Pragati Rescue is one of six teams shortlisted to compete in the final of this year’s FT MBA Challenge. The challenge aims to help caregivers in Uganda gain access to vaccines for their children and is run in collaboration with FT seasonal appeal partner the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Over the next three weeks, we will interview members from each of the six teams.

Key statistics:

  • Team name: Pragati Rescue
  • Team members: Lorenzo Valacca (team leader), Ziad Moubarak, Geetika Saraswat, Purvi Gupta, Sunny Guptan, Karthik Chandra Sekhara, Sarah Cramer, Diego Sotti Gonçalves de Sales
  • Schools represented: Berkeley Haas (US), Ceibs (China), Iese (Spain)
  • Mentor: Euvin Naidoo, head of strategy for Africa Regional Management at Barclays

Q1. Why did you enter the challenge?

Ziad: I saw a flyer posted in a hallway at the Iese campus. Coming from a healthcare background, as well as from a country with an enormous refugee crisis (Lebanon), quickly I was interested in taking part.

Geetika: As a medical doctor, I have always been interested in improving the medical services for society. The main reason I moved from practising medicine to business was to be part of a system that could efficiently bring healthcare services to the underprivileged regions. The project gives me a first-hand opportunity to experience this while completing my MBA.

Sunny: I have been working in the development sector for the past few years and intend to work with an international development organisation targeting humanitarian relief. The challenge provides me with a solid platform to learn more about some of the work that international relief organisations do in situations of conflict and disaster

Q2. What do you hope to achieve personally?

Khartik: A realisation that there are complex challenges involved in the healthcare process at a grassroot level and that these challenges can be fixed by simple processes rather than complex ideas.

Lorenzo: I would like to network with people genuinely interested in healthcare, learn about vaccinations in under-developed countries, help society and add value to my resume.

Purvi: I hope to build a greater understanding of the challenges in conflict-ridden countries with limited or no infrastructure. Coming from India, it helps me draw parallels with rural India and South East Asia.

Q3. What are your thoughts on the situation in Uganda?

Lorenzo: Before this challenge, I didn’t know that so many issues surrounded vaccination programmes; I thought the main problem was the cost of the drugs that populations couldn’t afford. The situation has really opened my eyes.

Ziad: I think Uganda has come a long way since the Millennium Development Goals were set. The number of people motivated to help the Ugandans in their plight keeps me optimistic about the situation. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the well-being of that last mile, and I’m glad the IRC is focusing its energy in this direction.

Geetika: Coming from India, I believe Uganda faces a similar situation to many developing countries. Lack of infrastructure and limited resources make basic vaccination difficult in remote regions. It is interesting to note that caregivers in Uganda are aware of the vaccine programme. However, what is alarming is the lack of motivation among healthcare workers to provide the appropriate service. This means that the incentive system for these workers should be revised.

Diego: It’s a dismal situation that reminds me of the situation in Brazil’s poorest regions, especially from previous generations. I so often hear first-hand from the elderly how so many lives were lost or forever impaired by diseases that could have easily been prevented with basic healthcare measures, such as vaccinations.

Sunny: It’s unfortunate to learn that more than two decades of strife has rendered Northern Uganda in a shambles . Though I understand the situation is returning to normal now, you can’t but think of the thousands of innocent lives lost and displaced.

Q4. How have you been using your MBA skills to solve the problem?

Khartik: The MBA has taught me that the solution to most complex problems does not require a high-level plan. In most cases, it requires a rigorous ground-level implementation process. I found the operations management course the most useful, that teaches us to set our eyes on a long-term, high-level strategy, but also helps us to implement short-term goals.

Sunny: We have been able to use our core operations and strategy skills. Some of the classes that I took at Insead, including operations management, competitive supply chains, models for strategic planning and data analytics, have stood us in good stead.

Q5. How would you summarise your proposed business plan?

Lorenzo: Support healthcare staff training, data management and vaccination meetings organisation through an app-based solution.

Geetika: In one sentence it is: ‘Digitalisation of immunisation’. We aim to use the latest advances in mobile technology and big data to ensure a smoother supply chain.

Q6. What tips would you give to students interested in entering the challenge next year?

Lorenzo: Network with potential teammates ahead of the challenge registration. The challenge is a great way to tighten your relationship with these people.

Ziad: A large and diverse team helps breed interesting suggestions. Converse as much as possible with your teammates because the best ideas usually appear when you bounce ideas off each other.

Diego: Make sure that everybody in the team is committed to finding innovative solutions that can actually work in the field. Consider the challenges of execution on such extreme conditions.

Purvi: I would strongly suggest starting early and not to underestimate the limitations of working in a virtual team across different time zones and business schools.

Q7. What are you enjoying the most and what are you finding most difficult?

Lorenzo: I am enjoying the different ways my teammates approach the project and look for solutions. So far I have just had projects with Iese MBAs who think in the same way as I do.

Geetika: We have students from different schools, backgrounds and geographies. It is incredible how much you can learn from your peers. Most difficult would be coordinating schedules, as everyone is busy with work and we have huge time difference between members. It can get tricky to hold a Skype call!

Diego: I am enjoying the experience of working with people who are willing to put in a lot of work simply because they are committed to building a solution that will achieve a real impact for people in Uganda.

Sunny: I would have loved to have the opportunity to visit Uganda and get a sense of how things looked on the ground. In that sense, working on a strategy and execution plan remotely has been difficult.

Read about the other five teams

Get alerts on MBA when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article