Final Thoughts on GIP Tunisia

One week ago, GIP Tunisia students landed, safely, back in snowy NYC.  For many of us, this was the end of the road, after weeks and weeks of international travel.  Our week in Tunisia was quick, fast and in a hurry, and many of us are only now starting to digest what we learned.  A few, quick takeaways from the perspective of this blogger, that I want to remember from my time in Tunisia:

1.  Tunisia is transitioning to a democracy, and is well positioned to be highly successful in the coming years.  The government passed a new Constitution on January 24th, which – legally – puts the democratic transition in to motion.  Tunisians endured decades of autocratic rule under their previous leadership, and they are EXCITED about the prospect of free markets, improving economic conditions, and exposure to international investment.  The next few years will be critical; the Tunisian government must remain stable, and must create the conditions for domestic economic improvement and continued international investment.

2.  Tunisia needs international investment, and the support of the international community.  It is poised to be the first Muslim-majority, democratic country in the world.  This is worth supporting!  It’s neighbors (Algeria, Egypt, etc) could benefit from the positive influence of a stable, democratic country in the North African region.

3.  Freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Tunisia definitely have room for improvement.  Under the old regime, Tunisian’s were afraid to speak out against the government, or to suggest that things in the country could be improved.  Now that these restrictions have been lifted, Tunisian’s must be encouraged to comment on current events, suggest improvements, and hold their leaders accountable.  This will have positive economic, social, and political benefits that will help to move the country forward.

I could write a lot more about our trip, and about the lessons that we learned.  But I also know that keeping these blogs to three points makes them much more digestible, and increases the likelihood that readers will…READ!

So I will close there, and say that I am grateful for my experience in Tunisia, and for the excellent programming organized by Professor Jedidi.  I’m hooked on GIP, and will be taking another course this spring.

Thanks for reading!

Katie Horgan ’14

Cape Town and Parting Thoughts

We’ve arrived safely back in frigid, snow-covered NYC, which stands in stark contrast to our final destination on the 2014 Chazen Study Tour in South Africa: Cape Town.

To demonstrate, I’ll post three photos and you’ll guess which one is not like the others. Here goes:

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(It is C. It’s always C.)

Cape Town was remarkable in its natural beauty and in how it differed from Johannesburg. A trip down to the waterfront or up to the top of Table Mountain makes it abundantly clear why the privileged residents of Johannesburg escape to Cape Town for vacation. It is a wonderful place to relax. For consistency’s sake, I might liken Cape Town to San Francisco because of their similarly rugged coast, stunning landscapes, and outdoorsy culture. Cape Town does, however, seems to lack the Silicon Valley energy of SF. Instead, it has much more of a beach town vibe.

While yours truly and the rest of the CBS gang did indeed take advantage of the good life in Cape Town, we also managed to fit in a bit more culture and business education into our final 3 days in South Africa.

Koos Becker, CEO, Naspers

Meeting with Mr. Becker, an alum of CBS, and his team at Naspers was not only a treat because of his insight into the media industry and entrepreneurship, but also because he invited us to his 600 acre estate (which features a farm, orchard and vineyard, a 14-room hotel and a restaurant) for a wine tasting after our meeting at Naspers’ headquarters.

Being an entrepreneur is very lonely and very hard. You need thick skin and some ‘defect’, which makes you want to prove yourself.

Fail hard, fail fast, fail cheaply.

While Naspers has become an incredible success as South Africa’s media powerhouse, he emphasized that entrepreneurship is immensely difficult and conceded that Naspers has made its share of mistakes along the way. He encouraged us to think beyond the glamor of starting a business and to start developing a certain level of fortitude and resilience if we wanted to be successful entrepreneurs. As the second quote suggests, Mr. Becker felt strongly that it was OK (indeed requisite) to fail in business, but that failure should be a source of learning and inspiration in one’s career.

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Wine Tasting at the Babylonstoren Vineyard
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Koos Bekker’s Babylonstoren Estate

Robben Island

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. -Nelson Mandela

On Saturday morning we took a 40 minute boat ride out to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. The visit featured a bus tour around the island and then a walking tour into the high security prison and cell that Mandela called home for nearly two decades. Of special note, the prison tour was led by a former political prisoner. It was certainly a highlight of the trip and small glimpse into what Mandela, and many of his colleagues in the struggle against Apartheid, endured on his “Long Walk to Freedom”.

