IE Business School Online Masters
Ajay Swamy
January 4, 2013

And it begins.

The post MBA journey has begun. Well over a year ago, I had written a post with a similar title, except that was the beginning of our Global MBA journey. More than 15 months later, after many late nights, hundreds of case studies, thousands of posts and lack of social life (other than your international team mates) the Global MBA class graduated in Madrid on December 21st, 2012. While the celebrations continue for some of us and we catch up with family and long lost friends, I’ve had some time to reflect on just what this life changing experience was about.

Life is short – I know that’s the most over emphasized statement. But hear me out. When I started researching MBA schools in the beginning, my goal was about enhancing my global outlook. I wanted a program with great diversity and even greater differences in viewpoints. I didn’t want the typical “top MBA” school from the US with 12% diversity. I wanted 100% diversity, 100% global exposure. Why? Because, life is short and you don’t want to settle for the mundane. The IE Global MBA delivered and in a big way. I can now say I have friends in 33+ different countries. Amazing.

I had the chance to ask few of my colleagues in Madrid about their takeaways from this program. Other than the academic knowledge some of the answers were quite unique. Let me expand. A few of my colleagues openly spoke about how this program had completely changed their pre-conceived notions about people from different parts of the world and tolerance to very different political and social views. Others simply responded that the unique relationships formed were testament that the program was more than capable of forging deeper bonds. Yet others responded with the IE brand recognition and improved judgment when it came to reading people and understanding business from a global perspective. To me it was slightly different. My takeaway was that change is constant, cherish the entrepreneurial spirit and treasure the relationships formed with these truly amazing group of people.

Our last week in Madrid was hectic as usual. We had to prepare for our final pitches and attend classes for 10 hours a day! On the day of our final pitches we had the pleasure of listening to some brilliant business ideas. Some of us have decided to pursue our ventures further and will be applying to Venture Lab, and hopefully we can pitch again – this time in Mexico City or Shanghai! Despite the very frenzied schedule most of us still made time to go out to dinner every night and enjoy the nightlife Madrid had to offer. It’s those moments, beyond our group projects that made our friendships even stronger. It was those evenings that turned acquaintances & colleagues into friends.

I joke sometimes that now I’m a power point guru and can do DCFs in my sleep. While that might be true, what I absorbed most of all is learn not to settle. The GMBA instills a sense of entrepreneurial spirit and vision for social impact and big change. This to me is the driver for making a difference. Instead of looking for positions – I’m asking myself, how can I do what I want to do at any firm. This is on my terms. IE has instilled in all of us a sense of confidence, the entrepreneur spirit that allows taking on any challenge head on and getting it done.

So what’s next for me? A world tour is definitely in order to visit my colleagues! I will be writing more regularly on, so if you want to find out what I’m up to, it’s an easy URL to remember. This is not good bye, this is hasta luego. It’s been a fantastic, memorable, life changing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. To borrow a quote from our Dean at our graduation – “You only live twice, one life for yourself and one for your dreams”. My life begins now.

Ajay Swamy
November 28, 2012

The Beginning 15 Months ago!And then there were none!

Courses that is. That’s right; we’re currently in the midst of the last 2 courses of our Global MBA. The words super excited, almost there, cannot wait, woo hoo, party etc. have made their way in frequent conversations with my GMBA colleagues. A few weeks ago we completed Marketing Strategy and Supply Chain Management classes and we’re currently in the midst of Human Resources Management (HRM) and Management Control. These last 2 courses culminate with our final pitch for Entrepreneurship in the last residential week in Madrid.

Management Control is a fantastic course which along with Entrepreneurship really brings together everything we’ve learned in the GMBA.  Along with HRM, Management Control focuses on strategic planning & management, performance management and control. It’s about all the essential skills you need to be a successful senior manager. HRM brings a humanistic, people management perspective and once again IE’s combination of courses means we can use concepts learned across the 2 classes to really add depth.

The schedule for our final week in Madrid looks fascinating. We will be exploring a variety of issues from corporate social responsibility to leading change and cultures of Middle East, India, China and Japan – finally concluding with career development and of course graduation! To keep up with the tradition, our GMBA class this year is throwing a dinner & party for all of our families and friends and of courses our esteemed professors, advisors and the staff at IE who helped with the program this year.

