Listen up entrepreneurs! Here's a programme by Stanford you should watch out for

Davis Albohm, Director Operations, SGSB opens up about developing leadership and management skills for scaling businesses and becoming regional leaders
Davis Albohm, Director Operations, SGSB
Davis Albohm, Director Operations, SGSB

Many believe the greatest business potential lies within established businesses. But Stanford, one of the world’s premier business schools is acting on the conviction that a lot of potential lies in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Hence, Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies has expanded their comprehensive year-long program that includes nine months of immersive management training designed specifically for business owners in India.

The program is led by Stanford GSB faculty and supported by trained local facilitators. Davis C Albohm, Director Operations, SEED, GSB was in Chennai to spearhead the launch of SEED Transformation Program. 

When we thought of launching SEED Transformation program in India we did look at several cities. But Chennai made a lot of sense to us. We think that it has a strong pipeline of SMEs in the south and Tamil Nadu who can benefit from our program.

Davis Albohm, Director Operations, SGSB

We caught up with Davis Albohm to chat with him about the Program and its impact in West and East Africa.


Why did you choose Chennai?

When we thought of launching SEED Transformation program in India we did look at several cities. But Chennai made a lot of sense to us. We think that it has a strong pipeline of SMEs in the south and Tamil Nadu who can benefit from our program.

It also has the infrastructure that we need to run the program will actually be operating the program at the Infosys facility in Mahendra city.

And we see Chennai as an emerging city with a lot of potential here so it made sense for us.

How well has SEED program worked in Africa? Why Africa to start with?

It's going very well so we launched in West Africa to start in 2013. We've run seven cohort about transformation program in west Africa to date.

We launched in East Africa out of Niarobi, Kenya in a year ago right now actually in 2016 and we've had really great feedback. We've seen companies that have scaled significantly. We measure our impact every year, so we can say that.

But we think that time will tell but we are seeing a very strong reaction from our participants and really strong network building out of the program. So now we have more and more graduates the power of that network and how they can leverage each other either to partner or to expand into new markets because in east and west Africa there are regional programs.

West Africa we are Ghana but we recruit from Nigeria, Kenya and other countries. There is great regional connections happening there. And we continue follow our participants to measure their growth.

What was SEED's vision initially and what is its vision now?

We're trying to have an impact on emerging economies through job creation and product and service innovation. Our mission is growth through private sector development so that was our initial aim. We get through this in several ways but the transformation program is a key part of it.

So we do track our data and we have seen job creation and new product and service innovation that can benefit everyday Africans. At the end of the day SEED's mission is about poverty eliviation and we sort of take a private sector approach to that.

There are many steps before that and when we leverage with what we think is the best of what Stanford can offer that's how we came up with the program and engaging with SMEs because our faculty and our curriculum we think can best have an impact on those leaders.

We also think that SME are best positioned to have exponential growth. The ones that we recruit we think have that potential and that's where we can we an impact because they create jobs, new products and servies and they sort of foster increase development.

Is the faculty coming down from Stanford?

Yes. The program is unique as it is taught and led mostly by Stanford Graduate Scool Business faculty. So they travel to Chennai to teach in person.

A variety of modules that fit into the program range from operations to marketing to value change to design thinking to HR, strategy and so on. The Stanford faculty teaches and in the program we also leverage local experts and practioners to teach because some of the content requires local contact.

There are many intricacies to Indian market that are unique and it makes sense to have a local presenter to engage in.

How does SEED inspire emerging entreprenuers?

By emerging entreprenuers I want to make it clear that they are leaders of established businesses. They aren't at the early stage, also we are recruting leaders of the SMEs  so these are companies that are pretty well established, been there for several years and are looking to make exponential growth. So they are not start ups or early stage.

A lot of it to us is the mindset shift that is how do their goals change from coming in the program and coming out of the program.

A lot of them think that it changed their perspective and their potential. Once they've been through the program they've gained some skills, training and coaching, so thats an impact we've had.

We sort of inspire this group of leaders to do big things in these markets and lead these markets to greater prosperity. But we also want results and want to see these companies scale. We want to look at their numbers over the year hence we do collect that data year after year to track the impact of the program. 

Is the program limited to IT sector?

This program is not sector restricted program. So I want to stress that its not an IT program. So we really build a diverse list of companies from manufacturing, education, agriculture,energy and IT. This program is made for leaders across all sectors.

So there are various sectors that can create exponential jobs. There are various IT firms that can create amazing innovative products that can help everyday Indians so it depends on the companies.

Seed India is partnering with Infosys, who is hosting the four week-long training sessions at its campus in Chennai. Infosys will be providing technical support, while program content and logistics will be delivered by Stanford Seed.

What other Asian countries are you targeting for the future?

We do have a global mandate. So we're moving along in that direction. We keep moving East. In 2019 we're more likely open a forth hub or centre. We haven't even started that process yet. We will start working on that after we complete our launch in India. 

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