by Venkat Prasath Perumal (MALD 2018)
The number of people using the internet around the world is increasing at a rapid pace. With that, there has been steep expansion in global e-commerce. According to Euromonitor, in the US (the world’s biggest consumer market by sales volume), e-commerce accounts for 10% of all retail sales. Further, Euromonitor predicts that share will increase to 16.6% in 2021. All this growth brings immense business opportunities for companies like Amazon and Alibaba. At the same time, the number of people using social platforms on the web is also on the rise. As of 2017, Facebook had 2 billion global monthly users, followed by YouTube’s 1.5 billion, WeChat’s 889 million, and Twitter’s 328 million. Many of these internet companies generate revenue using targeted, personalized ads.
Mark Patel, McKinsey Digital, San Francisco shared his insights on digital trust
The growth of any platform-based business depends fundamentally on digital trust — the trust that the platforms create between sellers and customers which leads customers to buy seller’s products and services. For example: if Amazon’s product listings — the goods sold directly by Amazon and its partner merchants — couldn’t be verified as authentic products, customers wouldn’t buy them and might switch to a competitor. Similarly, a fraudulent phishing attack using customer’s stolen credit card is common in platforms. When this happens, the seller would suffer because, in addition to loss of merchandise, he would have to bear the costs of preparing and shipping the merchandise.
by Laura Mulvey (MALD 2017)
In May 2017, the International Development Association (IDA) convened leaders from across Sierra Leone’s private, public, and NGO sectors at its first Development Finance Forum in the capital city of Freetown. The forum was an effort to engage stakeholders in identifying opportunities to unlock private investment in the country. The IDA, a branch of the World Bank focusing on the world’s 75 poorest nations, had recently pledged a $2.5 billion Private Sector Window aimed at mobilizing business development in fragile and conflict-affected states by de-risking private sector investments.
Sierra Leone’s President, Ernest Bai Koroma, opened the meeting on an optimistic note and invited participants to think through constraints and opportunities in business investment in the country. The plenary session soon broke out into a number of focus groups, where I found the tone was decidedly less optimistic.
I was attending the conference through my role as a policy fellow with Innovations for Poverty Action, a research group working to enhance the role of evidence in policymaking. With support from the Institute for Business in the Global Context at the Fletcher School, I was working in Freetown on a project mapping the formal and informal institutions governing the education sector in Sierra Leone.
by Raunak Mittal (MALD 2018)
Demonetization, a bold move executed by the current government in India took everyone by surprise. Good or bad, it is one of the biggest policy decision taken by an economy as large as India in the recent past. The aspects that interest me in this big policy decision are the effects of this move towards the digitization of finance, including digital payments and alternative lending.
There has been a focus on alternative modes of credit lending ,not just in developing economies but also in the developed economies like the US. As part of my ongoing research, I had the opportunity to talk with the founders and leaders of alternative lending startups like Numerated, DistilledAnalytics, Branch.co and Entrepreneurial Finance Lab in the US. However, for getting a closer look on what is happening in India post the biggest strike on cash, I continued my research with the help of IBGC by visiting India during in August 2017. My research plan was two-fold: to meet startups that are operating in the space of digital finance or alternative lending; and to observe the change in people’s behavior in dealing with day-to-day transactions nine months post-demonetization.
by Utsav Mulay (MIB 2018)
Prior to travel and while in Rwanda, I identified access to energy, or lack thereof, as a major driver for growth in trade in East Africa. Energy is crucial for building capital-intensive infrastructure, such as roads, railways, bridges, and power plants, and I was curious about the status of this in Rwanda, the most stable and fast-growing country in East Africa. I made a list of important stakeholders in energy in the Rwandan government as well as the private sector, to be contacted and possibly interviewed for their views on energy status in Rwanda and its greater implications across East Africa.
Once in Rwanda, I contacted the Rwanda Development Board to meet their CEO, Clare Akamanzi, as well as their Energy Specialists. Clare was busy due to the elections in Rwanda, but I was able to meet Olivier Ngororabanga, an Industrial Development Analyst in the Investment Promotion Department of the Rwanda Development Board. He was helpful in briefing me about interesting developments surrounding energy in Rwanda.
By 2017/18, the Rwandan government planned to give access to 70% of the population from an earlier 34.5%. This would be achieved by 48% on-grid and 22% off-grid. As a large proportion of Rwanda’s population, almost 10 million people, live in villages, I was interested in what kind of off-grid solutions were being provided – this would be critical to understanding the kind of light industries that could be supported in rural Rwanda and give an understanding of potential income increase for many people. The Rwandan government had set a goal of increasing the per capita income to $900 by 2020 and this would not be possible without providing energy access to the population residing in villages. I observed that the Rwandan government had a tiered system of classification for implementing rural electrification; Tier 4 and Tier 5 would be critical installations needed to support businesses. Continue reading
As the calendar turns summer and another class leaves Fletcher, we reflect on some of the fascinating research we’ve supported from students in the past. In this post, we revisit MIB ’16 graduate Nathan Holdstein’s research on investor relations for companies in Mainland China.
