VOLUNTEER CONSULTANT

Jasminder Oberai

“Challenging, Interesting, Rewarding, Unpredictable, Fun!”

Is a Senior Project Manager who has worked for six years as a project/programme manager for the UK communications regulator (watchdog).Prior she worked as a research analyst for a US-based strategic research firm. She has an MBA from Cass Business School. Jasminder worked with Justin Mandala who runs Dumela Motors in Lilongwe Malawi who fixes windscreens and auto glass.

“I volunteered because I wanted to use what I had learned during my MBA, I was considering moving into consultancy and saw this as a good way to see what it would be like to move into consulting all whilst trying to benefit someone else.”

“Our first call was fairly brief and a little awkward, but I felt quite excited about the project afterwards. I first asked what Justin would like from me, then used the structure of the business model canvas to get an overview of his business and dig deeper into each area to identify if there were any challenges. I used the business model canvas, the 4 Ps of marketing, the customer matrix/Ansoff matrix, and SWOT to define the objectives of our project. Our main objective was to identify ideas as to how Justin could grow his business. ”

“Between sessions I would review notes from the previous session and carry out research online where I had committed to doing so. I would spend time considering which framework I might want to use and what questions I would want to ask Justin. We had little email interaction as I found Justin preferred verbal communication rather than written exchanges. We used email for him to send me his sales sheets.”

“At times it was difficult consulting and not having visited the country or the business but I asked Justin lots of questions. I recalled any experiences that I had had in Africa which helped. I also learned some things about the country from a Grow Movement Volunteer Consultant meet up in London. In terms of cultural differences I found there was a culture of politeness. I found my entrepreneur never challenged me and never asked me any questions back as maybe he thought it would be rude. Another cultural point to be aware of is the fact that trust is a big issue when doing business in Africa. I think the process of doing the sessions made Justin think about the value of his different customer segments and the costs of serving them, something which he had not thought about before. The process of me asking questions I think also made him question some of this own ideas about what he should do next.”

“There were three main challenges I found to being a volunteer. Firstly, not being able to see the business premises or my entrepreneur. Secondly identify what the objective of the project should be when there are so many to select and finally being able to measuring the impact of consultancy straight away.”

“In terms of professional benefit I had the opportunity to apply the tools that I had learned and enhance my skill set by conducting an independent consulting project for a Malawian business. Personally I felt great when Justin listened to my and hearing in their voice when I had asked a good question which had made them stop and think actively about the direction of their business.”

What would you say to other volunteers thinking about joining Grow Movement?

“It's certainly worth doing and it would be good to buddy up with another Volunteer Consultant sometimes so that you can bounce ideas off each other. Choosing a client who is on Skype would be a big bonus.”

  • Ashridge Business School
  • MCA
  • Cass Business School
  • Institute of Leadership and Management
  • Bull Dog Trust
  • Westminster Business School
  • UK Aid
  • Turkish Airlines
Map