Powering up Peru

Published on February 12, 2014

Sales for Social Impact Course Brings Opportunities to Peru

C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston students Juliette Cao, Andrew Diano, Frances Guerrero, Komron Kasnavia, Shamsah Hirani, Lorriann Rodriguez, Kelli Herman, Patrick Garza and their professor Susana Rosas worked as business consultants for Power Practical providing the people of Cajamarca a thermoelectric generator, called the PowerPot.

C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston students Juliette Cao, Andrew Diano, Frances Guerrero, Komron Kasnavia, Shamsah Hirani, Lorriann Rodriguez, Kelli Herman, Patrick Garza and their professor Susana Rosas worked as business consultants for Power Practical providing the people of Cajamarca a thermoelectric generator, called the PowerPot.

Electricity is a basic necessity for most, but for those in developing countries, a power source can be hard to come by.

With the help of a dozen students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, more than 10,000 people in Peru could have access to that basic need very soon.

Twelve students enrolled in the college’s Sales for Social Impact course which teaches the students how to develop a sales plan for emerging markets. Eight of those students traveled to Peru early this year to serve the people of Cajamarca and surrounding communities located in the Base of the Pyramid in Peru, the fastest growing market consisting of four billion people living under $2 a day.

Working as business consultants for Power Practical, a company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, the students and their professor Susana Rosas began the implementation of the sales plan for the PowerPot, a thermoelectric generator that is the only one of its kind that can produce electricity anytime and anywhere, requiring only water and a heat source.

Offered at Bauer, the course is in its fourth year and is open to all majors.  It is designed to teach students how to market and sell products that can improve lives through sustainable business models. The Sales for Social Impact course — which is funded by 3M — is offered through the college’s Sales Excellence Institute. This year, the students had an opportunity through the support of Schlumberger to extend their travel to the Cusco and Macchu Picchu areas, making it the first time the students visited multiple markets in one trip.

“The most important reason I took this course is because I think financial security and financial education are two things everyone in the world should have,” marketing senior Andrew Diano said. “I have worked at a bank for about four years, and in my role as a personal banker, I found that many people had no idea what is going on with their money. I figured if people in the U.S. were living like this, I am sure people in other countries had the same problems.”

During the course, students came up with a two-part business plan. The first initiative was to sell to mining companies who could distribute the product through their social responsibility program, and the second was to create an entrepreneurial kit to sell to individuals.

“After speaking with the largest mining company in Peru, the Ministry of Energy and Mines, comparable to the Department of Energy in the U.S., and NGO’s who are already working to help the people living in extreme poverty, we know there will be investment in our sales plan,” Diano added.

As the students built relationships with prospective companies, they forecasted the amount of units needed to serve the area would be approximately 3,000 based on conversations prior to the trip. After meeting with the second largest gold mining company in the world, Yanacocha, the interest level rose to 10,000 units, validating the need for these types of technologies for people living in extreme poverty.

“These students understood the true meaning behind collective impact by expanding into multiple revenue streams,” Rosas said. “Not only did they sell to large corporations, but they created an entrepreneurial opportunity. This is the first time students involved both the private and public sectors in order to really help.”

“I was really impressed with the professionalism and quality of research from the class and ultimately the final proposals,” PowerPot CEO Matt Ford said. “The students’ final presentations and proposals produced real and executable plans that I believe will result in meaningful business relationships.  Even more impressive is how they travel to the target country and execute the plan they created.  It’s an incredible learning experience for the students and great value to our company.”

This experience demonstrates how selling has a real impact on the world, marketing alumnus Komron Kasnavia (’13) said.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned at Bauer is that you’re always learning, and business isn’t solely about making money,” he said. “The sales skills I learned in the Program for Excellence in Selling gave me the confidence I needed to sell, and I used them to help people. Our professor Susana Rosas always told us, ‘Sales is about helping people,’ and this class really brought that message to life.”

By Amanda Sebesta