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Indian Driving, Shopping Malls and Soccer: Week One at EDI

EDI-SEWA-students-meal5

Our first group excursion was to one of the biggest malls in Ahmedabad called Alpha Mall. Joe, one of our colleagues from Boston University, had a shopping spree so we left him to his own devices. Myself, George (another Boston student) and Tony to continue to roam the western influenced shopping centre and found some cool Indian shops. Making a few purchases and all equipped with the classic kurat top – a long sleeve shirt, that comes in three sizes, knee level, above the knee, and waist level – we went to check out the food hall and to meet the others. Gujurat is a Hindu state so the diet is strictly vegetarian, and no meat was on sale. There was an array of different veggie dishes on our table. By far the most impressive was Rocky’s masala dosa, a massive pancake stuff with potato masala and served with a few sauces. Chris caused some hysteria as when we were about to drive off he was missing. We search for a good 15 minutes in the supermarket only to see him coming down the escalator chewing gum like nothing was wrong.

EDI-Sachin-Jo-tiredOn day one, there was an introductory talk to the EDI interns by Dr. Umesh Menon, and we met our supervisors afterwards. Joe and I were set some reading, to understand what services EDI had to offer and the particular cluster we would be working in. Most of the reading was done by the afternoon and whilst waiting for the last document to be emailed to us we decided to chill.

After another presentation and a few more discussions, the picture we were painting of EDI and the work needed from us became more vivid.  There seemed to be a degree of autonomy. This continued throughout the week; it was down to us to promote and probe the supervisors to channel us in a direction. It wasn’t until Wednesday that a more detailed plan of what was expected of us for the next three weeks was conveyed to us, and that’s when the real work began.

Apart from work, the evenings have been eventful. At 18:30 we meet some of the locals on campus for a game of soccer. It gives us the chance to bond with the lads and also show off our skills and dominate the pitch. Afterwards there is a civil banquet, which consists of dal, a sabjee, rice and a chapatti (flat bread). Since we are a diverse bunch the conversation is bases around the difference in our cultures.

Our first week has been filled with great learning experiences in both culture and business. For next week, we are looking forward to visiting the blacksmith cluster we are currently studying to perform field research and implement our action plan.EDI-first-day9

Entrepreneurship Development Institute Internship 2014 – Sixth Week, Addison and Bradley

EDI-SEWA-JumpingAddison and Bradley leave us with their lasting thoughts on their time interning in India….

After 4 weeks of background research and conducting interviews in the Varanasi cluster, we had all the information we needed for our 3-year business plan, process documentation* and promotional material. The final 2 weeks of the EDI internship were used to compile all of these documents together. Whilst long days, hectic schedules and a lot of chai were needed to produce these documents, we thoroughly enjoyed our work and were motivated by the fact that these documents could improve the three-handloom clusters under EDI. At the end of the internship, we gave a presentation on our findings and recommendations to students and senior faculty members of EDI, which was well received. Our main recommendation was for the clusters to set up a Marketing Team which would implement and oversee marketing initiatives in order to strengthen brand equity.

In the last weeks of our internship, we used every opportunity to explore more of Ahmedabad which included Sunday markets, Hindu temples, and Indian cuisine. The Sunday market was a blessing for anyone looking for last minute gifts and also a curse for anyone who can’t avoid a good bargain or two . . . I unfortunately fell into both categories!

As our internship drew to an end, it was unfortunately time to say goodbye to all the wonderful people and colleagues we had met along the way. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed the farewell meals, and welcoming Sharmishta (Newcastle University Business School’s International Relations Manager) to Ahmedabad.

From auto-rickshaws to handloom clusters, the 6 week internship with EDI is one that I will never forget. Whilst it’s hard to sum-up an experience like this one in a blog, it can easily be done in a word – people. The people I’ve met and worked with along the way – EDI employers & students; Boston & Newcastle University; citizens of India and especially the other interns – have made this experience possible, and better than I could have imagined. An internship in India has offered me a diverse cultural experience leading to new friendships, and enhanced my international network. In addition, I have gained practical and professional marketing experience, and developed as a global citizen.

It is for the above reasons and many more that I strongly recommend this internship – and any other Global Experience Opportunity (GEO) – to anyone who wants to build an exceptional international portfolio.

* The purpose of the process documentation was to produce a clear and accessible standalone document which outlined all EDI interventions within the three-handloom clusters. This allows EDI and other parties to easily review past interventions.