Recently, I was asked “Are you looking forward to graduation?” While the answer was a resounding Yes, I have to admit I will miss the interaction & knowledge sharing with my esteemed colleagues. The value added by my class mates through this MBA journey is much cherished and now I truly understand why IE makes a conscious effort to embrace intelligent diversity. It really challenges your perspectives. With that said I cannot wait for Madrid – the classes, the after class tapas and vino and of course spending time with colleagues with whom I shared this profound and challenging journey.

Don’t worry, I’m not done yet! Look forward to my update after graduation. Thanks for reading.

Ajay Swamy
September 24, 2012

Ola Todos,

I just got back from Sao Paulo, Brazil and what a fantastic trip it was! Sao Paulo is a great city on many different levels. From the favelas to the skyscrapers, from the incredibly poor to the wealthy – Sao Paulo overwhelms you, sucks you in and astounds you with its expansiveness. The week-long trip to Brazil with my Global MBA colleagues was nothing short of fulfilling. We attended various seminars at INSPER (Institute of Education and Research), visited companies, got a firsthand look into Brazil’s economy and accompanying challenges and had a bit of fun in the process as well!

Brazil, the 7th largest economy in the world is a market full of opportunities. It is the 5th most populous country and this represents significant market opportunities to companies & entrepreneurs. Sao Paulo single handedly accounts for 12% of Brazil’s GDP!  The big companies of Brazil are deeply in cahoots with the government and these result in added challenges in terms of FDI, new market entrants and collusion. Our very first seminar focused on an interesting and complicated issue – “Capitalism of Ties”. Along with the Executive GMBA class we explored the corporate landscape of Brazil, more specifically the complex corporate alliances that are intertwined within the economic and political frameworks. Essentially the framework is cross ownership of companies (a convoluted Keiretsu), which results in a cluster of firms that own another firm, all tied to the government. This sometimes leads to a closed door economy where foreign entrants have huge barrier.

We had the chance to visit Odebrecht, the 4th largest company in Brazil operating across the energy, engineering and construction industries. We had the pleasure of listening to the CFO of a $50B company, who touched upon the company’s massive growth, future expansion plans and challenges of sustained growth. The expansion strategy in the construction space was based on moving into locations with similar cultural affinity and influence of the Brazilian government. This is an interesting strategy based on cementing your stronghold in former Portuguese influenced colonies. We also had the pleasure of listening to the CMO of LG talk about challenges about marketing to the various economic classes of people in Brazil – A,B,C,D,E with A being the wealthiest and E the poorest. These classes are further divided into tiers. The aggregate affordability of the D & E classes is quite large and as such most MNCs target these markets almost as equally as the middle to upper classes. Installment / subscription based payment systems are hugely popular among the D & E classes.  This strategy of targeting the poorer classes draws a direct comparison to Prahalad’s paper – “Serving the World’s Poor, Profitably”, a brilliant strategy to offer products to the masses that reside in favelas. The last day involved seminars about sustainability and of course the associated challenges.

This presential session brought about a deep understanding of Brazil and Sao Paulo. Most of all it really brought us closer together as a group. Here’s what a few of my colleagues had to say about the trip:

Davy Sohi: The trip to Sao Paulo was a fantastic opportunity to discover the city and learn more about Brazil and the intricacies of its economy and culture, all whilst networking with fellow IE alumni and Paolistanos.

Thien Le Nguyen: The IE sponsored trip to Sao Paulo was a fantastic opportunity to not only learn the ins and outs of one of the most vibrant emerging economies in the world but also to network and develop a stronger personal relationship with my fellow classmates.  The trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I won’t soon forget.

Aaran Joneson: This opportunity from IE helped the student network and build personal relationships all while seeing first-hand how diverse Brazil is, economically and socially. It was very eye-opening to see the effects of outdated protective trade-laws and how they influence the mixture of poor to wealth, where huge companies have skyscrapers built right alongside run-down shacks.

We also had the pleasure of exploring the night life and various dining options Sao Paulo offered. Sao Paulo offers some of the best sushi in the world – the product of the largest Japanese population living outside of Japan. We made new friends from different intakes, caught up with our GMBA friends based out of Sao Paulo, shared stories, discussed global challenges and even kept up with our regular MBA course loads. Suffice to say, we were all short on sleep.  It was truly a joy spending time with your colleagues and I believe I speak for everyone when I say – we were all a little sad to say goodbye by the end of the trip. By the time we left Sao Paulo, I was just able to grasp the enormousness of the biggest city in the Americas and the abundant opportunities it offers.

Special Thanks to Laura Rojo, Vani Nadarajah, Carmen Garcia and Alvaro Garcia.



