Shruti Tibrewala is a Full-Time MBA/MPH working on an International Business Development project in Nairobi, Kenya. Her team, Viral Shah, Flavia Bicalho and Rodrigo Machado Pasianotto, is working with Jacaranda Maternity.
Jambo! We’re Team Jacaranda, 4 Full Time MBA students helping our client in Kenya understand how to build a sustainable model that allows the organization to provide low cost high quality maternity care to women across Kenya. We’ve been working with Jacaranda virtually since January and on site in Nairobi for the last 3 weeks. Our team brings a range of relevant interests and expertises to this project – Flavia brings her experience in M&A and Private Equity, Rodrigo and Viral in management consulting, ranging from market expansion strategies to healthcare providers and Shruti in biopharma and public health.
Jacaranda Maternity aspires to be a chain of non-profit maternity clinics that provides low cost high quality services to women in Kenya. 40% of all births in Kenya are at home and the rest are done by public and private facilities. Jacaranda hopes to bridge the gap between poor quality public facilities and high cost private facilities.
Having now spent nearly three weeks in country, I feel confident that we have delivered significant value to the organization through our deliverables – a model and supporting set of recommendations. The mission of Jacaranda is clear and inspiring, but solving for financial sustainability has been a challenge. Over the course of our project, we collected a trove of valuable information that will allow Jacaranda clear visibility into their costs. Now, they can rationalize their pricing and product mix in order to ensure that they are making a sustainable margin on the valuable products they provide.
In addition, we worked hard to develop a one-of-a-kind tool that empowers the Executive Team to perform scenario analysis (varying pricing, costs, and service mix) to understand the bottom line impact overall and for each product they offer. Now, as Jacaranda Executives make strategic decisions, they will be able to do so with the support of our tool so that the financials map directly to actions.
Our client’s appreciation for our work has been so rewarding. Seeing how Jacaranda operates as well as it does so with the limited resources they have was inspiring – and knowing that we have helped them to stretch their capabilities even further is great. We have truly felt that we became trusted advisors to Jacaranda’s Executive Team – and were often solicited for advice on unrelated topics. From the work front perspective – mission accomplished! From a personal perspective – we are thrilled to be invited into the Jacaranda family and really enjoyed our time working with their team and learned a lot from them about their work and the culture.
A day in the life
Jacaranda currently has two clinics, both located on the outskirts of Nairobi, in Kiambu county. We were housed in an apartment a brief 5-7 min walk away from their Kahawa West clinic. Most days consisted of a few hours of client meetings, interviewing competitors, working with their clinical staff to design methods to collect data and working on the final deliverable.
Project work and getting to and from dinner consumed most of our weekdays. We were fortunate to have had many classmates who had lived or worked in Nairobi previously and had provided us with many recommendations of places to check out and taxi drivers to use. It seems as though traffic is an inevitable consequence of living in Nairobi – between the sporadic, heavy and unpredictable rains (a driver told us that all residents leave and get in their cars to go home at the same time when it rains), poor road infrastructure in some parts and matatus ruling the road (Nairobis public transport system, that is owned and run by various co-ops). That said, often our long taxi rides led to very interesting conversations with the drivers – learning about the Kikuyus and Luos in Kenya, multiple wives and carjackings. We chose to look at the glass half full and our excursions brought us to new adventures each day!
Our first weekend, we headed to Kenya’s beautiful Masai Mara, along with the UN Women team. Our drive up there took us through Kenya’s stunning Rift Valley and through a Masai village.
Despite it being low season, we were fortunate to see 3 out of the “Big 5” – Lions, buffalo and elephants! And wow – it took our breath away! We also saw gazelles, cheetahs, vultures, giraffes, zebras and many, many other species. At one point, we saw a lion resting a few feet away from a carcass of a buffalo he had just demolished. Close by were 5-6 vultures on a tree and some hyenas. We felt we had just seen an entire food chain in action! I’ll probably never forget that sight. We slept in a luxury camp, with the sound of a live grunting hippo outside as background music. It was hands down, AMAZING.
The next weekend, the team headed to Zanzibar. Sadly, due to an unfortunate experience with Precision Air and Kenya Airways, the writer of this blog was unable to go but it seemed like it was an awesome experience! However, from the rest of the team, I am able to report that the picturesque beaches (apparently straight out of a postcard) coupled with stunning snorkeling, great food and drink made for a one-of-a-kind vacation.
Despite being far from the city center, we felt very welcomed by our client and local Kenyans. We found that people enjoyed talking about themselves and their experiences and were warm, friendly and helpful. The staff at Jacaranda was comprised of passionate people who were always willing to help us with what we needed for our work. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard the word “Karibu”, which means “Welcome” in Swahili, over the last 3 weeks. At one of the clinics, we were treated to a meal of ugali and skuma, which is traditional Kenyan cornmeal cake and greens. We even learned how to eat it with our hands! Yum!
As I write this post a day before we leave Kenya to return to our respective internships, I realize how far we have come since January, from first meeting each other to living in the same apartment for 3 weeks and eating all our meals together, from first hearing about our client to coming on site and meeting the people that run this organization and seeing the women it serves and finally from learning we’re going to Kenya and working on our ICO report to actually experiencing the life, the food and the people. This has been a life changing experience and we are so thankful to Haas, and Jacaranda for the opportunity.
Asante IBD, Jacaranda and Kenya!