering with Samai’s founders, Antonio and Daniel, on expansion strategy, new market pricing, operational improvement and accounting guidance.

Prior to arriving in Phnom Penh we had been corresponding with Samai to finalize the scope of the project and complete as much pre-work as possible. While our team was productive across those six weeks, it was remarkable how much more effective we became on location with the client. For instance, we had an idea of what the rum production process looked like, however being able to visualize the steps enhanced our understanding to the level required to make recommendations.  Additionally, speaking face to face with Daniel, Antonio and Champich, the master distiller, we were able to have more insightful conversations and gain a better feel for the business and its needs.

Dan and Sushant review the production steps with Daniel in order to calculate COGS

Dan and Sushant review the production steps with Daniel in order to calculate COGS

Another byproduct of live meetings is shifting priorities. While the project work streams had been determined in advance of our arrival, it became clear our first-day additional challenges that require support will surface. Our team recognized the importance of prioritization as a guiding principle – we need to invest our time and resources into the projects that are most vital to Samai and also ensure our deliverables are actionable.

 

Cocktail Competition

Samai’s distillery is open to the public on Thursday nights, when it serves up Samai rum-based cocktails to a lively, mostly expat, clientele. During our required rum tasting our first day on the job I suggested –  somewhat jokingly –  that we have a competition on Thursday to determine which Haas team member can create the best cocktail. Antonio sounded intrigued and within a day we had teams decided, menus set, ingredients purchased and a professional flyer posted on social media. That escalated quickly!

Dan and I settled on a variation of a Dark and Stormy entitled Ann’s Arbor, an homage to our undergraduate institution. Leveraging Joe’s advanced rum knowledge, he and Sushant crafted a more complex, boozy concoction, a Queens Park Swizzle.

We met at the distillery early to pour practice drinks and tweak the recipes until we had it right. This was not just a fun experiment; patrons would be paying for these cocktails! Once we had the proportions, preparations, and presentations down, it was game time.

It could have been the Berkeley-Haas name on the flyer, perhaps it was the sophisticated drink selection or maybe it was our rugged good looks and charm behind the back bar, but the orders flowed in like Trump tweets after a New York Times bombshell report.

Bill and Joe try to keep up with demand behind the bar

Bill and Joe try to keep up with demand behind the bar

At a few points we couldn’t keep up with the demand – we were forced to act like seasoned bartenders who knew how to accommodate a packed bar.

For the competition piece, believe it or not, according to the official tally the contest ended in a tie! The Ann’s Arbor team will point out that our drink had a higher volume of orders, which should be the tie breaker. The Queen Park Swizzle duo will remind us that more orders led to more misinformed votes from those who only sampled one beverage.

Regardless of who deserves the crown, overall the cocktail competition was a win. We learned useful skills that aren’t often taught in the classroom, had fun, brought in incremental sales for Samai and met some interesting people.

After shaking and stirring as celebrity bartenders for the night, it was back to our real lives Excel modeling and PowerPoint-ing as consultants at the Samai office the next morning. It was fun while it lasted, but there’s still work to do!

Back to work

Back to work

Berkeley Haas IBD 2017 – Aramis Menswear, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Written by Diane Chiang, Barun Mazumdar, Abhishek Mishra, Kalyan Pentapalli and Priya Vijayakumar

Weekend before in-country: Foz de Iguaçu

Five happy and excited Cal bears arrived at the Iguaçu airport on late Friday evening after spending almost a day in air and in connecting airports. We checked in at the beautiful Belmond hotel (which overlooks a small portion of the falls) and had our introduction to authentic Brazilian cuisine and Caipirinhas. It was love at first sight! The Iguaçu falls were absolutely breathtaking – on Saturday, we took a short walk along the waterfall trail and a boat ride on the Iguaçu River before flying to Sao Paulo.

The beauty and grandeur of the waterfalls made this short detour to Iguaçu totally worthwhile.

We arrived at Sao Paulo (SP) on Saturday evening and to kick off our 2-week stay at SP, we went to the acclaimed chef Alex Atala’s restaurant – D.O.M for an amazing fine dining experience. We spent the rest of the weekend exploring Sao Paulo and fine-tuning our Day of Arrival presentation.

First Week at the client site in Sao Paulo

We had an early start on our first day at Aramis’ office – Fabio Davidovici and Luan Silva with whom we had been collaborating since the start of our project greeted us. We presented our “Day of Arrival” presentation to Richard Stad (CEO) and Fabio. It was a very interactive session peppered with questions and interesting discussions around retail trends, brands, and competition.

Because of the high level of engagement, our meeting that was initially scheduled for an hour ran for over two hours. Richard appreciated the groundwork we had done while at Berkeley, it was also a great opportunity for us to learn more about the company and its challenges directly from the CEO. At the end of the first day, Fabio gave us a tour of one of the stores to round out the day.

