Berkeley Full-time MBA Program: MBA Students Work to Improve Life for Peruvian Textile Artisans

15 01 2008

by Alejandro Pardo, MBA 08

When I applied for the Haas School’s International Business Development (IBD) course, I had already heard some amazing stories about the program, which sends teams of MBA students around the world on consulting projects with a variety of organizations. So when I was accepted, I was really excited to find out not only where I was going to go, but also with whom I was working.

After meeting my team and finding out that our final destination was Peru, we jumped right into the project. Our goal: building a business plan and a marketing strategy for MIA, a small group of alpaca textile artisans. Our first obstacle: Alpaca? Al-whatta? Some research was really needed! And so, weekly calls were scheduled with our client in Peru.

Finally, after four months of research, the team landed in Peru for four amazing weeks. We had a week before the project officially started, and we decided to split up, Jenn and Aaron going to Puno and Lake Titicaca, and Liesl and I going to Cuzco and Machu-Picchu. During this time, we finally saw live alpacas, and after walking every single tourist market, we felt alpaca-textile savvy.

The team got together in Lima, and we met America, our client and also the head of the organization. We stayed at her house for a couple of days before moving into downtown Lima where we met her family and reviewed the company and its products.

Our first week in Lima was packed with interviews with key business partners including yarn producers, manufacturers, retailers, and NGO’s. Though we were busy, we also got to enjoy Lima. We met with Javier, our Peruvian classmate, and also with Luke, Kurt and Paul–classmates in Lima working on a non-IBD project–to try Pisco sours, and eat tons of ceviche.

At the very end of that week, our US client and team sponsor for our trip, Nancy, decided to meet us in Lima and join us for a week on our ‘adventure” to Huancayo. Huancayo is a small town seven hours away by car from Lima, really famous for its handcrafts, from hand-knitted alpaca textiles to “mate burilados” (carved gourds).

Huancayo is also the place where most of MIA’s knitters live, all of them women and mothers, knitting to support their families. The time had come to meet our real “clients,” the women who were expecting us to make recommendations and who would actually benefit from the project.

The day after we arrived in Huancayo, all of the approximately 25 women greeted us in one of their houses. They set a special table for us and cooked an amazing lunch with local traditional dishes. The meal turned out to be a whole day-long event. After we finished eating, we got to interact with all of them. I was impressed by their warmth and hospitality. They talked to us about their situation, their projects and their dreams, and by sunset, they were playing local music and teaching us dance moves.

I will never forget that day. I am convinced that it made us aware of the value of the program, and afterwards, we didn’t see our work as a project, but as a chance to influence and improve the lives of others.

The rest of our week in Huancayo involved more interviews with NGO’s and local artisans, visits to markets and cooperatives, and a rural economic development tour.

We returned to Lima on an overnight, seven-hour bus ride in order to complete some additional interviews, follow up with some contacts made throughout the trip, and for the last four days, completely isolate ourselves in our hotel rooms in order to create our recommendations and final presentation for our clients.

After our final presentation, America and her whole family invited us to celebrate the conclusion of our project in a traditional Peruvian restaurant, and after that, the four of us decided to have one last Pisco sour at a bar near the hotel, where we spent a couple of hours laughing and remembering some of our anecdotes from the past 3 weeks.

When we returned to the US, and after our summer internships, we had a follow-up conversation with America, and we were really excited to hear that some of our recommendations were already implemented and generating results. Personally, that information made me feel proud of and happy with the work done, since I was able to not only bond with three incredible classmates in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t have, but also I was able to help this group of hard-working women improve their way of life.

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One response

18 08 2009
charles

me gustaria saber mas sobre lo que hacen soy un artesano huancaino

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