(IAP ’17) Gabriela Wanderley Furquim Werneck, G

Gabriela Wanderley Furquim Werneck (G, Management)

Gabriela will spend IAP in Kenya, where she will be collaborating with Flare, a mobile app and hotline that aggregates available ambulances in Nairobi and will allow consumers with one touch (or call) to request an ambulance. Gabriela’s work will help launch the product for consumers. She plans to observe the current emergency system in Nairobi, experience Flare’s value proposition, and interview ambulance drivers, medical staff, and Nairobi’s residents to understand the services offered, in addition to the analytical work required. The goal of the project will be to compile and assess data from two months of the implementation with emergency providers, leading to the first version of the pricing strategy.

Check back for her updates!

Chapter 1: the introduction

My name is Gabriela and I am a first year MBA student at Sloan. I am from Brazil and have 29 years old. Before coming to Sloan, I worked for a management consulting firm for seven years in Sao Paulo, Brazil. At Sloan I am focused in social impact; I am looking into all opportunities to give back to society and help build a better world.

Ida Africa


Photo 1: In the plane to Africa

As part of this goal, I wanted to join a start-up called Flare. Flare is a mobile app and hotline that aims to improve the emergency service by aggregating more than 100 ambulances available in Nairobi and allowing customers to request a service with one touch (or call). Believe it or not, today it can take up to 2 hours to get an ambulance as there are more than 15 numbers available to request an ambulance, providers are not integrated and the traffic is very bad. Thanks to the PKG Center Fellowship, I joined Flare’s team. My role is to help create a model that will lead to the initial pricing strategy of the start-up, which is a key part of the plan to launch the app to the customer in March 2017. I will need to understand the ambulance service operation and costs, players’ margins and customers’ behavior. A critical part of this job is to be able to immerse myself in the market, interview key stakeholders and understand the value proposition of Flare.

Flare app


Photo 2: Prototype of Flare’s app

This amazing experience is part of my IAP break of 2017. My first day at Flare was last Thursday, January 12th. I will be working with Caitlin and Maria, Flare’s co-founders, for two weeks and will head back to Boston in January 28th.

In order to be closer to Flare’s operation, I am based in Nairobi, Kenya, for 17 days.

Nairobi location

Photo 3: Location of the work in Nairobi

Being in Nairobi allows me to understand the city, the culture, the people and the emergency reality. I will be able to get in touch, in person, with key stakeholders of Flare: hospitals, doctors, ambulance providers, ambulance personnel, customers and Flare’s team. This will allow me to generate a real impact and collaborate to the goal of my project that is to create the initial version of the pricing strategy so that the product can be launched to consumers in March 2017. I am very excited about this opportunity and stay connected for the next updates!

Chapter 2: the “ah-ha” moment

During the last week of work in Flare, I was focused on building the first part of the pricing strategy: assessing the current cost of operating an ambulance in Nairobi and estimating what would be the break-even value per ambulance ride.

I spent 20% of the week becoming an expert in the ambulance service regulation, rules,standards and   benchmarks (mainly US, UK and Australia). I read hundreds of articles and reached the average cost for an ambulance service in US and UK, which is on average around 600-800 dollars per ride and can vary by the level of service provided (basic or advanced life support).


Photo 1: Sample of industry articles


An additional 30% of the week I spent building an excel model that can be easily updated and changed by anyone, making sure all sources are clearly stated, that the inputs (cells that can be manually  changed) are identified and that the output is highlighted. This will be an important tool as the pricing strategy evolves and I will no longer be present in Nairobi to help out the next person who will be in charged of this work front.


Photo 2: Screen shot of the model

 Approximately, other 35% of the week I spent researching costs in Nairobi through the internet and by phone with key suppliers. The costs buckets analysed were vehicle, supplies, medicines, equipment, personnel and administration. The responsiveness of suppliers was unbelievable, in less than 2 days they would answer my inquiries and not only by email, they would call me to followup on my questions and if I needed anything else.


Photo 3: Sample of quotation sent by Kenyan suppliers

The remaining 10% of the week were spent in analyzing the output and comparing the service from the benchmarks to the one provided in Nairobi. This was the most important piece of the work during this week: I can say it was my “ah-ha” moment. As I realized that there are some intrinsic differences between offering an ambulance service in Nairobi vs US, UK and Australia.

Ambulance dif

 Photo 4: Example of an ambulance in US vs one example in Nairobi,Kenya

Nairobi is in a different stage of development of the emergency service and the country has a different level of standard. In Nairobi vehicles are used, equipment can be donated and labor is cheaper. In addition, there is a high level of informality and a lower level of government requirement. All this leads to a wide range of prices of the ambulance service among the providers in Nairobi, or in other words, each provider can have a different margin/profit. This will impose a significant challenge to Flare when thinking about standardizing the prices charged from consumers who decided to download and use the mobile app or hotline by March 2017. Looking forward and thinking about my next steps for next week, I can mostly add value by interacting with the ambulance service providers to test hypothesis of costs and differences from benchmarks, understand how they currently operate in terms of margins and propose a way in which Flare can proceed so that consumers can benefit from such an important service at the same time that ambulance providers will be willing to be part of this movement.

