An immersion at the TOP!

By Matthias de Larminat, Global MBA student 2012-2013, France

From La Paz, the world’s highest capital, Bolivia

What a great way to finish the hard, exiting and demanding race of the Global MBA. Starting in Europe, with 2 stops in Asia and Africa, it is time to continue this global trip in Latin America: Welcome in the country of Legends: The land of Inca; Tribes of Aymara, Quechua, Guarani; the place where myths located the Atlantis; the country of Che Guevara; the country of llamas…

Upon arrival, the plane lands in the middle of mountains close to 4000m; exiting the airport it is very strange, you feel exhausted, short of breath, like finishing a marathon; you immediately understand how geography can impact the local life and economy.

It took us more than two days to get used to this environment. This necessitates accepting local medicine based on coca leaf; the coca tea eases the unavoidable headaches due to the altitude.

We are received by a family who created a very successful food and beverage company: DeliZia. The father of the family, Mr. Felipe, started the company 25 years ago. After studying engineering at Berkeley, he decided to come back to Bolivia and create a small business selling water ice to kids. He made the ices himself and sold them in front of schools. Within 25 years, Mr. Felipe turned this small enterprise into a vibrant and very successful business leader in ice in Bolivia, while diversifying into many other products such as dairy (milk, butter, yogurt), fruit juice, or even turkey.

Their business requires them to supply great amount of milk. This requires them to ensure a network of dedicated producers. To this end, they have initiated a very successful inclusive business model aimed at helping farmers to buy more cows. To achieve this goal, DeliZia has created a strategic alliance with microfinance institutions and farmers. The farmer takes a loan from the micro finance institution to buy a cow, DeliZia commits to buy the milk produced, DeliZia pays the milk to the bank directly. As a result, there is less risk and fewer collection costs for the bank, thus the rates are lower for the farmers, while DeliZia ensures farmers’ fidelity and a higher supply: A WIN-WIN situation.

Our mission is to identify what could be the next step to improving productivity, while having the largest possible social impact: a great challenge totally in line with our social business course. We have already identified potential tracks derived from lessons learned from the consulting project we conducted for Veolia Grameen in Bangladesh. At the same time, we are keeping in touch with our classmates currently on IIP in India; some of them are working on micro finance, so it’s a great opportunity to share our ideas and IIP experience.  This worldwide network is really amazing; it helps us to identify the best practices worldwide among our GMBA classmates, a great way to quickly share information!

In addition, after its rapid expansion, the company has reached a phase of maturity and has to rationalize its organization while setting its expansion strategy. A real and exciting case, after so many Harvard case studies in class!

This IIP is not only about work, there is also a great cultural pillar. We are really embedded within the family. We are invited daily to dinner, we enjoy many social activities such as Latino music, bicycling the road of the death (more than 60 km and 3000m vertical), visiting Lake Titicaca at the border with Peru… More than tourist activities, it is about getting close to their real culture, their mindset. We regularly meet the family (the mother, the father and the son) to discuss their family issues regarding the future of the business: an insight into how they do business, how they live, and what drives their lives.

It is a great lesson to see how family, friendship and life are key drivers of this society: DEliZia, the Taste of Bolivia!


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