Through consulting projects on real-world problems, companies across the world benefit from the experience and expertise of students in the Global Residency Program.

When executives at 3M’s Vietnam subsidiary wanted to validate their strategy for marketing Scotch-Brite household cleaning products in that emerging marketplace, they turned to a consulting team of five students from the MBA Full-Time Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Over the next several months, the team gathered mounds of research, interviewed industry experts, designed and analyzed an original survey, and ultimately produced a comprehensive report containing specific recommendations.

If it were purely a classroom exercise, the project would have had definite merit, but what took it several steps — and thousands of miles — further is the distinctive nature of the Georgetown McDonough School of Business’ Global Residency program. With the report in tow, the team traveled to Ho Chi Minh City in spring 2010 to meet with 3M’s senior managers and present their analysis in person. Team member Rina Hurst (MBA ’10) calls it the best experience of her academic life, but the companies benefit as much as the students. 3M’s Anthony Tan lauds the consulting students for "developing product positioning that was very relevant and gave credibility to our Scotch-Brite marketing strategy."

The 3M project was just one of more than 100 consulting projects conducted last year by separate Global Residency consulting teams representing each of the Georgetown McDonough School of Business’ four MBA programs, as well as the Executive Master’s in Leadership program. These students are required to participate in the Global Residency course to earn their degrees.

Stanley Nollen, professor of economics and international business, oversees the Global Residency course, regarded as the most distinctive feature of the Georgetown MBA program. Each year, Nollen and several other faculty members collaborate with contacts at foreign organizations and Fortune 500 companies with overseas operations to develop projects for each academic program that address real issues, questions, or problems. In recent years, teams have traveled to Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, India, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Turkey, and Vietnam, working for clients ranging from Philips Electronics to the World Bank.

Students review synopses of their programs’ projects and rank them in order of preference. Nollen’s faculty group then forms a small, program-specific consulting team, usually five students, for each project. "The teams work remotely with company representatives for several months," Nollen. They gather research, data, and other information necessary to address their project’s objectives. "They then travel to the company’s facilities and make their presentation."

"The magic of the program," Nollen states, "is that the projects are not made up. They are real. The students apply what they learn in the classroom to solve real problems and make recommendations that have to satisfy the companies and deliver value." For the companies themselves, Nollen adds, "There is the strong likelihood that they will get an original, creative, and useful answer to a real situation, at a modest cost in managerial effort and time."

Finding the Right Audience in Vietnam

3M Vietnam Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of St. Paul–based 3M Company, was established in 1994 in Ho Chi Minh City. In 2008, the company introduced its Scotch-Brite line of cleaning products to the market there. A year later, progress was slow, reports Tan, 3M’s senior manager for Asia-Pacific business development, from his office in Singapore.

"When Georgetown’s Professor Nollen approached us about developing a Global Residency project, we wanted the students to validate our Scotch-Brite marketing strategy and to formulate an actionable strategic game plan with recommendations that would help us take the business to the next level."

Tan was the primary contact for Hurst and four other MBA Full-Time students assigned to the 3M project. He provided the team with company information and research, including a Nielsen consumer usage-and-attitude study commissioned prior to the Scotch-Brite launch, and assisted in developing two integral benchmarking initiatives. "We spoke with marketing managers at 3M Indonesia about their experience in launching Scotch-Brite in that emerging market several years earlier," says Hurst, currently a buyer for Target in Minneapolis. "We also talked to executives at Unilever’s Vietnam subsidiary about its successful launch of an ice cream brand."

To gain more current insights into Vietnamese consumers’ attitudes and behaviors, the Georgetown team developed a household survey. "We wanted to position Scotch-Brite among consumers who understood the products, so we designed a comprehensive survey aimed at a cross-section of socioeconomic statuses," Hurst explains.

3M administered the door-to-door survey among 500 households in Ho Chi Minh City, then relayed the raw data to the Georgetown team. "The students did a high-level statistical analysis of the quantitative data," says Nollen, who served as the team’s faculty adviser. "Using about 200 good survey returns, they produced a market positioning and value proposition that was innovative for 3M."

