Students Shine at 2016 IBD Conference

We officially wrapped up another amazing year of the Berkeley-Haas International Business Development (IBD) program with our final event, the 2016 IBD Conference on September 16th. The Conference started with an interactive poster session during which 22 IBD teams presented their projects, answered questions and showcased their unique experiences and wearables.  Some of the IBD students who went all out were Team Nando, who wore custom designed clothing produced by their client; Team Ashesi, who had matching pockets sewn onto their shirts; Team Inka Moss, who sported Peruvian sweaters and caps; and Team PAG, whose student team lead, Zarrah Birdie, donned a panda hoodie in honor of her team’s experience working in China. 

“All of the students were excited not only to share their adventures and the consulting work they did with their clients around the world, but also to see the huge variety of other projects and cultures that their classmates completed and experienced. Curiosity and enthusiasm were extremely high, and the noise level even higher.” Mark Coopersmith, IBD Faculty Mentor.

The energy was high for everyone at the Conference, including Haas’s CFO, Suresh Bhat, who came by the poster session to engage with IBD students and spend time learning about their projects.

“Attending the IBD conference is always a fabulous experience and seeing the enthusiasm from both FTMBA and EWMBA students as they present their findings, brings their project to life.  The students favorably commented on the experiential learning process. In addition, having to face and overcome language and cultural barriers is a mirror of what many of them will have to face as they take on new career opportunities post their MBA.” Suresh Bhat.


Following the poster session, students and guests were treated to a lunch program that consisted of a panel presentation of IBD student team leads, overall comments from Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons, TED Talk style presentations by six IBD teams, and an acceptance speech from the 2016 IBD Alumnus of the Year, Rajiv Ball.

Rajiv, a Partner at THNK, Berkeley-Haas lecturer and host of the Design Thinking Course held recently in Amsterdam over spring break, worked previously with IBD as a project sponsor.  In his acceptance video he talked about the amazing experience that IBD provides for students:  “The notion of broadening your international horizons… and the ability to really step outside the US, and explore how business gets done there, that is a true gift that the program brings its participants.”

While there are many highlights from the IBD Conference, it was ultimately about hearing from the students their impressions of their projects and their reflections on the IBD experience.  New to the IBD Conference this year was a panel discussion with IBD student team leads.  IBD Executive Director Kristi Raube interviewed five student team leads and asked them to share their insights on serving in a team lead capacity. One student team lead, Vanessa Pau, said, “It is a rare opportunity to lead a team of peers, many of whom are much smarter than I am, and to actually work with them, learn from them and motivate them throughout times in the project.”  

In addition to the panel discussion, six IBD teams were chosen by a combination of student and faculty voting to present their projects to the Conference audience.  Videos of the lucky winners and presenting teams can be seen here.

Many IBD teams shared how their journeys changed once they were in country, including shifts in their perspectives, relationships, and overall project recommendations.  The student team lead for Team, Theo Grzegorczk, said of his team’s time in South Africa, “It gave us a real reason to care, and we made this transition by actually getting involved with their company…we learned by really getting into their business.  We went through this process of understanding how they work…and by living the way they do business…we came to understand a little bit more of their company and that is the first step in the design thinking process.”

Team Samai’s Bruno Vargas said, “We had all kinds of backgrounds, not just nationally, but professional backgrounds…We were hands on, we were rolling (up) our sleeves, working hand in hand with them…We were actually giving them to tools to manage their business and in the end, we built strong relationships.”

IBD Faculty Mentor Whitney Hischier summed it up best when she shared the following comment: “The students were really energized and proud of their work and the relationships they built with their clients.  A few told me it was the best experience they had at Haas, and specifically the best team experience.  Exciting to see we are having such an impact!”

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Healthcare for India’s rural populations: Delivering medical services on motorcycle to the last-mile in the State of Bihar

The Bihar countryside

The Bihar countryside

Team WHP is in India working with WORLD HEALTH PARTNERS  to evaluate the sustainability of motorcycle courier-based pharmaceutical delivery and medical sample pick up for patients that lack access to centralized and sophisticated healthcare.

