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 :D

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


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 UK and Poland – Team Franklin Templeton

Team Franklin Templeton – Varsha Negi, John Maus, Seiya Nakagawa and Lily Lou – traveled to the United Kingdom and Poland for their IBD project.

Team bio

We are a team of four Haas MBA students: Varsha Negi and John Maus, two finance retirees from the Americas and Asia-Pacific region (respectively), Seiya Nakagawa, a seasoned Japanese banker, and Lily Lou, a marketing expert from China.


Brief Introduction of the Project

Our client, Franklin Templeton Investments, is a global B2B asset manager with 60+ years of active management experience. Given the recent changes in regulations and market landscape, our goal is to help the client develop a strategy to target the self-directed segment for both Poland and the U.K. markets without impacting their existing business.

Working from Berkeley

While in Berkeley, we communicated with clients through weekly calls and conducted research on the competitive landscape and market opportunities. We also connected with a Polish scholar Wojciech to learn about Polish culture and public mentality, and connected with consulting professors specializing in investment management to gain insights. Not being able to communicate with the client face-to-face posed challenges to the project. In order to obtain first-hand consumer and market insights as soon as we got in country we organized focus groups and arranged meetings with different departments before our departure.


In-country – Poland

Our first stop in Poland is Warsaw, an amazing city which was completely destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt afterwards. Our host Borno is very hospitable and, to Varsha and everyone’s delight, took us out to an Indian restaurant for lunch on the first day. We then met with internal staff from sales, legal & compliance and IT departments and obtained a lot of valuable insights.



On our second day in Poland we went to Poznan, a beautiful city where FT’s operations center is located, and conducted three focus groups.

We then applied the tools that we learnt in PFPS to work and had an extremely productive session, which led to innovative yet practical solutions to our problems.



Another benefit of being in country is that it’s extremely helpful to get a “sense” of the market. By observing and talking to the locals, we learnt so much about the history and customs of the country which in turn, helped us more accurately capture the sentiment of the audience.

To live up to the glorious motto of “work hard, play hard”, we spent the weekend in the historic city of Krakow. Strolling the streets and windowing shopping at the open market was a great way to immerse in the local culture while a visit to Schindler’s Factory gave us a chance to relive the real history from the famous movie Schindler’s List.


In-country – U.K.

After 10 days in Poland, we packed our luggage and findings and headed to our next and final stop – London.

Our office is located in the center of the financial district, making it easy for us to get the vibe of the city.


We also conducted a focus group at London Business School (LBS) and an internal focus group. Given the financial sophistication of the audience, the results may be skewed; still we obtained valuable insights about the market.

The London office is more established than the Warsaw office and we took every chance to talk to different sources – sales, sales support, compliance, marketing, PR and external agents. Each person held a different perspective and we managed to sift through all the information to provide our presentation.

On the last day, we gave an excellent presentation. We received a lot of questions from the senior management and had great discussions.


Cultural Immersion

Poland and the U.K. are both diverse in terms of culture and cuisine. And we tried to be “global” while making meal choices.


One of our key findings is that IBD is as much about learning about the cultures of your teammates as learning about the local cultures. During various meals and discussions, we exchanged a great number of anecdotes on customs of Japan, India, China and of course, the U.S. Topics included, but were not limited to, traffic rules, daily meals, foreign policies and expectations for marriage.

Seiya Samurai in his warrior outfit in Krakow

Seiya Samurai in his warrior outfit in Krakow

Making Connections

Just a day before we conducted the focus group at LBS, Prince Charles visited the school.

After the focus group at LBS, we were invited to attend the Sundowner, which is basically a school-sponsored Bar of the Week on the beautiful lawn of the campus, and networked with LBS MBA students.



Haas Undergrad Competes in Miss World

Victoria Pham, BS 12, will compete among a record 120 contestants in the 2011 Miss World pageant Sunday, Nov. 6 in London. The event will be broadcast live from Earls Court starting at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on E! and is expected to be seen by over one billion viewers in 168 countries worldwide. It can be watched live on http://dl.groovygecko.net/anon.groovy/clients/missworld/20111106/index.html

Pham, in her second year of undergraduate studies at Haas, won the national title for Vietnam on August 21 and will represent that nation at Miss World. She is already in London, competing in fitness and talent portions of the competition, as well as visiting Cambridge, Edinburgh Castle, and the London Eye.

On her Miss World profile, Pham says her future ambitions are to graduate from Berkeley-Haas and to “find a job that allows me to exercise my creativity and determination in business while still staying committed to my passion for community service and charity work.” Her personal motto? “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Best of luck, Victoria!