EDI-SEWA-Interns-temple

Self-Employed Women’s Association – Week 6

EDI-SEWA-group-photoI cannot believe that the internship has finished. I sit here in the EDI campus just a few hours away from my flight home and I am still trying to take it all in. I have had an amazing time, and I have met so many wonderful people here, from students and teachers to managers and RUDIben (self-employed women who sell RUDI products).  It has given me a completely new perspective on how businesses can work, and has shown me the true determination and power of the women involved with SEWA and RUDI.

I have personally found our last week of the internship the best out of all of them. It started off on Monday with the presentation of Tim’s and my 5 year business plan for the Surendranagar District of RUDI.  To finally show our finished product and receive such positive feedback made all the hours that we spent working on it worthwhile. In the evening we met up with Sharmishta and all of the intern’s supervisors at a beautiful restaurant to be served a feast of Gujarati dishes. Sharmishta had the chance to meet our supervisors to whom we had all grown very close, whilst we filled our bellies with some delicious and rather strange food.

But our work had not quite finished there. Tim and I were then informed we would be making a trip to another district that had just started up so that we could create a short report on it and come up with a few recommendations on how they can improve. So on Tuesday, Dimpleben, Tim, and I set off to Rajasthan for two days.

It was great to be out in India again, peering out into the countryside and visiting various centres that provide support to so many people. A few hours later we arrived at our destination and were warmly welcomed by a group of RUDIben and their children who took us on a tour of the village, stopping off at various houses to be served sweet chai and spicy food. When we returned to the centre, we gathered the information we needed, helped the RUDIben load the car, and went to stay the night at one of SEWA’s manager schools before setting off back to Ahmedabad.

On the Thursday I spent my time writing the report and playing football with the Indian students with Jordan and Addison. We had come to look forward to the 6 o’clock kick off like eager children on Christmas Eve.

Friday came quickly, the last day of the internship, who could believe it?! The SEWA interns had a meeting where we showed our work and discussed the internship with our supervisors. They were all impressed with our work and effort over the course of the internship, and us with their kindness and help along the way. We also had the chance to talk to a couple of people who had been brought into SEWA to come up with a strategy for the next ten years; one of whom was a professor from Cambridge who was from the midlands, so after a brief while of talking football about Birmingham (whom I support) and West Brom, we discussed our work with them. To get more praise for our work from such people made Tim and me even happier, it really made us proud of our work. But things weren’t all so positive… we then had to say bye to Dimpleben, with whom Tim and I had grown so used to going into work and seeing her smiling face and hearing her little jokes. But Dimpleben wasn’t the only person who we were saying goodbye to; Addison left that afternoon, followed by Jordan, Jamie, Harriet, Su and Alex who set off on their travels around India. Lola and Bradley left in the evening, leaving me alone for Sunday.

But it wasn’t all so bad; I went to a market with a few Indian friends I had made on the campus and bought a kurta for my little nephew, and I cannot wait to see him in it! I had my last meal out which consisted of plenty of chicken and rice and returned back to the campus to pack my bags and write this blog.

It has been a truly memorable 6 weeks and I can look back on my experience with a fondness for this crazy and wonderful country I never thought I’d have. India has been so welcoming and friendly, and I have gained so much invaluable knowledge and seen sights that you cannot see anywhere else. I know I will return one day, and sooner rather than later I hope.

SEWA women at work

Self-Employed Women’s Association 2014 – Week 4

museumRather than the usual Monday morning, this week we were treated to a trip to the Calico Museum of Textiles, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ahmedabad, and considered essential to our work (I was informed that my supervisors would not allow me to leave the city without paying the museum a visit).

The museum was based on a carved wooden house, traditional to Gujurat, which was over 200 years old and could be broken down and transported, which is a very interesting detail.

Once inside the museum, we were bombarded with textiles on every wall, floor and ceiling. The early sections boasted fabrics and cloths from the 15th Century. As our guide pointed out, some of the shapes were not the most flattering, but “they did their best.” As we moved deeper into the museum, we learned more and more about different embroidery and decorative techniques, from the very small and neat cobblers’ stitch (developed by cobblers using hooks to sew leather shoes), to the precision of the Punjabi embroidery style, whereby the embroidery would count the threads the stitch would cover to create perfect geometric designs.

The traditional techniques of people in Gujurat and other Indian states were all on show in the museum. One large hall was completely covered in an intricate canvas tent from the Mughal period, along with modesty screens, which they used to allow women to observe without being seen.

