Published in TopMBA on Friday the 16th of September by Visnja Milidragovic
Gaurav Jain spent more than a decade working as a process management consultant assisting technology companies in India and Denmark in their attempts to get more ‘lean’. Now, a newfound perspective has led him to pursue an executive MBA as he seeks to bring about a career change. His aim is to become an entrepreneur who strives to help society as a whole function more efficiently and sustainably. Because of Gaurav’s efforts to date in this pursuit, working with various NGOs, he has been awarded a QS Community Scholarship, valued at US$2,000, which will go toward his ESADE executive MBA, the next step towards his future as a change maker.
A father of two daughters, Gaurav spent years building a successful career in IT. Over the years, however, his daily commute in urban centers of Pune and Kolkata, India, exposed him to a different kind of problem: One concerned with social issues, rather than the business operations that he handled daily in his work at IBM.
“Every day, from home to the office and back,” Gaurav reflects, “I was seeing kids on the side of the road who will never have the same starting opportunities as my daughters, because they don’t have any access to quality education.” Inspired by this realization – that missing this crucial aspect in one’s upbringing could mean, “getting on the wrong trajectory in life” – Gaurav began to turn his efforts towards helping underprivileged children.
Gaurav identified Akanksha Foundation, a local charity that helps Indian children with English language skills and was intending to donate money to its cause. However, he quickly learned that giving time – rather than money – would have more impact. Starting out as a volunteer teacher, his personal goal to help children in India “get a few steps closer to an equal starting line in life,” increasingly began to inform his professional aspirations. When he transferred to IBM’s Copenhagen office, he continued volunteering for an organization with similar aims, called Action Child Aid. However, this international move had much bigger implications on his career trajectory than a simple office change or new volunteer engagement. It inspired Gaurav to reevaluate the social impact of his work. “There is always a point in your career where you feel stagnant, and want to do more than just the job,” he adds.
International exposure key to solving problems innovatively, says Gaurav
Gaurav’s experience working between two continents has given him a newfound perspective on both his career and his life purpose. “I think studying and working in different places definitely opens your mind to think differently – and innovatively – about situations and ways of resolving a problem,” he says. Gaurav’s international exposure emboldened him to think more globally and contextualize his professional capacity within larger social issues. “My international exposure and living in different places really helped me become more open and think more about problems prevailing in society,” Gaurav explains. In examining ways in which he could apply his existing skills in a more meaningful way, he reflected on his career in IT and decided it was time for a career change – or rather, a reboot – towards becoming a social entrepreneur. Having identified gaps in his own skillset, he then decided that it was time to get more formal business training. It was time for an MBA.
Elective Exchange Program SDA Bocconi, September 2016
Opportunities are everywhere; you just have to grab them. One of the great possibilities the EMBA at ESADE offers is to participate in a study abroad program in other renowned business schools around the world. From multiple courses and schools one can select the elective which suits best its time and study plan and once accepted the adventure can begin.
I was lucky to be one of five ESADE students selected for SDA Bocconi electives in September 2016 for the course “Corporate Entrepreneurship”. The participants in this seminar came from all over the world: Besides Global and Executive MBA students from SDA Bocconi, people came from UCLA (USA), Mumbai (India), Recanti (Tel Aviv), ESADE (Barcelona) and a few executives were send directly from their companies. Italians, Israelis, Spanish, Germans, Belgians, Luxemburgish, Indians and a Danish professor created a enormous diversity of experiences, nationalities, professions, industries and cultural backgrounds, enriching any group work or class discussion.
During two and a half days we were able to really evolve into the subject, to approach the topic corporate entrepreneurship from different perspectives, learned theoretical models, benchmarks from innovation leaders and understand through case studies different ways of practical applications. The fact that we had people in the class who were entrepreneurs, working in start ups, incubators or leading innovation centres in their companies fused the discussions with actual issues, successes and failures.
Doing all this in a new learning environment with new study colleagues created an exciting experience that I can just recommend anyone who is given the possibility. Electives abroad are not only connecting the best business schools in the world but creating a sense of community by bringing international students closer together, enhancing cultural understanding and creating global networks that might evolve in new partner- and friendships. Isn’t that what an MBA student should aim for?
