Updates from IBD Mexico – Team salaUno

Spring 2014 IBD Team salaUno (Manuel Ariztia, James McAdams, Zoe Sifrim, Anna Stolyarova) is working with eye care provider salaUno in Mexico City, Mexico.

“Can’t we just cut it in half?”

We stared back at our client, not quite understanding. “Can’t we just cut the desk in half?” he asked again. We had spent the past two weeks deep in the weeds of salaUno optic shop’s financial data, inventory and pricing. We had visited competitor shops all over the city, providing recommendations on how to best present lens options, and how to refine the sales pitch. We had designed an entirely new layout for the shop, emphasizing comfort and transparency for the customers. But it all came down to one question: can we cut the desk we already have in half?

Let me back up. Driven by the mission to eliminate needless blindness in Mexico, salaUno provides high-quality cataract surgeries and other eye services at a very low cost. Inspired by Aravind Eye Center in India, salaUno makes use of high volumes, operational efficiencies and economies of scale to make its business work. Since it began operating in 2011, they have run a small optic shop, selling glasses to the patients who need them. Until now the optic shop has received little attention; however, due to salaUno’s plans for expansion, the shop has taken on increasing strategic importance. That’s where IBD comes in.

At first glance, we’re a great team to take on this project. We have experience in finance, operations, consulting and health care; we’re passionate about the work that salaUno does; and two of our team members speak Spanish. It seems like a great fit…until you factor in… The Gringo Loco. That’s our affectionate term for our team member whose working-knowledge of Spanish doesn’t go far beyond “Dónde está el baño?” and “Hola! Sí! Por Favor!” The Gringo Loco is also not too great with the metric system. And that’s where we got into trouble.

SalaUno is a real start-up. There’s an all-hands-on-deck feeling around here, and decisions are made fast. Whereas in our previous work, a change in price or a change in layout might take weeks to be approved, at salaUno a good idea is adopted immediately.  We proposed a new layout for the optic shop that would include a low desk for the sales attendant, so that customers could sit at the desk with her and discuss their options. We never imagined that the next day a carpenter would show up to cut their existing desk in half. Not wanting to waste the carpenter’s time, the Gringo Loco took out his measuring tape and recommended lopping off 20cm. Here’s the result:


salauno1The optic shop’s desk post “Gringo Loco” involvement

We have learned on this trip that we are not architects. Luckily, the solution is only temporary. In about a month, the optic shop will be completely redesigned. Our proposed new prices and sales guides will be adopted, so patients will be able to select the lenses that work for them quickly and with no anxiety. SalaUno will be able to track its optic shop’s profits and inventory far better than it has in the past, and the staff who work in the shop will have regular meetings to problem-solve in real time. It has been immensely gratifying to be able to make recommendations that will be implemented immediately, and we are confident that these changes will transform both the patient experience and the shop’s profitability. Though there have been hiccups along the way, we can’t wait to see what salaUno does next.

salauno2Hard at work in salaUno’s clinic, Zoe teaches the Gringo Loco how to count to ten in Spanish

salauno3Anya acquires first hand experience of salaUno’s eye care operation

salauno4Manuel captivates Zoe & James with his excel wizardry

salauno5Zoe is kept company by Nelson, the office mascot

salauno6The team takes over salaUno’s work space…Zoe deftly uses Nelson as a footrest

salauno7The team celebrates an end to a successful project with Javier (middle) and Carlos (far right), salaUno’s co-founders

salauno8Team salaUno gets out of the city and visitsTeotihuacan – the Pyramid of the Sun and Avenue of the Dead are in the background

salauno9Zoe, Anya, & James with picturesque Guanajuato in the background

In the Eyes of a Mexican Ophthalmologist

Team salaUno is working in Mexico City with salaUno, a for-profit social enterprise that seeks to eliminate needless blindness by providing low-cost cataract surgeries. EWMBA students Thomas Chuang, Stephanie Lai, Aarti Shetty, and Shailendra Srivastava are developing salaUno’s value proposition for ophthalmologists. 

Hola amigos! Although none of us have medical backgrounds, we now better understand the point of view of a Mexican ophthalmologist after spending 2 weeks at salaUno. We conducted 9 individual interviews and 2 focus groups with salaUno ophthalmologists. Drawing from our PFPS and Leading People courses, we engaged the doctors in a Post-It idea generation exercise and dot-voting to brainstorm ways in which salaUno can retain and recruit doctors.

Focus group 2

Shailendra, Thomas, and Aarti with the doctors

The doctors commented that the focus group was a great exercise that helped them come together as a team to discuss issues of concerns and brainstorm solutions.  We discussed some potential solutions that we had developed, and their feedback gave us useful insights.

