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Business Lessons in Malawi: Prashanth Gubbala '08

Written by: 
Caleb Cochran

Prashanth Gubbala ’08 grew up giving back. Raised in a family that stressed the importance of helping others, he is applying these lessons as a Peace Corps volunteer in the southeast African country of Malawi.

The former Finance major had always planned to work in international development, but wanted to approach the field from a business standpoint. He spent two years as an investment banking analyst before the Peace Corps beckoned with its global focus, two-year term and business program.

“While most organizations are in the business of giving money and resources, the Peace Corps’ approach is teaching – which I believe is the ideal model for development,” says Gubbala, who was born in India and has lived in Australia and the United States.

From his current home near the Zambian border in north Malawi, Gubbala is both instructor and organizer, working with a local group of women entrepreneurs. He teaches basic business skills (accounting, marketing, operations) and helps with production and logistics for two income-generating products: groundnuts and jams. Harvesting groundnuts generates separate revenue streams for oil, sweets and fire-starters. Jam has proved to be an even more profitable enterprise.

“With all the wonderful fruit available, it’s strange that jam wasn’t produced locally,” says Gubbala, noting the example of mangoes, which are so plentiful they often fall to the ground, unused. “Our group has marketed the jam in the village and people love it. We are often sold out as soon as we make a batch.”

Gubbala attributes much of his success in Malawi to his studies in Waltham.

“Bentley prepared me with both academics and experience,” he says, citing General Business courses for providing an essential broad base of knowledge. Experience as a student teacher in the university's Trading Room "gave me the patience and ability to teach business in Malawian villages."

When his time in Africa ends next spring, Gubbala plans to return to the States and begin applying to MBA programs. His long-term goal is to work on the finance end of infrastructure development.

If history is any indicator, he will do a little volunteering too.

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