Stay connected for the next posts which will talk about not only the results of the work but also my interaction with the broader Nairobi community and nature.

Chapter 3: getting in touch with the community in Nairobi

Last Friday I had an amazing opportunity: spent half day with one start-up that uses the same work space that Flare. The start-up is called M-schule and is focused in the education sector. The key goal of M-schule is to be a one in one mobile platform that provides adaptive learning management, and collaboration tools – connecting school and home so that each stakeholder successfully promotes the child’s personalized learning while sharing information in real time. The founder, Claire, invited me to visit one of the schools that she is partnering with in Nairobi to test her product by March 2017.

We went to a school called Heri Junior School that is located in the neighborhood of Dagoretti in Nairobi.

Heri School 3

Photo 1: Heri Junior School Classes and Teacher Class

Heri School 2a

Photo 2: Heri Junior School Classes and Kitchen

The school has 485 students and offers classes from the “baby class” level to “class 8” level, or in other words pre-unit and primary school. The school is run by Ms. Ruth.

Heri School 1

Photo 3: Visiting team – from left to right = Claire (founder of M-schule), myself, Ms. Ruth (head of the school), Thiago (intern at M-Schule) and Meda (Danish entrepreneur)

Ms. Ruth started the school in 2004 with only 1 student and challenged her tribe culture that or women stay at home or leave the house to earn money to add value to the household income. Her first year at school did not result in any money so she had to persuade her husband about the value of her work, not to factor in all the work that she had to do to recruit students and volunteers. By 2005 the school had 10 students and two teachers charging less than a dollar per month from each student.  By 2012 the school achieved 200 students charging less than 10 dollars per month from each student. Since then the school grew to have 485 students, charging 80 dollars per month from each student and counting on 11 volunteer teachers.

Heri School 4

Photo 4: Students from pre-unit

The challenges faced in this schools are diverse, from the collection rate that is around 10-15%, the lack of school supplies, lack of water 3 days a week, the frequency that girls miss class for reasons such as taking care of the house while parents work or because the girls have no money to buy tampons and cant leave home or the limitations that some tribe cultures impose on the girls. Despite all that, Heri Junior School has been able to continue growing and achieve great results in the national exam (KCP). Last year, the school had  10% of the kids from class 8 going to the best secondary schools in Africa.

Having had fhe chance to get in touch with such a reality was inspirational. Ms. Ruth has an admirable passion and determination to help others. She is a unique women, with a great strentgh that should be copied by other people. The students were all very receptive and glad to be part of the Heri Junior School. I hope to be able to one day make such an impact on my community as Ms. Ruth has.

Heri School 5

Video 1: Pre-unit class welcome song

Heri School 6

Video 2: Class 7 welcome song

Stay connected for the next post about my experience with Nairobi’s nature and wild life!

Chapter 4: getting in touch with nature in Nairobi region

As one of the advantages of being in Kenya is nature, this weekend I had the chance to explore it in Nairobi region.

On Saturday, Jan 21, we went to a mount Longonot, which  is located 1.5h driving from Nairobi and is near Naivasha lake. Mount Longonot is a crater of an old volcano. We hiked for 4h, approximately 3k to go up, 7km to go around and 3km to go back down. Unfortunately we were not able to complete the full circle around the volcano due to a fire near the trail. We had a chance to meet some Kenyans in the trail and also a group of 100 Sweden undergrads. The view on the pick, which is ~2,500m high, was beautiful and it was a good exercise to start the weekend.

Longonot 3

Photo 1: Longonot Mt view

Longonot 1

Photo 2: At the top of the Longonot Mt

On Sunday, Jan 22, we visited the Elephant orphanage, where you see for one hour the baby elephants that were rescued from the wildlife as their mother died. It is not only to view them being feed but you also have the chance to touch the elephant. Adorable!

Elephants 2

Photo 3: Baby elephants at the orphanage at Nairobi National Park

After the elephants we went to the Giraffe center, where I had the chance to feed and touch a Giraffe.  They had at the day 4 female giraffes, one male and two baby giraffes. If you wish you can also hug and receive a kiss from the giraffe… that I did not have the courage to do!

Giraffe 1

Photo 4: Feeding a Giraffe

To close the weekend I went to Nairobi National Park to do a game drive with the Kenya Wildlife company. It was a 2.5h drive where we got the chance to see a white rhino and its baby from less than 5m away, a black rhino 10m away, a lioness less than 1m away… not to say that we saw zebras, impalas, gazelles, wild beast, giraffes, baboons, watchdog and antelopes. It is unbelievable that all this is almost inside Nairobi and that you can see the city in the back of the pictures.

Nairobi National Park 1

Photo 5: Lake at the Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park 3

Photo 6: Zebra and Wild beasts at the Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park 5

Photo 7: Safari Car at the Nairobi National Park

It was an amazing weekend.

Stay connected for the next post, which will layout the results of the work done with Flare!

