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 class worked with the Ecuador Trade Commission on three different projects. One team’s strategy led to the creation of 10,000 new jobs in Ecuador. In 2015, students in the class once again worked with clients in Ecuador. This post highlights one of their projects.
By Tommy Kantapasara
For International Business Strategy Lab class, I was part of the TAME airline team. TAME (pronounced tah-may) is Ecuador’s national airline.
Our team of four consisted of three second-year students and one first-year student who came from diverse backgrounds ranging from engineering to consulting and banking. We all wanted to work on the TAME airline project because of our personal fascination with the airline industry and our desire to know how an airline operates.
Our project was to evaluate and consider a launch of a new route for TAME from Quito, Ecuador (UIO) to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and our main client was ProEcuador, the Ecuador government agency whose objective is to facilitate and grow trading activities between the United States and Ecuador.
The first eight weeks of the course were spent laying the foundation of the client’s problem and gathering insights from different airline industry experts. We examined everything from the potential for air cargo, passenger demand between UIO and ORD, airport infrastructure at each airport, government regulations, aircraft capacity configuration, the approval process for new routes, and most importantly, whether the route made commercial sense.
Additionally, it was important for us to understand the context from several perspectives: the people (from cargo entrepreneurs to airline experts), the organization (businesses), and the government. With all these stakeholders, we applied “MORS” concepts during the whole case to address all the stakeholders’ needs (The importance of MORS and the Management and Organizations Dept. will become clear when you join Kellogg).
Apart from the analysis we did, the most fascinating experiences were the “experiential learning” trips we went on. Before our trip to Quito, we visited O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago. The clients wanted us to have a frame of reference for our visit to their country, and therefore arranged for us to visit the facilities at O’Hare, one of the world’s largest airports by passenger and cargo traffic. We spent the morning at O’Hare on the live runway and saw the cargo operations where Boeing 747s from Taiwan were landing and pulling up to the cargo center. The complexity in operating an airport as large as O’Hare kept us in awe of the airline businesses.
The highlight of the class was certainly our trip to Quito, the highest capital city above sea level in the world (2.8km or 9,200 ft). Our five-day visit included a visit to a rose farm (Ecuador’s largest air cargo export) and the flower export association, as well as a meeting with the TAME Airlines CEO. We were given a tour of TAME cargo and Quito airport operations; we were also invited into a plane’s pilot cockpit, the control room of the airport operation – all of which felt so surreal. Through the day, instead of feeling we were causing disturbances to people doing their work, we felt so welcomed as everyone was so eager to share their daily experiences.
Additionally, we were invited to meet the Minister of International Trade to present our market assessment of the project. It was incredible how our findings and preliminary recommendation brought on lively discussions. Our meeting with the minister garnered media attention. We were interviewed and found out later it was broadcast nationwide! We then met with representatives from the Ministry of Transportation and Tourism. Understanding what each organization’s interests and objectives were shed light into the complex organization and interaction between private and public enterprises. Seeing it all come together was a powerful way to see how a nation is run, the challenges it faces and how the decision it makes will impact and steer the direction of the country’s growth journey.
Our trip was made more special when our client took us on a tour of Quito. Understanding the history of the capital city put everything we read about the country beforehand into perspective. This experiential learning opportunity opened our eyes to a new culture and a new life. We were so proud to have been part of this project, and our memory of the good people of Ecuador and the beautiful historic city will lead us to return again soon.
Tommy Kantapasara ’15 graduated from Kellogg’s Two-Year MBA program in June. He is originally from Thailand. He joined Citigroup in Investment Banking in New York City.