For firms at various stages of development, listing shares on a major international stock exchange is the penultimate measurement for establishing oneself as a “successful” business. This is especially true of firms based in Mainland China. In many cases, firms choose to list shares outside of the country, mostly in Hong Kong and the United States, either as a primary listing or to supplement existing listings on local bourses. Those that do so can face intense scrutiny from market regulators, investors, media, and the general public. What can they do to better demonstrate the value they will bring to shareholders in international markets?
The author interviewing Prof. Zhigang Tao, Hong Kong University
My capstone looks at the investor relations component, and why Chinese companies should more actively engage key market players to better show their value. I am hypothesizing that companies doing so have larger percentages of institutional shareholders, which will reduce volatility and push the price up over the long-term. This occurs in large part because those firms that are successful will provide the market with a steady stream of reports, forward guidance, and general news updates to give analysts and stakeholders a better understanding of what the company’s value is.
With support from the Institute for Business in the Global Context, I traveled to the Special Administrative Region in Hong Kong to meet experts and practitioners of investor relations and finance there. Given its proximity to the Mainland and relatively market oriented monetary regulation & capital controls, it is no surprise that a number of Chinese companies choose to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. I wanted to get a better understanding of what it takes to have a successful listing in Hong Kong, in which the share price remains relatively stable and increases in value.
by Dan Robinson (MALD 2017)
Technological solutions for agriculture in the developing world have become fairly widespread during the last decade, but challenges remain related to reaching farmers in rural, less connected areas. Well known applications such as M-Farm in Kenya have provided SMS-based market and price information to farmers, while other applications, including Esoko in Ghana, have offered information on weather patterns and other factors. However, due to lack of digital infrastructure or farmer literacy, reaching those at the base of the pyramid remains a significant challenge.
An eKutir farmer’s irrigated tomato plants
eKutir, a social business based in Bhubaneswar in the Odisha State in eastern India, has developed an ICT-based model that is designed to create value at the base of the pyramid. The eKutir model provides “micro-entrepreneurs” working in farming, food sales, and sanitation with access to technology that helps to improve productivity and streamline value chains. Over time, there is potential for this system to make a substantial impact by increasing returns on investment and reducing transaction costs throughout a wide range of value chains.
With support from the IBGC, I had an opportunity to travel to Bhubaneswar in March 2017 to meet with the eKutir management team as well as some of the farmers and entrepreneurs involved in eKutir’s value chains as part of research for my Fletcher capstone project. During my time in India, I was impressed by the consistent positivity among the various people with whom I spoke.
by Stratos Kamenis (MALD 2017)
The massive exodus of the Syrian people has led to a refugee crisis in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have made the long journey across Turkey and then to Greece, putting their lives in danger in the hope of finding a better future in Europe. In 2015, more than a million asylum-seekers took refuge in Europe, with another 500,000 following in the first half of 2016. A deal was struck between the European Union and Turkey in March aimed at limiting the number of migrants and regulating migration by establishing EU-administered camps – the so-called hotspots – on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and Kos, from where the majority of migrants enter Europe.
Refugee boats arriving to the shores of Lesvos (August 2015)
The island of Lesvos found itself under the spotlight of international media as the central entry point to Europe. Some 600,000 refugees and migrants have passed through the island over the past 19 months. After a year of coping with the crisis without aid from international organizations, the impact on Lesvos’ 85,000 permanent residents has been significant. To their credit, the locals have been gracious hosts. Their sense of tolerance and solidarity has been praised by major world figures including Pope Francis, Queen Rania of Jordan, actress Angelina Jolie and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Their humanitarian efforts have earned them a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
by Domoina Rambeloarison (MIB 2017)
By 2020, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is expected to reach $220 billion. Broadly speaking, the term refers to contracting business functions and processes, typically related to information technology (IT), to a third-party service provider. It encompasses a range of activities that include customer service work, data entry, digitization, financial accounting, and other higher value-knowledge processing such as content development, legal services, engineering design, and data analytics. I developed an interest in the sector in the Francophone world after noticing a wave of IT/BPO firms establish offices in my home country, Madagascar.
Teamwork in a Malagasy BPO/IT office
Curious to know more about the sector’s potential impact on the country’s economic base, I traveled to Antananarivo with support from IBGC. I interviewed the managers of four BPO firms, ranging from a large French subsidiary to a Malagasy start-up. I also met with the national information, communication, and technology (ICT) regulatory body, the ICT industry association, the tech hub, and one of the main four telecommunication companies. I learned what attracted these firms to invest and how they overcame the challenges of operating in a low-income country. More importantly, the interviews helped shape my views on how an IT/BPO sector could contribute to economic growth through investment and job creation.
by McKenzie Smith (MIB 2017)
In their 2016 Investor’s Survey, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) reported that 99% of respondents are meeting or exceeding their impact targets, whereas 89% would say the same for financial returns. As with many statistics, this near-perfect success made me wonder about the anecdotes behind the numbers, and the conversations that followed with professors, peers, and practitioners in the impact investing space formed the foundation of my capstone.
Recent research by the GIIN shows that impact data drives business value through five key channels, and other work has focused on just how impact investors are measuring impact. Still others argue for the use of impact classes to bring clarity to how we discuss impact, but few have focused on best practices for actively managing impact performance. As my conversations evolved, my list of questions grew.