Based on their analysis of the survey data, the team defined six distinct clusters of consumers, from which they targeted one group that best matched the Scotch-Brite brand. "They were women 18 and older, from higher socioeconomic classes," says Hurst, referring to them as future brand ambassadors. "They entertain at home, are trend-

conscious and brand-loyal, and are willing to pay more for foreign brands."

Combining that analysis with benchmarking from the 3M Indonesia and Unilever interviews and information from the Nielsen report, the team established a traditional marketing plan — including product, pricing, placement, and promotion strategies — aimed at the target consumers. They presented the plan, along with recommendations on implementing it, to Tan and his marketing group in Ho Chi Minh City last March.

"They recommended premium pricing and distribution into modern grocery stores, which validated our previous strategy," Tan says. "The richness of the project was in giving us a sense of which consumers to target. If they had not done the research in a collaborative way with us, it would have been very ­challenging. All in all, their recommendations were in line with what we wanted to do, and they are being executed."

"Working with the highly energized and very professional George­town team was a good experience for my local team, and everyone felt they learned a lot," Tan adds. "It was time well invested."

Exploring Online Revenue in Brazil

Abril Group is a far-reaching media conglomerate based in São Paulo, Brazil. Latin America’s equivalent to Time Warner, Abril includes publishing, Internet, broadcasting, printing, distribution, advertising, and education operations. Like other diverse media companies, it is constantly searching for new and creative ways to generate revenue from its rapidly evolving online businesses, especially dozens of print magazines that also feature digital platforms.

"One of the revenue streams we want to explore is from online users, instead of just from advertisers," says Marcia Netto, an Abril manager who last year worked with a Global Residency team of six students in the MBA Evening Program. [Netto has since left the company.] "Advertising doesn’t pay all the bills." With the blessing of senior management, Netto coordinated with Susan Dugan, professor of the practice in strategy, who specializes in strategic management at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, to design a project to suggest different business models in which consumers are willing to pay for certain online content. Such quests have become a sort of holy grail within the media world, with publishers large and small experimenting with various ways to make money from their Web properties.

"We were floored by the daunting task before us," says team member Greg Flowers (MBA ’10), who chose to pursue the Abril project because it was markedly different from his job as an engineering consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton. He quickly discovered that his objective would be satisfied. "After we initially learned that Abril is looking to derive 20 percent of its profits from online users, we understood the magnitude of the project."

Flowers and his teammates developed a three-pronged attack and divided into groups of two to tackle a range of duties. One group investigated the state of the media industry itself, with special emphasis on publishing. Another twosome analyzed numerous examples of recent online publishing ventures to assess what worked and what did not with regard to generating user revenues. The third group examined Abril’s stable of 54 print publications to gauge which might best fit online business models, careful to factor in Brazil’s unique consumer culture, everything from purchasing behaviors to use of various digital technology platforms.

Ultimately, the team concluded that it was indeed feasible for Abril to generate revenue from select online users. "We focused on several niche properties that are sold to specific demographics who are likely to spend extra money," Flowers says, "and identified certain characteristics among those consumers, such as utility of the niche publications’ contents, brand equity, and added value from online content."

In their presentation to executives at Abril’s São Paulo headquarters last March, the students recommended four print titles that might generate revenue from online readers: Exame, a widely read business publication; Quatro Rodas, a top-selling automotive monthly; Veja São Paulo, a popular city magazine; and Placar, a favorite among soccer enthusiasts. "We presented a sensitivity analysis of varying consumer reactions to show the likelihood of achieving the overall goal," Flowers says.

"The team planted a seed in the minds of the company," Netto says, "which has been concentrating on online advertising revenue. Abril is considering implementing some of the recommendations," with Exame perhaps leading the way.

Chilling Out in Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has been the regional hub for FedEx Express in the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Africa markets since 1998. The Memphis-based company operates flights from Dubai that connect regional customers with the worldwide FedEx network. To address growing opportunities among companies in nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar — last year, FedEx collaborated with a four-student team from the McDonough School of Business’ Executive MBA program on a consulting project. The project was led by Hamdi Osman, senior vice president of operations for FedEx Express Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Africa. Osman has championed the program for many years, providing his insight and knowledge of the market and ensuring the continuity of the relationship between FedEx and Georgetown.