On Tuesday, we spent the entire day visiting Aramis’ stores at various malls in Sao Paulo. This was an amazing way for us to get to better understand their products, store layouts, and store employees. We interviewed many store managers and sales people to understand the challenges and processes within the stores. We also visited many of Aramis’ competitor’s stores. We shared our initial feedback, observations, and ideas with Fabio, many of them centered on visual merchandising in the store.

Throughout the course of the week, we met with directors and managers across different functions – Marketing, CRM, Inventory planning, Warehousing, E-Commerce, Store Supervisors, Retail, HR and Customer Service. We also got a chance to have lunch on one of the days with the Founder, Henri Stad. Although we experienced a language barrier, Fabio attended all the meetings with us and helped with translation and provided more context.

We also scheduled meetings with stakeholders outside Aramis. We had a very insightful discussion with Fabio Matsui from Cypress Capital (HAAS ‘03) where he walked us through the Brazilian apparel retail industry and the various participants.

We also met with Daniel Maladrin (HAAS ‘05) from 2BCapital/Bradesco – the PE firm that invested in Aramis few years ago. Daniel introduced us to Leonardo Santos from Semantix, which was another company that the PE firm had invested in. We invited Fabio to join us for our meeting with Leo, where he walked us through the omni-channel strategy he had implemented at an American retailer and the challenges he faced launching in Brazil. We identified many synergies between Aramis’ omni channel implementation and the current work that Semantix is doing, and the two companies plan to start some initial discussions to collaborate.

By the end of week one, we learnt a lot about the Brazilian people – their food, culture, and working styles.  Fabio spent a generous amount of time to ensure we were comfortable, got enough face time with Aramis employees and explored Sao Paulo the way locals do.

 

Splendid Salvador and Refreshing Recife

We took a late flight on Friday to Salvador to experience the northeastern part of Brazil. We spent Saturday at Salvador exploring the churches, beaches and the colorful Pelorinho neighborhood. The highlight of the day was the amazing Bahian cuisine we had at Pariso Tropical. This restaurant won our top vote among twenty other strong contenders for the best food of our entire trip! Later that night, we flew to Recife and spent our Sunday exploring Recife and nearby Olinda. We returned to Sao Paulo on Sunday night.

Monday started with a series of previously scheduled meetings.

Talia from Visual Merchandising was the first meeting; she travels around the country for store openings and renovations. She has been re-working the store layouts to make them look fresh and cater to younger demographic. The major challenge she faces is convincing the store managers that the new layouts will lead to increased sales. We then met with Felipe from Store Sales Management who manages all store managers across the country and was able to share how sales strategy has changed over the years and lately with the advent of new POS technology.

 

At the end of each day, we debriefed and communicated our findings till date and next steps with Fabio. We had dinner with Fabio and his wife Fernanda, who took us out to Don Veridiana, which many locals claim to have better pizza than in Italy.

On Tuesday, the team interviewed Mariana, Director of Product, the final scheduled interview and learnt more about how Aramis designs and sources its products. With interviews now over, we focused on consolidating our findings and clarifying any remaining questions we had. After a full day working session, the team agreed to expand the scope beyond assortment planning and omni-channel to include other functional areas and do a 360 analysis.

On Wednesday, the team marched towards the converge phase and began to build on the final business plan to the client. We separated our recommendations into multiple functions including: Inventory Planning (Assortment and Replenishment), Customer Relationship management (CRM), Customer Service, Data/IT Integration, Store Experience, Multi-channel, and Internal Communication. Throughout the day, we had multiple calls for clarifications, and by the end of the day, we had an initial draft that we shared with Fabio before we headed out for some excitements! In the evening, we went to watch football match between two bitter rivals: Palmeras and Colinhas, accompanied by Fabio and Luan.

Thursday being the final day, the team had an early start. We received feedback from Fabio on the initial draft, and decided to move forward with additional deep dive into assortment models. We had dinner at the CEO Richard’s house, along with his wife and son. We learned about Richard’s travel experiences, and discussed his vision about emerging technologies in retail. After dinner, the team headed back to the hotel for the final home stretch of our business plan and wrapped up around 4am.

Friday, the last day at Aramis, was quite a bittersweet experience. We started the day with our presentation with Richard (CEO), Fabio and other executives. Richard showed strong interest and agreed with most of our findings and recommendations. He showed special interests in the assortment models that we recommended and believed it could be quickly implemented. Richard appreciated the fact that we had dug deep into the entire organization, and that we understood the sentiment and culture of Aramis in such a short timeframe. Though rewarding and relieved, it was quite a bittersweet moment when we finally had to say good bye to everyone at Aramis.