India: a land of contrast.  In New Delhi, where our team has spent the first week, boasts some of the highest concentrations of wealth and power in India, but also an expansive population of poor and marginalized citizens.  Healthcare in India takes a similar tack, with top medical care available to those who can afford it, leaving the majority of the country with highly variable access to basic healthcare services.

We started our project in the New Delhi headquarters of WHP, one of the world’s most lauded and agile healthcare NGOs.  Backed by the Gates Foundation, WHP applies innovative market-based solutions to improve the quality of healthcare for India’s rural poor, including running Telemedicine centers and an developing an in-house generic brand of pharmaceuticals.   Specifically, we’ve arrived to investigate the operations of WHP’s Last-Mile-Outrider (LMO) Program, that delivers pharmaceuticals and provides sample pick up for distant patient care regions.

The team spent the first week in the office, trying to beat the record temperatures (114 degrees!), preparing for our immersion in the state of Bihar, one of the most underdeveloped and poor regions in India – in week 2, we dove right into ethnographic interviews, data collection, and the lives of Bihari’s.

Where the cool kids hang out

Where the cool kids hang out in Bihar

Bihar was a world apart from Delhi – the oppressive humidity (highlighted by pre-monsoon rains), the striking beauty of a far-inland tropical plain, the stark austerity of the average villager, and the random fact that the best lychee fruits in all of India come from Bihar, all created an experience unlike any other.  As we drove around Bihar to conduct our research, we saw firsthand the potential difficulties in delivering basic healthcare services (or any services) to some of the most remote regions in the country – how might we optimize and improve WHP’s current delivery and courier operations?  Our minds were racing.

How can we teach someone anything about optimization when they take it to the next level? #nextlevelbatchprocess

How can we teach someone anything about optimization when they take it to the next level? Eat your heart out Terry Taylor

Within the first day, we saw the varied and complex landscape of healthcare services, to include the surprising proliferation of village scale pharmacies, a wide-ranging offering of medical “professionals,” and the significant opportunities for innovative solutions to make an impact in the effectiveness of LMO motorcycle couriers.

TOP & BOTTOM: The team bears the Bihar heat & humidity (barely)

TOP & BOTTOM: The team bears the Bihar heat & humidity (barely)

TOP: Getting into the details BOTTOM: Last-Mile Healthcare is a family affair: Father and son help a patient connect to a remote Doctor on ReMeDi Telemedicine software

TOP: Getting into the details
BOTTOM: Last-Mile Healthcare is a family affair: Father and son help a patient connect to a remote Doctor on ReMeDi Telemedicine software

As the week progressed, we began to discover the challenges in implementing a self-sustaining motorcycle delivery operation.  The endeavor faced obstacles such as a lack of economies of scale, inefficient order quantities (of drugs to pharmacies and doctors), and typical personnel issues that plague projects in the developing world.  Despite the daunting issues, team WHP gathered a host of data and reluctantly returned to Delhi, where we found the 110 degree temperatures to be “a dry heat” and the lack of cows, trash, dogs, and gangs of curious villager to reflect an absence of charm.

Bringing our 1st world problems to Bihar: "We'd like to pick our own fresh Lychee"

Bringing our 1st world problems to Bihar: “We’d like to pick our own fresh Lychee”


Nikita & Jon fit in with the locals


Everywhere we went, crowds of curious onlookers surrounded us. We were the “Bieber” to their “Fever”

Now back in the Delhi office, proudly wearing the badge of having experienced the “real India,” and armed with battle-hardened digestive systems, we began the task of analyzing and generating a cohesive recommendation for WHP in order to take decisive action on their LMO program.  Stay tuned.


The villagers promptly recommended: “Leave the jumping to Jeremy Lin and stick to your MBA.”
Either career path seems dubious at this point

Inspired by a Mere 36 Hours in West Bengal

Team Seva is in Chaitanyapur, India working with VMANNN / Seva Foundation on a project to understand VMANN’s mentorship process, mentee relationships, and attributable outcomes through first-hand accounts, observations, and data collection.

