Institute for Business in the Global Context

Where the World of Business Meets the World


Fletcher CFA Challenge Team Advance to Final Regional Round

by Conor Friedmann, Tufts Daily

Read the original article at the Tufts Daily

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) team advanced to the final round at the Americas Regional Challenge after winning the local final of the CFA Institute Research Challenge, an annual research competition in global financial analysis, last month. While the team did not advance to the global round of the competition, they stand as the most successful Fletcher CFA team since the beginning of the school’s involvement in the Challenge five years ago, according to the team’s faculty advisor Patrick Schena, an adjunct assistant professor of international business at Fletcher.

From left to right, the Fletcher CFA Challenge team, Ashraya Dixit MIB, F18, Adi Sarosa MIB, F18, Mariya Ilyas, MALD F18, Doris Hernandez, MALD F18, and JP Craven, MIB F19, pose for a group portrait on March 29, 2018.(Photo Credit: Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily )

The team consisted of Adi Sarosa, a second-year Master of International Business (MIB) student; Ashraya Dixit, also a second-year MIB student; Doris Hernandez, a second-year Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) student; Mariya Ilyas, a second-year MALD student and JP Craven, a first-year MIB student. The team is advised by Schena and industry mentor P. Cameron Hyzer, CFO of Eze Software.

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Student Research: How Tech Companies Handle Fallout of Digital Trust

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.

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Student Research: Demonetization gave a push towards digital payments – But is India ready to do away with cash?

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, 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.

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

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.

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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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Student Research: Project Rashmi – Launch of a local media venture in a tribal area in India

by Alisha Guffey (MIB 2016), Nemmani Sreedhar (MALD 2016), and Rajiv Nair (MALD 2016)

In the summer of 2015, we conducted research to understand media consumption patterns in economically poor areas across India. We found that there was an acute shortage of local content with respect to current affairs across India. This was true even in areas where television and internet penetration was high. We realized that it was business economics that did not allow media companies to spend resources to collect local information, as the costs to do so was more than the revenue that could be generated through advertisements broadcast to a local, generally poor, audience.

Focus group screening of Rshmi

Focus group screening of Rshmi

With support from the Harvard Innovation Lab and MIT Media Lab, we designed a concept that could reduce the costs of local content generation drastically while providing a platform to unheard voices. The concept involves crowd-sourcing content through commonly used mobile phones and curating this content based on relevance to a particular location. The Institute for Business in the Global Context at the Fletcher School supported us with funding and guidance for launching a pilot of our concept in the tribal area of Attappady in South India during summer 2016.

After reaching India, we scheduled meetings with all major stakeholders to get buy-in for our project. We met the Chief Secretary of Kerala (top bureaucrat in the state), Tribal Minister of Kerala, elected leaders of both National Parliament and regional legislative assembly, local government offices, and the District official handling Attappady region. Additionally, we also met community leaders from the hamlets that constitute Attappady. To tackle the issue of communicating in local languages, we recruited two students (Prasad and Bharathan) from the tribal community to assist us.

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Global Research Fellowship: $400+ Million to Create a Knowledge-Based Economy?

by Nadim Choucair (MALD 2016) and Thomas Flynn (MALD 2017)

With no warning, Banque du Liban, the Lebanese central bank, issued Circular 331 in August 2013. If you believe some people, the idea for the Circular came directly from the mind of BdL’s governor, who conceived of it while flying from New York City to Beirut. Others say that it was created at the behest of the Lebanese banks to allow them to invest some of their reserve capital. Whatever the case, the Circular — designed to spur economic growth and create more and better paying jobs — seeks to foster a “knowledge-based economy (KBE).” Essentially, the Circular is a guarantee scheme which encourages Lebanese banks — an economic pillar of the country, yet very risk averse — to invest up to 4% of their capital, amounting to at least $400 million, in startups, incubators, accelerators, and venture capital firms.

The "buzz" surrounding entrepreneurship in Lebanon is palpable

The “buzz” surrounding entrepreneurship in Lebanon is palpable

In summer 2016, we went to Lebanon to answer the question: Given the context of Lebanon, is Circular 331 the most effective way to improve access to finance and therefore to help create a knowledge-based economy?

Lebanon’s economy has struggled since 2010, its political institutions are ineffective, and its infrastructure is weak. The rise of the Islamic State and the war in Syria have scared away foreign investors and tourists, particularly those from the Gulf. Lebanon’s traditionally strong real estate and tourism sectors have subsequently faltered. Instead of focusing on these traditional sectors, the Circular builds on the wave of tech entrepreneurship, and corresponding support organizations, that emerged in Lebanon in the mid-2000s.

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Student Research: Sowing Growth: Catalyzing Development through Inclusive Agribusiness

by Lauren Bieniek, (MALD 2016)

Agribusinesses that include smallholder farmers in their operations present an opportunity to grow incomes and livelihoods. Targeted support from the development community and other social finance partners can catalyze this growth and ensure shared benefits.

In Tanzania, a cadre of small- and medium-sized agribusinesses are emerging to take hold of opportunities in the agriculture sector. Population and urbanization rates are both growing and demand for food products is increasing. There is an additional pressure to meet this demand in a more sustainable and traceable manner. This group of agribusinesses are not only attempting to leverage these trends, but bring smallholder farmers into their value chains as they do so.


Pineapples at Bagamoyo Farms estate

As new agribusinesses enter the agricultural market in Tanzania they see smallholder farmers as a critical component of long-term, sustainable growth. They are not alone. Multinational companies are working with smallholders to strengthen local supply chains and secure future access to raw ingredients. Additionally, development partners continue to work on connecting smallholder farmers with markets as a way to reach the approximately 2 billion people who live on small-scale farms around the world.

Supporting inclusive agribusinesses is an avenue for the development community – comprised of both public and private actors – to create positive social impact on a large scale. Linking its funding and programming with a single agribusiness is an efficient way to effectively reach thousands of smallholder farmers and ensure their inclusion in a profitable enterprise. But what types of support are required to catalyze the potential for social impact?

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Student Case Study: It’s (Not) All About the Money: Mobile Money and Innovation at BRAC

by Jessica Meckler (MALD 2016), under the supervision of Prof. Kim Wilson, CEME Senior Fellow, and with the support of Maria May, BRAC

The following is the executive summary of a case study examining mobile money and innovation. Read the full case study here.

In 2007, M-PESA, a mobile payment service for the unbanked, was launched in Kenya. Within the first month, over 20,000 M-PESA clients registered for the service. This interest indicated an unexplored area with great potential in the field of financial services.[i] After M-PESA, digital financial services and mobile technology quickly gained popularity as a new, transparent, and efficient means to alleviate poverty. The benefits of mobile money seemed plentiful. They presented a means to circumvent the perennial issues of delivering financial products to poor communities in rural areas. Suddenly the geographic challenges of bad roads, inclement weather, and the high costs of maintaining operations in rural areas seemed to be approaching their end – in theory.

Growth of Mobile Money Services Worldwide (Graph from the State of the Industry: Mobile Financial Services for the Unbanked 2014.)

Growth of Mobile Money Services Worldwide
(Graph from the State of the Industry: Mobile Financial Services for the Unbanked 2014.)

Read the Full Case Study

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