Spring 2020 has been a very busy semester at the Fletcher School. In addition to several exciting speaker events and conferences, our students have been busy with business competitions, research projects, and exciting entrepreneurial ventures. As we come to the end of another exciting academic year, we would like to take a look back and recognize the hard work of our students. From developing distribution plans to bring solar energy products to rural communities in India, to brainstorming strategies to bring sustainable practices to the fashion industry, our students have extended their contextual knowledge of business far beyond the Fletcher classroom.
In doing so, our students have not only helped broaden the definition of business, but have made significant impacts on communities and industries around the world. Their hard work and dedication is especially impressive given the circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak. The work they’ve accomplished these past few months is emblematic of the ambition, passion, and sheer resilience of all Fletcher students.
Fletcher D-Prize 2020
Entrepreneurs who can distribute effective poverty solutions in the developing world are an important facet of the business world. That is why The Fletcher School teamed up with the D-Prize, a competition in Boston that expands access to poverty-alleviation interventions in the developing world. Each year, Fletcher hosts the D-Prize competition, which is open to all Fletcher students, alumni, and Tufts undergraduates. The challenge allows students to put their development plans into practice through a summer internship experience, which often leads to full-time entrepreneurial engagement after graduation.
In March 2020, we announced the winners of this year’s D-Prize competition: Resonance Labs, a solar energy start-up created by Fletcher students Nitin Malik (F’20) and Mohit Saini (F’21). Resonance Lab delivers solar panels bundled with an at-home installation kit to several homes in rural Indian communities. The solar panels are more portable and efficient than their traditional alternatives and are offered at a much lower cost. In addition to the panels, the kit includes a television and a water purifier, two household items that are rare commodities in these communities.
Nitin and Mohit’s plan is to target an addressable market of around 20 million customers in four power-deprived Indian states over the next five years. The winning team received $13,000 in seed capital from the Fletcher D-Prize to launch their pilot and fulfill this ambitious objective. Nitin and Mohit’s entrepreneurial ambition doesn’t stop there: Resonance Labs is also competing in the final rounds of the Tufts New Venture Competition, an initiative run by the Gordon Institute at Tufts’ School of Engineering.
Allowing our students to harness their entrepreneurial skills to make a difference around the world is part of what makes The Fletcher School so special. We are eager to see the exciting places that Resonance Labs will take Nitin and Mohit and are immensely proud of the work they’ve accomplished thus far.
CFA Institute Research Challenge
The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual global competition that provides university students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis. Students gain real-world experience as they assume the role of a research analyst and are tested on their ability to value a stock, write an initiation-of-coverage report, and present their recommendations.
Students work in teams to research and analyze a publicly traded stock — sometimes even meeting face-to-face with company management. Each team produces an initiation-of-coverage report on their assigned stock with a buy, sell, or hold recommendation and may be asked to present and defend their thesis to a panel of industry veterans.
This Spring, a team of Fletcher and Tufts students, which included Tim Hu, Konstantina Gota, Sarada Subramanian, Pao Perez, and Craig Uyeno, competed in the CFA Challenge. The team researched, analyzed, and created a financial report for Everbridge, an internet technology and communications company based in Burlington, Massachusetts. Following the devastating attacks on 9/11, Everbridge was founded in 2002 as an emergency-related mass notification SaaS company.
The group of Tufts students analyzed Everbridge’s publicly traded stock and worked diligently to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s addressable market. Through extensive research, the team was also able to identify significant investment opportunities and potential risks. In their report, they identified the best opportunities for competitive positioning and provided a top-to-bottom analysis of market expectations and competitive landscapes, revenue growth patterns, and predicted shifts in customer behavior.
The report they produced not only shows the professional rigor that is characteristic of all Tufts students but the overall value of the education they’ve chosen to pursue. Their dedication to the challenge and deep understanding of rapidly shifting market trends and financial opportunities proved to be a valuable asset through the duration of the competition. The team walked away from the competition victorious; winning all three rounds of the intensive competition, which included a local round, regional round, and global round!
Tim, Konstantina, Sarada, Pao, and Craig’s victory is a huge accomplishment, both for the team members and the entire Tufts community, and will serve as an important milestone in their professional careers.
Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Development Challenge
Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing teamed up with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and invited students across the globe to participate in their annual Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Development Challenge. The competition asks participants to brainstorm and present financing and investment strategies that resolve important environmental, social and governmental issues.
