Global

Students discover during their consulting trip to Uganda that "business can serve as a tool to break down some of the world's toughest problems and lift entire communities."
CATEGORY: Global, Student Life


Our last day with The Women’s Bakery started off a little bit differently than the rest of our week in Rwanda. Instead of waking up and looking out over Kigali, we woke up to the sun rising over the hazy Congo, just barely visible across the beautiful Lake Kivu.

RELATED: Building bakeries and a new business model in Rwanda

Lake kivu

We made our way out to the Western Province the day before, climbing over a mile in altitude and watching the fauna become increasingly mountainous and green. This area of the country sees much more rain, which we learned first-hand in the village of Bumba while visiting one of three TWB bakeries in Rwanda. We experienced a massive downpour that came in quickly as we met with Ernest, a member of the cooperative that owns this particular bakery.

IMG_0555Ernest was one of the many people that we met throughout the week who is involved with The Women’s Bakery at all levels of the value chain. In addition to Ernest, we met with three other field partners, both men and women, who are helping to run their bakeries with their co-ops. We also had the chance to meet with and watch the women themselves in action.

In addition to visiting the bakeries, we were able to meet with partners of TWB. Atikus is a microfinancier who is working to make loans available to the women who go through the training program. And SMGF is a firm that is taking steps to become a hiring partner that will invest in building a bakery in the future. And finally, we spent a lot of time with the TWB team themselves, trying to figure out how to best help them.

IMG_0571As we met with all of these people throughout the week, we regrouped whenever and wherever we could as a team to unpack everything we had been hearing. These ad hoc meetings happened at restaurants, in our hotel, and in the car as we moved around the country. And now our task, as we sat in the lodge overlooking the water, was to bring all of the information together and figure out how to move forward.

We sketched out possible solutions to multiple challenges and debated the merits of each. We did a brainstorming exercise that was used in creating Apple products and addressing the financial crisis to bring out issues we may have missed. And when all was said and done, we were ready to present our preliminary thoughts and plans for the rest of the semester to the TWB team. It had been a long and tiring week, much of it spent in very close quarters, but it was all worth it to see the enthusiasm on the TWB team’s faces as we presented and celebrated over one final dinner.

Guest blogger: Erin Ilic, MBA ’17 

Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) is committed to creating innovative learning opportunities that result in meaningful impact in the business and nonprofit communities.




Radhika Ghai Aggarwal, MBA 2002, Chief Business Officer and Co-founder, Shopclues, is featured as one of five “women-led startups smashing the glass ceiling in India,” in a column by Suparna Dutt D’Cunha, a contributor to Forbes.

“She’s the first Indian woman to break into the unicorn club. Valued at over $1 billion, Shopclues is one of India’s home-grown e-commerce stars. Started in 2011, along with Sanjay Sethi (CEO), ShopClues becomes the ninth startup to join India’s unicorn club by raising about $150 million from Singapore government’s GIC and its existing investors Tiger Global and Nexus Venture Partners last year. What started with a team of 10 is now a 1,000-strong organisation.

“Prior to starting Shopclues, Aggarwal, a management graduate from Washington University, worked for diverse sectors including retail, e-commerce, fashion and lifestyle with companies such as Nordstrom and Goldman Sachs in the U.S. She looks after branding, marketing, acquisitions, sales, hiring and product mix at ShopClues.

“There has never has been a better time than now to do any kind of business in India,” said Aggarwal. The e-tailer has about 350,000 small and medium sellers on the platform, and 14 million registered users.

“But, do people still stereotype the woman entrepreneur? ‘It’s not as much about stereotyping. The challenges are the same in entrepreneurship, man or woman. The only challenge is that because there are so few of us, people end up asking questions like, ‘How do you ensure work-life balance?’ You need a support system at home and work as your responsibilities grow.'”

Link to Forbes article.

CATEGORY: Career, Global



As we stood under a canopy of banana leaves and listened in awe to a Ugandan entrepreneur who built her own plantation from nothing, I wondered why none of our classes ever included a business case study from Africa. Maybe it’s because much of Africa is what some people call a developing market. Well, this semester my Center for Experiential Learning practicum consulting team has the privilege of working with an organization on the front lines of that developing market. And it’s the best “case” I’ve ever had.