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Table Mountain & Some Final Thoughts

Looming over Cape Town is Table Mountain, named so because it looks deceptively flat. Here is a photo taken from my hike to the top of another peak in Cape Town, Lion’s Head:

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When the clouds sit on Table Mountain (as shown in the photo), the locals the call it a “Table Cloth”.

On our final evening in Cape Town, we headed up to the top of Table Mountain to take in the magnificent views and get a feel for what it is like to hang out in the clouds. While the great majority of the crew took the civilized way up via cable car. My fearless roommate for the trip, Riley English ’15, and I decided we’d hike it up.

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We got lost along the way, but we mad it, and it was well worth the steep (and sweaty) march to the top.

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Parting Thoughs

In the glow of the glory that accompanied summiting Table Mountain, or perhaps in the altitude sickness (see grimaces in Exhibit A below), my appreciation for our time in South Africa hit hard.

Exhibit A

In South Africa, we had taken a whirlwind tour through so many issues that relate to the modern condition. We had seen the bright spots: thriving businesses, successful entrepreneurs, democracy, vibrant cities, and a pervasive but cautious optimism about the emerging economy. On the other hand, we saw some real challenges: tremendous poverty in areas like Soweto, growing income inequality, security threats and fear (manifested in the barbed wire and armed guards), and the broader socioeconomic scars from a bygone era of institutionalized racism.

During one of our bus tours around Johannesburg, Uzayr Jeenah ’14, one of our tour leaders, leaned over to me and pointed to the largest building in city, Ponte Tower. Uzayr explained that, based on its storied history of ups and downs, Ponte can be viewed as a barometer for the African economy as a whole. In the bleak Apartheid years of the 1980s, the South African government considered turning Ponte into a prison. These days, however, Ponte is (albeit slowly) being converted into luxury condos, which is perhaps indicative of South Africa’s generally improving economic trajectory.

Uzayr continued by saying that as goes Ponte so does Johannesburg, and as goes Johannesburg so goes South Africa and its economy. Finally, according to Uzayr’s analogy, as goes South Africa so goes the African continent. While my time in the country was admittedly brief, many of the issues and opportunities in South Africa seemed more universal. As I sign off of my last post, I am tempted to suggest that as goes Ponte so too goes the rest of the world, but I fear that places too heavy a burden on one building’s infrastructure.

Thank you for reading!

-Samuel Wollner ’14

Tunisia in Pictures

Meeting with the CEO and CMO of Tunisiana, the top mobile provider in Tunisia.
Meeting with the CEO and CMO of Tunisiana, the top mobile provider in Tunisia.
The Tunisian coastline.  Beautiful, but a little windy!
The Tunisian coastline. Beautiful, but a little windy!
Listening to a panel at the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce
Listening to a panel at the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce
Group picture with the head of the Republican Party
Group picture with the head of the Republican Party
President of the Republican Party
President of the Republican Party
Douglas Kurdziel '14, Tyler Bolender '14 and Jackie Martinez '14 inspect the line at the Coke bottling plant
Douglas Kurdziel ’14, Tyler Bolender ’14 and Jackie Martinez ’14 inspect the line at the Coke bottling plant
Coke - Tunisian style
Coke – Tunisian style
Watching the Fanta bottles file through!
Watching the Fanta bottles file through!

COFAT board pic

Architecture at the Tunisian coast
Architecture at the Tunisian coast
Tyler Bolender '14 takes a turn in the flight simulator
Tyler Bolender ’14 takes a turn in the flight simulator
Factory tour at COFAT
Factory tour at COFAT

Lessons in Reverse Innovation


Visit to Bharti Airtel

The theme of this year’s Chazen India trip is “reverse innovation,” and prior to our trip, the class spent time researching innovative products and solutions developed in India for possible export to the US market, as well as participating in a design simulation workshop. While in Mumbai and Bangalore, we’ve had the opportunity to visit senior leaders at roughly a dozen companies to learn about their approaches to innovation. I’ll highlight a few of those visits here.

