COVER STORY // SPRING 2014
Ross Around The World
While firmly planted in
the Midwest, Ross has
a decidedly global reach,
especially when one considers the
many ways that Ross alumni, students,
and faculty are making a difference throughout the world.
Their impact is felt globally — whether it's creating a new
model of rural healthcare in Uganda, launching a hot new
startup in Silicon Valley, or training the next generation of
executives in India. These stories show the many ways the Ross
Community is planting the Block M flag on every continent.
in Rural Africa
The learning curve is steep when starting a new venture
abroad — just ask Paul Clyde and his students. Clyde, lecturer
of business economics and public policy, is spearheading
the ambitious project of building a self-sustaining hospital
from the ground up to serve rural residents in Uganda.
The project is more than a business venture — it's a
laboratory for new models of healthcare delivery Clyde
hopes can be replicated throughout the developing world.
It's also a prime opportunity for students to learn firsthand the
challenges of working in rural, developing countries. Evening
MBA student Pascale Leroueil, PhD '08 Chemistry, has spent
most of her life in the lab. She's a vaccine research scientist at
U-M Medical School who sees the value in combining business
and science to improve healthcare among the world's poor.
She worked with a MAP team last semester in Jinja,
Uganda, that analyzed a cost structure for the proposed
hospital. The team studied whether they could charge richer
patients more for discretionary things like private rooms
to subsidize the cost of basic care for poorer patients.
"Business is an amazing tool that allows you to look at what
you want to do, analyze your constraints, and come up with
a way to do it," she says. "Nothing replaces being there in
order to know your constraints. Some things surprise you.
When I visited hospitals there, I saw they had computers and
medical equipment, but not reliable electricity. Those are
things you just don't think about in the lab or classroom."
Clyde has had a number of students, both with MAP teams and
from his Healthcare Delivery in Emerging Markets class, work
on the Uganda project. It's also part of the new Living Business
Model Initiative, in which Ross students work on a single
project long-term with students and faculty from other U-M
schools such as law and medicine, as well as Ugandan clinicians.
"It's easy to get your mind stuck in the way things are done
in the U.S. or even the way they've been done in developing
countries," says Clyde. "But by going there and seeing what's
possible, you start thinking about things in a totally new way.
That's how innovation is going to happen in healthcare."
MBA students are clamoring for international
experiences, and Ross' signature Multidisciplinary
Action Projects are an enriching way to get them.
Olga Avrutin, MBA '14, worked on a MAP team last
year at Belcorp, a major cosmetics company in Lima,
Peru, that prides itself on social responsibility.
"I definitely wanted an international experience,"
says Avrutin, whose interest in the beauty industry
made the Belcorp MAP a natural fit.
MAP is no vacation, she says. You're working,
interacting with local business people, and you
"see things through a different set of eyes."
Last year, Belcorp hosted two projects. One team
worked on the challenges of setting inventory
policies when much of the selling is done through
solo independent vendors; the other focused on a new
segmentation methodology to drive fragrance sales.
The international scope of MAP continues to grow:
This year's 89 MAP projects — including two more at
Belcorp — touched two dozen different countries.
Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, associate professor of management
and organizations, has been involved with numerous
international MAPs, especially in Asia and Latin America.
"The key advantage is it allows our students to have a deeper
immersion into the global economy than you would get from
simply a week traveling abroad, seeing some sights," he says.
"They have to collaborate, negotiate, and coordinate, and
sometimes resolve conflicts with people from other cultures.
They get a deep experience that opens their eyes and gets them
more culturally attuned to the challenges of doing business
abroad or doing business with people from different cultures."
Avrutin says the challenges an overseas experience can
bring can't be duplicated in the classroom: "It definitely
brings the team together in a different way."
the Digital Age
The man at the helm of the Washington, D.C.,-based National
Geographic Society is not an explorer, photographer,
or wildlife expert. But John Fahey, MBA '75, has what
National Geographic needs in the digital age — enough
experience in publishing, entertainment, and cable
TV battles to know you never get comfortable.
Even as he transitioned to chairman this year — he was CEO
of National Geographic from 1998 to 2013 — he's looking
several moves ahead. The current cable TV business model
has about five to 10 more years of life, in his opinion, and
the NatGeo cable channels are a big source of revenue
and engagement. He's also eyeing the future of National
Geographic's famed photography and articles — What will
people pay for online and what should be offered for free?
"Everyone understands the business models of the past
and it works for everybody," Fahey says. "But nobody
has the magic formula for what comes next."