Each room in the museum had a different theme and so we were able to walk from a room of quilted, 3D designs to one in which everything was covered in tiny beads, painstakingly sewn together in complex designs and patterns. In some of the later rooms we learnt more about styles such as tie dye and weaving. One technique involved the weaver dyeing every single thread individually in multiple colors so that once they were all woven together a design was created. The artisans creating such pieces would have no written instructions, but would translate designs from their mind’s eye to the loom. Other hand-embroidered pieces would take two artisans up to three years to complete, with each embroiderer starting from opposite ends and working towards the middle, creating a symmetrical design. Each stage in designs such as this were passed on through song, with the artisan creating the design, singing the instructions to their partner at the other end.

I think we were all thoroughly impressed by the meticulous skills of these artisans, and their patience!

On Tuesday night we decided to go out for dinner to celebrate the return of our very own prodigal sons (also known as the EDI boys). The plan was to meet at the beautiful Kankaria Lake; however, some of us got a little side-tracked, staging a daring rescue of an injured bird with the help of our trusted rickshaw driver, Manglesh. Instead of going to the lake, we instead went to a veterinary clinic that accepted injured animals off the street (for the cynical amongst you, they had a huge enclosure full of pigeons so I’m confident that they didn’t just put our little bird down). There we encountered an adorable little dog, locked in a cage with a bandaged leg, yapping inconsolably. When we asked why no one had changed his bloody bandage, we were informed that it was in fact rabid. Oh.

On Thursday I was lucky enough to visit Jamie’s work place, known as Gitanjili. Here I had the chance to meet some of the waste pickers who had joined SEWA and now worked making recycled stationary. I was immediately impressed by all the Gujurati Jamie had learned, as she was able to hold a pretty decent conversation with the women there. I, however, had absolutely no clue what was going on, but managed to make friends whilst learning their special paper counting technique (which was actually much harder than it looked!) Overall, Jamie and I had a lovely time, with Jamie conducting interviews with some of the workers whilst I struggled to get the right paper flicking technique. That was until The Rain became ridiculous. Yes, I have deliberately capitalized and italicized The Rain in line with my new found respect for the beast.

At around 4 o’clock, one of the ladies came upstairs to ask how Jamie and I were planning to get home. We were confused by the question until we looked down the stairs and saw the water level standing at lower shin depth on the street outside, despite the fact that the road was sloped.

Initially Jamie’s supervisor Neelimaben was going to come to our rescue, offering to take us in her car to a point where the water wasn’t so bad so our rickshaw driver could collect us. This plan was quickly scrapped, however, when we saw the parade of broken rickshaws outside the gate, including one which had been washed onto its side. Eventually we decided that we would have to brave it and walk to meet our rickshaw on higher ground.

As we made our way through the gate we were met by our very soggy rickshaw driver sans rickshaw (he had, however, brought along his trusty radio wrapped in a plastic bag). He informed us we would have to walk through knee deep water to get to the rickshaw. He lied. Jamie and I are not the tallest people in the world anyway, but by the time we made it to “the puddle,” things had become somewhat worse. The water was up to the tops of our thighs and we had to wade a good 100 meters through it. Never have I tried harder to put mind over matter. I still refuse to think about what must have been in that dark brown water…

Nevertheless, Jamie and I survived the ordeal and lived to see another day (meaning a hot shower involving epic amounts of hand sanitizer and soap!)

So yes, just another quiet week in India…Museum-2

Entrepreneurship Development Institute Internship 2014 – Fourth Week, Jordan

Jamie and Alex enjoying the fairgroundOn his return from a tiresome field trip spent conducting research, Jordan updates us on his first week back in the EDI centre…

Clip clop came the sound of Alex’s and my footsteps as we reached our adopted home – Ahmedabad. The previous sixteen hours had been a typical Indian train journey consisting of around twelve hours’ sleep and four hours of eating. Upon arrival at EDI, Alex and I headed to bed to gain some post-fieldwork recuperation.

Wednesday was a good day. After being advised to rest, Alex and I decided to have a relaxing day in Ahmedabad’s city centre for the first time. A typically eventful auto rickshaw ride saw us arrive at the exclusive Alpha mall, allowing for some retail therapy and, of course, McDonalds.

Thursday through Saturday was a return to reality, and we documented all of our fieldwork research in a structured fashion. Solidifying a detailed outline of each document was the main priority for the Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being used to get the bulk of our first draft of the process documentation and the business plan done.

Sunday arrived quickly, as work had made the days fly by, and an early start was the order of the day as a heritage walk had been organised with everyone from Boston and Newcastle, along with some EDI students in the city centre, for 9:00 am. Waterproofs at the ready, the auto rickshaw journey to Ahmedabad centre began. The tour included a variety of interesting aspects about the city, from the wide array of secret passageways throughout the city, to the Jain temples (somewhat of an area of expertise for Alex and me post-Chanderi). Needless to say, after the appetite-inducing walk, the group headed to Alpha mall to indulge in Pizza Hut and Subway. Following on from this, the group wanted a taste of the real India, and so we naturally headed to the Western-style amusement arcade within the mall, fairground rides included.

