Taking Students to the World Class: Global Business Practicum

By Tessa Shaw

Selected MBS students who participate in the Global Business Practicum subject act as consultants on real problems faced by overseas host organisations

Raja Jesrina Arshad, Co-Founder and CEO, of Kuala Lumpur-based start-up, PurelyB, has a dream: building her healthy lifestyle online platform to be a leading provider of health advice and product throughout Asia.

The Challenge

PurelyB presented MBS Students, Fabian Turcinov, Kanwarpal Singh, Lu Zhang, Qinxin Han and Weifeng Zhou, two expansion and improvement objectives: 1. To research, analyse and propose strategies for future market expansion in Asia; 2. Identify ways the current business could improve, from both a business consultant and consumer standpoint.

To deliver on their task, the students spent two weeks in the KL offices of PurelyB.

From the classroom and into the real world

The group's mentor Professor Brad Potter, noted the importance of these students being versatile and having the ability to develop an understanding of an industry in a short amount of time, despite none of them being experts in the field. He guided the team as they explored concepts taught in the classroom, and the extent to how and why those learnings applied to the PurelyB challenge.

“The key was to provide a robust and transparent way for the company to compare and contrast challenges and opportunities in very different countries. Tools that enabled them to do this ranged from textbook theories to Google analytics,” Professor Potter said.

Limitations on both ends

Arshad, spoke about overcoming the struggles her team faced in the early months, while simultaneously focusing on the ambitious plan to become Asia’s leading online content-community-commerce ecosystem in health and wellness.  She recognised that as one of the first companies to emerge in this space the model was largely experinemental, due to their being no existing models or benchmarks for comparison.

Regarding the student’s contributions in navigating the business’ challenges, she said, “With the fast-paced nature of our operations, we would not have had the time to first of all obtain, much less dive deeply into the insights and data provided by the GBP team, on our own.”

We were aware of the selection process required for students in the Global Business Practicum initiative, and were confident we could trust the quality and level of work put in by student consultants. Raja Jesrina Arshad

“Due to the limitation of our data and resources, especially in approaching estimated market scales of targeted countries, there was always going to be the trade-off between reliability and relativity,” Zhou revealed.

Turcinov felt time constraints were most challenging to the team. “We had great ideas but could only focus on a few particular issues during our short time at PurelyB to ensure the work we produced was substantial.”

The team spent time with PurelyB consultants as often as possible. “This allowed us to learn more about the company, bond with them, and enjoy some Malaysian cuisine!” laughed Singh. Han, who had not visited Malaysia before, agreed that the two weeks of intensely challenging work was offset by delicious meals. “My favourite dish was Nasi Lemak - rice cooked with coconut milk, accompanied by a side of chicken curry.”

GBP Team in Kuala Lumpur. L-R: Fabian Tucinov, Kanwarpal Singh, Prof Brad Potter, Weifeng Zhou, Lu Zhang, and Qinxin Han.

Stepping up to the challenge

“Part of my role is to encourage them to believe in what they have learned to date (and the applicability of it) and also in the fact that they have great potential to create significant value for the company,” Prof Potter said.

Getting down to business was all about designing a 3-step plan:

  1. Gathering and analysing data
  2. Collating findings
  3. Synthesizing recommendations

Professor Potter stressed the importance of a global perspective. Without it, the students would not have been able to develop an effective expansion strategy for the company. Understanding and appreciation of the social and cultural conditions in each country studied, enabled the students to identify specific aspects the company needed to consider to expand into each country.

“Intensive research was conducted for possible expansion plans by PurelyB that focused on targeting markets with less competition to keep costs down.

Segmenting the market helped identify the optimum target customer that aligned with PurelyB’s strategy. We also formulated practices for generating funds to enable expansion plans and a sustained competitive advantage for the company,” explained Singh.

Real solutions

Zhang was grateful for the experience as it allowed her to bring her learnings to life. “Being part of a real business, we learned that proposing strategies for PurelyB without taking into account real and current situations like budget, location and logistics wasn't feasible.”

PurelyBThe PurelyB Team

The diligence of the students paid off. When asked if the team delivered on their expectations, Arshad was quick to comment, “We were very happy with their performance and proposal outcome. It was obvious they had put a lot of care and thought into their research and analyses. They touched base with us on a daily basis to ensure they were on the right track.”

“It was an absolute pleasure having the students as part of our PurelyB team. They are missed by us all (the office seems half empty now!) and I look forward to seeing them embark on their stellar careers in the near future. Based on our experience, any company would benefit greatly from having GBP consultants and students as part of their internship program!”

Learn more about our Global Business Practicum