Thursday, September 29, 2011

Navigating the Core

By Meghan Ackerson
First-Year MBA

The Blue Cohort experiences the Kelley
MBA "Core."
We’re officially a quarter of the way through Kelley’s celebrated “Core” – the integrated eight-course boot camp that gives students an entree into the major business functions we will encounter in our internships and beyond.  If there’s one thing we’re learning so far – and we’re learning a lot – it’s how to manage our time and attention effectively.

During orientation, we received not one but THREE papers to read on “information overload.”  Does anyone see the irony???  All kidding aside, the readings aided in preparing us for the deluge of choices, time commitments and information ahead at this top-ranked business school.

Having so much opportunity thrown at us is truly a wonderful problem to have – networking events with top companies in our fields, speaking engagements with C-suite executives, club meetings, Big Ten tailgating, and, oh yeah, that case we need to prepare for class tomorrow.

I certainly haven’t got it all figured out just yet, but what I can say is that this experience is teaching us to refine our goals and allocate our energy accordingly.  It's enabling us to craft our own personalized, a la carte MBA.  And the benefits of going through this process – clarity of purpose and an ability to cope with unceasing demands for our time – will serve us well on the other side.   

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kelley MBAs analyze the Brazilian Aviation Industry

This is the second post about the Kelley Business Marketing Academy's trip to Brazil to do a rapid market assessment for a major U.S. manufacturing firm.
By Raghav Parthasarathy
Second-Year MBA 

A top-ranked MBA curriculum is filled with case studies where firms in various industries attempt to solve complex issues. 

The case-study approach is a great way to learn about new industries and apply standard frameworks to dissect issues faced by firms. This method of learning is very helpful as several students use their MBA degree as a platform to move to new industries, and the case-study approach gives a glimpse of what to expect. In fact, one of the most common questions in the minds of MBA graduates is about being able to deliver superior results in a new environment. This question also comes up frequently during information sessions with consulting firms that expect consultants to work with clients across different industries.  

During my time at Kelley, the Business Marketing Academy has given me ample opportunities to delve deep in new industries much beyond what case studies allow me to. During our spring BMA project, I was part of a team that performed a rapid market assessment of the vehicle armoring industry for a major U.S. manufacturing firm. For the Brazil project, we are focusing on the aviation industry. 

These projects have taught us to quickly grasp the critical pieces of information in a relatively short period of time and generate actionable, rational recommendations for our client. 

We are also involved in providing an implementation plan. This requires us to analyze operational issues associated with our recommendation. For example, availability of skilled labor was a key issue, and this tied in to the various government reforms to increase the number of highly skilled workers in Brazil. 

To set up a distribution channel, we analyzed the issues associated with import of goods into Brazil and ways to reduce the lead time required to ship products from a manufacturing facility outside of the country. These are just some of the issues we are analyzing. Projects such as these provide a 360-degree view of the industry and the roles played in the value chain.

This project requires us to understand the business of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) such as Embraer, airlines such as GOL and MROs (maintenance and repair organizations) such as Jet Aviation, and those with TAM airlines and GOL. 

It was really interesting to study the challenges faced by various players. While OEMs are recovering from the impact of the financial crisis, the airline companies are competing with each other on prices to capture the imagination of the rising middle class in Brazil. The MROs, on the other hand, are looking at ways to reduce the maintenance turnaround time caused by complex procedures to import spare parts. 

The Brazilian government has approved only a minimal number of air strips and hangar spaces in Sao Paulo. So several of the firms we visited were in other cities. For example, we traveled to San Jose dos Campos to visit Embraer, Sorocaba to visit Jet Aviation and Sao Carlos to meet with TAM. During several of these journeys, I was amazed at the strong infrastructure in and around Sao Paulo.

During some of our visits, we were also given a tour of a hangar where we watched the construction of aircraft. 

Did I ever imagine experiencing all of this when I started my MBA? 

