August 13, 2012 11:50 am

MBA Challenge Q&A - Vista Visionaries

Lorah Njagi

Lorah Njagi, Vista Visionaries team member

Vista Visionaries is one of six teams short-listed for the MBA Challenge. In an FT interview, team members explain their motivation.

Why did you enter the challenge?

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Claudia: I have always had an interest in social issues. I come from Romania where I used to work for the Romanian government in improving the social and economic situation of border communities.

Lorah: It presented an interesting opportunity to make use of the skills acquired during the year as an MBA student. I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and although I do not have experience in the glasses industry, I do wear glasses.

Wendy: I enjoy challenges! And this challenge delivers a great opportunity to improve on someone’s existing good actions.

Rajeev: I have seen many of my friends with glasses being teased during the school day so I could identify with the challenge. It was also an opportunity to work with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and cultures and make use of the knowledge gained during my MBA for a social cause.

Stephanie: I am always looking for more opportunities to get hands-on experience working with people from other places. I arrived in Kenya a few days ago to help teach young entrepreneurs from the slums how to create and refine their business plans. It’s a programme I got involved with through my MBA. One of the things that I have discovered is that the images we get of the third world are an inaccurate picture of everyday life. People here are the same as people anywhere else – they like to have fun, make new friends and are determined to make their own way in the world.

Alankar: The challenge tackles the issue of children being bullied for wearing thick glasses and unsuitable sized frames. I have experienced this problem as I started wearing spectacles at the age of 12 and so I know how it can cause a student to lose self confidence. I want to use my knowledge and practical experience to solve this problem.

Why do you think your business plan should be chosen?

Wendy: Our approach incorporates a close interaction with the children and focuses on feasible financial solutions. Although it is focused in Kenya, we believe that it can be tailored for different countries.

Rajeev: By providing equal opportunity during the educational campaign, it helps the children with low vision see themselves as part of their peer group. At the same time, it helps other children appreciate the challenges of low vision. The entire message is brought to the children in a playful way.

Stephanie: It’s essentially a public education campaign that doesn’t feel like a public education campaign. It’s about the character and about feeling empathy for people with poor vision. Rather than simply telling children that there’s nothing wrong with glasses, we believe we have found a way to encourage children to see life from the perspective of their poor-vision peers.

How have you found the experience of working with students in other regions?

Claudia: The advantage is the broad views on the subject; we have one South African and one Kenyan on our team and they gave valuable insight into the local culture and people’s way of life. The main disadvantage has been scheduling meetings with people from different time zones.

Wendy: The disadvantage is that the working process is slower in the beginning and the communication among the members is not completely clear. But afterwards, you can only find advantages: you deal with different approaches, ways of processing things and completely different experiences that enrich every piece of work.

Stephanie: It’s interesting to hear about how other MBA programmes work – they’re not all built the same, but there are certain common themes nonetheless. And the type of people who are drawn to an MBA seem to be the same worldwide!

How do you feel your MBA has helped you with the challenge?

Claudia: All the tools and frameworks were helpful and also the experience of working with people from different countries and cultures.

Wendy: The MBA gives you a broader view of the problems and the variety of solutions available.

Stephanie: Before starting my MBA programme I had no theoretical business knowledge. My MBA has given me the foundations I need to explain my ideas in business terms. It has also given me new ways of looking at problems and solutions.

Alankar: At the Asian Institute of Management, we follow a case study methodology, which makes us think practically about every situation. I also participated in the Hult Global Case Challenge where my team won the regionals in Shanghai, which gave us an opportunity to go to New York to present our business plan. The plan was to light up one million African households using solar lamps by 2013.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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