Brazil Finale

For the final weekend in Brazil, we headed to Rio de Janeiro. Over the next two days, we experienced the landmarks, nightlife, shopping, and cuisine. The experience of the IBD program has been beyond our expectations and cannot be expressed in words. We appreciated the opportunity to work with Aramis while experiencing the incredible country of Brazil. The five of us also built such strong bonds during the trip that we know we can rely on each other.

Wrapping Up Our Citibanamex Experience

Written by Kim Eun, Pamela Ju, Deepak Kurien and Austin Lu

It’s been an exciting two weeks for the Haas IBD Citibanamex team!  We came, we met, we ate, we worked, and we conquered – in that order.

Meeting Citibanamex

Our main client contact, Alex West, had done an incredible job setting us up with teams all around the bank.  We had meetings with the CIO, the new head of UX, directors in the eCommerce group, and a lot of exposure to their relatively new Innovation and Digital teams. We visited their call center, the digital factory, a new smart branch, and this afternoon we will be ending our experience at the still-in-the-works Innovation Lab.

Citibanamex has been investing a lot in innovation and digitizing their experience, and they’ve seeded these teams with existing bank experts as well as recruiting from the likes of Wal-Mart and IBM.  We had a lot of opportunities to talk to them in 4-on-1s, and everyone was incredibly generous with their time and resources.  They were excited about our project and wanted to help in any way they could.

The Project

Our project: propose a new insurance product for Seguros Citibanamex, with a focus on how to execute it through digital channels.  We’ve spent these past few weeks ideating around this – specifically a product that would be appealing to women.  At the end of the day, we would go back to the hotel room and brainstorm and argue about what features would be the most important (see picture below).  We were lucky enough to have a team dynamic where we could argue with each other but never take it personally.

More than once, we came up with the only partially joking conclusion that, “Insurance is a perfect product.”  As the Deputy CEO of Seguros Citibanamex reminded us, “Insurance is a wonderfully complex product that also does a world of social good.”  We ultimately came up with a product that we very proud of: Sueños Seguros Citibanamex.  It is an investment-insurance product that helps women realize their dreams.

The Final Presentation

We presented it yesterday morning, and Alex and Gaby Galindo (Citibanamex’s head of innovation) did us the great honor of setting us up in Citibanamex’s beautiful palace downtown.  We started at 8 am in a comedor, where we were served breakfast and Gaby welcomed everyone to the morning’s events.  In addition to us, Gaby and Alex, we had 13 additional guests from the insurance team, ranging from product managers to the Deputy CEO of Seguros Citibanamex.  We could tell that we were helping to bring these two organizations together and were both honored and nervous at the responsibility.

Fortunately, the presentation went really well.  Right after we pitched the product, people began asking us questions.  At first, we were worried that it meant our product was going to be received poorly – but it soon became clear that they were all excited by our proposed innovations and wanted to work through exactly what that would look like.

At the end of the presentation, the leader of the Insurance team thanked all of us for our work and told us that every part of our product seemed feasible – except for potentially the technical components (such as our proposed insurance simulator or process flows through their insurance app.)

We were so pleased with how our presentation went – and pleasantly surprised to hear that they would continue to iterate on our work and that one day we may see a version of our product on the Seguros Citibanamex website.

The Last Days

The rest of the day was a dream: an archivist led us on a tour of the Citibanamex palace downtown, we went out to lunch with the insurance team for traditional Mexican food and were very sad to leave them at the end.  Finally, one of the team members led us on a tour of the Zocolo.  We had been there just the week before, but this experience really showed us what a difference having a local with us makes.  He made us go in buildings that we had just walked by before, and we were stunned by how incredibly beautiful these buildings were.  There was the gold-plated Post Office, with a stunning staircase in the middle that made us all gasp out loud when we saw it.

As our experience is coming near the end, we’re both excited to be going home and sad about leaving all the people we’ve met in our two weeks here.  There is the lady at the front desk who provides us all of our security badges every morning.  She asks about what we have done, and Austin entertains her with stories about eating chapulines (grasshoppers), meeting his new favorite luchador, Fuego, and driving on the streets of Mexico City.  There is Thelma, the incredibly kind administrative aid that brings us water and books our meetings, finds us rooms, and helps us when we don’t know how to handle a situation.  When we walk around the office now, we see people that we know and we stop and chat – it’s hard to imagine that we only showed up two weeks ago.

We’ve seen and accomplished a lot in the last two weeks and we couldn’t have had a better experience.

 

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.