Certainly not. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Go / No-Go, Kelleys have the right answer

Ernst & Young Case Competition winners (from left): Sam Singhania, Rahul Gupta, Dhinendra Yadav, Niraj Patel.
By Nachiket Kale
Second-Year MBA

Student teams from 3/2 MBA program and Full-Time MBA program competed for the top spot in the annual Ernst & Young case competition. The case was centered on a business decision for a fictitious manufacturing and packaging company – Hoosier Hills. Teams were tasked with the responsibility to present their recommendations on either a Go or a No-Go decision on whether to buy an organic milk farm and follow up with the best execution strategy (and an alternate approach in case of a No-Go recommendation).

The case was handed over earlier on Wednesday. Teams continued to work on the case in addition to the regular school commitments. All of the teams came up with a set of well-thought-out recommendations and insightful action items. Out of all the teams, four proceeded to the final round and had an opportunity to present to a group of judges from E&Y’s consulting arm.

The presentations were of a premium quality and displayed deep business insights that one would expect out of a top-ranked MBA business school. Knowing most of the participants, it was very interesting to see how their respective presentations heavily reflected the course majors they have chosen in their Kelley MBA program.

It was worthwhile to wake up early on a Saturday to sit in on the final round of presentations. I particularly remember a response from a participant to a question about how their team went about accounting for risks. The participant’s response was, “In our carefully modeled cash-flow projections, we have accounted for all the foreseeable risk by calculating an appropriate discount rate.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Re-energizing in the Marshall Islands

Greg DeMars and Theo Stamoulis enjoy the ride to the island of Eneko.
Third in a series of posts from Kelley MBA students working in the Marshall Islands on a project with the South Pacific Business Development Foundation, a microfinance institution that enhances opportunity in underdeveloped Pacific countries by supporting women entrepreneurs.

By Emory Zink
Second-Year MBA

While there are plenty of Marshallese grills burning and church services across Majuro, this Sunday we decided to escape the urban center and venture out to the island of Eneko, which is a 45-minute boat ride from the capital city. 

It is exactly how we imagined an abandoned North Pacific paradise. The water is crystal clear and all along the shores are sculpturally complex shells with bright colors and patterns. Sunscreen had to be applied about every hour, as the rays are brutal in the middle of the day, but listening to the waves lap against the shore and napping beneath a coconut tree is as wonderful as it sounds. 

Theo and Greg snorkeled out over the coral reef, and their descriptions of fish, plants, and underwater detritus are expansive. It was a slow and dreamy Marshallese afternoon, and an excellent re-energizer before we set out on more interviews this week.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Business Marketing Academy goes global in Brazil

Working with a top manufacturing firm in the U.S. led Kelley's Business Marketing Academy to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

By Raghav Parthasarathy
Second-Year MBA 

I am a second-year MBA student at the Kelley School of Business and a member of the Business Marketing Academy. For many years, Kelley has provided a global MBA experience to its students through the KIPs and GLOBASE programs. However, the Business Marketing Academy, with support from the school, has managed to bring the global experience to an entirely new level by organizing its Academy Intensive Week #3 in Brazil.

The BMA, which as 31 students, is working on a Rapid Market Assessment project in Brazil for a major U.S. manufacturing firm. Five teams were formed to analyze different industries, with one student leading the effort for each team. In global markets, expansion into new countries has happened for decades and will become even more important as firms consolidate their presence in the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and turn their attention to opportunities in Africa. This experience will allow us to have an immediate impact in solving such business issues after we earn our MBAs.

The preparation to our trip began in Bloomington with a session by MBA Chair Phil Powell on various strategies that firms can use to expand to new countries. This was followed by session by the Analilia Silva, director of global strategy and international initiatives, on the cultural etiquette we should be aware of in Latin America.

