India Consulting Trip

Experiencing Global Business – India Consulting Project

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

This winter break about 20 students had the opportunity to do something different with their free time by going to India for the Global Consulting Project. The GCP is a school program that is designed to give students immersion in business in another culture (specifically India), but also to use their knowledge and experience to help less fortunate individuals. I’ve always wanted to visit India and the project seemed amazing so I knew right away I’d want to take part.

Our trip included ten days in India working with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Ahmedabad, followed by 4 days of travel. My project (team of four) was with the waste pickers team, Gitanjali. Gitanjali is a business that helps female waste pickers earn fairer wages than previously made available to them through middlemen. It then also provides jobs for former waste pickers and daughters of waste pickers through the manufacture of recycled paper products.

In our ten days in Ahmedabad, my team got to visit the dump, interview waste pickers, visit a slum and the home of a waste picker, visit a sorting facility, meet with suppliers and retailers, go over financials, and actually take part in the assembly line. It was eye opening to really be exposed to the way business gets done in India because it is considerably different than America. After ten days of immersion, we had a final presentation about our experiences and learnings, and presented a scope document and letter of engagement outlining all things we will be covering over the next three months (winter quarter).

Then the group was off for sightseeing and fun! First stop was Jaipur, where we ate meat and drank our first alcohol (Ahmedabad is dry and vegetarian!). The Kingfisher was pretty good! Jaipur was beautiful and we saw palaces, temples, and the world’s largest sundial. We even rode elephants (I’m not sure I liked that part…).

After a few days in Jaipur, we went to Agra. At 6am we were up to visit the Taj Mahal at dawn. What can I saw about the Taj Mahal other than breathtaking? Wow. Definitely a highlight!

After the Taj, we were off to New Delhi to eat our final meal and see some sites. We did some shopping and then said our goodbyes as we parted ways. Some people were home in time for Christmas while some of us stayed on for further traveling. I extended my time in India by a week and went north to the foothills of the Himalayas for some yoga and relaxation.

India was amazing and I am so glad to have been able to do the things I did. I am looking forward to working further on the Gitanjali project this quarter and creating a business plan that will help create more jobs for underprivileged women.


~Guest Blogger Amanda Soloway, Full-time Class of 2013

Global Consulting Trip – Hariyali Highlights

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Hariyali – Green Energy Initiative
The Hariyali Project is aimed at distributing 200,000 solar lanterns and energy efficient cookstoves in the Indian state of Gujarat. Once the lanterns and stoves are distributed, we are providing recommendations on how to measure their social impact on improving livelihoods. We are also providing some recommendations for how to go about selling carbon credits for the reduced CO2 emissions that the lanterns and stoves provide. This money will be returned to the users who integrate these products into their daily lives and could eventually cover the entire cost of the new equipment.

December 12, 2011

This morning we awoke to the news that, in spite of the rifts among participants, an agreement was reached at the UN Climate Summit in Durban to extend the Kyoto Protocol. This is significant for us as a portion of our project revolves around the employment of carbon trading schemes to provide benefits to those who chose to purchase the solar lanterns and efficient stoves that are the centerpiece of Hariyali.

The clean cook stove pictured here can transform the lives of rural families by providing a cleaner cooking experience, allowing the women to use the time they would normally spend gathering wood and cooking working to make money, and provide money back to the families through carbon credits.

Today we spent our first day at SEWA HQ. Arriving shortly after 11AM we made introductions and were treated to a presentation on SEWA’s ongoing efforts in India and internationally. We were treated to lunch and Chai before moving downstairs to formally meet our contacts in the Hariyali group for the first time in person. We then sat down to ask questions to the group head, Anurag. And we had plenty. A man with an impressive resume, he spent time as an expat in the Middle East and Europe working in asset management before returning to India. He made his expectations of us clear as we continued to discuss the project until 6PM at which time we retired to the hotel. One thing is clear, for the next week we have our work cut out for us.

