Readers of this newsletter know that the College of Business has conducted the third American Business Experience (ABE) program this past summer. Growing from just four students in 2010, this year's program attracted 12 students from India and Croatia, two of whom were MBA students who participated in a consulting project for a local business as a part of their ABE experience.
Ten students are pursuing undergraduate degrees and two their MBA degrees. After the ABE summer program wrapped up, the MBA students spent two more weeks to complete a business project. An SAU faculty member and an executive from Wahl Corporation, a local business, structured the project to address a business issue for Wahl by giving the two MBA students an opportunity to study the business problem up-close.
Wahl Corporation, the world's leading manufacturer of hair clippers, introduced a clipper in Nigeria based on the research and encouragement by one of its distributors in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria. However, the product didn't meet sales expectations. Determined to learn why, Wahl charged the students–Rohin Reddy of India and Marko Vukoja of Croatia–to systematically figure it out. Reddy and Vukoja visited Wahl's operations in Sterling, Ill., met with Marc Geil, Wahl's International Marketing Manager, and reviewed company documents to understand the reasons for the disconnect between the product and the market. They also reached out to a resident of Lagos (through an SAU alum connection) and recruited him to conduct a brief market survey. Then, the students engaged in intensive discussions with two COB faculty members to clarify potential reasons for the lack of interest in the product.
When asked about the experience, Reddy commented that "the Wahl project involved Market Research and International Marketing. These two courses are ones that I am currently studying this semester. The project gave me a solid insight on what to expect in these courses." He added, "I personally learned a lot from Marc Geil regarding certain issues in product development and also the pros and cons of a career in Marketing."
What made the project experience even more interesting is that Vukoja's first language is not English. As Reddy put it, "it was not the project itself, but working with a team member who is from a different culture and educational background that turned out to be the most engaging part."
Reflecting on the ABE Project, one could see quintessential American business practices: learn from failure; be data driven and systematic; and collaborate with folks from different cultures! What better way for Reddy and Vukoja to build their American Business Experience than to do it up close and practical?