The origins of the company Made of Genes date back to 2013, when Oscar Flores (Calella, Barcelona, 1985) and Miquel Bru (Barcelona, 1978) (then both unknown) decided to take the ESADE Executive MBA. It was in the Business Development Project course, taught by Prof. Jordi Vinaixa, that they met and they got the idea for what would become their company several years later and take up a big part of their lives. Miquel came from the business development field in a technology consulting firm focusing on the Health Sector. Oscar had just finished his PhD and Bio-Medicine in a joint programme between IRB Barcelona and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre.
We spoke to Oscar and Miquel, two of our ‘changers’ to find out about the project that they started in ESADE’s classrooms and which has ended up as a firm with a bright future.
How did Made of Genes come about?
Oscar Flores [OF]: Made of Genes is a firm focusing on personal genetics. Here, one should remember that genetics is involved in 9 out of 10 of the main causes of death in developed countries. Nevertheless, personalised genetic medicine still needs to overcome several hurdles: the high cost of gene sequencing, the technological complexity of managing the resulting data, and the lack of knowledge of the field by both health professionals and by society in general. In Made of Genes, we try to find answers to these problems, providing technical tools and a legal framework so that experts’ knowledge reaches the man in the street. There are now eleven of us in the company, we have secured over €600,000 in funding and we are laying the ground for the firm’s internationalisation.
Miquel Bru [MB]: The truth is, the whole thing started as just another assignment in the Master’s programme but Oscar’s vision hooked me from the outset. It was not just a question of solving technical problems — that was the easy bit. The hard part lay coming up with a package that: both fostered tailor-made care for each patient and put the patient’s health and illness first. Moreover, this had to be based on knowledge of the patient’s genome and the testing had to be responsible, efficient, protect users and be sustainable in system terms.
In broad terms, how does Made of Genes work at the technical level?
MB: There are studies suggesting that less than 30% of prescription medicines are effective due to individual variations. This makes one realise that we are not all the same and that the differences between individuals should be taken into account. This is the idea that led us to develop the technological part of our product: a high-performance computing system that allows one to obtain, analyse and store genetic data from a saliva or blood sample. We use the system to provide medical specialists, researchers and customised health services with this genetic data as and when each user wishes. We offer preventive solutions and diagnostic support, and personalised services/products created specifically for each user depending on his genotype. Each person decides what should be done with his genetic data and we do our utmost to carry those wishes out while ensuring complete security and privacy. This ensures that our customers can receive medical care that is both personalised and precise.
On your web site, you argue that “Everyone should be given the chance of improving his or her life”. How do you see this democratisation of technology at Made of Genes?
MB: To answer that, let me put the Health Sector in context. According to the OECD, public spending alone on Health rose from 6.9 % of GDP to almost 9 % in 2030 and will rise to 14 % by 2060. We live in a society that is ever more demanding when it comes to Health Care. In a globalised world in which knowledge flows freely, we have to come up with strategies that allow efficient Health Care through policies and tools that focus on preventive medicine, more effective treatment and the re-use of information by various service providers.
OF: At Made of Genes we have always wanted to provide personalised medicine based on Genomics. That is why our model puts the client first. There are many companies, especially in The United States, which have seen the value of genome data and which gather personal information to commercially exploit it later on. We have always shunned this model. We want to create a genomic service that anyone can use without renouncing privacy, and always have the final say in what information is released and to whom.
You met each other taking an Executive MBA [EMBA] programme at ESADE. What made you decide to take it?
OF: I always knew that I wanted to work in business. I am a Computer Engineer and when I was finishing my degree, I began a diploma in Business Studies, which I dropped when I decided to do a PhD. It was then that I decided to do an MBA on finishing my thesis.
MB: For me, the key factor was the need for a change. After five years working in consultancy, I wanted new challenges and goals. However, I thought that just a change of job was not the answer. I needed to think, acquire knowledge and pool experience with others before taking the next step. Here, the ESADE EMBA seemed just the ticket.