Ajay Swamy
August 22, 2012

The Final Push

Hola Todos,

It’s been a great summer break.  The past 3 weeks we’ve all relaxed, spent time with our families and friends and recharged our batteries. As a much needed summer break draws to a close, the GMBA train picks up speed this weekend.  We’re back to focusing on classes and our entrepreneurship projects along with a presential session thrown in between – this time in Sao Paulo Brazil! Yes, a few of us from the Global MBA are off to the great city of Sao Paulo for a week of classes at INSPER (Institute of Education and Research) for an in-depth look at Brazil from an emerging market perspective.  While most of us are really excited about this, we are also aware of the difficulty of balancing ongoing classes in Financial Management and Organizational Behavior.

Financial Management (preceded by the Fundamentals) has been ride that has taken us far into the crevices of corporate finance, firm valuation and management of finance.  While this class is a mainstay of most MBA curriculums what makes this class unique is once again the diversity of value added opinions, case studies and of course the focus on the big picture of ethics.  Organizational Behavior is a class that completely took me by surprise. It really focuses on building your emotional capacity in understanding people, human behavior, relationships and of course tying all of this to ensure you become an emotional manager capable of inspiring and executing.  This is a key component of strategic implementation /management and success is predicated upon really understanding your employees and organizational culture and sources of inertia & roadblocks.

As time consuming as those above classes are, all of us are also immersed in our Entrepreneurship projects. We all had the pleasure of listening to our colleagues’ pitches around 3 weeks ago.  Some of the ideas were nothing short of brilliant. I won’t give them away here, but let’s just say a few of those ideas are global game changers. As we continue to hone our ideas, chip away at the inherent risks and optimize our revenue models we are essentially putting all of the knowledge from our classes, case studies, debate forums and theories to work. Although the study of entrepreneurial finance, risk mitigation, opportunity recognition and strategy cannot teach you the act of entrepreneurship itself, it will teach you how to do it successfully. Entrepreneurship fills you with passion and if you have a promising business model IE Business School will help you execute via the Venture Lab. If this doesn’t help you discover your passion or develop a vision, I don’t know what will.

This is the final push. The last 15 weeks. The last 100 or so odd days.  It might seem distant but with the amount of work on our plates, weeks fly by.  I wait for the day when we will all be in Madrid for our final business plan pitches & presentations. In the meantime time to refocus and look forward to my post about the upcoming Sao Paulo trip!



Ajay Swamy
June 5, 2012

Hello folks!

Term 1 of the Global MBA has officially ended.  Whew, what a great ride it’s been.  We ended with 2 very interesting courses – IT Management and Strategic Management which was an in-depth continuation of the previous Strategy class.  So what does term 2 hold? Challenges that might dwarf what we faced in Term 1.

To begin we all have new team mates. But this should be easy right? We’ve already figured out how to work efficiently in our previous teams and we can apply the same methodologies to our new teams. Wrong! With a new team, comes new team dynamics, new personalities, ideas and working habits. I’m definitely looking forward to this challenge but most of all – it’s a fantastic opportunity to work closely with other members of the GMBA from different parts of the globe.  Term 2 might soon become synonymous with exhaustive. This is the term where you drill down further, analyze more and really get to the heart of the matter – not that you didn’t before, but now you have ammunition you bear from Term 1.

Term 2 also has a third course until the end of the MBA – entrepreneurship.  This is a course that’ll really bring out the passion in you to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset – whether it’s corporate, social or for-profit start-up entrepreneurship. Furthermore you form your own groups for entrepreneurship and work on a business plan which you present in Madrid to a panel during graduation week.  The groups are tricky as you automatically strive to add missing talent to a group. It’s competitive, it’s sometimes cut-throat but mostly you are given the opportunity to start something with a smart group of people. Entrepreneurship is unique at IE Global MBA. Our group for example spans from the US to Middle-East to Eastern Europe. This kind of diversity brings tremendous value to a project in terms of analyzing market challenges, entry/execution strategies and operational knowhow from multiple perspectives. This is a luxury especially if you’ve envisioned a business with geographic target markets that extend beyond your own country.

So what’s next? The struggle for balance. Balance of work, entrepreneurship, core classes and 2 different teams. In September a few of us from the Global MBA will have the opportunity to travel to Sao Paolo, Brazil.  This will be a fantastic experience in line with exploring opportunities and the economic landscape in BRICSA countries (if you missed my post about South Africa it’s here).