Specifically, the project examined the highly specialized "cold chain" logistics market, which transports and stores low-temperature-controlled foods, pharmaceutical and healthcare products, flowers, and other goods. "We wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what a typical cold-chain customer looks like in the region," says Maher Hasbini, FedEx managing director of operations in the region, who was involved on the project. "We also wanted to identify their requirements for cold-chain services and what types of related goods and commodities they need to be shipped."

To meet those objectives, the team had to research FedEx’s existing cold-chain operations in the United States and other regions. "We interviewed FedEx executives to learn about their strategies," says team member Geetanjali Tandon (EMBA ’10), a finance manager for Capital One in Maryland. "We asked about topics such as packaging solutions to maintain temperatures, warehousing, distribution, regulations, and insurance."

The Georgetown team members’ expertise and skills proved instrumental in gathering, analyzing, and assembling the disparate components of the project. "Each of us has a different background — finance, IT, operations and strategy, and product development — so we all had different roles," Tandon says. "We were working full-time jobs, too, so coordinating that with classes, project meetings, and our personal lives was challenging."

It all came together successfully, however, and the team flew to Dubai last March, accompanied by their faculty adviser, Sezer Ülkü, assistant professor of operations and information management. "This was a very comprehensive project, and very different from a typical student exercise," Ülkü says.

The team made its presentation in Dubai to a group of regional department heads representing planning and engineering, sales, marketing, customer service, finance, and human resources. "The team provided an excellent overview of the region’s cold-chain market," says Hasbini, "and gave us a solid understanding of what the opportunities are in the different vertical markets." The team ultimately assessed that pharmaceutical and other health care markets offer the greatest potential in the GCC’s cold-chain market.

Attracting Software

Developers to South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa, has built up a strong IT community, populated by a number of small, successful firms, as well as several universities with broad IT expertise. What the city lacks, though, is the ability to attract major software developers, which has stymied Cape Town’s desire to become South Africa’s Silicon Valley and entrepreneurial hub for technology innovation. Last year, the Cape Information Technology Initiative (CITI), a nonprofit economic development group dedicated to growing Cape Town’s IT infrastructure, joined forces with a team of students in Georgetown’s Executive Master’s in Leadership (EML) program to address this vexing issue.

"Our ultimate goal was to attract a major ICT [Information and Communications Technology] development center," says Jenny McKinnell, CITI’s executive director. Such a center would, she explains, raise Cape Town’s stature as an incubator for software developers that could serve emerging economies in Africa and elsewhere.

Russell Pike entered Georgetown’s EML program last year looking not only to grow his leadership skills, but also to work on an interesting project — dual goals that he accomplished through the Cape Town assignment. A 20-year IT veteran with Oracle Corp., first in his native New Zealand and then in the United States for the past 17 years, Pike was part of a five-member consulting team. "Our goal was to put together a marketing plan to help CITI attract software developers to Cape Town," he says.

Under the direction of Lamar Reinsch, Ph.D., professor of management and co-director of the EML program, the team set up a phone conference with McKinnell to get an overview of the project. Then they surveyed CIOs in the United States to elicit comments on Cape Town’s potential as a place to invest, Pike says. Other team members had backgrounds in finance and procurement, and they divided up subsequent research duties by their individual strengths.

"We’re all leaders in our day jobs, but we understood that to get this project done smoothly and effectively for the client, we had to check our egos at the door," Pike observes. "We had to be leaders at some points and followers at others." With that mutual understanding, team members worked individually on their own time and together during class sessions, then collectively to assemble their presentation. They traveled to Cape Town in August and met with a group of more than 30 IT stakeholders, including McKinnell and other CITI representatives, local government and industry leaders, and members of the city’s academic community.

"The team recommended that instead of one large ICT center, we should try to attract smaller, high-level, niche research centers," McKinnell says. "Their ideas generated a very good discussion, and we’re continuing to work on their recommendations." CITI has, for example, prepared a "pitch book" promoting the region’s attractiveness and has made at least one offer to a developer of mobile applications.

"A benefit of the project was that it created a better working relationship between ourselves and the local universities’ IT departments, so that we can work together to attract software developers," ­McKinnell states. "And it definitely helped to get an outside perspective from the Georgetown team," she concludes, "because one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know about ­oneself."

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