Overall, Week four was a good one. We made big strides towards the completion of our internship project, along with enjoying a bit of relaxation that was the goal set on the train back to Ahmedabad.

 

Reserve Bank of India – Fourth Week

DCIM100GOPROWeek four had a slower feel due to the lack of a mid-week adventure for the whole team, but it was just as exciting as the others. While the beginning of the week was rather uneventful, we were lucky enough to have our first hands-on experience with the Indian wildlife on Wednesday without even leaving our office. It caught us by surprise – we originally mistook the squeaking in the wall as a sign that our air conditioning system was failing us, until we saw a head pop out. It was horrifying and humorous, and nobody was sure how to handle it. What we thought was a rat soon spread its wings, and as it left the comforts of the wall, we left the comforts of our office, confused and amused. It was a bat, and nobody knew what to do until a brave local managed to corner it, capture it, and release it back into the outside world. Everything was well again until another bat flew out of the wall while a maintenance team was trying to fix a leak in the room.

DCIM100GOPROOther than Chris and Courtney conducting surveys and field work on Thursday, the team’s first outing of the week occurred on Saturday with a visit to Symbiosis International University’s School of Banking and Finance on the outskirts of Pune. Symbiosis was unique compared with the other universities in the area because of its very diverse student body with people from all around the world. During our visit, we observed many presentations from faculty members about their research on financial inclusion while many of the graduate students presented their field work on the issues of microfinance and financial inclusion. During the Q&A session, Vicki raised a question about whether or not India could adapt a similar system to Kenya’s mobile banking system. To our surprise, a Kenyan graduate student at Symbiosis was in the audience. He got up and spoke about Kenya’s system, mentioning how their decision to adopt mobile banking technology wasn’t based on extensive research and collected data; instead, people asked the mobile companies for the technology, and they made it work. In his opinion, India has the capability to do this as well, and he said that people just needed to act on it and make it happen. In other words, his philosophy was best summarized with Nike’s company
motto: Just Do It. Everyone in the room was very impressed with the way he spoke, and we were glad to hear his perspective on an issue relevant to financial inclusion in India. After the presentations, we were asked to come to the podium and speak about our own experiences in India and at RBI. We were asked about the differences and similarities between our homes, education, and life experiences, though as a member of the audience stated at the end, “we’re all human.” After all of this, we were treated DCIM100GOPROto a fantastic lunch at the Symbiosis guest house on top of a mountain
with fantastic views of the surrounding landscape.
At this point in the trip, we are beginning to realize just how little time we have left. We hope to make the most of it by continuing to immerse ourselves into the Indian culture, and it’s safe to say that we’re all very excited for Thursday’s visit to meet RBI’s Deputy Governor and see the DCIM100GOPROcentral offices in Mumbai.

Entrepreneurship Development Institute Internship 2014 – Third Week – Addison

FloodingEDI sent us (Bradley and Addison) to Varanasi to investigate the local branch of the Producer Company, an organization of weavers, dyers, master weavers and other members of the crafting process. Our last days there were challenging but very productive. After finalizing our objectives and completing the last of our interviews, we spent our final day touring Varanasi. The tour was a great way to see Varanasi and the surrounding area. We started by checking out a temple dedicated to Gandhi that included a stunning 3-D map of India in the middle of the temple. After purchasing more souvenirs than were necessary, we headed to a handicraft store to buy even more! The handicraft store sold everything from historical paintings of India to diamond encrusted jewelry. Whilst we were tempted, we stuck to our student budgets and purchased enough chai to last us a lifetime. If you haven’t tried chai yet, you need to visit India!

Since a trip to Varanasi wouldn’t be complete without purchasing a lifetime supply of authentic handloom products, we asked our employers to bring some stalls and scarves for us to try. After weavers from the Producer Company Limited bought scarves to our hotel room, we realized the true potential of such a personalized service. Consequently, we aim to offer such a tailored service to other tourists in Varanasi to attract more international customers to the Producer Company Limited. After purchasing 15 scarves between us, you only have to ask Addison and I how successful this business could be!

BradleyAfter 2 amazing weeks in Varanasi, it was time to fly back to Ahmedabad. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our 42-hour train ride to Varanasi, we felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not to be repeated anytime soon!

