Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Surrounded by volcanoes!

By Ben Prickel
Second-year MBA

After an intense first week in Guatemala, Veena and I spent the weekend seeing some of the most beautiful sites in Guatemala.  FUNDAP arranged transportation for us on both Saturday and Sunday.
Veena and I at Lake Atitlan
On Saturday, we woke up early to begin our journey to Lago Atitlan.  I had heard that the lake was one of the most beautiful in the world, but I was not prepared for what I witnessed.  The lake sits in a valley of forest-covered mountains and volcanoes and is bordered by towns that are home to different peoples of the Mayan culture.  Our guide for the day spoke three different indigenous dialects along with Spanish and some English.  After snapping a ton of photos of the lake from a distance, we visited a women’s association in San Juan that hand-wove traditional Guatemalan clothing with colors that come from natural sources like local fruits and flowers.  Afterwards, we took a tour of the lake on a boat and stopped at several destinations on all sides of the lake.  There are many beautiful hotels that are situated on nearly vertical mountain walls.  We visited San Marcos, a small community where people come from all over the world visited to obtain peace through the practice of many different meditation methods.  We ate lunch at a great local restaurant in San Pedro before concluding our tour in the beautiful central park of the charming little town.
Fuentes Georginas
On Sunday, we woke up even earlier to get to the Fuentes Georginas that are situated very high in the mountains and are heated by the volcano Zunil.  The journey was nearly as wonderful as the springs themselves.  The mountains of Guatemala are unlike any others that I have seen.   The hot springs have been changed into a communal bathing area where one can find a mix of the local people and tourists from all over the world.  The water has been separated into three areas in order to segregate the heat for visitors.  I didn’t last very long in the highest pool.  After visiting the springs we visited a park on a mountain-side with an amazing view of Quetzaltenango before returning to the city for lunch. 
The trips to the lake and the hot springs were wonderful, but now we must turn our focus back to the work that we began last week.  This week we will transform the information that we have collected into business ideas.  FUNDAP has agreed to arrange visits to a few additional locations to further our learning at our request.  Our return trip will come quickly and we want to make sure that we accomplish all that needs to be done while we are here in Guatemala.

Safe Water in Africa

By Saad Handoo
Second-year MBA student

Photo credits: Rohan Attravanam

Akwaaba! I just arrived in Ghana after a flight on Delta that included poor food, no in-flight entertainment, but a free upgrade to Economy Plus. Despite the subpar flight experience, it’s so great to touch foot in Africa for the first time in my life. Myself and a team of three other Kelley MBA 2nd years are participating in a novel program unveiled by MBA Office called Global Team Deployments. It’s here where seasoned business professionals test their experience by deploying on an international project with little to no information about the client or the task until in-country.

Our client is Coca-Cola in Equatorial Africa and our task is to collect stories from people in Ghana that have been beneficiaries of their ‘Safe Water in Africa’ initiative. Coke has embarked on a corporate social responsibility project to build community reputation and empower societies they operate in by funding water purification centers in rural villages. To date, they have completed 23 of these centers in Ghana through a partnership with Water Health International. Coke supplies the money and Water Health builds the purification plants. Our goal is to record what’s happening on the ground by talking to numerous stakeholders and using the information to write a business case on the Coke-Water Health partnership.

It’s just the first day, but I’m excited to visit a few water purification centers, hear from village elders, and tour the Coke bottling plant. But before I get out into the field, I need to catch up on some lost sleep. Our hotel is the Golden Tulip Inn located off Liberation Road in Accra. It’s already looking to be the perfect set up for rest and research. Two items that are huge on my agenda. Oh, and checking out the Accra Mall and Arts Center for souvenir shopping. 

Off to Guatemala!

By Ben Prickel
Second-year MBA student

On Friday, August 10th I wrapped up my internship by saying goodbye to everyone that I had worked with over the summer.  On Saturday I drove almost 10 hours from Eastern Pennsylvania to Cincinnati to spend less than 24 hours with my family.  On Sunday I drove the rest of the way to Bloomington, unpacked everything that I had brought with me for my internship, and repacked my bags for my trip to Guatemala.

Piñata business
Monday morning I was on a flight to Guatemala City with two of my classmates.  We are a team of three from the Kelley School of Business that have been sent to develop a commercialization strategy that will include ideas for new entrepreneurial ventures for an organization called FUNDAP.  I did my best to transfer my thoughts from the financial work that I had done all summer to the needs of this social enterprise that operates in the mountains of Guatemala.

