The Copia Global mobile retail platform was among startups from around the world selected to work with the MIT Sloan School of Management on a Global Entrepreneurship Laboratory (G-Lab) project.
Founded by Silicon Valley veterans Tracey Turner and Jonathan Lewisin Kenya, Copia is the first mobile retail platform with the potential to serve 750 million African middle- to low-income consumers. The startup uses a network of digitally activated local agents to connect with customers in any way they choose, including in person, by phone, SMS, USSD or smartphone app. The company currently serves hundreds of thousands of Kenyans, including those with little internet access.
Three students from MIT and one from Harvard Law School work virtually with Copia Global to examine successful market supply chains in a developing country context to report on best practices, analyze the technology used and the unique processes introduced, as well as the revenues generated. They will then be advised on what Copia Global should consider in its supply chain and a financial model for the costs of activating and adapting technology and processes as well as forecasting sales.
“We are honored to be working with the MIT Sloan G-Lab team on this endeavor and we are confident that the team will deliver solutions that are specifically tailored to our and our customers’ needs.” Crispin Murira, founding CEO of Copia, said.
In view of the global pandemic, this year’s G-Lab theme is “B2G-Lab, Back to Growth”. The international student team consists of Chun Man Chow, PhD, MIT Department of Chemical Engineering; Keitumetse (Tumi) Molamu, MIT Sloan Master of Science in Management Studies, ’21; Kunal Sanghani, MIT director for the dual degree program in global operations; ’21; and Cathy Wu of Harvard Law School JD’21, a registered student enrolled on the course.
“It has been a real pleasure to work with Copia Global on this meaningful project over the past few months. From day one we were quickly taken on board and began working closely with Copia colleagues on a number of tasks. Throughout the process we were grateful for their openness and hospitality. We are fortunate to be the first MIT G-Lab team to work with Copia and we look forward to seeing the amazing things they will achieve in the future. “G-Lab team said in a statement.
Since 2000, MIT Sloan’s G-Lab teams have worked on business problems involving more than 482 startups and growing companies on 643 projects in 54 emerging and frontier markets around the world. Critical areas such as strategic growth, new market entry, pricing and marketing, benchmarking, fundraising and financial strategy were taken into account. For the first time in 21 years, however, the pandemic prevented student teams from traveling internationally to work locally.
Final results from the teams include a formal presentation and tangible “legacies” that provide powerful tools that can be used immediately.
“We have worked with entrepreneurs across Africa for many years,” said MIT Sloan Prof. Simon Johnson, former International Monetary Fund chief economist and co-founder of G-Lab. “Now as the world battles COVID-19, these men and women are showing remarkable resilience and offering great prospects for the future. It is a privilege – and an education – for our students to help them grow. “
G-Lab is one of 15 groundbreaking action learning labs available to students at MIT Sloan. As project activities vary, they are united by common themes, including experiential, reflective and peer learning. Faculty mentoring; real problem solving; Knowledge transfer; and, perhaps unique to MIT Sloan, a student team engagement that seeks to have measurable business and / or social impact. These real-time management challenges bring theory to life.
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