After spending Wednesday and Thursday preparing for our final presentation for the co-CEOs and HR Director of salaUno, we felt privileged to have a professional photographer, Val Torres, come to salaUno to take photos of the clinic and our presentation. A few select pictures are included below, and here is the entire gallery for your viewing pleasure: http://valtorres.jalbum.net/SalaUno/


Thomas, Shailendra, Stephanie, and Aarti with patients in the waiting room

salaUno hallway

Team salaUno with 2 ophthalmologists, Omar Honerlage and Flor Reyes

salaUno final presentation

Team salaUno with Co-CEOs Javier Okhuysen and Carlos Orellana (Haas MBA/MPH ’10)

Our presentation became a 3-hour meaningful and constructive dialogue with salaUno’s co-CEOs. Reflecting on the past month, we’ve learned about the complexities of scaling a health care business, as well as leading and motivating people effectively. Muchos gracias for an amazing IBD experience!

Day Uno in Mexico and salaUno

Team salaUno is comprised of Thomas Chuang, Stephanie Lai, Aarti Shetty, and Shailendra Srivastava. salaUno is a high-volume eye clinic in Mexico City exemplifying the Haas defining principle, beyond yourself. Co-founded by Haas alum Carlos Orellana (MBA/MPH 2010), salaUno is a for-profit social enterprise that seeks to eliminate needless blindness by providing low-cost cataract surgeries. We are developing salaUno’s value proposition for ophthalmologists. 

After a red-eye flight, we arrived in Mexico at 5:30 am, astonished that we could transport ourselves in merely four hours to a foreign country completely different from the U.S.

Alvaro Peon Sanchez (EWMBA 2014) graciously invited us to stay at his parents’ house in Cuernacava, a beautiful city in the outskirts of Mexico City. When we reached the Sanchez home,  a traditional Mexican breakfast of chilaquiles was waiting for us! It was such a dreamy morning with the rain pitter-pattering on their gorgeous lawn. After breakfast, we then moved to the living room where our resident musician Stephanie played the piano, as Alvaro’s father sang Broadway show tunes.  We then went to the Cuernacava market, where we bought silver jewelry, which is popular in Mexico.

Robert Brady Museum

Alvaro’s mother, Beatriz, took us to the Robert Brady museum, which houses an eclectic collection of religious, folk, and ethnic art, including oil paintings by Frida Kahlo.

Robert Brady Museum

After visiting the local grocery store to buy ingredients to cook dinner for our generous hosts, Aarti, a 2-Michelin star chef, led the charge in the kitchen.

Cuernavaca Grocery Store


Aarti Cooking

943568_10100874408400351_502204112_n Cooking at the Sanchez House

After a great home stay at the Sanchez home, we traveled to Mexico City, salaUno’s headquarters. Our first day at salaUno began with an all-hands Monday meeting. Everyone took turns to introduce themselves, and very soon we realized that we were the only non-Spanish speaking people there! We began our work with four  back-to-back interviews with salaUno doctors. It was great putting faces to many e-mail interactions that we’ve had in the last few weeks. We validated some of our initial hypotheses, and some new ideas also surfaced. Carlos later took us for a tour of salaUno’s three buildings, where we witnessed the patient flow through the busy hospital: http://youtu.be/Csy9xFFc7rU


salaUno Doctor


Quality Service and Delivery

At 2 pm, which is normal lunch time in Mexico, we went out to lunch with Carlos to an Argentinian cafe, where we ate hunks of meat! Lunch apparently is the big meal of the day here. Carlos, who embodies confidence without attitude, encouraged us to question the status quo at salaUno. After lunch, we re-convened and analyzed our interview takeaways using Post-It notes. Thank you PFPS! We are now ready for our Round 2 of interviews tomorrow.

Our experience in Mexico has been exciting and fun so far! The only glitch is our inability to communicate in Spanish for the most basic life necessities! As students always, we’d love to learn from you. What are some Spanish phrases that will help us get around these next two weeks?!

Gracias, CAL!



Haas Defining Principles Beyond Berkeley

Dean Lyons and Dr. Carlos Prieto of Escuela Bancaria y Comercial discuss the importance of Defining Principles

Dr. Carlos Prieto, dean of Escuela Bancaria y Comercial, and Dean Lyons discuss the importance of Defining Principles

Even when we at Berkeley-Haas don’t travel, our Defining Principles do–making their way into other classrooms: Estudiantes para Siempre (Students Always) is one of the new “características distintivas” at a business school in Mexico; Confidence Without Attitude is now part of a course on public agency management at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; and a Berkeley Haas magazine article is required reading in a business course at San Jose State University.

In November, Dean Rich Lyons sat down with Dr. Carlos Prieto, dean of Escuela Bancaria & Comercial (EBC), Mexico’s oldest private institution of higher education. The deans first discussed the importance of culture to business schools last May, when Prieto was on campus for the graduation of his son, Diego Prieto, MBA 12.