Stay tuned and wish us luck!
April 23, 2012

The first cohort of the Global Executive MBA program visited Shanghai on the past month of February, for the first time with the new program structure and design. This unique, innovative, and highly-demanding program recently extended its international educational partnerships in 2011, thus including modules in Brazil (Insper, Sao Paulo) and the USA (Brown University, Providence), to enrich our students’ educational experience and, in combination with our continuing partnership with Fudan School of Management in Shanghai, provide students with a truly global vision of business:

  • An Asia Perspective – developed in Shanghai with Chinese and Western business leaders, experienced management consultants and entrepreneurs, as well as Fudan University faculty.
  • An Emerging Markets Perspective – developed in Sao Paulo through Insper faculty and local business leaders, with particular emphasis on the twin challenges of sustainable development and overcoming social inequality.
  • A Beyond Business Perspective – developed in Providence with Brown faculty who will draw on liberal arts fields such as psychology, political economy, the humanities, and the arts to shape more rounded global leaders, ready for today’s challenges.



On this past February 2012 module in Shanghai, our Global Executive MBA students participated on a lively discussion about Talent Management in China with a panel of experts in the field including experienced executives and consultants coming from organizations such as Gallup and McKinsey, as well as HR executives and Talent development directors from various companies and industries. The panel and discussions also explored, in-depth, the current representative case and success story of a specialties chemical multinational company, examining how their company grew from a modest 1M USD sales with 50 staff in their first year in China to currently 250M USD and over 800 staff (all growth organic). Equally impressively, 70% of the staff in their first year in China 17 years ago are still with the company, and all in senior leadership roles. The key matter explored was: how did they do it, especially in such a challenging market, where HR management is at the forefront of the key problematic issues for so many companies in all industries? Students and panel members discussed, with the company’s former China GM and current president and talent development director, what problems they faced and how they overcame them.

Company Visits in this module included a diversity of industries (FMCG; energy & technology). On one of our visits, students learned from Cisco executives about their latest initiatives and business challenges in Asia, and the group participated in a Tele-Presence call, with Cisco´s San Jose (California), Madrid and Shanghai offices.

IE Alumni participated in the module, networking with our current students, and sharing some of their experiences to them, as current business managers or entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region.

 Our Global Executive MBA students also had the opportunity of learning from Fudan University faculty about how Internet is changing China, as well as understand the fast-moving marketing situation in China as an immature market and an emerging market as well. Going even deeper into the complex Chinese market environment, students discussed and got insights from a seasoned strategy consultant regarding multichannel strategy executions and the challenges particular to this market.



Ajay Swamy
March 15, 2012

Sawubon’ everyone!

So I just got back less than 2 weeks ago from Johannesburg, South Africa and what an experience it was! Sawubon’ is Hello in isiZulu – a language spoken throughout South Africa and neighboring countries. Spoken by around 10 million people, it’s readily understood by almost everyone in South Africa. The trip was organized by IE Business School in conjunction with Wits Business School. The week long certificate program “Doing Business in South Africa” organized by WBS and IE – meant a packed, busy schedule but we did manage to have some fun. Colleagues from our Global MBA class were also joined by a few colleagues from the International MBA program.

Our first day was an in-depth look into Johannesburg and Soweto. Our guide for the day was Garth Klien, a lecturer from WITS Business School who showed us around Johannesburg from the shacks of Alexandria to the skyscrapers in Sandton to the new communities in Soweto. This allowed us to get an in-depth glimpse into how cultures, people, landscapes have transformed Johannesburg as a city. South Africa is still recovering from a long period of apartheid and this is readily visible across the city – in people, in neighborhoods and work places. One word that stuck out to me as I the day progressed on was thriving. Jo’Burg really is a thriving city with people from all avenues trying to make a living. We even came across a job board ala Craiglist, except this was hundreds of pamphlets with job listings on the side of a supermarket. Thriving.

The next couple of days involved lectures at WITS and visits to local companies. One of the lectures that really stood out was on the issue of HIV/Aids in South Africa led by professor Murray Cairns. It was moving and informational to learn about the epidemic which is prevalent in a little over 20% of the population in South Africa. We had a good discussion of management challenges when trying to manage people with HIV and the effect on productivity.  We visited companies like Nando’s, the Wilderness Safari Group, Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Rand Merchant Bank and AngloGold Ashanti – a mining company. At Nando’s we witnessed firsthand the global success of entrepreneurship from Robert Brozin one of the founders. Johannesburg Stock Exchange demonstrated the immense potential of South Africa. JSE, with market capitalization of 898,407M USD (March 2011) was ranked 20th in the world – a testament to South Africa’s growth and growing investor confidence. We learned from the visit to Rand Merchant Bank – a large investment bank in Africa, the resiliency demonstrated by the South African financial markets during the Global Financial Crisis. Banks in South Africa escaped unscathed from the GFC – a strong case for the effective regulations the banks adhere to.