Chapter 5: the end

Between Jan 23 and 27, I concluded my work with Flare. In this last week, I finished the model with the initial pricing strategy which included a price calculator depending on the service provided (i.e. rescue, transfer, event) and had the chance to talk to an employee of a Kenyan ambulance provider that is part of a conglomerate that also owns an hospital.

Regarding the price calculator, it is a flexible tool that will not only enable Flare to think about pricing to sustain their business, but also help the Nairobi ambulance providers foster a more transparent business and the inhabitants of the city to trust in the system and benefit from it.

    Price calculator

Photo 1: Screenshot of the price calculator developed for Flare

As for the ambulance provider, I met with the Avenue Rescue services company, which is part of a conglomerate called Ambulance Healthcare that also owns a hospital as mentioned before.


Photo 2: Avenue Rescue Services logo

This company special situation has some implications for the ambulance service. One example is  sharing the personnel. Personnel is the biggest expense that an ambulance provider has and by sharing it with the Hospital, the Avenue Rescue Service has a huge differentiation not only in financial terms but also in the qualification of their professionals. Another example is that the conglomerate offer certification training to emergency providers.

In addition, from the conversation with the Avenue Rescue Service manager, I captured the real benefit that Flare will bring to Nairobi. This potential partner had a sparkle in his eyes and was already dreaming with features for the product that go beyond the basic ambulance integration and improvement of the response time, it guarantees the best treatment to the patients by automatically recording and simultaneous transmitting information to the hospital to which the patient is being transported.

Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity of seeing the Avenue ambulance at the site that I went to visit. They currently own four vehicles, all are used and imported from UK, and are planning to expand the fleet in the coming months, as some of the cars have maintenance issues and are out of operation. Nairobi’s streets and roads are not very maintenance friendly.

Avenue Rescue Ambulance

Photo 3: Example of avenue rescue ambulance car

Having this conversation enabled me to confirm my hypothesis that yes there is an intrinsic difference between the service provided in our benchmarks (US, UK and Australia), but at the same time made me realize that Nairobi has the potential to achieve the same status in the future. Providers are willing to evolve and are aware of their current situation, behind what can be done. Combining this with the population eagerness for a better service, they are in a good track. I can not miss the opportunity to highlight the key role Flare business play in this path, without having a platform that connects all stakeholders and fosters the improvement of the emergency service, the mission is impossible.

As a symbol of the closing week, Caitlin and Maria, co-founders of Flare invited me for dinner together with Claire, founder of M-Schule, and her intern, Thiago. We had a nice time in a great restaurant in Nairobi. Delicious food and interesting chat!

Closing dinner

Photo 4: Closing dinner with Flare’s co-founders (Caitlin and Maria), M-Shule founder (Claire) and friends (Thiago and Marcos)

It was a pleasure working with Caitlin and Maria. Apart from all the knowledge and skillful background, they are easy-going, flexible and passionate people. I was inspired by their energy, commitment and strength to keep following the path to make a huge change that their business mission is proposed to do, despite all the challenges and constraints an underdeveloped economy imposes.

After 17 days, I was getting used to my new routine of working at Flare and living in Nairobi. While my time in Nairobi, the working space of Flare changed location, which meant a greater distance and a greater time in traffic, I spent almost one hour for a 9.5 km distance.

Work place 1

Photo 5: M-Schule and Flare’s new working space

The bright side of this was that I had the chance to see and experience more of Nairobi’s city in the weekdays. In a nutshell, the city is very crowded, streets are poorly paved, almost no road coasting, almost no traffic lights and is extremely dusty. In addition, you see a lot of crazy buses (matatus) drivers and lots of street markets, even in the main street Ngong Road.

Street market 1

Photo 6: Street Market in Ngong road

Street market 1(1)

Photo 7: Street Market in Ngong road

These street markets are not only of perishable things such as foods and plants, but also of durable goods such as furniture, ornaments and cars.

Street market 2(1)

Photo 8: Street Market in Ngong road

Street market 2(2)

Photo 9: Street Market in Ngong road

Street market 2

Photo 10: Street Market in Ngong road

The contrast of this controlled chaos are the house and building complexes with high gates and number of shopping malls, all requiring security screening in the entrance.


Photo 11: my home complex in Mbaazi Avenue

I would definitely embrace another opportunity like this one. It was a unique experience to be inside such a community and help built the future hope to Kenyans in the healthcare system. I learned that Kenyans are strong, committed and passionate despite all the resource constraints and challenges they face by being an under developed country. In addition, this experience opened my mind, sometimes it is not enough to know things in theory, it is necessary to see and live. Moreover, it reinforced the message that it is up to you to achieve what you want and make a difference to the world, nothing can stop you, there are no excuses. Finally, I came back to the United States valuing what I thought before as being ordinary (i.e. having a hot shower), not to mention all the opportunities I have had so far, including my current MBA at Sloan. To sum up, I achieved my personal goals: being part of a community service project, being prepared for my future ventures in the social impact field and having exposure to a very different reality. I cannot measure how much I have learned and grown from this life changing immersion in Kenya.

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