Shortly after landing in Guatemala City we were off to Quetzaltenango, the city where FUNDAP is headquartered.  Our driver wound his way through magnificent mountains and volcanoes until we arrived at the refuge where we will stay for as long as we are here.  Exhausted from a day of traveling, we unloaded our luggage into our rooms and went to sleep without much trouble despite the fact that the temperature drops very low at night where we are 2.3 km above sea level.

We didn’t waste any time.  Tuesday morning we loaded ourselves into a jeep and made our way down to the coast to witness a class that FUNDAP implements called Micro-MBA.  Several of our classmates worked to improve the program as a part of the GLOBASE trip that happened earlier this year.  After learning what we could, we spent the rest of the day visiting several entrepreneurs who were supported by FUNDAP in various ways.  One of the most impressive entrepreneurs we met was a woman who started a shop in her community that sells piñatas and the candies that fill them.  The piñata tradition is popular on birthdays and many holidays in Guatemala.  Her shop was the only one of its kind for miles and faced little competition in the area.

After a headfirst dive into FUNDAP operations on Tuesday, we spent Wednesday learning about the organization and why we are here to begin with.  We met with the director, the controller, and managers of three of the six arms of FUNDAP to gain an understanding of the big picture.  We have been charged with developing a model for the seventh arm of the organization that will promote new business ventures that have the potential to succeed in this region.

Thursday morning we ran into our first big challenge.  The three of us have come to Guatemala with varying levels of Spanish: native, functional, and no exposure to the language.  Ignacio, our native speaker has become ill and spent all of Thursday at the hospital.  He will be just fine, but he was not able to travel with us to the cooperatives that we visited on Thursday and Friday.  Until Thursday, Ignacio had translated everything.  Without him, I must strive to communicate as effectively as possible because the task of translation has become mine.

Glass business
On Thursday we visited three cooperatives formed by artisans, the first by artisans that work with glass, the second by those that work with ceramics, and the third by a group of woman that make a variety of household items.  Our visits required us to drive to different communities in the mountains.  Each of the three cooperatives operated under very different models which allowed us to grasp an understanding of the aspects of each model that are effective and the aspects that may hold each group back.  Because I have not been in an environment where Spanish is often spoken for some time, conversing was difficult enough.  Translating had worn me out by the end of the day.  However, we had managed to obtain the information that we needed.

The next day was much better.  With the practice from the day before and a full night’s rest I was able to communicate at a higher level.  On Friday we visited two agricultural cooperatives, one made up of tomato growers and one of green bean farmers, where we learned about their differing commercial struggles.  Veena, our team member with no prior exposure to the language has quickly passed the beginner level, which has made communication and translation a little bit easier.

Through our first week in country, we feel as if we have seen almost every area in the mountains.  The beauty of the area that Guatemalans call “Occidente” does not diminish with each passing day.  On Friday, we finished all of the visits that FUNDAP had prepared for us.  Next week we will take what we’ve learned and try to develop a model for commercialization that will encompass unique ideas for businesses in the region.  But first, FUNDAP has arranged for us to visit some of the most beautiful sites in Guatemala over the weekend.  Afterwards, there will be a different type of story to tell.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cream and Crimson Meets Blue and White

Kelly Giese
Kelley Partner, Kelley Staff

Over the past few years, more and more Kelley students, faculty and staff have headed to Israel for various initiatives.  Israel is a place where the Kelley School of Business is perhaps not as well-known as it is farther east, in India or Korea. We are hoping to change that.

Each spring, through our global opportunities electives, Kelley MBAs combine 7 weeks of coursework studying the businesses of a particular country, and then travel there for hands-on experiences. The result is valuable and applicable knowledge of global business.  

In the spring of 2010, and again in 2012, a team of MBA students, faculty and staff traversed the State of Israel, making stops in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem, amongst other cities.

They toured the surrounding areas, met with important business leaders, and visited companies including Google, Carmel Ventures, Netafim, Ahava, and A Better Place. 

This past month, the Kelley MBA program participated for the first time in Education USA’s MBA fair in Tel Aviv.  Gale Nichols, Director of Graduate Student Services, represented Kelley amongst 23 other top-ranked programs. 

With more than 1,200 registrants, this was the right venue to properly introduce the Kelley School of Business to Israel.  And by meeting with over 50 talented and eager prospective students, we think the introduction was well-received.

We hope more prospective students from Israel consider Kelley in their pursuit for a top MBA education.