We also had a chance to network with current WITS Business School students and professors. One of the mornings was dedicated for a live negotiation session based on case study about SuperGroup – and whether the company should be liquidated or resuscitated. The effectiveness of sessions like these can’t just be summarized. Here’s what a couple of my Global MBA colleagues had to say about the negotiation and networking sessions – Collin Lee “The negotiation session was a great opportunity to meet and network with other MBA students from a new and exciting economic environment and further our experience in the practice of negotiating and bargaining. The real benefit I found comes not from winning a negotiation (since the case was actually a pre-negotiation meeting context) but from being introduced to a new set of personalities in which to develop my own interpersonal skills as well as my ability to function positively with varying degrees of cooperation or competition”, Tony Tabet – “Negotiation session was good IMO. Although the topic was complex, it was efficiently handled by the mediator who focused on the negotiation process and organization, and the different teams who expressed complete willingness to listen to each other and ability to make suggestions and to find areas of agreement”.  All in all, a learning experience that cannot be replicated – you had to be there, I know it sounds cliché – but that’s the truth. The week ended with a lecture about the strategic challenges of doing business in South Africa (led by Mark Peters from WITS) followed by a visit to SAB, the beer behemoth – a fitting end after a very busy week.

This short exchange really exposed me to the last frontier that is Africa. Africa’s collective GDP and Consumption is projected to increase 60% over the next 8 years. What’s astonishing is that on the labor side the number of eligible Africans for employment is slated to number 1.1Billion.  South Africa as a regional hub has an ever increasing educated, youth population with an emerging middle class. The market in South Africa has a strong regulatory framework with financials being one of the biggest sectors next to telecomm, mining and energy. South Africa now is a strong influential member of BRICS and has a definitive comparative advantage when it comes to mining and along with its strong financial sector the country is poised for a very prosperous future. Sub-Saharan Africa is poised for immense growth and according to the IMF 6 out of 10 of fastest growing global economies are African.  Sure there are social, political and racial hurdles to overcome but Africa the once dark continent is perhaps the only bright light of hope in the midst of the global economic slowdown.

Presential programs like these from IE Business School help you learn first-hand the economic environment of a country. You meet new people, get exposed to new cultures and learn the crucial work-life-MBA balance (yes, we still had to keep with all our regular classes and associated workload during this trip!). It’s meant to transform you into global citizens. You form new relationships and deepen the already existing ones. Throughout the program we also made time to have dinner together at different places in Jo’Burg and enjoy the culinary options Jo’Burg offers.  My only regret was that I only had 8 days to spend. Next time, it might just be for longer considering the abundant opportunities.

Special thanks to Charisse Drobis (WITS Business School) & Louise Amoedo (IE Business School).
March 13, 2012

The Financial Times has just launched its Special Report focusing on Online Learning.

While most of schools are struggling to stand out of the crowd, IE Business School is proud to lead the challenge with its Blended Education model.

Prof. Álvaro García Soto, executive director of the Global MBA analyzes this educational trend in one of the articles published in this special report.

 Financial Times Special Report

Alvaro Garcia Soto

Prof. Álvaro García Soto

FT Blended Education
February 16, 2012

Congratulations, IXMBA Class of 2011…
Here you are the compilation of your happiest moments at the graduation day on December, 22nd.
We wish you all the best and we hope you keep your bonds with IE Business School from now on!
February 3, 2012

Welcome, IXMBA Students!

Here you are a little sneak-peek of how amazing was the face-to-face period in Shanghai, China,  for the current IXMBA Students.

During these two weeks of hard work with their mates, our students had the great chance of meeting exchange students from Fudan University (where the face-to-face period was hosted) and the very first Venture Day celebrated outside Madrid campus.

Well-renowned panelists in the jury were invited to the Business Plan Competition at the Venture Day:  Here, local and international VC investors and CEOs had the chance to meet and assess our IXMBA students with their Entrepreneurship projects.

In fact, one of the IXMBA teams achieved funding from a VC just  after their presentation!

Just take a look at the pictures and see for yourself!



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