Did you want to become entrepreneurs before you took the ESADE EMBA programme? What influence did the EMBA have on your project?
MB: No, I wasn’t thinking about starting my own business, rather it was part of the process I just mentioned. The EMBA is not an Academic Master’s programme but a change process that gives you the tools to reflect and to plan your next objectives. With regard to how much the EMBA affected our project, it all began as just another assignment and a year and a half later, we are striving to make the dream come true. I don’t think we would be where we are now if it had not been for the EMBA programme.
OF: I had also neither thought about founding a company and in fact I am still surprised at doing so. In the beginning, it was simply a capstone project. We had found we had too good an opportunity to let it slip through our hands. I suppose that the EMBA programme gave me the self-confidence I needed to tackle something as inherently risky as founding a start-up.
What knowledge and values did you acquire during the EMBA programme and that you applied in setting up Made of Genes?
OF: Made of Genes is a firm that is inspired by the Lean Start-up model. We began with an idea and its corresponding Business Model Canvas. Then, after several validations of the idea, we varied it up to eight times until we found a value proposition where we could say to ourselves: “That’s the idea, now let’s register a company”. We then carried out several more iterations of the idea and honed our vision in the light of market feedback and the resources we had available. Nevertheless, having a flexible, dynamic vision at the outset was vital. With hindsight, the first seven business models would not have worked in the real world.
MB: Yes, that’s absolutely right. The obsession with validating the model and focusing on the market has become of part of Made of Genes‘ DNA. It is something that we have established as ‘best practice’ among our various work teams. The key is to meet users’ real needs in which technology has to solve problems, not create them.
What changes has taking the EMBA made to your careers? Did it mark a watershed in your lives?
OF: It certainly made a huge difference. When I joined the MBA programme, my view of things was an entirely technical one. For me, the technical aspects were the most important things about a product and I naively believed that a good product would sell itself. After completing EMBA, I no longer thought that. I had become aware that the market and sales strategy are much more important than the product. Paradoxically, I believe that having the new vision of the market helps technical types like me to identify real needs and thereby develop better products.
MB: The key point is the 360-degree vision EMBA gives you in a classroom with 50 professionals drawn from different backgrounds and experience. In the year and a half that the programme lasts, you take this in and it changes your way of seeing a company and helps you grasp and take decisions far beyond your context or position. Having founded a start-up marks a watershed in one’s personal and professional development. Why would you recommend taking the EMBA?
MB: Taking the EMBA is a unique opportunity for personal, professional and intellectual growth. I would recommend it to anyone who is eager to grow and learn in ways that go beyond the strictly academic.
OF: As I mentioned, I believe that the EMBA programme is a way of giving a technical type like me the tools they need to thrive in senior management. To be honest, I would not recommend EMBA for everyone merely as a way to get a better job. I think such an approach is the wrong one and that there are many other ways of climbing the ladder — for example, through professional specialisation. An EMBA is a way of getting a better grasp of business complexity while renouncing greater specialisation. If you aim to get this wider grasp of business, the EMBA programme is undoubtedly one of the best investments in time and money that you can make.
How would you sum up your experience as entrepreneurs? What would you say to someone who was thinking of setting up his or her own company?
MB: Entrepreneurship is a way of life for us. We think about Made of Genes 24 hours a day. Passion for one’s project is vital for anyone thinking of starting their own business. Second, I recommend that the decision be a family one. Do not even think about starting a business unless your wife or husband is willing to back you to the hilt. Last, when it comes to finding those who will help you along the way, seek people who complement your skills, who you can rely on, trust and learn from.
OF: I would ask someone thinking of beginning a firm whether they are just looking for a job tailored to their needs or for a scaleable solution to a social problem. They are two very different notions of entrepreneurship and involve different levels of risk and self-sacrifice. When it comes to scaleable business models, we in Spain cannot afford to continue thinking only about the domestic market. This means that we need to plan internationalising our business from the outset despite limited resources and access to funding. Whether we like it or not, we still have a lot of catching up to do when we compare how things work in the start-up eco-system in The United States.