This year, Fletcher students Mark Audigier, Divya Chandra, Guo Chen, and Madhuri Mukherjee participated in the event, where they introduced FARM: Fund for Adopting Responsible Materials. FARM addresses the agricultural plastic waste challenge and makes important investments to supplant the use of plastic mulch with an environmentally-friendly and biodegradable alternative. The team states that these regenerative agricultural practices help incentivize farmers and mulch producers while reducing agricultural plastic waste and enhancing soil fertility.
Mark, Divya, Guo, and Madhuri’s project is vital to agricultural communities everywhere, as polyethylene (PE) mulch has been used for decades to increase crop yields, suppress weed growth, regulate soil temperatures, and increase water usage. While PE mulch was initially thought of as a cost-effective product, it is not biodegradable, reusable, or recyclable, putting an immense strain on the environment. Plastic pollution due to PE mulch usage is a growing environmental challenge in several countries around the world, including the United States.
The Fletcher team’s main challenge was dealing with the direct and indirect costs associated with the use of PE mulch, which are currently not valued appropriately. Their solution was to incentivize farmers to incorporate BDM films, an environmentally-friendly mulch alternative, into their farming practices. FARM negotiates a fixed price with the BDM producers and suppliers to provide a non-cash input credit loan to large farmers. Thus, farmers can purchase BDM films without any upfront cost.
Mark, Divya, Guo, and Madhuri made it to the final round of the competition and presented FARM to a panel of judges via Zoom in mid-April 2020.
FTxBocconi Talent Challenge
Thanks to Fletcher’s free subscription to the Financial Times, Master of International Business student Karishma Arora (F’20) was able to learn about, apply, and participate-in the FTxBocconi Talent Challenge. The challenge was launched by the Financial Times and Bocconi University, a large university in Milan, with the mission of finding new, future-focused ideas to solve real business and strategic challenges. The competition focuses on the unaddressed issues in the fashion, fintech, artificial intelligence, and digital marketing industries and challenges participants to brainstorm creative, digitally focused solutions for these complex problems. The FTxBocconi Talent Challenge seeks to give participants a deep understanding of how innovation works within management, finance, marketing, and entrepreneurial frameworks.
In early February 2020, Karishma traveled to London to participate in the event and was greeted by a diverse team of fellow graduate students and young professionals. She was taken aback by the variety of professional experiences and cultural backgrounds represented by her team and was excited to approach business development with such a multifaceted approach. Her team was tasked with brainstorming creative solutions to address the lack of sustainable protocols in the fashion industry.
At the competition, she participated in several interactive keynote presentations given by several influential business people. Speakers included Michael Spense, world renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner for his work the macroeconomic effects of digitalization, Luca Mignini, former Chief Operations Officer of Campbell’s Soup, and Simon Coxon, Head of Design UX, a company that sits on the forefront of innovative web design and user interface development.
Working alongside graduate students, young professionals, and corporate executives from all over the world, Karishma was able to learn a great deal about the fashion industry and how to develop effective business strategies to reach desired outcomes and large-scale goals. While Karishma’s team did not win the challenge, she expresses her sincerest appreciation for being able to participate in such an exciting competition. She remarks how she left London with a vast network of friends, business professionals, and thought-leaders who are all committed to moving the needle forward for businesses across the globe.
MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network and Training) Challenge
The MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) is a comprehensive workshop designed to give graduate students studying business a hands-on experience in impact investing. The program trains future generations of investors to tackle what’s next in the industry while providing them with the opportunity to source, diligence, and present early-stage ideas to a panel of expert judges.
This Spring, Fletcher students Emery Brown, Lukas Jaehn, Mohit Saini, Nitin Malik, and Rebecca Kurland participated in the competition, where they were one of the 30 participating teams. The team worked with KrishiTantra, an agri-tech start-up that focuses on improving soil health and the livelihoods of farmers in India.
During the final rounds of the competition, the Fletcher team received an honorable mention from the panel of judges. Throughout the challenge, Emily, Lukas, Mohit, Nitin, and Rebecca were able to build meaningful links between mission-driven companies and world-renown graduate schools while simultaneously creating a strong network of students and practitioners in the impact investing field.
We applaud our students for striving to make the world a better place by utilizing the skills they’ve learned at Fletcher. Especially during these uncertain times, the success of our students serves as an encouraging reminder of the excellent work our students complete.