Dealing with what comes next is right in Fahey's wheelhouse.
He used every bit of the business and financial acumen he
learned at Ross during his tenure at Time Warner Inc. He
worked at HBO in the early days when it was a small money
loser, and he helped launch the Cinemax channel. He also led
Time Life, the book and music division of Time Warner, before
joining National Geographic to first lead its for-profit ventures.
Taking overall command of nonprofit National Geographic also
put his leadership skills to the test. Some resisted his moves
to print the famed magazine in more languages and to launch
the NatGeo cable channels. But change was needed to keep
the famed organization relevant and serving its members.
It's that sense of
stewardship inherent in
the National Geographic
culture that drives Fahey.
"National Geographic isn't just
about media, it's a mission," he says.
"It's a mission to take care of the
planet and its people. I've been
fortunate to work for this
remarkable organization that's
allowed me to see the world, and to help make it more relevant
and stronger than when I arrived. I think it is, and I have to tell
you it feels great."
in Silicon Valley
For a company less than a year old, Lob.com has enjoyed quite
a ride. Founded by Harry Zhang, BBA '11, and Leore Avidar,
BBA '11, it was backed by Y Combinator, the incubator that
spawned Reddit and Dropbox, and received $2.4 million in
seed funding from some well-known Silicon Valley investors.
Even better, the cloud-based print solutions service is
attracting new customers, hiring people, and growing revenue.
Its journey shows how fast a disruptive idea can gain traction.
"That's one thing about a startup: you really feel it evolve
day by day," says Zhang. "There's such a direct correlation
between every move you make and results." He and Avidar
say the knowledge they gained at Ross and the power of
the alumni network gave them the confidence to quit
their corporate jobs and become tech entrepreneurs.
The idea for San Francisco-based Lob.com was hatched
when Zhang was at Microsoft and Avidar at Amazon Web
Services. Zhang was frustrated because he wanted to
mail notices to customers who were near renewal dates
and there was no way to automate that with printers.
But both were familiar with application programming interface
(API) tools and saw most of the printing industry wasn't
making use of it. Lob.com uses a cloud-based API to allow
businesses to easily arrange printing needs, be it big or small.
Customers don't have to manually manage the process.
"Printing is a huge industry that's been largely untouched
by API engineering and it's ripe for disruption," says
Dan Zhao, BBA '11, who joined his classmates at Lob.com later.
"So while printing might sound kind of boring, we're really an
API company. We connect the physical world with the virtual
world so that businesses can be more efficient and agile."
Things moved fast for Avidar and Zhang after the idea phase.
They applied to be part of Y Combinator last year and were
among those accepted from thousands of applications.
Y Combinator comes with a bit of funding and plenty of
mentorship and access to Silicon Valley players. The subsequent
seed funding that's spurring growth was a direct result.
"This isn't something we want to work on for a couple
of years and sell," says Avidar. "We want to build a
lasting company that will have an impact for years."
Developing Clean Tech
in a European Economy
As Finland looks to focus its future
economy around green enterprise, it needs
somebody who understands not only technology, but
finance, strategy, environmental policy, and engineering.
So it turned to U-M Ross Professor Peter Adriaens. He teaches
entrepreneurship at Ross, and is a professor at U-M's College of
Engineering and School of Natural Resources and Environment.
He's on a two-and-a-half-year appointment as distinguished
professor at the Research Institute for the Finnish
Economy, the country's main economic think tank. He's
heading up a team to map an action plan for transforming
the country's economy around clean technology.
"This isn't a research project, it's a huge undertaking," says
Adriaens. "We're using a suite of tools, KeyStone Compact, that
originated from our work at the Zell Lurie Institute over the
last eight years to map out the assets and capabilities across
corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises, and realign
them across industry meta-clusters. The objective is to identify
pivot opportunities from cost-driven industry silos to valuedriven
business ecosystems. These clusters are then structured
into thematic portfolios of public and private equities with
specified return/risk profiles. That's what investors want to see."
For example, Finland has a lot of existing assets in
communications technology, chemical industries, and pulp and
paper companies. How do you get a company like Nokia to apply
its communications technology to something like smart power
grids? Can the paper and pulp and chemical industries combine
expertise to develop green chemistries? How do big companies
and small/medium enterprises partner with startups?
Adriaens will spend a full year on sabbatical working on
the project, and will go back and forth to continue the work
after the year is up. In addition to mapping and planning
new supply chains, his work also involves the design of new
portfolio investment vehicles, and a policy road map.
