Telling the GSB’s stories
As South Africa’s oldest business school, the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) is rich in stories of its transformative potential and newly appointed marketing manager, Darren Ravens, is looking forward to being part of the team that tells them.
Ravens brings a wealth of experience in ecommerce, online marketing and brand management to his new position. A former brand manager for Zando and head of eCommerce at Bata South Africa, he also co-founded the digital marketing consultancy, Black Lotus Network, and was an integrated marketing manager at 24.com, a digital publisher that forms part of the Media 24 group.
Several months into the job, he says he finds more reasons every day to be excited about his new role. “It is a very stimulating place to work and a great industry to be in. The GSB, in particular, is a very energising environment.”
He adds that while it is great to be working with a strong and established brand like the GSB, the environment is very competitive and no business school can afford to rest on its laurels. “We have to be working constantly to ensure that the positioning of the school is aligned with its strategic objectives. We have to keep our finger on the pulse of what the perception is in the market and ensure that the brand responds to what is happening out there.”
Ravens is himself an MBA alumnus of the school – graduating seven years ago – and so he has both an inside-out and outside-in perspective on the school. He says that the value of the MBA is undisputed and that it had a significant impact on him personally and professionally. “The skills that I gained at the GSB I have carried with me. And the ones I most value are the interpersonal skills and skills to manage relationships, these are really vital if you want to climb the ladder in any organisation.”
One of the most important aspects of his job, he says, will be to ensure that the GSB is able to continue to attract the highest calibre of talent and grow the diversity of the student and faculty body. To achieve this, he says marketing will take a content-led approach, which offers something valuable to an audience, without any obligation.
“People are attracted to stories because we are wired to relate with others. Human beings have been telling stories from the moment we could talk!”
“This is an exciting time to be a marketer,” concludes Ravens. “We have many tools at our disposal and the opportunity to learn something new every day. But we need to remember that our ultimate goal is to help our students and stakeholders towards success. Ultimately if our customers succeed, then we have succeeded too.”
Green shoots in Africa
After a stint working at Harvard University in the US, Dr Grieve Chelwa is back home in Africa, to take up a new position as lecturer of economics at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB), and he says there is nowhere he’d rather be.
His new role brings him closer to the issues that inspire him. Only a short while ago, he was at one of the world’s top universities, with access to the finest library and research facilities. “In Boston you are surrounded by the sharpest minds, with Harvard on the one side and MIT on the other, and yet I felt compelled to come back to Africa,” he says.
“The GSB is the best business school on the continent and it has bold plans for expansion. It is also attracting students from all over the continent and this creates an atmosphere of engagement that is very stimulating and exciting.”
Raised in Zambia where he did a BA in economics with statistics, Dr Chelwa first worked in the private sector before joining academia. His resume includes stints as a management associate for Citibank based in Johannesburg as well as working as a researcher for the Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion (Cenfri) in Cape Town and an internship with the Central Bank of Zambia. He then furthered his studies with postgraduate degrees in economics at UCT and was an inaugural postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for African Studies at Harvard as well as a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER). Apart from his teaching work and research, Dr Chelwa also likes to blog about development issues and has been published widely.
His research ranges from issues surrounding the economics of education in Zambia to the economics of tobacco control in Africa as well as impact evaluations of market failure interventions in Southern Africa. He is currently working on new research in development economics in the agricultural sector attempting to address the disparity in agricultural output that exists between African farmers and those elsewhere in the world. “Farmers in Africa need tractors and equipment, they need fertilizer and technology, hybrid feed, irrigation etc. It is not a question of getting them more money but rather at directing investments better and channelling those funds in more productive and effective ways,” says Dr Chelwa. “So my research is looking into what needs to be implemented to improve outputs; should there be more subsidies or grants, what the implications are of better prices and what kind of interventions are the most effective.”
Another idea he wants to explore is around why the African continent is lagging behind both the West and East in terms of industrialisation and how this trajectory can be shifted. He is currently teaching across all academic programmes at the school and says that as soon as he is settled in, he hopes to turn his attention more fully towards his research. “The GSB has world-class resources too and from a professional point of view in terms of opportunities to better myself as an academic, there really is no better place to be.”
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