We began our visits at a division of Monitor/Deloitte called Monitor Inclusive Markets, a mission-driven group with the goal to make market-based solutions work in areas such as affordable housing, mobile payment systems, and clean cookstoves. In terms of housing, a huge number of people are moving from rural to urban India and this presents a large opportunity for developers – as well as a challenge to provide homes that provide people with what they aspire to have, at an affordable price, and with appropriate financing options. In terms of marketing clean and safe cookstoves, the cultural context provides a wrinkle in that the wife’s health often isn’t prioritized; successful ads have instead included depictions of sons suffering from the pollution from a traditional stove. (To note: gender relations have come a long way from issues such as the banned practice of sati, in which a recently widowed woman would immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre). One of Monitor’s many insights was that in the social enterprise space, people typically think about products, but “it takes a lot more than a great product to scale” because you have to contend with entrenched customer behaviors. They’ve found that “innovation is about the business model, and scaling it.”

Probably no visit to India is complete without a visit to Tata Group. The Tata Nano, with its claim to fame as the cheapest car in the world, has been the subject of business school case studies, and I was lucky enough to meet Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata when he visited Columbia this past fall. In terms of a few takeaways from this visit, I found it particularly interesting that the cross-functional teams working to develop the Nano were 28 years old on average – the company was conscious that “past experience of older employees would have to be unlearned.” Some additional insights from the Nano’s mixed success were that in retrospect, the car’s development maybe should have been quieter – while the hype put Tata on the map, they encountered significant delays before they could start selling to their target customers. Additionally, they learned to modify their original brand positioning to portray a more “fun” car, as India is a very aspirational society. Consumers didn’t want to feel that the car was cheap (vs. affordable) and perhaps “incomplete.”


Latest Nano ads (source: company website)

We went to Godrej Industries to learn about the Chotukool, a low-cost refrigerator. Their philosophy starts with “a noble mind: 80% of families can’t afford refrigerators in India, but they aspire to have a cooling solution to meet their specific and different needs.” The team shared how they have developed and tweaked the product over the years, and a lesson that we took away from that visit were that when creating a disruptive innovation you have to keep away from a “features” mindset; they’ve been very frugal in their developments and make sure that any features that they add are necessary, as opposed to “nice to have.” For instance, the product is a bit heavy, but they decided not to add wheels due to the additional cost that they would have to pass on to the consumer. Additionally, the company had a significant business breakthrough in their public-private partnership with the India Post, which provides them with an excellent distribution system.


Demonstration of the Chotukool refrigerator


A small group of us interested in innovations in wind energy met with Suzlon Energy

We met with Harsh Mariwala, CEO of Marico, which is a CPG company focused on providing select products (such as hair oils) in locations where they can be profitable and hold a market leadership position. Their approach seems highly pragmatic in an industry that has a lot of global players and tends to be low margin. Mariwala emphasized the importance of culture building; theirs is “very open, equal, transparent, participatory, and empowering,” and he strongly attributes the company’s success to this. He shared about one of their innovations, which was to create a plastic container for their coconut oils, which had up to this point been kept in more expensive metal containers to keep away mice. Distributors initially balked when Marico wanted to move to a plastic container, but the Marico team tested different plastic bottles in a mouse cage, found a design that worked, and today 100% of the market players use plastic bottles.


Tiny 2-rupee bottles of hair oil targeted at low-income customers

We later met with Manish Sabharwal, CEO of HR services TeamLease, to learn about his work within “the agony and ecstasy of India’s labor market.” Corporate India has been lowering its hiring standards, so this gives many new people access to the labor force, but opportunities are not available in every location or due to family status. Given the large population increase and demographic transitions (people moving from farms to non-farm living, schools to work, rural to urban, and subsistence to surplus, etc.) there is a growing population of young people who have little chance of finding a job. TeamLease provides solutions, for instance, in that it offers low-cost, basic training to make people more employable for temporary jobs, which could turn into full-time opportunities. The benefit for the companies is that they can test out employees.

The challenge in all of this work? It’s kind of illegal. Sabharwal spends 30% of his time working with public policy leaders to effect change in India’s labor laws and noted that there are hundreds of lawsuits against him, but he is clearly very passionate about the work he is doing.

This meeting was one of the most fun visits because Sabharwal is a fantastic storyteller. Some of his best lines:

“As an entrepreneur, there are two kinds of companies you can create: a baby and a dwarf. (The difference being that the former can grow)

“Entrepreneurship is the art of staying alive long enough to get lucky.”

“The biggest challenge in public policy is when everyone agrees with you.”

“India doesn’t have an ideas deficit; it has an execution deficit.”

All useful things to ponder.