Pubblished in Cinco Días on Monday the 19th August 2016 by Javier García Ropero
MBA programmes are considered the best training option for would-be senior managers yet they can also be a great place to start a small business. One such company — Brava Fabrics — was born in the ESADE MBA programme. It makes printed shirts (whether with bicycle or cassette designs) which are unique. The firm has made a splash in under a year and a half after being set up. Its founders, Ramón Barbero and Ivan Monells met while working together in the EMBA programme.
Ramón Barbero, on the left, and Ivan Monells, partners of Brava Fabrics. (Marta Jordi).
The firm’s garments have a ‘hipster’ touch, although both Brava Fabrics‘ founders are loathe to pigeon-hole their customers. “We want customers to love our style. The aim is not for customers to buy just a great shirt but rather to wear a ‘Brava’ on special occasions, explained Ramón Barbero, a 36-year old who trained as an Economist and who looks after the firm’s branding. His partner, 30-year old Ivan Monells, is an Industrial and Computing Engineer who takes care of the logistical and financial sides of the business. The two men have different backgrounds but they found that their skills nicely complemented one another when they worked together on the EMBA Capstone Project.
The Brava showroom is sited in Indiana House, in the Poble-Nou district of Barcelona.
It was then that they decided to work together on a new venture after trying their hands at various on-line businesses on their own. The earlier experiences helped them learn and see things more clearly. One of the things they saw from the outset was that the new business had to be based on E-Commerce. They studied various sectors and realised that men’s fashion had bags of potential. “We chose shirts because it is a product that creates barriers to entry. You know that others are not going to copy your products — at least in the short term”, said Ramón Barbero. They scraped together their savings and got a couple of entrepreneurship loans to create Brava. In the beginning, the printing was not going to be the differentiating feature. “However, we quickly saw that it was what made the product a hit”, said Barbero, who noted that the company’s shirt designs are agreed on by the whole team, which comprises three members of staff and two outsiders.
This year, they hope turnover will rise to €600,000, a big rise over 2015 (€150,000). Their sales are made through the on-line channel, while 15% of sales are split between their Barcelona showroom and various marketing campaigns, such as city market stalls. Last year, the company was present in both Palo Alto and Barcelona, helping fuel the company’s launch.
This growth has helped boost production. They bring out four collections a year, which now feature 10,000 garments apiece. However, they also come up with new products every two months. “That means our products change every month, spurring customers to keep spending”, said Barbero. Short-sleeved shirts, Bermuda Shorts, men’s underwear, and women’s dresses and blouses make up a range of the firm’s highly distinctive garments. The next step will be to expand the firm’s equity in 2017.
Published in Poets and Quants on Sunday 12nd June 2016 by Jeff Schmitt
“The ESADE EMBA taught me to think differently. It gave me the ability to focus on what’s important, plus the ability to look further, from a different point of view. It also taught me to make decisions with limited information. Instead of being afraid of that, I have learned how to make the most of it and optimise it.”
Paula Lafora Ornosa
ESADE Business School
Location: Madrid, Spain
Undergraduate School and Degree: Business and Administration at Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Where are you currently working? Horizontal Project Manager in Customer Management at Iberia Airlines
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Member of Yaakar Africa, an NGO that develops various projects in Senegal, helping people who have nothing to develop their own businesses, such as farming, selling marmalade and juice, sewing, and dressmaking. The organisation provides these communities with medical materials and school supplies, and it also opens internet centres in rural communities. In addition, it helps people who wish to continue their studies by providing scholarships so that they can graduate.
Active participation in Foro Generación del 78, an association that provides a venue for young professionals and entrepreneurs to meet with political, social, and business leaders and to learn from their experience and knowledge.
Specific collaborations with Exodus Rescue and Care, an association founded in March 2015 that aims to promote and defend the rights of every person — especially children — considered to be a refugee.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In the ninth month of the EMBA, my company offered me a promotion and I joined the new Customer Management unit as Horizontal Project Manager. This position allows me to apply some of the knowledge and experiences I acquired in the ESADE EMBA.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am very proud of being part of my company’s transformation plan: Iberia’s Plan de Futuro. I joined the project at the beginning, in April 2013. In 2012, the company had reported a significant loss.
