Before celebrating their completion of the two-year Denver MBA program, there is one final challenge all students must face: a global trip to help a business solve a major problem. Meet Rahul Kochikar (MBA 2018) from Bangalore, India. During his final quarter, he went to Argentina as part of the Global Challenge for his Denver MBA, to help market high-tech blood devices in the region. His team partnered with the multinational corporation Terumo BCT.
“Our overall project scope was to come up with a growth strategy for the Argentinean region for one of their ECP devices,” Rahul said. (ECP [extracorporeal photopheresis] is a treatment for immune conditions where patients’ blood is gradually processed by separating out white blood cells, treating them with UV light, and then reinfusing them into the patient.)
“They were looking to enter the Argentine market with those new devices, and they were looking at studies trying to figure out who their potential clients could be and what the clients’ opinion was of these devices, as well as the future potential of having them at hospitals.”
Rahul’s team spent the quarter before they left for Argentina deep in research. “We spent most of it scoping the project, in a sense,” he recalled. “We were trying to figure out what Terumo BCT’s game plan was for the Argentine market. We conducted interviews with representatives of Terumo BCT to understand what their challenges could be, and what sort of information they would like us to gather while we were in-country.”
Their time in Argentina “was mostly spent conducting interviews with Terumo BCT’s clients in Buenos Aires,” Rahul explained. “So that mostly encompassed hospitals across the city, divided into different categories. It could be private or public or specifically pediatric hospitals, or just general hospital systems.”
“We mostly spoke with physicians or technicians who would administer the process, or technicians who would be responsible for the device as well as its upkeep.”
“The primary purpose of conducting those interviews was to understand the challenges that they currently face with patients who have the ailments that could be treated with those devices, as well as to understand the physicians’ outlook toward a new device that has far more capabilities. But of course, the cost of procuring those devices is a pretty significant investment.”
The team ultimately decided to build a flexible set of tools that Terumo BCT can use as the business environment changes over time.
“Overall, there’s quite a bit of flux, especially in the Argentine market, with regard to currency and political influences, and some of the regulations that govern medical devices and medical practices. And the scenario will definitely change with regard to both competing devices and competing drugs that could potentially eat into the company’s market share,” Rahul said.
“So our thought was to provide them with a set of tools to help them evaluate on an ongoing basis how they could potentially approach the market, what kind of changes they might need to make to ensure their success going forward.”
Everyone on Rahul’s team had some cross-cultural experience going in to the project, so working across borders wasn’t new to them. But Rahul had only worked with organizations in English-speaking countries before, so conducting business in Spanish was a new hurdle for him.
The team had a translator, but due to the highly technical nature of the product and the medical terminology involved, the language barrier could still be “pretty stark,” Rahul said. “We did struggle with that a little bit initially.”
But the team coped well, bringing in their Terumo contacts when possible to answer questions, and sometimes working together to iron out what they didn’t understand. “Having the team in order to interpret ideas was definitely more powerful than being individuals abroad,” Rahul explained. “Being in a new country gave us that sort of energy and inquisitive nature that we used to our advantage.”