TeamLease office


Visit to Innovation Alchemy

Our last visit was with the founders of TutorVista, impressive entrepreneurs who have had several successful exits. (It’s safe to say that we were all paying very close attention to them!) TutorVista is an online tutoring service in which Indian teachers with masters’ or PhD degrees teach students in the US who can’t afford private tutoring, at a flat rate of $100/month. Sounds straightforward, and there are definitely other companies in this space, but their competitors tend to target the lucrative but much smaller market for wealthy and struggling students, whereas TutorVista’s disruption is that they “ensure that everyone can be their customer.” Indeed, the company is even working with US schools that need to comply with the No Child Left Behind act, and they’ve carefully thought through issues such as disintermediation. I was lucky to grow up with an identical twin – e.g. instant study buddy – but I could picture myself taking advantage of such an easy-to-use tutoring service growing up, had it been available.

There is so much more that I could include here, but I’ll leave it at that before this blog becomes too long. The company visits were a valuable opportunity to learn more about innovation in India, and there’s a large stack of follow-up reading I’d like to do in this subject area if the time permits! I’ll post another blog later this week with impressions of Mumbai, Bangalore, and the trip experience as a whole.

Krista Sande-Kerback ‘14

Tunisia: Day 3 & 4

Today is Friday, which means that it is our last day of GIP Tunisia.  By this time tomorrow, many of us will already be heading back to snowy NYC to do battle with the weather, classes, job searches, and one last round of happy hours at Uris Deli.  But for now, I would just like to reflect on the past few days, and to capture a few “lessons learned”.

We have been fortunate enough to hear from leaders from a wide range of industries, functions and political/social views.  We got a window in to the Tunisian telecom industry on Wednesday morning, when we had the opportunity to meet with CEO Ken Campbell.  Over (delicious) croissants and strong coffee, he talked to us about the history of the company, and Tunisiana’s hope for the future.

We were interested to learn that smartphone penetration in Tunisia is currently sitting at 15%, a fact that Tunisiana hopes to change in the near future.  3G was launched in 2012, and since that, the 3G user base has tripled.  As the economic and political situation continues to improve, Tunisiana is hopeful that its customers will continue to adopt data-heavy usage patterns that are similar to those of CBS students.  Company leadership cited the following challenges to these growth aspirations: macro-economic conditions, weakening of the TSD, and wide-spread unemployment.

The afternoon of Day Three was devoted to group project time.  Groups traveled around (and outside of) Tunis to meet with company representatives, and to attempt to glean information and insights that would help them reconcile their previous research with their current experiences in Tunisia.  I would have to say that the group who emerged from their meeting at La’andor with giant bags of cheese was probably the most victorious.  It pays to pick companies who have food to give out!

Thursday was probably the most interesting mix of speakers/topics of the week.  In the morning, we met with the President of the Republican Party.  He candidly discussed the root causes of the revolution (unemployment, gap between coastal and inland areas), as well as the transition that is currently in progress.  Unlike many of the other officials that we have met on this trip, this man was willing to give us an honest (albeit a tad pessimistic) view of the uphill battle that Tunisia faces before being able to right itself in the eyes of its citizens, as well as the international community.  While holding hope for the future, and the establishment of a legitimate, stable government, he was not afraid to discuss the setbacks and challenges that Tunisia continues to experience.

In the afternoon, our class set off to visit enda inter-arabe, which is a microfinance company geared towards the empowerment of Tunisian women.  Michael Cracknell, co-founder, walked us through the history of the company, and gave us an overview of the impact that enda inter-arabe has had over the past 25 years.  The company currently has more than 235,000 active clients, with an average loan of 700 TSD.  Clients use this money to establish/run small businesses, which allows them to contribute to their family’s income each month, and to employ other members of the local community.

We were fortunate enough to meet 6 of the entrepreneurs sponsored by this inspiring company.  The woman who caught my attention was named Amel, and had been a client since 2002.  She began by borrowing 200 TSD to start a small tailoring service.  Since then, she has expanded her business to include jewelry and silk painting, and is able to employ up to 8 people in the “high season”.  After the meeting, she walked over to a table and pulled out dozens of samples of her jewelry, signaling to all of us that she was the most serious entrepreneur in the group!

Last, but not least, we visited Carrefour Tunis.  We were given an overview of the Tunisian shopping market by the Besma Kriaa (Chief Marketing Officer) and Lassaad Zribi (Chief Information Officer), who emphasized that the traditional distribution pattern (corner stores, convenient locations) still commands 77% of the market.  Carrefour Tunis is working to disrupt this pattern, with a push towards modern distribution patterns (which includes supermarkets, hypermarkets, etc).