December 20, 2011 – Desolation in the Desert

If you think cooking dinner too difficult so you order takeout, consider yourself lucky. If you find yourself complaining about the size of your house or apartment, bite your tongue. When you feel yourself complaining about the monotony or challenges of your job, stop. If you think your life is tough, chances are, it is not. Today our eyes were opened…

Desolation is the word that best describes today’s excursion. We set out early in the morning on our way to the salt flats near the southern edge of the Little Kutch desert. Roughly three hours into the drive we found ourselves on an increasingly rough road leading into the desert. Soon the vegetation cleared and there was nothing but brown dirt as far as the eye could see. Making our way across the dirt we arrived at a small makeshift straw hut near a series of rectangular pools; here was a salt farm. We found it hard to believe that we’d actually find humans inhabiting this place. While they maintain their permanent residences in a nearby village, they spend up to 8 months each year living in the searing heat of the salt flats.

We toured the farm and learned about the difficult lives these people lead. The monsoon season strikes during the summer months, submerging the flats in up to eight feet of water before receding in the fall. The months of October through May are the salt harvesting months. Even though it’s no longer summer, the heat out on the flats is tangible. In order to produce their product the farmers must first dig wells over thirty feet deep, taking 3-4 days for each well. Many times, they’ll dig and will come up dry, wasting those days and starting over in another spot. When they find water, the salinity is four to six times greater than that of seawater. The water is then pumped and channeled into a series of evaporative pools where it is tended to on a daily basis until crystalized. Assuming the quality is sufficient it is then harvested.

Returning to the focus of our project we took a look within the family’s small hut. As was expected, the cooking apparatus resembled the three-stone stove we’ve seen so many other places. The family stated that they burn roughly 80 kg’s of wood each week, which is consistent with data we’ve gathered elsewhere. Here however, the wife must travel 1.5-2.0 km on foot, twice a week, in order to reach a source of firewood. This source is steadily becoming less reliable. She must then make the trip home carrying 40 kg’s of wood ON her head. One thing is clear; these people live very difficult lives and their efforts go under-rewarded. If something so simple as a solar light or an efficient cook stove can make a real impact on their ability to live a better life, we can only hope that our efforts with SEWA can help facilitate this.

Global Consulting Project in India

Monday, January 9th, 2012

There are 16 Foster students enrolled in the Global Consulting class and that just completed a 2-week trip to India to conduct site visits with their clients. There are four teams working on the different projects and all four projects are working with SEWA – the Self-Employed Women’s Association.

At the Taj

Harialyi Project, which is aimed at distributing 200,000 solar lanterns and energy efficient cookstoves in the Indian state of Gujarat. Once the lanterns and stoves are distributed, members are providing recommendations on how to measure the social impact (call it a Social ROI) of the improved livilihoods. The team is also providing some recommendations for how to go about selling carbon credits for the reduced CO2 emissions that the lanterns and stoves provide. This money will be returned to the users who integrate these products into their daily lives and could eventually cover the entire cost of the new equipment.

Team Ni is working with the SEWA Manager Ni School (SMS) which is a unit of SEWA that serves as a managerial capacity building institution that facilitates economic self-sustainability by developing a cadre of grassroots managers. SEWA Manager Ni School has facilitated development of 50 community-learning centers (CLC) across Gujarat. These centers cater to the training and economic needs of the village community members from the surrounding 15 to 20 villages. These centers also function as an information hub for the community members. Specifically team members are focusing on two areas: 1) creating a business plan for the establishment and ultimate self-sufficiency of a cantina at an identified SEWA CLC and 2) creating a business plan for the implementation and ultimate self-sufficiency of a community radio.

The RUDI team are working to create an operational framework for going into new districts and improving operations in currently under-performing districts. RUDI is the retail distribution network for SEWA’s agribusiness unit. They are looking to increase sales significantly in the next 5 years, but based on our visits to villages while in India, there are many differences in how the different districts operate. We will be looking at Castor Seed procurement and RUDI brand food processing and sales for comparative analysis between the districts. These recommendations will help with overall goals of increasing self-sufficiency and increasing the number of villages benefiting from quality RUDI products.

The STFC (SEWA Trade Facilitation Center) team is working to create a collective marketing plan for the handicrafts brand SABAH, which is the international extension of SEWA’s Indian handicraft brand, Hansiba. SABAH is a nascent brand that includes handicraft work from Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The team will be providing recommendations on how to position this new brand within the Mumbai retail store and throughout India. They will also be working on creating tools for SEWA managers and artisans to more effectively promote the brand and approach pricing their products. These recommendations will help to grow the SABAH brand with the overall goal of creating more employment opportunities for women both within India and in the greater region.

More information about this amazing experience will be posted in upcoming weeks.