Philip is a Private Equity Consulting Associate with experience in Leveraged Finance, Private Equity and Luxury Real Estate Development in both Investment Management and Consulting. He has an MBA from London Business School. Philip worked with Mary Khonje who runs Curry Dreams, a restaurant in Blantyre, Malawi, serving local businesses and students from the local university.
“I was intrigued by the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Africa. I believe it to be a very worthy cause. I enjoyed creating the relationship that I did and I believe it to be a very tangible and clear way to make an impact. My first phone call was educational. It took some time for Mary to warm to me and feel comfortable to discuss her business and business issues. I took time firstly asking Mary questions and waiting for her to warm to me. I then spent the first two or three calls asking questions so that I could build a clear picture of her ecosystem, business operations, customers, suppliers and key issues. I asked questions directed both at revenue drivers as well as cost base. I also asked questions related to asset management (i.e. how was she utilising her space)."
"I suggested a customer loyalty programme to get more repeat business. She implemented this. I designed the card and logo. She obtained new business and less cyclicality among existing customers. We also explored product engineering – i.e. how much meat per dish in order to reduce costs while maintaining the product quality. We also reviewed her marketing strategy and started to work with taxi drivers to push business towards the restaurant as well as setting up a Facebook page to communicate directly with customers. Together we also looked at the sales cycle to explore different sales figures per month."
"Before each session I would think through business issues, map out possible solutions, go through the notes from prior session and do some market research. I would email Mary after each session in order to set out a plan for the week ahead: what steps she could take and what steps I could take. I sometimes also emailed between sessions to share an idea/discuss progress."
"Although I have never been to Malawi, I did not find this too much of an issue. Through a combination of common sense, tools I have learned on the job, initiatives I had witnessed at restaurants elsewhere, and creativity."
"I came across a number of cultural challenges. Mary contributes 10% of revenues to the Church as tide. I tried saying this could be 10% of her profits instead to help the business, as currently she was adding 10% to her variable costs. There were also some small communication issues, but nothing too bad that we could not resolve quickly."
"The hardest part of the project with Mary was being able to prepare as fully as I would have liked in order to progress. This was due mainly to my full-time work. Additionally, sometimes Mary would be unable to follow up on something ahead of a session, which would delay progress. In terms of benefits for me I was able to be creative and think about many business issues when working with Mary. Competition, cost management, customer loyalty and marketing. Personally I had many benefits. Mary would sometimes be very pleased with ideas or suggestions. If she then implemented them, and positive results ensued and she was happy; that would make me happy too."
"Go for it. It is a very worthy cause, very interesting, fun, and you really feel a bond developing with the entrepreneur. Eye-opening."