Our first couple of days back in Ahmedabad have been really nice and have allowed us time to catch up with our friends on the SEWA and EDI internships. To celebrate our reunion, we went for a group meal to BBQ nation, a full buffet of skewers of chicken, shrimp, lamb, and fish. It was all-you-can eat and was, in fact, just too much to eat!

-Bradley and Addison

Entrepreneurship Development Institute Internship 2014 – Third Week – Alex

Alex in ChanderiChanderi Week 2:

It was during our second week in Chanderi, when things really began to heat up, literally and figuratively. Not only were the temperatures warmer-than-average temperatures–due in part to the delayed arrival of the monsoon season–but also this week we really bit our teeth into our primary research. We had set out to interview the following stakeholders within the Chanderi Handloom Cluster:

  • Weavers (Shareholders and Non-Shareholders)Chanderi 2
  • Designers (Head and Local Designers)
  • Local Association Managers
  • BVS Director
  • BVS Dyers
  • Chanderiyaan
  • Chanderi New Design Center (Raw Mango Producers)
  • Government Officials
  • Traders (Silk, Cotton, and Jari)
  • Board of Directors
  • CEO

Chanderi 1We wanted to get access to every level of the value chain from raw material to the finished good. Our mission was to evaluate the operations of the PCL so that we could identify and correct any inefficiencies within its structure. We did so through objective surveys, case studies, and personal interviews. We knew that we would be leaving Monday morning of the next week, and fitting in all of the interviews was a challenge in itself. Jordan and I had taken a 7 day work week, but we were able to fit it all in and even began to formulate a few great recommendations for the PCL. I will reserve those for next week’s post. Wish us luck on the train ride back!

Entrepreneurship Development Institute Internship 2014 – Second Week – Alex

Chanderi 5Chanderi Week 1: Orientation

After a 16 hour train ride through Gujurat and Rajastan, Jordan and I (Alex) had arrived in Chanderi at around 2 pm. We had done some preliminary research about the illustrious handloom industry and the region we would be investigating. In doing so, we had found that the town is actually part of the Jain Teerth and is home to many Jain temples. Also dotted around the city are a handful of palaces and edifices dating back to the 1400’s. Jordan and I were excited to explore everything that the medieval-walled city had to offer.

Chanderi 4Besides taking in the people, the food, and the sites, week one was quite an intensive work week. We had taken the first three days to orient ourselves completely with the Chanderi handloom cluster, which meant walking many miles in a day to the homes of different weavers, designers, traders, and local associations. We set out to learn the ins and outs of the cluster’s operations, so we would have a better idea of where the Chanderi Handloom Cluster Development Producer Company Limited (PCL) fit inside of it. Once Jordan and I had felt comfortable with the general logistics of it all, we began to dig into the PCL, speaking directly to the CEO to gather information regarding its financials, operations, and market linkages. By Friday, we had completed the first part of our data collection process. The weekend, of course, was reserved for some site seeing.Chanderi 6

-Alex Silberman

Self-Employed Women’s Association 2014 – Third Week

Su and Lola with SEWA helpersThis week at SEWA has been a fascinating learning experience. The SEWA unit I work for is called the SEWA Manager ni School. Like its name says, it provides the members of the organization basic lessons on different aspects of business and the economy that will help them better manage their micro enterprises. The difference between this school and any other management school is that its target audience includes literate, semi literate as well as illiterate women. All of them, however, are still the primary sources of income for each of their households through various forms of economic activity.

One of the modules that is taught to the SEWA members is about financial management. Because the module was created some time ago, my task is to give insight regarding what topics are still relevant or not, propose new ones and make the respective changes. Once this is done, I will include it in a larger more comprehensive micro enterprise development module, which I will also review and modify. In order to better understand how these modules work, I was able to sit on one on Monday and Tuesday. I was really glad to meet the women upon whom the module has a direct impact. Because many of them are illiterate or semi literate, the classes are required to be very interactive and include activities such as role playing and various games. I was amazed at how quickly these women were able to work as a team without having met each other before.

Interns at private temple AkshardamThe sessions are normally given in Gujarati which is the local language. However, Salmaben, the instructor, asked them to speak in Hindi so that Gunjan (my coworker) could translate to me. I could not express enough how grateful I was for the extra effort they put forth just for me.  One of the words I learned, together with the SEWA members was “Udyogsahsikta.” In Hindi, this means “entrepreneur,” but the beauty of it is that “Udyog” means business and “sahskita” is related to courage. Together we learned that to be an entrepreneur, one must be courageous and accept all the risks that come with starting a business.  As we, the interns, approach the halfway point on our journey, we could not be more amazed at how much we have learned and grown as travelers, business students, and people. I cannot wait for what the next three weeks have in store for us.

-Su Lau