Carrefour emphasized their focus on building a strong, emotional connection with shoppers, and described their store as “more than just a distribution point, it is a marketing medium”.  In Tunisia, Carrefour has a dimension of “leisure”, and the brand is meant to be a bit “aspirational”.  This was evident when we visited the floor of the Carrefour store, which seemed like a place where you really could find anything that you wanted.  Compared with the small shops that are characteristic of the towns that we have visited in Tunisia, so far, it is clear that Carrefour does stand for something more than just a place to buy bread and a lawn chair set!

Setting off on our fifth and final day!  Although I will be sad to see this trip end, I am looking forward to reflecting on the trip, as a whole, once it is concluded.

Katie Horgan ’14

The Slum Behind “Slumdog Millionaire”

Cardboard Recycling in Dharavi

Our first day in Mumbai provided a rather profound immersion into life in India for people at or near at the “bottom of the pyramid.”  My classmates and I spent the afternoon taking a tour of Dharavi Slum, one of the largest slums in the world and, as we discovered, a center of not only housing for Indians from all over the country but also of significant informal sector activity.  (To note: none of us took photos out of respect for the slum dwellers, but I was able to get high-resolution images from Reality Gives which led our group through the slum.  They did a great job leading the tours and I’m grateful for the images, as I truly believe a picture speaks a thousand words.)

We began the tour in a more industrial section, where we witnessed workers participating in a wide variety of entrepreneurial endeavors.  Recycling was a major activity: oil cans, paint, soap, aluminum, plastic, bags…you name it, it is probably getting recycled somewhere within Dharavi.  We also witnessed workers creating buttery confections, tanning and curing leather to make handbags, and more.  Many people were hard at work, and cars and trucks regularly made their way through the narrow passageways, piled high with materials.

Embroidery factory

Paint recycling factory

Oil can recycling in Dharavi

Mumbai has very bad pollution to begin with, but these work activities result in a particularly severe assault on the senses.  In some cases protection is available to the workers, but the temperature in Mumbai is sweltering most of the time and it is very uncomfortable to wear any more layers or masks.  Visiting Dharavi for just four hours wasn’t without consequences; my throat was feeling the aftereffects of breathing the polluted air even the morning after.  As uncomfortable as it was to witness and experience, though, I can’t really blame the workers given the environmental factors.  While my throat will recover, the vast majority of people in the slum won’t be able to escape this kind of existence, however, and life expectancies in this community are about 50-60 years.

Plastic recycling factory - crashing the plastic into little pieces

We then braved the traffic to cross the main road – a rather risky endeavor that I’ll talk more about in my next blog! – and visit a residential section.  The pathways were narrow and one-room homes were basically stacked on top of each other.  We saw sets of shoes at the entrances, laundry out to dry, and images representing each family’s religion – here in this community, Muslims and Hindus coexisted peacefully, from what I could tell.  The homes were small but it appeared that the residents worked to make them as clean and cozy as possible with curtains and flowers.  There were noticeably more women here engaged in pottery production and taking care of children (to note: the Hindu women work outside of the home, while the Muslim women do not).  There are some schools run by organizations such as the one that led our tour, so this is promising, although literacy rates are still low in India.

Boy in a narrow street in Dharavi

I asked our tour guide about the celebrated film “Slumdog Millionaire,” part of which was indeed filmed in Dharavi, and whether or not it portrayed anything close to reality.  What I could discern of the tour guide’s answer was that the movie portrayed an outdated and somewhat glamorized view of the slums, but was partially accurate at least in its portrayal of Dharavi in the 90’s.  In any event, this was my first time visiting a slum, and Dharavi provided numerous surprises.  For instance, not everyone living in the slums is poor.  There are some wealthy business owners who live or at least spend their days there for convenience sake.  In some cases, migrant workers basically live at their “office,” rolling out mats to sleep at night – this is a win-win as they have a place to stay and the owners have free security.  Secondly, homes in the slum are not as cheap as I would have expected; a one-bedroom place ran for the equivalent of about 60 USD per month.

Ultimately, I am glad to have had the opportunity to experience a small fraction of what the Dharavi slum has to offer.  It isn’t easy to witness poverty, particularly on this massive a scale, and feel almost powerless to do something.  I know that a lot of us are reflecting on this experience over the course of our week together.  There seemed to be a real sense of resilience in Dharavi, however, and many residents smiled or said hello to our group, with a desire to connect that seemed genuine.