In our IBD team’s first 36 hours in India, we explored Kolkata, experienced a rollercoaster ride to the small village of Chaitanyapur, feasted as newly welcomed guests, and witnessed the inspiring work that the team at VMANNN does on a daily basis, including giving sight to thousands of patients each year.  Here is our account of the crazy start to our three weeks in India.

Taxi Line at the Kokata Airport, A Late Night Cab Ride through Kolkata

Sunday 10:00am

Bengali woman against Kolkata traffic

 Despite arriving in Kolkata after more than 24 hours of traveling, we wake up early on Sunday morning with enough time to enjoy a thorough breakfast buffet and recount our travel mishaps.  We leave our hotel to do some sightseeing in the morning before meeting up with our host (Dr. Asim) and his family to travel to VMANNN where we will stay and work for the next three weeks.

From our very short and limited excursion, Kolkata exceeds our expectations, both for better and for worse.

Victoria Memorial from the Street, Seeking Shade in the Halls of the Indian Museum, Roaming the Streets of Kolkata

Victoria Memorial from the Street, Seeking Shade in the Halls of the Indian Museum, Roaming the Streets of Kolkata

 The tree lined streets, monuments and museums, and British architecture are shadows of the city’s past colonial life.  Under the hot sun and ample humidity, we walked past and through the Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, St. Paul’s Church, General Post Office, High Court, and St. John’s Church.

Street scenes in Kolkata

However, what strikes us most about the city is the harsh daily reality facing much of population of Kolkata. Driving and walking through the city, we witness hundreds of people living in the streets – from sleeping on the pavement or atop makeshift counters serving as a surface, to bathing using the mains water pipes to cooking their meals by the side of the road. We see hundreds of street side hawkers working to earn a living to sustain themselves on.  In contrast to the grand buildings we see, this shows us how much the city struggled with the rapid population growth and political strife.

Lively Energy on the Street of Kolkata

Yet, there is an energy and liveliness stirring about in the streets wherever we go.  A game of cricket.  Animated conversations and quick smiles. A hand of cards. Brightly colored fabrics, jewelry, and buildings.

Sunday 1:00pm

Dr. Asim’s son

We quickly freshen up in our hotel rooms and pack our bags in time to meet Dr. Asim and his family.   Dr. Asim is the surgeon and medical director of VMANNN. Trained by Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy (aka Dr. V), the well-known and respected founder of Aravind, Dr. Asim has become a highly skilled and sought after eye care surgeon.  He runs VMANNN while also training other eye care institutions in capacity building, operational efficiency and surgical excellence.  We are very excited to finally be heading to the eye hospital that we had learned so much about!

Sunday 2:00pm

Road Traffic on the Way to Chaitanyapur

Driving in India is crazy.  The road along the way is dotted with huts, shacks, and unfinished construction.  Unlike many roads in other countries, there are not a lot of empty stretches of road or land.  The honking, hectic driving, and lack of rules aren’t confined to the city either and follow us all the way to the village.  Ironically, all of the trucks have bumper stickers saying “Obey Traffic Rules,” “India is Great,”  and “Good Luck.” Good luck would have it that we make it safely to VMANNN. 

Sunday 5:00pm

Contrary to our initial thoughts that we would be in a secluded, quiet part of town, our cars abruptly turn into a gated area amongst clusters of road side stands and many, many bikes, walkers, and cars.

Welcome to VMANNN

 A personalized welcome sign greets us to our home on the school campus.  We quickly unload the car and sit down for our first tea in the dining area of the guesthouse, which we soon realize is much more than just tea.  After indulging in fruit and Indian sweets, we ride for twenty minutes to a nearby market to purchase shalwar kameez (traditional Indian clothing) for our upcoming workweek.

Sunday 7:00pm

Dinner is served in our guest house, starting with a plate of rice and two small sides.  We breath a sigh of relief, glad to know the rumors weren’t true of how much we will eat!