The groundwork for this project was done during the summer. We met with OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), distributors and other industry players during our time in Sao Paulo. Finding contacts in Brazil didn’t seem an easy task, but we were able to reach out to folks through the Kelley student network and through alumni. The teams made several key contacts during our meetings in Sao Paulo, and these contacts would help our client during further due-diligence and implementation. This would be another significant value that our client can receive from this project.  Kudos to the student team leaders for driving this effort.

Our meetings kicked off with a visit to the American Chamber of Commerce in Sao Paulo. This meeting was set up to give the team a good perspective on the macroeconomic situation in  Brazil and to understand the government machinery. Brazil under former President Lula achieved tremendous growth, and the people appreciate that. Yet, Brazilians are afraid to say that everything is OK. During our meetings, we heard about the lengthy government processes, the import policies, taxes, lack of airports, poor infrastructure and appreciating currency derailing the growth of Brazil. 

The critical importance of these issues could only be felt after speaking to common men and women whose aspirations are tied to their nation’s growth.  Our client would certainly benefit from our analysis of these macroeconomic issues seen on the ground. To ensure that we provide an unbiased opinion to our client, we approached the problem as if it were work for a research paper. We did not treat the meetings as sales opportunities.

My team is researching the aviation industry, and one of my teammates has worked in the industry for several years. This is very important because he is often able to look at issues that the rest of us aren’t much aware of. I realize this is what the MBA experience is often about at a top-ranked school -- working together and building off each other’s strengths to solve complex problems for businesses.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finding the heart of the Marshall Islands economy

The Elefa Handicraft shop sells items woven from leaves by women in the Marshall Islands.

Second in a series of posts from Kelley MBA students working in the Marshall Islands on a project with the South Pacific Business Development Foundation, a microfinance institution that enhances opportunity in underdeveloped Pacific countries by supporting women entrepreneurs.

By Emory Zink
Second-Year MBA

The main strip of Majuro is unlike that in Bloomington or anywhere else in the U.S. Not necessarily because the street is filled with playing children or occasionally shaded by hanging pandanus trees, but because there is only one major road that runs through the atoll. 

On one side, the placid lagoon sparkles, and on the other side, beyond the coral reef that buttresses the shoreline 30 miles outward, there are the crashing waves of the great Pacific Ocean.  

Catching one of the tiny corroded taxies that constantly scoot back and forth along this single dirt road is a true Majuro experience. The Nitijela (Marshallese parliament) proceedings play on the radio, and as new passengers enter and exit the vehicle, “yohkwe”s are shared in greeting. 

In general, the Marshallese are an exceptionally open and kind people. Children on the street may play coy when they see us walking toward them, but their squeaks of “Hello!” often betray their shyness.

In the last few days, we have pounded the pavement and managed to visit a motley collection of financial and entrepreneurial organizations on the atoll.

We started with handicraft shops, where traditional Marshallese baskets, mats, flowers, and wall hangings are woven out of pandanus and coconut leaves. These shops are most often run by women, who either hire employees to create the tiny detailed works of art or who import the handicrafts from women weaving on the outer atolls. 

These business owners face challenges with marketing their products, particularly since the tourism industry in the Marshall Islands has decreased in tandem with reliable transportation services to the diving-attractive atolls. 

Many of the women have found innovative ways to evolve. For example, Lucia Guavis has put the Elefa Handicraft store on Facebook, where Japanese, American and German fans of Marshallese crafts can see the latest products and make orders.

Besides handicraft shops, we have visited a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the island, of which the most organized and influential is Women United Together in the Marshall Islands, or WUTMI. The women of WUTMI are movers and shakers in their communities; they want their interests protected and their views understood in the community, and as most of them are prominent local business owners and managers, they are precisely the population that we need to speak with in order to gather information on behalf of South Pacific Business Development .  

It’s one thing to find the pulse of the local economy, but it is an entirely more exciting and helpful thing to find the heart of Majuro’s locally owned businesses (and their views on the enterprises owned elsewhere).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Microfinance in the Marshall Islands

The Majuro Atoll of the Marshall Islands.