Dharavi Kids' smiles

Krista Sande-Kerback ‘14

GIP Tunisia: Financial Markets & Flight Simulators

GIP Tunisia is off to a fantastic start!  Our first 48 hours have been busy.  We have already attended five official meetings with Tunisian companies and businesses, toured a factory, tested out a flight simulator, and sipped mint tea while discussing critical social, economic and business issues with key Tunisian business leaders.  A quick recap of our first two days:

Day One began bright and early, at 7:15 am.  After a quick trip across town, our “delegation” (as we have taken to calling ourselves) arrived at the Hotel Paris for a meeting with the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce (TACC).  Panel speakers Fadhel Abdelketi (CEO Tunisie Valeurs & Chairman of the Tunis Stock Exchange) and Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami (AmCham President) discussed the current state of the financial markets in Tunisia, and the role of these markets in continuing efforts to bolster national growth and attract foreign investment.  Prompted by questions from CBS students, the speakers continually re-emphasized the desire for the government to set the conditions needed to increase international confidence in Tunisia.  All present expressed sincere hope that the Constitution, scheduled to be finished this week, will set the government on the path of stability and allow the financial markets to continue providing the Tunisian economy with the capital necessary for continued growth.

In the afternoon, we met with the African Development Bank (ADB).  The ADB’s mission is help development efforts on the continent, by making funding available to both private and public sector entities.  The discussion was led by Jakob Kolster (head of the North Africa Division), who emphasized the ADB’s commitment to promoting infrastructure improvements, skills and technology, and private sector development, among other issues.

Day One ended with a visit to AfricInvest, which is a P/E firm that looks to invest in SME’s, and to make them regional champions.  All speakers emphasized the attractiveness of African investments, citing an improving macro environment, an increase in intra-Africa trade, and sectors (such as healthcare and education) that are experiencing high growth.

Day Two kicked off with a visit to the COFAT factory, which is about one hour outside of Tunis.  Before touring the factory, our class enjoyed a presentation explaining the organization of the Elloumi Group, which owns COFAT.  The Elloumi Group owns 30 companies, and is one of Tunisia’s only multi-national companies.  The Group’s portfolio mainly focuses on the manufacture and distribution of parts, systems and appliances, and boasts such customers as 3M, Kellogg’s and Volvo.

Following the presentation, our class had the opportunity to tour the factory floor.  Our guides walked us through the path that a part takes at the COFAT factory: from receipt of the raw material, to assembly, and finally to QC and then outbound shipping.

We wrapped up Day Two with a visit to TunisAir, where we had the opportunity to hear from CEO Rabah Jerad.  He discussed TunisAir’s plans to continue expanding in to Africa, and to build a network across the continent that will facilitate entry of the airline in to the One World Alliance.  Perhaps the most exciting part of our visit to TunisAir occurred when we had the opportunity to tour the flight simulator that is used to train the pilots.  CBS at the very center of … pilot training!

The first two days have been filled with quite a bit of information, and I think that most of us are still trying to digest/make sense of the various facts and opinions that we have heard.  Many of us are extremely interested in the effects of the 2011 popular uprising, and cannot resist asking the panelists and business leaders for their opinions on the future of the business/economic environment in Tunisia.  Overwhelmingly, I have found these business leaders to be incredibly optimistic about the future of their country.  They are confident that the Constitution will be finished in the next few weeks, and that a stable, lasting government will be put in to place.  I look forward to confirmation that this important step has been taken, as it is absolutely required for the attraction of foreign investment, and the continued success of Tunisian companies.

Katie Horgan ‘14

Johannesburg (Pt. 2)

Our Joburg itinerary was so jam-packed with interesting people and places that it wouldn’t have done it justice to cram everything into one post. So here goes Joburg Part Deux…

George Bizos & The Apartheid Museum

The timing of this post is most appropriate as we will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. tomorrow in the United States. George Bizos was friend and colleague of the late Nelson Mandela. He was also part of Mandela’s defense team during the Rivonia Trial when Mandela was sentenced to life in jail. When we met with him, Bizos (humbly) denied that he saved Mandela’s life during the trial, but he is credited with shaping Mandela’s testimony in such a way that would be both true to the cause but not overly antagonistic to the judge (who could have sentenced Mandela to the death penalty).

