Indiana State University Newsroom

Students explore frontier markets in Morocco

April 20, 2015

Learning how business operates around the globe took a group of Indiana State University across the world, where they discovered how the frontier market is run in Morocco.

Aruna Chandra, professor of management, led 10 students on a nearly two week trip to Morocco that was funded through a faculty-led student travel grant from the Center for Global Engagement.

Their travels in December took them to several cities, including Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rabat and Settat, where Indiana State's sister school, Hassan I University, is located. Students also visited businesses and government organizations, as well as hearing university professors talk about Morocco's business environment and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in a frontier market.

Chandra said the trip went on without a hitch, due in part to the amount of pre-planning and because of support from El-Houcin Chaqra, a native of Morocco and associate director of Indiana State's the Center for Global Engagement.

"People in Morocco don't really respond to email, so I would be in (Chaqra's) office and he would call them and connect me to people," Chandra said. "Chaqra put in a lot of effort and I followed up on things he started, so we were able to arrange a very good mix of university, government organizations and businesses for the students to visit."

Because Morocco is big on cooperatives, Chandra said the group visited an Argan oil co-op and witnessed how labor intensive and complex it is to make the oil and talked with a government official in Rabat regarding support provided for small and medium enterprises in Morocco.

A day was also dedicated to touring Hassan I University, where the institution's business incubator manager made a presentation about the school's incubator among other activities hosted by the school. A group of Moroccan students also presented projects for socially entrepreneurial businesses in Morocco.

"The best part was, after the presentation, our students had the chance to interact with the Moroccan students," Chandra said.

Time was made for cultural visits, including a day trip to Rabat, where an Indiana State MBA student and Moroccan native met the group and gave a personal tour. The trip was followed up with a three-day visit to Marrakesh, where Chandra said students experienced a souk - an open-air marketplace. For Brandon Henman, a Terre Haute native who will graduate with his Master of Business Administration degree in May, the trip was jam packed with memorable experiences that ranged from visiting the small and medium sized business development center to taking in the sights and sounds of Morocco.

"Traveling is a way to become a well-rounded individual and get a better scope for what it's like internationally to start a business and get it off the ground, especially with procurement difficulties of things that we take for granted in the U.S., like utilities, running water, and access to capital," said Henman, who received his undergraduate degree from Indiana State in 2010. "You can't supplement for real-world, hands-on experience with classroom experience. It's one thing to read about business in developing countries like Morocco, but it's another to go experience it."

Students got to drive to the city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, where they did more cultural visits and had lunch at an open air fish stall. On the way back to Casablanca, the group stopped at the old Portuguese city, El Jadida, and had lunch at the home of the dean of Hassan I's College of Business and toured the city.

"I wanted the students to get an understanding for the environment for business, particularly entrepreneurship in a frontier market like Morocco where not all of the institutions of capitalism are developed," Chandra said. "That's why we went to the small and medium-sized enterprises and heard about sophisticated support programs they're developing to help nurture new business creation and entrepreneurship."

Contact: Aruna Chandra, professor of management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University,

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or