By Emory Zink
Second-Year MBA

As we flew in to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, I looked out over the blue ocean and the delicate outline of the Majuro Atoll.  

I am about to embark on a consulting project with fellow Kelley MBA students Theo and Greg. Enthusiastically, we have accepted a project from the South Pacific Business Development Foundation, a microfinance institution that enhances opportunity in underdeveloped Pacific countries by supporting women entrepreneurs and their communities. 

Two weeks prior to our arrival, we spoke with Greg Casagrande, the founder of SPBD. During our conference call, Greg shared with us SPBD’s successes in Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji, and his interest in expanding operations into the Marshall Islands. Thus, SPBD needed a group of business professionals on the ground, sandals to the dirt, walking around, asking questions, and assessing the market feasibility of expanding from the South Pacific into the North Pacific. 

Of course, this is a dream challenge for MBA students who’ve read theoretical cases on developing world economies and want to see how they function up close and personally. So – here we are – ready to start our interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Majuro and then to wherever our questions and meetings take us.


Whew, it's been a while!! The last month has been a bit hectic, as we've had a number of events around the world. I was in Boston last week for a Consortium for Graduate Study in Management event and had the same event in Chicago last evening. Right now I'm taking advantage of the laptop kiosks at Chicago's O'Hare airport to post a quick entry before heading overseas. I'll be visiting family and enjoying Oktoberfest in Germany for a few days before heading off to India for The MBA Tour. It will be my third trip to each country and I'm looking forward to it!!

This is the time of year that many people are thinking about the GMAT. While you should take the time to thoroughly prepare for the test in order to perform well, realize that this score is only one part of the admissions criteria. You can find several GMAT resources online but I would recommend taking a look at as well as an article from Bloomberg Businessweek. While practice tests are helpful, you should know that practice test scores are, on average, 50 points higher than actual GMAT scores. Good luck as you prepare and happy studying!!

Message from the Admissions Committee: Our online application is now available! We utilize four admissions deadlines: November 1, January 5, March 1, and April 15. All materials must be received by the deadline; delays may cause your application to be moved to the next round. Students should apply when they believe their application is at its strongest. It is better to meet a later deadline with a strong application than to rush an application to meet an early deadline. While we will have seats available through all of the deadlines, those interested in merit-based financial aid are encouraged to apply by no later than January 5 for best financial aid consideration. International applicants are also encouraged to apply by January 5 due to the additional time it takes to secure a student visa. You can visit our admissions timeline for more information.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kelley MBA students learn to think, act globally

Kelley MBA students visit a textile company in Peru.

Guest blog by Philip Powell
Chair of the Kelley MBA program

Philip Powell
Being a "global manager” is no longer about where you are, it is about how you think.  

A global manager must leverage diversity, effectively move in and out of different cultural environments, operate on a 24-hour clock, and decouple the value chain from national boundaries.  

Developing these skills is the new frontier of graduate business education.  Leadership development and international management are no longer separate subjects.  Fusion of the two through innovative global experiences that emphasize action-based learning and opportunity in emerging markets is the Kelley Full-Time MBA program’s strategic priority.

The end game for a Kelley MBA student is the job he or she secures after graduation.  We design our global experiences to help students excel in traditional U.S.-based MBA careers.  For example, our global consulting projects via GLOBASE and team deployments place students in developing countries where they may not know the language or culture and they cannot take technology for granted.

Kelley MBA teams must conduct market research and generate recommendations for small firms or nonprofits that serve the local market – usually poor households and communities at the “bottom of the economic pyramid.”  An MBA student who can deliver value in this environment is primed to excel in a Fortune 500 position in the United States.

As our students travel around the world, we'll take you inside the stories of learning and personal transformation our global experiences offer.  Follow us as we intentionally make emerging markets a learning laboratory for the future business and nonprofit leaders that now graduate from the Kelley School of Business Full-Time MBA program at Indiana University in Bloomington.