Stanford Seed looks to add zing to SME growth plans

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on January 12, 2018

Davis C Albohm, Associate Director, Global Operations, Stanford University   -  Bijoy Ghosh

A programme by Stanford Graduate School of Business aims for transformational change in small and medium enterprises

A small and medium enterprise may be beset by typical problems: inability to scale up, finding capital, hiring top-draw talent and building skills, among others.

What if the SME had the expertise of the faculty of one of the world’s top business schools who can provide strategic business skills, while trained facilitators work within the company to transform the leadership team and take it to the next level?

An ambitious programme founded by the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (part of Stanford Graduate School of Business), the Seed Transformation Programme (STP), intends to do just that: help leaders take their business to the next level and create exponential growth and generate new jobs.

The STP was kicked off first in West Africa in 2013 and then taken to East Africa, and now Stanford is bringing the programme to India and will operate out of Chennai where it will set up a regional office.

“India has been on our radar for its incredible dynamism. We met with business people and the many alumni we have here. The challenges here are the same we have seen elsewhere in the world, from talent acquisition to skill building and networking. We believe the model we have, addresses these pieces,” says Davis Albohm, Associate Director, Global Operations, Stanford Seed.

Focus on going local

Asked how the programme will address issues peculiar to Indian entrepreneurs, Albohm says due diligence has been done and the programme will develop Indian cases which will deal with local issues. Locally hired facilitators and business coaches will also be on board the programme, apart from Stanford faculty, to work with SMEs.

“We will gather feedback and insight from our first cohort and we will be flexible in terms of paying attention to pieces that connect (local issues) and we will make adjustments along the way. It’s a long-term commitment,” he emphasises.

In the one-year programme starting this August, open to founders and senior leaders of SMEs, participants will have to come to Chennai, for four one-week intensive classroom sessions to be conducted by Stanford faculty at the Infosys campus in Mahindra World City.

“We will teach a variety of modules led by Stanford faculty, which will vary from accounting to design thinking, HR practices, marketing; they are designed to be practical, Stanford prides itself on its experiential learning model so we will leverage local practices and local contexts,” explains Albohm.

Company workshops

Apart from the classroom experience, between the immersion weeks, a team of staff, locally hired, will go to the companies and conduct tactical workshops not only for the CEO, but for the entire management team “We try and have an impact beyond the CEO, so that entire team is on board with the transformation we teach. Our facilitators will travel to whatever city and bring pieces of the curriculum inside the company, around its operations, the value chain, marketing and strategy,” he adds.

According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ website, after Seed’s founding in 2011, the first STP launched in Ghana, in 2013 and expanded to Kenya, in 2016.

Since then, the programme has trained and mentored 565 entrepreneurs and senior staff members, leading to increased revenue and new job creation throughout the region. In addition, participating companies have raised almost $11 million in funding and 79 per cent have grown their customer base.

Published on May 25, 2017

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