By Mikhail Petrov
Two years ago, Kellogg introduced a new experiential learning class focused on international business strategy development. I am interested in international development, and I wondered what working on a real consulting project was like, so this class provided an opportunity for me to do both.
One year later, Jasmine Lipford, Andrew Tibbetts, Emi Yokoshima and I found out the implementation of our strategy from class resulted in 10,000 new jobs and the biggest stevia growing project in Ecuador.
International Business Strategy Lab, taught by Prof. Susan Perkins, provides a real-life consulting experience for students to work with international clients. In 2014 the whole class worked with the Ecuador Trade Commission. We were divided into three groups based on our interests and prior experience. Projects included:
- A new airline route from Quito to Chicago
- Export of Ecuadorian tilapia to the United States
- Our project: stevia production in Ecuador
For those who don’t know, stevia is one of the most rapidly growing natural sugar substitutes in the world. It is extracted from a stevia plant.
We started our project by doing some market research and looking into the industry, since none of us was familiar with it. Over the course of several weeks we conducted primary and secondary research. We also met with our client every other week to make sure we were on the same page.
Halfway into the class, we felt we had a good idea of how Ecuador could win in the marketplace.
Two other students and I were lucky to travel with our professor to Ecuador and meet the Minister of Foreign Trade and local stevia producers. Our research in advance of the trip led us to believe that local production was not developed enough to start direct exports to the U.S. Visits to local markets verified our hypothesis. Instead, we advised the Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce focus on developing the raw stevia production and get buy-in from an outside partner.
The next question we faced was how to make an impact and implement the strategy.
That’s where the Kellogg alumni network came into play.
We were amazed how helpful and responsive alumni were when we asked those who work with stevia to talk with us about our project. Through the alumni network we found several key players in the industry. One of the alums became interested in working with the Ecuadorian Commission, was on board with our recommendation and was looking for potential partners.
Last summer that alum, who works with a multinational company, partnered with the Ecuadorian Commission, and that partnership developed into a massive project for stevia production. It created 10,000 jobs in a depressed region of Ecuador and also represented a big step in stevia production development. We are looking forward to completion of their project and hope to see many more projects like it in the future.
Mikhail graduated from Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program in 2015. He currently is a consultant at Bain & Company’s London office, where he did his summer internship.