The transformation plan aimed to introduce permanent structural change across all areas of the business in order to stem losses and return the airline to profitability, which happened in 2014. Iberia’sPlan de Futuro was led by our CEO, Luis Gallego, and our CFO, Javier Sánchez Prieto. The plan was coordinated by Strategic Management. As I said before, I joined it at the outset, so I had the opportunity to be involved in defining the plan. The Plan de Futuro was structured with 32 initiatives spread throughout the organisation and was driven by “change engines” (directors who were able to look beyond the day-to-day work in order to draw up a medium-term strategy). I was responsible for follow-up, monitoring and challenges in the transformation process in the sales, handling and internal communication areas.
The entire organisation worked very hard, and we are still working hard to consolidate our good results and achieve sustainable growth. Thanks to Plan de Futuro, we lay the foundation for the launch.
Favorite MBA Courses? Advanced Marketing Management, Corporate Finance, Corporate Responsibility, Economics and Geopolitics, as well as the learning experience in India.
Everyone knows that the Executive MBA programme fosters participants’ professional development.
There are many ways in which it does so. Here, one can highlight Speed Meetings, networking activities held by leading companies and headhunters in which EMBA students attend short interviews with several interviewers. This gives participants the chance to give potential recruiters their CVs and to get feedback.
The Executive MBA programme’s Careers Service holds these activities each year to foster opportunities for professional growth among participants. Such opportunities may involve either changing company or getting promoted in one’s present firm.
Three Speed Meetings were held for EMBA students during the 2015-2016 academic year on both the Barcelona and the Madrid campuses. Many companies took part in the events, including: Danone; Desigual; SEAT; BT; Massimo Dutti; Alstom (GE). Leading headhunters attending included Michael Page, Cátenon, Robert Walters, and Montaner.
Mercè Clapés, Head of the Careers Service for these kinds of events, said that putting students in contact with executive recruitment experts and potential employers “opened doors”. She also noted that the feedback they provided “is invaluable and of great value in taking the next career step”.
“Nobody will believe more in you and your product than you. You have to have a vision of your company and carry it out”, said Anshuman Vohra, founder of Bulldog Gin, at the 2nd session of the ESADE EMBA Update & Connections cycle, held on the 7th of July.
Anshuman Vohra was sure that gin had a lot of market potential and that he would do his utmost to make sure the beverage reached bars and households around the world.
His father made the young Anshuman his first Gin & Tonic. Anshuman loved the taste and years later he was irked when he discovered that nobody asked for gin in bars. By contrast, the shelves of bars brimmed with over twenty brands of vodka. He simply could not understand why customers did not drink gin in bars and restaurants.
After several years of working in a merchant bank, Vohra decided the moment had come to set up his own company. Gin and Tonic was a remarkable drink, it only remained to convince the rest of the world. “My generation saw gin as the spirit of a bygone age. It was vodka that was the ‘in’ drink. ”. He began organising blind tastings of vodka and discovered that people could not distinguish between brands — all vodkas tasted more or less the same. Yet when he asked drinkers what their favourite brand of vodka was, people had very strong views. Everyone had one or two brands that they considered better than all the rest and that they would not change for anything. The key lay in the emotional link consumers had forged with brands. By contrast, gin did have a distinctive taste: each brand’s mixture of ingredients made it unique. If Anshuman could create a great-tasting gin and forge an emotional bond between consumers and the brand, he would score a great hit. He was convinced he could pull it off.
It was then that Vohra began his arduous quest for the perfect product. He spoke with entrepreneurs for hours and was fascinated by their energy. All of them had one thing in common: they were passionate about their ideas and were ready to back them up to the hilt because they were utterly convinced that they would work. After an endless search, he finally found a London distillery that was capable of creating the gin of his dreams but that was not to be found in the market — a perfect combination of cereals, cardamon and spices.
At last in 2006, what had started as an idea at last became a product. He had managed to create a gin for the new world, breaking down the barriers of those who saw gin as ‘old-fashioned’ and a tipple for their grandparents. Vohra knew that not everyone would like Bulldog Gin but those that did would become true fans.
