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 😀

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.



Updates from IBD South Africa – Team EPI-USE

BEPA Redefines Corporate Travel Management

Albrecht Wiedersberg, Benya Phetkaeo, Emily Roesing and Paul Hogan are full-time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Sydney, Australia and Pretoria, South Africa. Their team, BEPA, have been visiting London, Sydney, and Pretoria over the last three weeks working on innovative ways to redefine corporate travel management for EPI-USE, a global IT consulting firm.

EPI-USE, a leading IT service provider in the SAP HR space, asked our team to investigate ways to reduce travel expense and to develop a potential business model for the group. Throughout the spring semester, our team had analyzed travel data, interviewed with consultants and travelers from different verticals, and tested potential solutions for EPI-USE.

Led by Haas alumnus and EPI-USE executive Quintin Smith, our team set a game plan and aligned it with key stakeholders; among them was Jonathan Tager, CEO of EPI-USE. Only a few days after the end of spring semester, our team started a great journey visiting EPI-USE’s core regions to get a better picture of the travel situation and to come up with a high impact recommendation.

Our team spent the first week in Sydney and London where we met with local travel managers, consultants, and members of EPI-USE’s leadership team. Everyone we met was incredibly helpful and great to work with. In our first week, Susan from the London office and Yaron from the Australian office made it very easy for us to get started! After an intense week of analysis and a short sightseeing weekend we packed our bags and first results to transfer to South Africa where the very exciting final phase of our project was to take place.

epi-use1Paul Hogan at Bondi Beach

epi-use2Sydney skyline

epi-use3Working lunch with Yaron

The next morning, we were all excited to meet Quintin who introduced us to the EPI-USE team and made it really easy for us to start work. Over the following days we further investigated travel in the local office while summarizing our results and working on the final project deliverables. We designed and ran a survey within EPI-USE to find out how consultants value comfort and time in business travel, and validated the survey results with a representative survey among Australian, UK, and US business travelers. Based on the survey results we developed a financial model and estimated the potential impact of an incentivization model for EPI-USE.

epi-use4Our team at work

However, our time in South Africa was about a lot more than models and slides only; during the first days in the country, Quintin introduced us to the team with a big dinner at a great restaurant. It only got better from there: Quintin invited our team to spend the weekend at a South African game farm where we had a truly outstanding time. Not only was the place one of the nicest lodges we had ever seen, Quintin and the game farm staff made it very special for us. We were invited to morning and sunset tours where we saw lots of animals, great scenery, and the beautiful night sky. It was also action-packed: The team learned to set up a proper (and amazingly big) fireplace, to shoot a rifle, and to read tracks and signs of the African bush. Finally, in a traditional bosberaad Quintin and our team decided the strategy for our last week of project work.

epi-use5The awesome lodge where we spent almost three days

epi-use6The team getting ready for a bush ride

epi-use8Quintin and team BEPA at sunset 

epi-use9Right before sunset – It took 5 minutes and the sun was gone!

epi-use10Before the BBQ comes a serious fireplace workout

epi-use12Delicious IBD project

epi-use13The team happy after a big meal

As if that were not enough, on the way back from this fantastic weekend Quintin announced the next adventure: Our team would go to another game farm the day before our final presentation. Equipped with this extra portion of motivation and due to the great support of Quintin, the EPI-USE leadership team, and everyone in the EPI-USE offices we had a polished final presentation document in place only a few days later.

The day before our presentation, we got up very early. Everyone was excited about what was going to happen since Quintin had not reveal what exactly our team was going to do this day. The day did not disappoint our expectations: We went to a farm that was focused on veterinary work with rhinos and witnessed how a professor examined three rhinos. This required the rhinos to be darted, a process where the rhino has to be anesthetized for a short period of time to carry out the examination work. This was a big spectacle as a helicopter had to spot the rhino before it was darted and we could witness the veterinarian’s work first hand. It was very impressive to see the rhinos close-up. They are outstandingly huge and powerful animals!

epi-use14A helicopter is used to locate and dart the rhinos

epi-use15The rhino after being darted – Everyone takes care that it does not fall down uncontrolled

epi-use16The rhino is sleeping while the veterinarian examines it

epi-use17A break at “4U2P”

On our last day, we gave a very successful final presentation to a large EPI-USE audience including the group CEO and all key stakeholders. When it was time to say goodbye a couple of hours later and over a glass of champagne we felt very happy and proud of the result we had delivered. However, even more important was the feeling of gratefulness for our very special memories. Or, to say it in Quintin’s words, our team felt our IBD experience with EPI-USE and particularly with Quintin was truly “a treat”!