By Emma Livingston, Co-Editor
Kathmandu, Nepal: A vibrant, hectic city with a history over 2,000 years old and a population density of more than 20,000 inhabitants per sq. km. (over 52,000 per sq. mi.). Kathmandu possesses a rich cultural heritage, with many sites sacred to both Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions. It is also the central tourist hub in a country where 20% of the economically active population is employed in the tourism industry, catering to international travelers eager to hike the Himalayan Mountains. Nepal is an extremely poor country, ranking 145th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index in 2014. To add to the difficulties, a violent earthquake in April 2015 resulted in the deaths of over 9,000 people and caused damage of around $5 billion USD (about 25% of Nepal’s annual GDP), including the destruction of several tourist sites in Kathmandu. (See Support Nepal and When the Earthquake Struck for Das Tor’s coverage of the quake).
At the end of September 2015, Nepal adopted a new constitution that set off a wave of violent protests among members of the Madhesi ethnic group who felt disenfranchised by the new government structure. Kathmandu is now struggling with fuel shortages and uncertainty following the election of a new prime minister (K.P. Sharma Oli, chosen by the legislature just this past weekend). It is both an exciting and tumultuous time for Nepal and our Thunderbird Emerging Markets Laboratory (TEM Lab) team is looking forward to getting a street level view of the situation and the mood in the country at this time.
The team will be consulting for King’s College, established in 2003 in Kathmandu and offering a first of its kind business entrepreneurship MBA program for Nepalese students starting in 2009. Also in that year, King’s College was the first Nepalese college to establish a business incubator center, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development (CINED), with the goal of improving the Nepalese economy by supporting and guiding aspiring entrepreneurs.
The aim of the TEM Lab project will be to train representatives from other colleges in how to establish their own business incubation centers, design industry specific business accelerator courses for CINED in the areas of tourism, agriculture, and technology, and assist King’s College faculty in developing case studies from successful Nepalese business ventures to use as educational tools for new entrepreneurs.
Additionally, King’s College is holding the First International Conference in Nepal on Social Entrepreneurship in November. The consulting team will be intimately involved in recording, monitoring, and evaluating the conference and generating learning outcomes that can be useful for future conferences.
Drew Himmelreich (MBA ’16, USA) is the team lead. His international career began as an English teacher in Japan, after which he transitioned to the role of liaison between Japanese steel executives and US oil and construction companies with Hanwa trading company. Over the summer, he was a strategic services intern at a leading ad agency in Portland, Oregon. At Thunderbird, Drew is the Marketing and Communication Chair for Thunderbird Student Government and a cohort leader for the incoming class of 2017.
“The TEM Lab project will be challenging in a good way, to see how our MBAs will help us in the field,” Drew says. The biggest challenge the team will face is, “the political static going on in the country right now that could affect a lot of things: gas, power, people’s attitudes.” Drew has never visited South Asia before and he’s anticipating an eye-opening cultural experience during the five weeks the team will spend in Nepal. He’s also anticipating encounters with some of our non-human friends: “I’m excited about the monkeys,” he says. “I’ve heard that there are monkeys and sometimes they try to steal stuff from you, which I’m really excited about.”
Isha Rao (MBA ’16, India) is the team treasurer. This is a role that suits her, as she is a registered chartered accountant in her native India. Isha’s interest in multi-cultural experiences stems from her childhood, when she spent nearly a decade living with her family in Africa. Prior to joining Thunderbird, she worked at BNP Paribas where she did financial reporting for the Reserve Bank of India and business development for Transaction Banking. During the summer she worked as a finance intern for Delphi Automotive. At Thunderbird, she is on the leadership teams of the Management Consulting and Finance Associations.
Asked what she’s looking forward to during the TEM Lab program, Isha said, “I’m looking forward to working in a new environment and with people of a different culture. I’m looking forward to meeting the people we’re going to work with. When we had our first Skype call, seeing the excitement of Nanda [the team’s main contact at King’s College] was really nice. He seemed excited to get us on board and get us started off. I’m looking forward to using my MBA knowledge to bring something to the table and deliver something of value.”
Emma Livingston (MBA ’16, USA) is the team communication lead. Her professional background is in the fields of education and non-profits and her passion lies in deepening her understanding of cultures and regions throughout the world. At Thunderbird, she has focused on refining her writing skills and honing her training skills by working as a peer tutor at Thunderbird’s writing center and as a contributor for Das Tor.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” she says about the TEM Lab project. “I want to take the frameworks we’ve been learning in class and see how they work in the real world. And I’m looking forward to working with Isha and Drew, because I think we have a good team.”
The team is ready to experience a new country and take on the challenge of running a consulting project under ever-changing circumstances. The departure date is October 24th and by the time the team leaves Nepal on December 1st, we hope to have not only gained an incredible experience and invaluable knowledge for our future careers, but also to deliver a project of solid economic value to the stakeholders at King’s College and for the entrepreneurs of Kathmandu.