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Manchester MBAs explore new markets with Ascendal Group

During the final stages of the Full-time MBA at AMBS, our students bring together everything they’ve learned for the highlight of the programme – the International Business Consultancy Project.

This year Jeffrey Taylor, Jennifer Dingley, Jianing Wen, Varun Jagadish Reddy, Mario Alvarez Alcantara and Maria Moreira Obregon won the prize for best project for their work with Ascendal Group. We spoke to Jonathan Ziebart, Director of Business Development about the project.

Can you give an overview of your company and its current market?

Ascendal Group is a public transport operator, founded in 2018 by a number of industry-leading public transport experts from South America, North America, Europe and Asia. Our aim is to bring cities to life by transforming how public transport is perceived and delivered. We partner with cities and develop bespoke solutions to improve their public transport systems.

We have offices all over the world, including Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the UK and the US. We've also got satellite locations in Ecuador, Colombia and South Africa and we work with clients, including the likes of the World Bank, CAF, the British Embassy and multiple city authorities, to consult on transforming how different cities move.

What was the business challenge for the project?

The project was to assess the Brazilian public transport market, specifically the ferry industry. We needed to understand the competitive landscape and the business environment which existed there. We wanted the team to complete a market analysis to explore if there were any opportunities for us to enter the market.

What impact has the project had on your company?

We previously had a number of high-profile contacts in Brazil, but the team were able to generate additional leads, completing significant research on the ground that we just didn't have the resources to do. It’s given us a clear understanding of what's going on in that market, and positioned us well to pursue opportunities there in the coming years.

What impressed you about the team you worked with?

I’ve always had a close relationship with AMBS since completing my bachelor’s degree there 10 years ago. Since then I’ve worked with seven or eight teams from AMBS who have all been impressive, but this team in particular was remarkable. From when they pitched to us and the initial interview, they just came with so much knowledge and they were extremely professional. It can be difficult to understand the mechanisms behind how public transport works, but they understood it really quickly and pushed forward to find some incredibly good local information that we weren’t previously aware of. The quality of the work was also of a really high standard.

Why would you recommend working with our MBA students?

First of all, it’s great value – it’s an opportunity to work with five or six really talented people, from a mix of backgrounds. The whole team was really good, and very suited to this task. With no members of the team having a background in public transport, it enabled a very unbiased analysis to take place. And when presenting findings to potential clients, there’s also the fact that AMBS has a great reputation, so it gave an extra level of credibility to our work to have people from AMBS supporting us with it.

The team made a positive impression across Ascendal Group, with CEO Adam Leishman commenting “A really great effort. Impressive work. I can understand why they are winning an award like this. Congratulations to the team and their work will surely bear fruit in our expansion in Brazil and overseas.”

Project lead at Ascendal, Andreas Gyarfas, told us “From the outset, we were impressed by the approach and enthusiasm displayed by all members of the team. They quickly bought into what we were trying to achieve with the ferry mobility project, and maintained excellent levels of communication throughout, with Ascendal and with the people in Brazil. We were very pleased with the research they completed in the four different cities and the way in which it was presented to us. This was by no means an easy topic for them to get their heads around and they all performed incredibly well. Congratulations to Jennifer, Jianing, Maria, Jeffrey, Mario and Varun on winning this award, and we would be very happy to work with them in the future.”

AMBS team member, Jeffrey Taylor, said “Working with Ascendal on our IB project was a great experience. Their team was helpful throughout the entire project, providing guidance and support at every step. The market we examined was new to Ascendal, the team and myself, so it was quite exciting to dive deeper and deeper in to the subject matter. With Ascendal's help, I was fortunate to make connections and speak with experts from across the world, from San Francisco and Sydney to Hamburg to Istanbul, all of whom were glad to share their insights. In Brazil, I will never forget the experiences we had meeting representatives from the local and state governments of Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis and Vitoria. They are proud of their cities and made me feel welcome, while sharing their knowledge and challenges. Winning the prize was validation that the hard work we had put in was recognised both by the school and the client, which was incredibly meaningful”.