Institute for Business in the Global Context

Where the World of Business Meets the World

Tag: student research (page 1 of 3)

Student Research: Engaging the Market: Investor Relations in Mainland China

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.

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Student Research: IBGC Meets “BBGC”: Belgian Brewing in a Global Context

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, MIB ’16 graduate Ali Edelstein travels to Belgium to study its brewing industry.


This week, I realized Belgium is not the same country I lived and worked in two years ago. Its quirky citizens and hidden, lively bars have become more exposed to worldly cares and issues. Belgian companies are being acquired by international competitors; family brewers are innovating to stay relevant among microbrewers; and ISIS is launching a full assault on the country. The Institute for Business in the Global Context gave me a travel grant to support my research around the middle topic, so I traveled to Belgium, not expecting to experience the latter.

The author with Fletcher alum Mark Baker, Diageo’s Director of Global Trade & Regulatory Affairs

I arrived in Brussels on Monday morning and went directly to the European quarter for a meeting with Mark Baker, Fletcher alum and Diageo’s Director of Global Trade & Regulatory Affairs. True to Fletcher spirit, the topics we discussed ranged from the company’s work with local agricultural cooperatives in Africa to its involvement in a recent WTO case.  Mark played an instrumental role in helping me build industry knowledge and secure contacts for my capstone, “Strategic Alliances for Bourbon Barrel Beer: A European Market Opportunity Analysis”.

Tuesday morning came and as I headed to the train station to travel to the Amsterdam office of Diageo’s peer — Brown-Forman’s — I received news of multiple explosions in Brussels. Suicide bombers had initiated explosions in the airport and at Maelbeek metro station. I caught the last train out of the country before they shut down transportation, and while I had a productive meeting at Brown-Forman reviewing the details of my capstone’s proposal, I couldn’t get my favorite city off my mind.

What happened? Were my friends OK? How many people were killed? How could this happen? Would Brussels ever be the same?

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“Entrepreneurship in Nunavik – A Credible Alternative?” by Nathan Cohen-Fournier (MIB ’17)

by Nathan Cohen-Fournier (MIB ’17)

The Arctic, once inaccessible, today offers itself to an interconnected world and thirsty for resources. As melting ice reaches record levels, governments and multinationals are wondering how to take advantage of this region, which is full of oil, natural gas, and minerals. In Québec, the implementation of the Plan Nord is an example of this, with more than $ 50 billion invested over 25 years. Despite growing international attention, northern communities aspire to develop their markets independently. More and more Nunavimmiut – Nunavik residents – are turning to entrepreneurial approaches. During my research during the summer of 2016, I sought to understand the prospects for entrepreneurship in Nunavik.

Read Nathan’s full op-ed in The Huffington Post

Student Research: eKutir: Finding Value at the Base of the Pyramid

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.

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Student Research: “I feel forgotten”: The Hidden Crisis of Greek Islanders

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.

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Student Research: Madagascar: The Last Frontier for IT/BPO in the Francophone World?

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.[1] 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.

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Student Research: Behind the Numbers: Finding Success in Impact Investing

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.
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Student Research: Stronger Links: Strengthening the adaptive capacity of Guatemala’s coffee supply chain

by Adam Houston (MIB 2017)

A leaf affected by drought and coffee rust at high altitude in Chimaltenango district

As the climate changes, so will the coffee industry. In Guatemala in particular, the amount of suitable land for growing coffee and the livelihoods of thousands are projected to change profoundly due to climate change. According to current models, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, increased temperatures, and extended reach of traditionally lower-altitude diseases like coffee rust are likely to be proof of this change, reducing yields for approximately 93% of Guatemala’s current coffee growing land by the year 2050. As the country’s third largest export, this threat to coffee will have a very real economic affect on the country’s GDP; the ability — or lack thereof —  to adapt to these predicted changes will threaten the livelihoods of the more than 100,000 largely smallholder coffee producers. Without the financial means or technical knowledge to adapt to a changing climate, or even a more basic recognition of the gravity of the threat itself, the entire value chain of the Guatemalan coffee industry faces a bleak future.

To better assess the links among actors in this value chain, I traveled to Guatemala to interview smallholder farmers, large-scale farmers, exporters, traders, and experts in the country’s national coffee association, Anacafe. These cases help paint a more holistic picture of what the greatest obstacles are to better adaptation as a form of prevention.

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Student Research: Is It a Small World After All? Disney’s China Gamble

by James Kochien (MIB 2017)

“Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real.”
-Jean Baudrillard

IMG_1620Quick, what’s the world’s largest media company? If you guessed The Walt Disney Company, you’re wrong – Disney is No. 2, after Google, which hardly seems like a fair comparison. After all, over the past decade Disney has absorbed the Marvel superhero franchises, rebooted Star Wars, and put a new generation of princesses on the toy shelves of the world. All of the global top-5 grossing films in 2016 were Disney properties, totaling over $5 billion in sales. Disney parks saw 140 million visitors in 2015, over two times its nearest competitor. And after a string of expansions that left shareholders unsatisfied, Disney parks opened a new Disneyland in Shanghai, China, to great fanfare. No. 1 or not, Disney dominates the spaces in which it plays.

It is also a company with historical and cultural significance that makes its success somewhat surprising in the globalizing economy. It is founded in an “American” version of family values and prosperity.[i] Its films and parks traffic in a sort of watered-down multiculturalism with America firmly at the center, the proverbial passengers on the ship winding through the plucky, costumed children of “It’s a Small World.” Successful films drive attendance at themed park attractions, and successful attractions nurture new film franchises. It’s a tight synergy that allows Disney to charge a premium for its parks and merchandise.

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Student Research: Identifying Binding Constraints and Increasing Economic Complexity in Honduras

by Justin Erickson (MALD 2017)

My research is based on identifying economic development policy priorities for Honduras at the country level. Low income countries like Honduras might benefit by strengthening the rule of law, improving infrastructure, or maintaining macroeconomic stability. However, I am interested in what Honduras should do first. What should be the economic development priority of the country right now? E.g. What is currently constraining higher levels of income growth? This is particularly important for Honduras because it is facing a demographic “window of opportunity” in the upcoming years. This will be a period when the ratio of the working age population to total population is projected to reach its peak.

As part of answering my research question I went to Honduras to interview business owners and investors. I focused on businesses in industrial parks that operate in free zones. Free zones provide exporting companies certain tax benefits. I was curious to find out what other benefits industrial parks provide, and what businesses are doing to overcome barriers to development.

I met with businesses in Choloma, San Pedro Sula, and Tamara. I met with a very large clothing manufacturer, a large services-export business park, and a medium size manufacturer, respectively. I also met with the Honduran National Port Authority from Puerto Cortes, the largest port in the region, as well as professors at the Technical University of Honduras (UTH).

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