How to Gain a Competitive Edge and Do Good |

How to Gain a Competitive Edge and Do Good

By QS Contributor

Updated June 16, 2020 Updated June 16, 2020

“Without question, I’m far more likely to hire an MBA graduate with management consulting experience in an emerging market over one without,” said Amit Sinha, SAP’s Head of Database and Technology Marketing. Fortune 500s such as Hersheys, IBM, and PepsiCo, as well as smaller companies are becoming globally oriented, as emerging and frontier markets – Ghana, India, China, and Mozambique – become forerunners in the next industrialized revolution. Surprisingly, many companies are faced with a shortage of qualified employees to navigate these markets. While employees with global exposure are in high demand, those with hands-on experience in emerging markets have an incredible leg-up on their peers.

Paul Belknap, is a recent MBA graduate from Penn State, with a degree in strategic leadership, marketing, and social entrepreneurship. On July 29, Paul left the US for the professional – and personal – adventure of a lifetime. Paul is a member of this year’s MBAs Without Borders (MWB) program, which sends MBA graduates to volunteer their business skills for social enterprises, NGOs, and government agencies in emerging and frontier markets.

Right now, Paul is in India, working with clean cook stove manufacturer, Sustaintech. Clean cook stoves are a substitute for traditional cook stoves. Used by three billion people in the developing world, traditional stoves emit toxic fumes into rural households, and are named one of the world’s leading health threats by the World Health Organization. In the next five months, Paul will conduct a market analysis to identify new markets for Sustaintech. He will design and implement a sales strategy for each area. Keep in mind, this is Madurai, India, quite a different environment from Paul’s hometown, Ashland, Wisconsin and his alma mater, Penn State.

I spoke with Paul before he left.  “Helping a social enterprise like Sustaintech in India expand its sales, while growing as a company is an amazing opportunity,” he shared.  “It gives me experience working in an emerging market with a company selling a product to the base of the pyramid.  In the long term, I want to build on this and start my own socially-motivated company.”

A Global Leadership Gap

Because international assignments in emerging markets require adaptability and flexibility, they are often seen as drivers for leadership global development. McKinsey Quarterly pointed out that “30 percent of US companies admit failing to fully exploit their international business opportunities due to insufficient internationally competent personnel.” The Leadership Research Institute identified the following critical global leadership skills: the ability to lead in ambiguous situations, to develop business strategies, to foster innovation and creativity, and to drive for results.

The year’s MBA Without Borders summer cohort includes graduates from George Washington University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Toronto. Each position is designed to accelerate their professional and personal development, as well as the organization they are working with. The advisors gain practical experience working in emerging and frontier markets, while developing skills that strengthen their ability to conduct business on a global scale and lead global multicultural teams. While many have worked abroad in some capacity, it’s those with experience in frontier emerging markets that have the true advantage, because they are both in touch with the needs of global business and the development and societal challenges that influence local markets.

For MBAs asking how can I find a job that integrates business and social purpose, programs such as these equip graduates with an attractive set of professional credentials and a new lens into win-win opportunities that can serve those at the base of the pyramid.

If you’d like to find out more about the MBA without Borders Advisors’ adventures in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tanzania, and other countries, keep an eye out for future posts on or read about them here on The New Global Citizen.

MBAs Without Borders Profiles

Jessica Custer

MBA, HEC Paris

The Country: Kerala, India

The Client: Kara Weaves, a fair-trade organization that sells hand-woven clothes and linens designed by local weavers of Kerala, India.

The Assignment: Expand Kara Weaves’ market share locally and internationally, while identifying new distribution channels and increasing sales.

How Long: 5 months

Kathryn Svobodny

MBA, Masagung Graduate School of Management, University of San Francisco

The Countries: Nepal, India, Bhutan

The Client: READ Global, an organization that partners with communities in rural Asia to develop community library and resource centers.

The Assignment: As READ is poised for expansion across Asia, Svobodny will identify the types of READ models are sustainable and can be replicated across the continent.

How Long: 5 months

Paul Belknap

MBA, Smeal College of Business, Penn State

The Country: Madurai, India

The Client: Sustaintech, a social enterprise that sells clean cookstoves, as a replacement for the more common and dangerous traditional stoves used by over 3 billion people in the developing world today.

The Assignment: Perform a market analysis. Develop and implement sales strategies for new markets.

How Long: 5 months

About Jailan Adly

Jailan Adly is the Director of MBAs Without Borders (MWB) at PYXERA Global, where she is responsible for the overall design and implementation of the MWB program. She also manages International Corporate Volunteer programs for companies such as IBM, FedEx, John Deere, Medtronic, and Novartis across multiple continents. In addition, Ms. Adly serves as PYXERA Global’s lead tourism expert on various projects.

Prior to joining PYXERA Global, Ms. Adly was the Deputy Director at Rising Sun Energy Center where she designed and managed strategic leadership training programs.  Ms. Adly received a master's degree in Tourism Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from The George Washington University.

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This article was originally published in August 2013 . It was last updated in June 2020

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