FTMBA students Mohsin Alvi, Dhiren Belur, Susan Lee, and Rachel Park are completing their Spring 2015 IBD project with Population Services International in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
May 28, 2015: A day in the life of Team PSI
Interview with Precision Air: The day started in Dar Es Salaam’s city center, with an interview with two employees of Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest airline. Our project was about exploring new revenue opportunities for PSI clinics through corporate contracts, so part of our learning was gathering information about employer health plans from local corporations. In our interviews, we learned that Precision Air employees had very robust health coverage with private insurance, and thus was likely not the target market for PSI clinics. This was invaluable information for us, however, as we were able to quickly shift gears and secure interviews with lower-income employers for the following week.
PK Dispensary: Our next stop of the day was PK Dispensary, a PSI clinic just outside Dar. In addition to gathering information about employers, we were also interviewing various PSI clinics in tandem to understand their services and relationship with employers in their area. PK Dispensary was quite sophisticated relative to other PSI clinics, with a pharmacy, laboratory, and a much higher patient load. We learned from the manager, James, that PK Dispensary already had a few active contracts with local employers, and he provided valuable information on how those contracts benefit the clinic and the employees, as well as how those contracts were structured. James also got us in touch with one of the employers that PK Dispensary contracts with, so during the value prop testing phase of our project, we were able to test out our ideas with them.
Drive to Morogoro: After a long day of interviews, we hopped back into the van and headed out for Morogoro, a small city in a rural area of Tanzania where several other PSI clinics operate. We had an interview with one of these clinics scheduled the following morning, so we could get a more rural perspective on the needs and challenges of PSI clinics in addition to the clinics we had visited in Dar.
The drive to Morogoro from Dar was not for the faint of heart. It took about 5 hours, many of which were on the bumpiest dirt roads we’d ever felt. Here in Tanzania they call it an “African massage.” I’d say it’s more like being tossed in a washing machine. Luckily, Morogoro is absolutely beautiful, with lush, green mountains filling the skyline. We were lucky enough to catch a double rainbow and a sunset on the drive there.
Roadside snacks: Off the side of the road, we saw a guy selling huge stalks of sugarcane and we immediately pulled over. We watched in amazement as he hacked into the sugarcane with a machete; it was the first time Rachel and I had ever had sugarcane straight from the stalk before. The texture was like celery, and it tasted much milder than I was expecting—delicious and not overly sweet. A hefty bag of sugarcane kept us going for the rest of the bumpy ride.
After a long but rewarding day, we settled in for a good night’s rest. In one day we experienced the bustle of the Tanzanian capital and the otherworldly scenery of Morogoro. It was one of those days that makes you feel lucky to be here–and ready for the next day’s adventure.