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Prior to visiting Bizos, who graciously welcomed us to his house in Joburg, we visited the Apartheid Museum. The museum was designed by some of the same team behind Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. To those who have visited the Israeli Holocaust memorial museum, you will not be surprised to know that the museum is very powerful. Upon entrance to the museum, guests are given a ticket that reads “White” or “Non-White” and instructed to walk through separate entrances based on their designation on the ticket. What followed was a tour de force of South Africa’s Apartheid era and the Struggle that eventually led to its demise.

The Apartheid Museum visit served as excellent preparation for our meeting with Bizos. He provided more context to the Rivonia Trial and the ANC movement to end Apartheid. Bizos is a leading human rights lawyer and continues to practice law (he is serving as part of the legal team for the families of the deceased in the Marikana trial). He encouraged us to fight for what we believed in but cautioned against violence and extremism:

“Be a revolutionary, seek fundamental change, but avoid fanaticism.”

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Brett Levy, CEO Blue Label Telecoms

Mr. Levy founded South Africa’s leading e-commerce platform with his brother, Mark. The visit to Blue Label’s office was fantastic for a couple reasons beyond Brett’s insight into entrepreneurship: (1) the office features an incredible collection of memorabilia (allegedly the largest private collection in the world) (2) we got a peak at the Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky collection that inspired the name of the company. Brett and his colleagues celebrate every major achievement for the company with a bottle of Blue Label. Based on the number of the bottles on the wall (and the company’s continued success), they’ve had a lot of success.

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“The worst handwriting in the world is better than the best memory. Document everything.”

Mr. Levy is a battle-hardened entrepreneur. While he has had a lot of fun on the path to building a successful business, he has also encouraged us to learn from his experience that it is essential to document everything when business deals are done. There is, of course, one exception: he has never signed a contract with this brother (and co-founder), and they share a bank account.

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Andile Khumalo, CEO, MSG Afrika Investment Holdings

Mr. Khumalo is the founder of MSG Afrika, a private equity firm specializing in media companies. The company won the rights to the 1st commercial radio station in post-Apartheid South Africa. He spoke to us about the opportunities and challenges of starting a business in South Africa as part of the “next generation” of black South African business leaders. He caught his first break when Deloitte sponsored him to go to univesrity and gain a degree in accounting (full disclosure: yours truly will be joining Deloitte’s consulting practice this coming fall).

“South Africans want liberation from the isolation of apartheid. They want a clean break from the past. We want to present ourselves as the liberated South African radio station.”

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It was powerful to hear an entrepreneur in South Africa branding his business as part of the “new” South Africa. While respectful of the politicians who led the movement to end Apartheid, he spoke with optimism and anticipation for the next generation of political leadership in South Africa who, he hopes, will place fostering entrepreneurship higher on the list of government priorities.

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Stephen Kosoff, CEO, Investec

“I like people who tell me what to do, even as CEO. If you want to hire intelligent people, then give them a voice. It gives them a sense of ownership.”

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Mr. Kosoff attributed much of the success of Investec, South Africa’s leading investment bank, to the attitude of his employees. He emphasized the importance of culture, and client-first service, especially in the banking industry. Mr. Kosoff told us that he hires people to join his team based on their demeanor and their ability to inspire. He believes that skills can be taught, but attitude is intrinsic and distinguishes great hires from mediocre hires.

Adrian Gore, CEO & Barry Swartzberg, Managing Director (Co-Founders), Discovery

In my humble, and highly biased opinion (as someone interested in a career in healthcare), we saved our best business for last. Discovery’s health insurance division (Discovery Health) is amongst the most innovative company’s in the world. They pioneered a program, named Vitality, that incentives its client base to live healthier lives: buy healthy foods, exercise at the gym,  and receive preventive health screenings. By making people healthier, Discovery has created a profitable business. This, in my mind, is the ultimate accomplishment in business.

“Our mission is simple: we want to improve people’s lives. We want our employees to feel like they’re part of a family that is changing the world.”

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Despite their lofty goals, Mr. Gore suggested that their continued success is grounded in their sense of hubris and a healthy paranoia of competitors. Like Mr. Kosoff, he also believes strongly that values and attributes drive success, and that education and IQ are secondary tools for employees and entrepreneurs.