“The best idea in the world is worthless if it is carried out badly”, concluded Anshuman Vohra at the end of the session. The talk was part of the EMBA Update & Connections cycle, which provides valuable lessons for today’s business on key subjects and gives all Executive MBA cohorts the chance to pool their experience.
Published in Business Because on Thursday 14th July 2016 by Christian Robinson.
Sebastian Oergel’s EMBA fits perfectly around his high-ranking managerial duties at the Tom Tailor Group.
Sebastian Oergel will graduate from the part-time ESADE EMBA in 2017
Hailing from Stuttgart, Sebastian Oergel can boast over a decade of business experience in fashion, from storied Italian houses such as Ermenegildo Zegna to retail titans like Adidas and Nike.
In that decade, Sebastian worked in five countries, including Germany, Britain, Hong Kong, Panama, and The Netherlands. As a result, he slotted perfectly into the diverse cohort on ESADE’s Executive MBA program, which requires its students to complete three separate trips abroad to top business schools, as well as offering a four-month exchange program.
Halfway into the 16-month program, Sebastian has already begun to reap its benefits, gaining multiple fashion contacts, and is applying his learning continuously to his new role as manager in international sales at Germany’s venerated Tom Tailor Group, where he is responsible for their expansion drive into Africa and the Middle East.
Why did you decide to pursue a EMBA at ESADE?
Though my supervisor initiated the process, I decided which school I would study at, taking into account several factors important to me, such as ranking, diversity, course length, methodology, class size and location.
I chose ESADE because it is, in my eyes, the best business school in Europe, and met all of my personal requirements.
I was also able to pursue electives such as negotiations, B2B sales management and strategic digital marketing, which are all directly applicable to my new role as manager in international sales at the Tom Tailor Group.
How have you gained from your MBA experience so far?
The monthly format works perfectly in tandem with my responsibilities at the Tom Tailor Group. And I can’t underestimate the added value gained from the international exposure and relevant industry insights.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit India for an intensive study week at the Indian School of Business, conducted alongside company visits in Mumbai. There are also trips to Brazil, China, and the US.
I’ve gained many fresh perspectives from my classmates, I’ve met an impressive array of people from the fashion industry and other fields, and I am convinced that some of these contacts will open doors for new business and career opportunities.
Published in Business Because on Wednesday 6th July 2016 by Christian Robinson.
Former BBDO PR Manager Irene Rocha attained a holistic outlook at ESADE, which she then used to grow an e-learning start-up.
Having worked for 10 years in Madrid, Irene Rocha knew that an Executive MBA (EMBA) was the next step she had to take in her professional career. Though she wasn’t unaccomplished by any measure.
Irene was, by the time she started her EMBA at ESADE Business School in Madrid, already an experienced PR manager at BBDO, the advertising agency that supposedly inspired AMC’s Mad Men. During her studies, she consistently applied her comprehensive learning to her role at Gamelearn, the world’s leading game-based e-learning platform.
Now, Irene is going it alone, implementing her highly-developed business skills and assiduous work ethic to her own PR, Marketing and Communications company. And she has big plans for the future.
Why did you decide to pursue an EMBA at ESADE?
I wanted to do two things, the first being to pursue future managerial roles in sales and marketing within the consumer goods industry.
Step two of my career path was to leverage the knowledge and experience I would gain from my EMBA to start my own communication and marketing consultancy with a global management perspective.
I chose ESADE because they provided a learning model predicated on collaboration and participation, as well as a very well-sorted and cohesive international program, which is crucial in a globalized world.
Which tracks or specializations did you choose and why?
For the first 12 months of the EMBA we study the core content, but in the final four months we’re able to choose from a range of tracks.
I focused on Marketing and Communication, since this was already my area of interest and expertise, and believed I could benefit from the more specialized network.
Discover the stories of Ignacio and Santiago (Argentina), María Luisa (Colombia) and Santiago (Peru) regarding the professional and personal changes that the programme made to their lives. They are all executives who decided to take their careers to the next level and came to Spain to undertake the ESADE Executive MBA.