Evening Weekend IBD Program Kicks Off

EWMBA IBD Students

While the Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) program is at the end of their engagement with IBD, 18 Evening and Weekend MBA (EWMBA) students kicked off their IBD experience on May 14th.  This is the 6th year that the course has been offered to EWMBA students and although the program is very similar to the FTMBA course, there is one significant difference: time.  The summer program has much less of it overall, as students only have seven weeks of instruction and two weeks in-country working with clients.  EWMBA Teams are also made up of 4-5 students and led by a Team Lead, who is a classmate but unlike the FTMBA Program, the EWMBA Team Leads don’t have the additional weeks to work with their client to build rapport and gather intel on their project before their Team Members join the project.  Instead, they have to jump right into the process and establish themselves as a lead of their project to their client and teammates.  When asked about his strategy for being a Team Lead at this point in the process, the Samai Distillery Team Lead, Sushant Barave said:

Team Aramis

“Although we are at a very early stage, I am realizing how amazingly competent our team is. In a way, this makes my job as a team lead quite easy! I hate to call it a ‘strategy’ because it really boils down to keeping things really simple at this stage – having open communication, a structured approach to understand and address client’s needs, and making sure that all of us are having fun in the process!”

This is a sentiment we hear often from Team Leads in both the FTMBA and EWMBA programs.  The Aramis Menswear Team Lead, Kalyan Pentapalli shared, “I have a very experienced team and sometimes it feels intimidating leading three third year students, but they have been gracious enough to let me set an example and lead.”

Lead, motivate, organize, delegate, and manage work streams is what our EWMBA Team Leads will do as they prepare to go in-country on July 1st.  It’s a quick turn-around and with full-time jobs and other obligations, it is a lot to manage.   “It has already been great working with the team, and we are getting familiar with each other’s working styles. Given our crazy schedules collectively as a group, we have also been open to calls ranging from 7 am to 11 pm – this goes to show the flexibility and commitment from the team members”, shares Barun Mazumdar, a member of the Aramis Team.

Many students come to Haas because of the opportunity IBD gives them.  The Team Lead for ACT,  Praveen Settipalli, was determined to take IBD before he graduated despite having a new baby and starting work at a startup.  He heard first-hand experiences about IBD from his classmates and he, like so many others, felt he could benefit from the opportunity to work on an international consulting project.  “As a product manager, IBD will help me renew my core-consulting skills of framing the problem, lead a diverse team to formulate the strategy and obtain resources for successful execution. Doing this in a different industry/culture with a team of amazing Haas MBAs will also teach me how to lead across diverse environments. Personally, the IBD structure would allow me to embrace uncertainty and openness and immerse myself in a new environment. I also hope to reflect on my current environment and leadership style while at the client location and come back not just with awesome solutions for the client but also unforgettable memories and experiences.”

Team Samai

Frank Schultz, the Instructor and Faculty Mentor for the EWMBA program is confident that his students will be able to balance all of their competing priorities to find personal and professional successes from their IBD experience.   “I have been teaching the EWMBA IBD program since inception and every year I appreciate how much my teams dedicate themselves to their client and projects to provide true ROI – despite their day jobs and their families.  I have no doubt that this year’s students will work very hard and like every year, they will enjoy getting a taste of consulting in a global setting.  They will undoubtedly come back from their two weeks in-country with new perspectives, tools, and confidence to try different approaches.”

Teams will travel all over the world this July.  Praveen’s team will work with a social enterprise that provides entrepreneurship training and mentorship to young Zimbabweans and Sushant is taking his team to Cambodia to work with a rum distillery start-up.  We have one team that will travel to Mexico to work with a consumer and corporate financial services company, and Kalyan’s team will work with a privately held 20-year old menswear retailer in Brazil.  We are confident that these EWMBA students will have unforgettable and invaluable experiences.

Team ACT

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Team photo in front of entrance to the Forbidden City.

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Delicious lunch spread in a local restaurant.

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

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… and then learned how silk is made.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Updates from IBD Senegal – Team In Touch SA

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

Senegal — Three Grown Men in the Back of a Taxi

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

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

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

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

The Initial Research

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

Arrival in Senegal

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

The team having our first meal in Dakar

The team having our first meal in Dakar

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

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

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

Communicating our goals

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

Our Day of Arrival Presentation

Our Day of Arrival Presentation

Learning about the market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formulating a strategy and our final presentation

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

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

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

Organizing our findings through a diverge/converge exercise

Organizing our findings through a diverge/converge exercise

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

Our final presentation

Our final presentation

Out and about in Senegal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The house where Léopold Senghor was born

The house where Léopold Senghor was born

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

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

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

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

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

Attending 14th July festivities organized by the French embassador

Attending 14th July festivities organized by the French embassador

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

A textile factory in the local market

A textile factory in the local market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

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

Jai-rruh-jef

[Thank you in the Wolof language]

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

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

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

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

 

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

Working to Bring Hungarian Road Tolling to the USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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