BAB Wine Industry Course in actionn

BAB Course Hosts Case Discussion on Armenian Wine Industry

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YEREVAN, Armenia — On April 29, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Manoogian Simone College of Business and Economics (CBE) Bachelor of Arts in Business (BAB) program’s Introduction to Innovation and Entrepreneurship course, taught by CBE Professor and Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) Director Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian, hosted a case-study class discussion on The Rebirth of the Armenian Wine Industry. Vahe Keushguerian, the founder of WineWorks and the central character in the case, participated in the discussion.

Case studies are used in business classes to examine business challenges and describe real-life business situations from the point of view of an executive decision-maker. In this case, Keushguerian had to make consequential decisions for his company within the context of a fast-growing Armenian wine industry.

The Introduction to Innovation and Entrepreneurship course specifically examines the sources of motivation for entrepreneurship and innovation and the commensurate skills, knowledge, and abilities of entrepreneurs and innovators. Students become familiar with the processes involved in starting a new venture or transforming an existing business or industry. Students integrate their business knowledge from previous coursework to generate innovative ideas and develop plans for their implementation. This particular course uses eight Harvard Business School management and entrepreneurship case studies. Throughout the semester, students learn about business issues, judgment, and decision-making on cases including, among others, Apple, Twitter, IDEO, and the recent sharing economy IPO, Rent the Runway. 

Adding supplementary reality and depth to the analysis of the wine industry case, Keushguerian was invited as a guest discussant. He is the actual protagonist in the case study as the founder of WineWorks, the leading incubator and service provider in Armenia focused on modernizing winemaking technology and equipment and further developing the country’s wine industry. Keushguerian’s interest in wine began in the 1990’s when he lived in Tuscany exploring the Italian methods of cultivating grapes and producing wine. Keushguerian is also involved in many other projects in Armenia, including advancing village sustainability, promoting Wines of Armenia, organizing grape rootstock nurseries, and establishing the EVN Wine Academy and Yerevan marathon.

The case study covers the challenges that Keushguerian confronted with an order to deliver hundreds of thousands of bottles of Armenian wine to the new market of China. In subsequent years, the orders from the customer were anticipated to grow substantially to millions of bottles outstripping Armenia’s production capacity. One of the challenges for the students, among others, was to determine how Keushguerian could increase the supply of wine to fulfill such growing demand from China while taking into account the risks and constraints of the industry in Armenia. 

Students evaluated and debated the issues Keushguerian faced in smaller discussion groups, subsequently presenting their analysis, approaches, and solutions to the class. Some students focused attention on water and irrigation issues, others underscored government policy challenges and the lack of necessary technology and vineyard management practices. Still others focused on the winemaking industry structure, coupled with marketing and branding of wines necessary for exporting to a highly competitive global wine market. 

“It is important to draw parallels with industry growth and success. When one thinks about a fast-developing industry in Armenia marked by technology transfer and injections of foreign expertise, innovation, and capital, one automatically considers the high-tech industry. This case illustrates that rapid and dramatic change can also occur in a less remarkable industry: namely, agriculture and winemaking. Further lessons can be learned from the examples of New World wines. The experiences of winemakers in Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand can be instructive for the development of Armenia’s industry,” underscored Dr. Kouchakdjian. 

The case was authored by Dr. Kouchakdjian and Martin Galstyan, adjunct lecturer at CBE and Governor of the Central Bank of Armenia, in collaboration with J.B.M. Kassarjian, Professor of Management, Emeritus, at Babson College and Professor of Strategy and Organization, Emeritus, at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.