"This is something the country wants, but just because
policymakers want it doesn't mean companies are just going
to suddenly change," he says. "You need an inducement. That's
why we're working with these private-sector companies, along
with pension fund and private equity investors interested in
clusters of innovation. We have more than 2,500 companies
engaged. To date, Ireland, Switzerland and Singapore have
signaled interest for us to design a similar program."
Priming the Next
Generation of Global
Executives in Asia
Successful companies know that leadership development
is an ongoing journey. Ross has deep ties in India, both in
industry and academia. So it's only natural that Larsen &
Toubro Ltd., a $14 billion conglomerate in India, turned to
Ross Executive Education in 2012 to prepare their up-andcoming
executives for the global challenges that lay ahead.
"We've expanded globally, but even in India our
competition isn't just from Indian companies," says
Neville Lobo, vice president of corporate human resources
and director of the company's leadership development
academy. "We compete with companies like Foster
Wheeler, Samsung, and Siapem in India and abroad."
L&T hires legions of engineers and has several business
units. The goal of L&T leadership training is to help the
participants become entrepreneurial, global business leaders.
Ross professors, led by Faculty Director M.P. Naryanan,
run a custom, six-day Global Leadership Development
Program twice a year as part of L&T's ongoing training.
Held at the company's leadership development academy
in Lonavla, India, Lobo says the program has made an
immediate impact on the leaders who graduate.
"Their awareness and knowledge increases, but more than
that, their confidence to work in a global environment
grows," Lobo says. "They leave the program with a real global
perspective they then bring to the businesses they lead."
Ross Executive Education also helped L&T with a specific
human resources initiative – to deepen the connection between
human resources and top-level strategy. N. Dharmarajan,
who heads human resources for L&T's buildings and factories
business, said the program held last fall was revealing.
"We're growing at about 25 percent a year, so I thought our
priorities would be on operational efficiencies, getting talent
and creating a leadership pipeline," says Dharmarajan. "I was
pleasantly surprised to find out my business leader wanted
us more involved in change management – ensuring our
culture is maintained, dealing with a more diverse workforce,
and knowing how to execute in a global environment. It was
very revealing and now we have a way forward as partners."
Experience in Australia
Business is a global game, and Ross is always looking
for new ways to ensure its students know the rules.
The Global Initiatives office, established two years ago, is
designed to "explode the level of high-quality opportunities
for students internationally," as Managing Director
Liz Muller puts it. And it's working: "In the last couple
of years, we have more than doubled our offerings."
Last summer, Global Initiatives launched a new program in
Australia specifically geared to undergrads, including non-Ross
U-M students. The program involved two weeks of study with a
faculty member in Australia followed by a six-week internship.
John McCarthy, BBA '15, a Chicago-area native finishing
his junior year at Ross this spring, liked the "very unique
opportunity" of the Australia program, with its longer
time frame and scheduled side trips that let him get a
sense of the country. He interned at JPMorgan Chase in
Sydney, where the smaller scale of the firm's Australian
operation allowed him to work on a range of tasks and
roles that might not have been available in New York.
Even better: The company asked him to stay five weeks
extra to work on a special project, analyzing growth
in the Australian fixed-income market. His research
ended up becoming part of staffing recommendations
presented to company executives in London.
"It was one of the greatest learning experiences I've ever
had," McCarthy says, reflecting on the many differences
in culture and even language he encountered. "I definitely
look at it and see it as a major point of growth in my life."
Next, McCarthy plans to go to China this August on another
Global Initiatives program. And that happens to be a major
focus area for Global Initiatives, with the Australia model
expanding to Hong Kong this summer for a couple dozen
students, and a new short course for MBA students in China
launching in May. The office is considering where to expand
next, and it will develop the upcoming full-semester-abroad
opportunities that are part of the new Ross BBA curriculum
(see page 16). The explosion of activity is just beginning.
Going Blue in Antarctica
All work and no play will make anyone dull. For the seventh continent, we see Maggie Chang, BBA '14, enjoying a cruise
just off the Danco Coast in Antarctica in January. Chang took
the trip with her family without knowing at the time that she
wasn't the only Ross student on board. About halfway through
the 21-day excursion Chang, an avid Michigan fan, was seen
wearing Wolverine garb by Felice Schmertzler, BBA '14.
Few business schools can claim a more globally engaged
alumni network — Ross alumni are 45,000 strong and live
and work in nearly 90 different countries.