The culture issue of EBC's magazine

The culture issue of EBC’s magazine

When they met this winter, Prieto was finalizing a set of guiding principles for EBC: Estudiantes para Siempre, Impulsores del Progreso (Progress-Driven), Honestos Sociablement Responsables (Honest & Socially Responsible). This spring, Prieto sent an issue of EBC’s magazine featuring the school’s culture journey on its cover, asking “Who are we?” and “What are our principles?” In a letter to Lyons, Prieto wrote, “The Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles have not only had a profound impact in your own school, but they have outreached your own boundaries and have been a source of inspiration for other academic institutions.”

Closer to home, William Riggs, an assistant professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo shared the following tweet:


Riggs earned his PhD in City and Regional Planning at Berkeley and met Lyons while working as a project manager on plans for the new Haas building.

“I see the Haas School’s Defining Principles as critical skills for future civic leaders as well as for business leaders,” says Riggs. “Public agency management tends to treat leadership and management as a dichotomy. I challenge my students to think beyond that and consider them in parallel.”

Back in the Bay Area, Herman “Buzz” Boschken, MBA 68, also weaves the Haas Defining Principles into his work. This professor of management and public policy at San Jose State makes a summer 2012 Berkeley Haas Magazine article on Haas culture required reading in his Principles of Management course. “The four principles serve as a basis for discerning a culture of competence and socially-aware decision-making in the firm,” says Boschken. “From this perspective, students can see that the character of decision-making hinges on an organization’s core values and a decision maker’s identity with that culture.”

Says Lyons, “Sometimes we forget that among all the world’s institutions of public higher ed, Berkeley is in so many ways a beacon, serving not just our own students but as an inspiration elsewhere. There is great purpose in that.”

Nurturing a Start-Up in a Megalopolis – May 29, 2013

Team Hipos.com is just south of the border in the world’s 6th largest metropolitan area, ImageMexico City. We’re working furiously with Hipos.com, a small Internet start-up, to help define their business model and maximize revenue. But the problem we’re facing is how can Hipos earn pesos if their potential consumers and customers don’t immediately recognize the need for their service? 


Hipos.com seeks to educate Mexicans—the 11th largest population and 12th highest GDP in Imagethe world—to gain significant knowledge about financial services products.  Hipos’ website will allow consumers to find the ideal financial products to meet their individual needs. Ultimately, the business will save consumers money and will help drive revenue (and increased profits) to financial institutions and other types of businesses.


The beauty of working for a start-up is the profound impact we can have on the business in such a short amount of time.  Every stone we turn, industry trend we discover, and gap in the market lead to new strategic insights.  In addition to significant Internet research, we’ve been interviewing successful businesspeople all over Mexico City—most of which have ivy league educations or graduate degrees from top ranked institutions.  We met with numerous consultants that specialize in financial services, successful entrepreneurs, and other members of the financial services community. Their knowledge of the Mexican market and economy is helping us to create valuable insights for Hipos. Over the next week and a half we’ll continue to conduct interviews, ideate, complete a comprehensive financial model, and strategic recommendations. 


Enough talking about work! We’re in Mexico: the home of tequila, Mariachis, and delicious Image(albeit unhealthy) cuisine. Since the first day we entered this sprawling city, we’ve immersed ourselves in their culture.  Even though none of us can speak Spanish at a level beyond preschool, we’ve managed to navigate this sprawling city and take in the sights and sounds.


Some Highlights include: Porter Hall facing his fear and chomping on the chewy worm at the bottom of the Mezcal (a variant of tequila) bottle; climbing the Aztec pyramids at Tiotihuacan; watching Mariachis and dancing (a little bit) in Garibaldi Plaza; exploring the tourist attractions around Zocalo; and discovering how many different ways and names Mexicans can come up with to describe the combinations of tortillas, meat, cheese, beans, and different color sauces. 


Haas Alum Carlos Orellana Named a 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year in Mexico

Mexico’s Entrepreneurs of the Year include Carlos Orellana, MBA 10 (l.)

Haas alum Carlos Orellana, co-founder of a network of low-cost, high quality eye-care clinics in Mexico, was named an Entrepreneur of the Year by CNN Expansión–and made its cover (see right).

Orellana, MBA/MPH 10, and co-founder Javier Okhuysen are co-CEOs of salaUno, which delivers eye care, such as cataract surgery, to patients on the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. The duo aims to make salaUno (which has also been an IBD client for two years) the leading health-care provider for Latin America.

CNN Expansión, a magazine covering business and entrepreneurship in Mexico and Latin America, awarded two companies with the Entrepreneur of the Year honor, selecting salaUno in the High Potential category for its rapid growth and social impact.

While at Haas, Orellana co-founded the Latin American and Hispanic Business Conference with classmate Pedro Kudrnac, MBA 10. Though he and Okhuysen had the idea for salaUno before earning his MBA, Orellana says, “It was during my time at Haas that the project really took shape.”

Note: Read about the experiences of IBD teams working with salaUno this summer in these Haas in the World posts.

As part of a summer 2012 IBD project, Sarah Fisher, MBA 13, helps out at a salaUno outreach eye camp in a remote area outside of Mexico City