Ashton Reddy: Consulting in India

 

Ashton Reddy is a member of the Evening MBA Class of 2019. He is currently a Financial Analyst for the Boeing Company within the Research & Technology division supporting Manufacturing Technology Integration. Prior to Boeing, Ashton worked for J.P. Morgan in New York covering Alternative Investments, as well as asset management divisions of both Citigroup and Wells Fargo. When not at work or in school, he enjoys traveling, doing yoga, and playing basketball. 

 

Spring Break, Sans Regrets

Rann of Kutch, Gujurat, India

I spent the recent spring break participating in a consulting trek to India sponsored by the University of Washington Foster School of Business MBA program. The experience was unique and worthy of sharing because of how mightily the trip contributed to my overall MBA education.

The trip was organized by the Foster School’s Global Consulting Program to work with a non-governmental organization called the Self-Employed Women’s Association, or SEWA. SEWA’s goals are to increase employment opportunities and build self-reliance among the poorest of India’s large unorganized mass of female at-home laborers and entrepreneurs. Many of these women exist outside of the formal economy and occupy the most-vulnerable reaches of Indian society.

In partnering with SEWA, I was assigned to assist in the organization’s Hariyali Solar project, which is seeking to migrate itinerate salt farmers in the desert region of Kutch in northwest India from diesel-powered to solar-powered water pumps. The effects of this conversion will be to hopefully reduce the farmers’ equipment, maintenance, and fuel costs while also eliminating sometimes predatory intermediaries that operate in the area’s salt trade. There would also be obvious indirect benefits to switching, such as reducing overall emissions and the threat of fuel spills in an ecologically-fragile region.

SEWA hopes to complete the project by partnering with a government-affiliated local bank to offer subsidized loans to farmers for installation and then educating them on the use and maintenance of the arrays. SEWA hopes to install 7,000 arrays in the next year up from the 1,100 currently in place to reach its goal of 15,000 installed arrays by 2020.

Solar Installation

My MBA team’s role in the project was to map the relevant stakeholders prior to our arrival and understand their various relationships and interdependencies. Once there we (my invaluable teammates: Emma and Mel) interviewed the stakeholders we identified including farmers, bankers, government bureaucrats, and local elders. This helped us to understand the local market along with the concerns we may not have considered prior. Since returning to campus we have continued our work and refined our recommendations to SEWA on how best to scale the implementation of their power conversion plan.

SEWA is a strong partner of ours and we will continue to support their work in making a difference in the lives of the salt pan workers and their familiesKandeh Yumkella, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sustainable Energy

If SEWA’s Hariyali Solar project succeeds, it will improve the economic efficiency of a region with limited opportunity, reduce the risk of environmental degradation, and further SEWA’s goal of increasing the self-reliance of India’s self-employed female workers. We also learned that our work may be adopted by the United Nations in other countries facing similar challenges. I am proud to have contributed to SEWA’s mission and I look forward to returning to the region to see the progress made by the salt farmers of Kutch.
Photos by 2019 Evening MBA Candidate, Emma Hohenstein.