Well, that wraps up my recap of some of the highlights from our time in Joburg. I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely incredible dinner that the Mizrahi family hosted for us at their house. It was very generous of Eran and his family to have us over, and I know I speak for everyone when I say we are very grateful to have had a fantastic family meal during our adventure. Thank you, Mizrahis!

Next up: beautiful Cape Town.

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Samuel Wollner ’14

Preparing for Chazen India

I’m Krista Sande-Kerback ’14, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to blog for this year’s Chazen Global Immersion class to India!  I arrived in Mumbai late last night after close to 24 hours of travel, and after months of anticipating this trip, I am grateful to be here.

Columbia’s business school curriculum offers a significant number of case studies on companies’ strategies in India, and I’ve personally done some business with Indian companies and volunteer organizations over the years (consulting for outsourcing/offshoring projects and running the regional chapters for a global professional women’s network).  This is my first time visiting the country itself, however, as is the case for most of the students in the group.  I know that we are all looking forward to taking everything in, from sightseeing and experiencing the local culture in Mumbai and Bangalore, to participating in a dozen company visits, to sampling the cuisine, and more.

Our 30-person class has done extensive preparation in advance of our trip: applying for visas, obtaining shots and malaria pills, and participating in classes and group research leading up to our week-long in-country immersion.  We’ve been on semester break for the last month and some students arrived in India early to travel to other regions, so it will be great to exchange stories tonight over dinner.  The topic guiding the course itself is “reverse innovation.” The concept is that innovations can and may increasingly be adopted first in a cash-constrained, entrepreneurial environment in the developing world and then migrate to wealthier countries, as opposed to the “traditional” trajectory which works the other way around.   In our first three sessions, we heard from practitioners implementing these solutions in industries such as healthcare, and participated in a design simulation.  A major takeaway was that although it’s often believed that free, open, unconstrained solutions produce the most creativity, research shows that sometimes constraints lead to the most creative and success results.

Through group research projects, we’re exploring successful Indian innovations that could be adapted for the US market.  Our work expands on what we learned in the Marketing core curriculum, in that we need to dig deep to understand what drives success in the Indian market, determine what segment(s) of the US could be profitably targeted, and then figure out how to market to these consumers.

Our first group activity, a tour of the massive Dharavi slum (which features prominently in a number of films such as “Slumdog Millionaire”), will start in about an hour.  I’ve just spent the past week on campus immersed in another block week course on the “marketing of luxury products,” which featured meetings with executives from some of the most exclusive global brands.  I’m sure that experience will provide a fascinating juxtaposition to what we’re about to encounter in this country known for its huge contrasts.

More to come very soon!

Krista Sande-Kerback ‘14

CBS Heads to Tunisia!

Anxiously awaiting my flight to Tunisia (which leaves at 3:45 am!), where I will meet 27 of my CBS classmates for the week-long culmination of the class “Global Immersion: Doing Business in North Africa”.  We will spend 7 days in Tunis, which is the capital and the largest city in Tunisia.

When I was selecting my classes for the Fall 2013 semester, the course description for GIP Tunisia immediately caught my attention. Africa is home to many of the fastest growing, emerging markets in our world, a fact which most certainly merits the attention of business school students.  Tunisia is a fascinating case, in particular, because it boasts a unique blend of global, economic influences, and is poised to recapture political stability/economic growth, which will boost competitiveness and encourage foreign investment.  I jumped at the opportunity to study this country, up close, and to witness the social and economic changes that are currently taking place.  It is an exciting time for Tunisia, and I feel that we have a lot to learn from this trip!

My classmates and I spent the fall semester learning about the Tunisian culture, economy, and political situation, with particular emphasis on the changes brought about by the popular uprising in 2011.  Professor Jedidi arranged for a fascinating mix of guest speakers, who provided color – and context – to our readings and case studies.  Working in teams, we chose Tunisian companies that we wanted to know more about, and we will spend our week in Tunis researching these companies and completing our final projects.

Our itinerary includes meetings with top Tunisian economic, business and political leaders, as well as visits to a wide range of Tunisian companies and NGOs.  Just to name a few: African Development Bank, enda inter-arabe, Carrefour and Tunisiana.  The itinerary also allows plenty of time to experience the vibe and culture of this historic city, which will provide important context for our research and discussions!

I am looking forward to an exciting week that will broaden my understanding of the Tunisian culture and economy, and I cannot wait to  share this experience with CBS friends and colleagues.  See you soon, Tunis!