This is the first of a two-part report from the CEL Practicum consulting team that traveled to Uganda during spring break.

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Engaging with Ugandan entrepreneur

Our client, Mavuno, uses the principles of business to support farmers by organizing them into locally-led groups, educating them with optimal farming techniques, providing them quality supplies and seeds and allowing them access to regional markets. Mavuno is using business as a tool to end extreme poverty in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and stabilize one of the world’s most war-torn regions.

We took off from St. Louis the day after our last midterms, still groggy from our 4am alarms. We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda after 48 hours of traveling, anxious to start soaking in this foreign business landscape in the country that is the world’s second largest producer of bananas (a crop very similar to plantains). Throughout the next week, we traveled all across southern Uganda learning about all pieces of the banana value chain (while also getting a lesson on the expertise and generosity of the Ugandan people):

  • Andrew and Robert, a scientist and researcher respectively, illuminated R&D that the National Agriculture Research Organization is doing to create the best-yielding banana varieties and techniques in the lab and the field.
  • Gorette, a local farmer, demonstrated how she built a very profitable banana plantation with plenty of resourcefulness and dedication.
  • Multiple traders at the market showed how bananas get from the farmer to the hungry consumers in the capital of Kampala.
  • Ronald, an engineer, explained how farmers could alternatively sell their bananas to a government plant to be transformed into value-added banana flour.
  • Dipesh, a seasoned business man, related why his biscuit (cookie) factory had doubts about the feasibility of producing banana biscuits.
  • Matiya, a young entrepreneur, told us how he built his successful snack business that converts raw plantains to value-added plantain chips.

RELATED: Lessons from banana biz, part 2

Guest blogger: Cole Donelson, MBA ’18 Team Lead for Mavuno. 

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Meeting with local children.




When Richa Gangopadhyay walks across the stage to receive her Olin MBA diploma in May, the flashing cameras and applause probably won’t faze her. The former Bollywood A-list actress left a 5-year film career in India, millions of fans and paparazzi to return home to Michigan, finish college, and go to business school. Richa shares her exceptional journey from suburban Indo-American girl-to-actress-to-Olin, in a profile on the Poets and Quants website. Here are some excerpts:

Behind the glitz and glamour of Bollywood: hard work

“There’s a lot of glamour, glitz, and money (of course), but being an actress was very, very intense. There was a lot of hard work. You were “on,” quote-unquote, 24-7…I used to have 17-hour workdays. It was incredibly demanding. There were actually times when I would find myself shooting four films simultaneously and that was in addition to doing celebrity appearances, modeling for ramp shows, and traveling internationally for shoots. That was a whirlwind, in and of itself.”

Richa’s first movie called Leader (trailer above) was an international box-office hit. Leader. It was a political drama where she played the role of a news reporter who was also the love interest of the protagonist. It was released in 2010 and made her famous overnight in India.

Why Richa chose Olin:

Richa's first year MBA team at Olin.

Richa’s first year MBA team at Olin.

“I actually came to Olin to do my interview in person. That is what helped me narrow in only on Olin as my top choice. There is something to be said about the Olin community. It’s incredibly close-knit and there’s just this sense of camaraderie among the students and the faculty that really appealed to me. It has a real eclectic blend of students from different backgrounds. It wasn’t just different professional backgrounds, but different thought leaders as well. For me, an appeal was being able to share my unique experiences in a business realm as a film actress. I have a really divergent perspective to share through the practical learning opportunities that I had. I felt that Olin would really help me bring out my out-of-the-boxness (if that’s a word) and let me gain some critical business skills at the same time.”

On competition vs. collaboration:

JFW-Magazine-feature-pg1One thing that I’ve learned is that it is really important to encourage your peers instead of being in constant competition with them — and Olin has really provided that kind of environment. Everyone is incredibly collaborative and the networking here is just insane.

 

CATEGORY: Career, Global, Student Life