Kelley MBA students heading to Peru to provide expertise to emerging firms
March 2, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In an increasingly global economy, students are seeking out international experience. A new service learning program developed by MBAs in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business provides that experience while connecting students with entrepreneurs at the "bottom of the pyramid."
Left to right are GLOBASE participants Casey Bronson, Deborah Block, Professor Roberto Garcia, José Eduardo Claro Glorigiano and Eric Schreiber.
Professor Roberto Garcia and 20 of his MBA students will leave for two weeks in Peru on March 8. In Peru, they'll provide consulting for five small enterprises that have been identified as potential exporters to the United States. All the students have a strong interest in corporate social responsibility.
"They want to get a strong sense of how to do good in the corporate world," Garcia said, "and also have a fantastic international business experience."
The Kelley School's Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) initiative has largely been developed by a group of second-year students in the program in close partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM).
Clients will include two clothing manufacturers, a jewelry maker, a pharmaceutical company and a cosmetics firm. While all of the companies are producing viable products for export, they also have potential to be important employers in the small communities in which they are located.
Map of Peru
"When you have the vision, and you're jumping into this sort of thing, you might say to yourself something like, 'I want to help that Mom and Pop with the corner store on the street or someone who has never owned a business,'" said Colleen Powers, a second-year MBA student, who previously has taught English in Africa and worked in marketing at a software company in St. Louis, her hometown.
"But the reality is, once you get on the ground, if we can help people at these companies grow their business and employ people in their communities, it raises the standard of living and provides wealth for the communities in which they're operating," Powers said.
Garcia, a clinical associate professor of international business and co-director of the Kelley School's Supply Chain and Global Management Academy, said GLOBASE is following a model that is gaining traction at leading business schools.
"It's a model where multiple partners come together to help a country develop," he said. "What we have here is a non-governmental organization, our Kelley MBA students, and then we have the entrepreneurs themselves all coming together to help these companies move forward and contribute to economic development of the country."
Accompanying the group will be Denise Williams, a doctoral candidate at Kelley who is researching how business schools are addressing "the bottom of the pyramid," a concept popularized by University of Michigan Professor C.K. Prahalad. It is an economic development model that focuses on the poor in underdeveloped countries as creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers.
The Kelley MBAs will break into groups and work with companies on-site for four days before making presentations for everyone at AMCHAM. They also will visit cultural and historical sites, including Machu Picchu and another Incan site, Sacsayhuaman.
"This is a really exciting program, because it gives students the hands-on experience of working in a foreign country while they're still in school," said LaVonn Schlegel, managing director of Kelley's Center for International Business Education and Research. "In the long run, this is a critical part of helping our U.S. businesses be competitive and stay competitive in the global marketplace."
"The project, as a whole, has been supportive of learning to accept and movement to different cultures in a way that's very effective and mutually beneficial," Williams added.
Another second-year student on GLOBASE's leadership team, Michael Seeger, from Bath, Mich., got an early sample of this when he traveled to Peru last fall to do prep work for the group's March visit. His traveling companion was not permitted to enter the country, and Seeger suddenly needed to communicate without a translator.
"It will be very applicable to take the skills that I've learned at Kelley and see how communication differs and how the way people interact differs," said Seeger, who will work in Asia and Europe for a medical device manufacturer after graduating in May.
Scott Maloney, a second-year MBA from Redondo Beach, Calif., added, "Students are going to become savvier and become more appreciative about what cultural differences mean and how to work with them and mitigate them at times."
Criteria for being selected to the program included educational background, previous international experience, Spanish proficiency and future career expectations. The students who are going include someone who has been in Peru on a church mission, an American with Peruvian descent and a cross-section of people from the United States, India, Brazil and China.
Students acknowledge that developing countries aren't likely where they expect their careers will take them right away, but they also see value in applying what they're learning at Kelley in a meaningful way for themselves and real clients. They say that U.S. business leaders need to understand how to work in and with emerging market companies.
"We've done some research on whether there's a need at companies for this kind of skill set," Powers said. "For multinational corporations, the need for them to tap into markets in the developing world is essential for their growth and expansion. There will be a need for new market development managers, and hopefully another benefit to our students is that we'll be providing a foundation for that as well."
A major goal for the trip will be to establish strong partnerships in Peru that will allow Kelley School students and faculty to develop a sustainable service program for many years to come.
"This not a one-time deal," Powers said. "Our mission as a leadership team in the short term is to provide valuable international experience for all of us going, but long-term, it's to establish the partnerships with organizations down there and a model for doing these kinds of projects moving forward."
The students will be writing a blog from Peru, which will be available online at http://iuglobaseperu.blogspot.com/.