Then, another dish arrives. And another.  And another.  And fruit. Then, dessert!   So THIS is where the extra 5 kilos will come from!  Throughout the rest of the trip, we are constantly fed – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner.  Our bellies full, the incessant honking lulls us off to sleep, dreaming of what our day will entail.

Monday 6:30am

We wake up after our first night at VMANNN to chirping birds, honking cars and lively school children. The air is hot and humid and the town of Chaitanyapur is ready to start the day slightly earlier than we are!

Monday 8:00am

Mangos, mangos, mangos

Breakfast is served.  Our gracious hosts have prepared another Indian feast for us consisting of toast, boiled egg, vegetable curry, fresh mango, banana and tea.  We are fueled up and ready to spend our first day on site at VMANNN’s eye care institution.

 Monday 9:00am

Introduction to VMANNN

Our guide and the mentorship coordinator, Purnendu, picks us up from our guest house.  The house is located within VMANNN’s educational campus, a facility that provides schooling to hundreds of local children, including many which are visually impaired, as well as vocational training to visually impaired adults.  They are taught to make spices, cloths and incense, which are sold at the eye care institution just up the street, which is where we are taken for the day and where our project is based.

Monday 10:00am

Purnendu introduces us to the hospital administrators who each play an instrumental role in maintaining day-to-day operations.

Explaining the Patient Journey at VMANNN, Witnessing the Patient Experience

We are guided through the extensive hospital landscape and walked through the patient journey map from arrival and registration to surgery and recovery.

A Patient Eagerly Waits at Registration, A Peek into the Registration Room at VMANNN

VMANNN services hundreds of patients every day whose sight has been severely compromised because of accidents, cataracts and other pressing health issues.

The need is vast. The staff at VMANNN work diligently, with care and compassion, to ensure each patient is effectively taken care of.

Post-op Patient at VMANNN in the General In-Patient Ward 

The hospital’s model is based on a sliding pay scale with the patients in greatest need receiving surgery free of charge; those with greater financial means pay a premium above the regular fee level. 

Monday 11:00am

Entering the Operation Theatre

The most exciting and unnerving part of the day took place in the Operation Theatre (OT).

Dr. Asim Performs Cataract Surgery

This is where the magic happens.

VMANNN Doctor Performs Surgery as Another Patient is Prepped

The surgical operation process is set up such that patients are escorted in, worked on, and escorted out in an efficient, almost assembly-like fashion with their total process time taking no more than 15-20 minutes.  Dr. Asim finishes the surgery on one patient, then turns to his immediate left to begin surgery on the next waiting patient.

IBD Team Scrubbing In for Surgery

We were fortunate enough to join Dr. Asim in the OT and watch as he meticulously performed numerous surgeries in succession.

Getting the Doctor’s View of the Cataract Surgery 

Although some of us felt queasy at the sight, our amazement kept us engaged as we watched the surgeries take place one after another.

Wood Piece Removed from Patient, Wood Piece Presented to Patient After Surgery

The most fascinating (and grueling) surgery came at the end. A man came in with a lodged object in his eye that had been there for a full month after he had an accident. Although he had visited several hospitals, no one had success in retrieving the item from his eye. However, his 200km trip to VMANNN was not in vain. After just a few attempts, Dr. Asim removed the object – a 5cm, thick piece of wood!

Success…and the day is just getting started.

We look forward to an exciting few weeks as we capture VMANNN’s eye care practices through observations, interviews and data collection. We will also travel to 2 hospitals that VMANNN formally mentors – one across the Ganges River and the other an 8 hour train ride away in the neighboring state of Orissa. Ultimately, we will compile a case study, document KPIs and recommend best practices for VMANNN’s mentorship process, which will also be used to inform other mentors in the Global Sight Initiative, a network led by our sponsoring client the Seva Foundation.

Considering our first 36 hours, we know it’s going to be quite an eye-opening experience! (Pun intended).