Team Lucep – Bangalore, India (IBD Summer 2016)

Background:
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in May, the IBD class of Summer 2016 walked into a Berkeley Haas classroom in eager anticipation for what was to come.  It was then that we would learn where our IBD adventure would take us, and which of our classmates would be coming along for the ride.  We were thrilled to meet each other for the first time and discover that we would be heading to Bangalore – the “Silicon Valley” of India.  Although we started out as a team of acquaintances at the time, the 8 week IBD experience would transform us into a tight-knit family.

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We hit the ground running by setting up our first client call within days after the first class.  We were assigned to work with Lucep, a startup that built a tool for lead management and sales acceleration.  This tool appears as a widget on the customer’s website and is similar to a “Contact Us” box that requires fields of information to be filled out (name, company, phone number, etc.).  The information that’s submitted is sent to a salesperson’s mobile phone in which the salesperson is then able to connect with a customer in 60 seconds or less.  The idea behind this is that businesses (especially startups and small/medium businesses) need to engage with prospective leads as soon as possible to prevent businesses from losing leads to their competitors.

Lucep then shared with us their challenge.  How do they go to market in the U.S.? How do they go to market in India? Can a single strategy be applied in both countries?  Or would each country require its own unique game plan?

The research:

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Since we all hailed from different backgrounds, we knew that gaining an understanding of the product offering would require a considerable amount of research.  We decided to focus on 3 main pillars:

  • First, we looked to industry news, articles and blogs to learn as much as we could about sales acceleration and lead management. This meant keeping up with the latest industry news and articles on sites such as TechCrunch and following relatedt tech blogs.
  • We then analyzed the competition by downloading whitepapers, watching informational videos, and even contacting competitors directly to get a more in-depth understanding of their products and how Lucep might differentiate itself.
  • Most of our research insights were derived from interviews. We reached out via our personal and Haas networks to learn about which SaaS products were currently being used by companies in the high technology indstury.  Also, we ascertained whether these companies placed an emphasis on fast response to prospective leads (Lucep’s core value proposition) and companies’ feedback on Lucept’s product.

We spent the first 6 weeks of IBD (up until we left for Bangalore) vetting out the U.S. market only.  The focus switched over to the Indian market once we arrived in Bangalore.

Day of Arrival
The day had come and we finally arrived in Bangalore after enduring a 20+ hour travel time from San Francisco to Bangalore.  Our client graciously sent a car to pick us up af the airport.  As we traveled from the airport to the office, one visibly difference between the US and India became apparent.  Bangalore traffic is unlike we had ever seen.  There is endless honking coming from a mix of rickshaws, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bikes that weave in and out of each other and avoid cows and other animals idling in the middle of the streets.  Yet, there seemed to be a hidden sense of order underneath the seemingly chaotic traffic since no accidents or road rage were observed and locals seemed to have mastered the art of the “near miss” when driving through a tangled web of people, animals, and cars.

After 2 weeks, we learned that the keys to successful driving in Bangalore require 3 things – a good horn, good brakes, and good luck.

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Interviews:
Similar to our approach in the U.S., much of our research in India was based on interviews that were mostly set up by the client.  We had the opportunity to speak to a wide range of professionals including those working in sales, marketing, and even CEOs and founders of established Indian tech companies.  This was an incredible and eye opening experience and really brought to life some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Indian markets.
One of these differences is the idea of “jugaad.” This word, originating from Hindi, refers to intelligent hacking to find a low cost solution.  We learned that SaaS has not been a successful model because of this juggad.  Rather than purchase a SaaS solution, many companies choose to “jugaad” a solution by creating their own in-house customer relationship management (CRM) systems, adopting the use of spreadsheets for complicated tasks, or installing pirated software.  We found that this greatly differed from the Silicon Valley startup scene where SaaS products such as Marketo, Hubspot, and Salesforce were fully adopted and paid for by organizations ranging from a handful to thousands of employees.

 

TechInAsia:
To supplement our research, Charlies Salazar was sent on Berkeley Haas Team’s behalf to attend the TechInAsia conference, a gathering designed to connect Asia’s tech ecosystem.  Conference attendees included a multitude of reps from startups across Asia, guest speakers, and investor panels.  The conference culminated in a pitch competition in which one lucky startup received financial backing to pursue their idea.

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Reflection:
Looking back on the experience, it was nothing short of incredible.  We were extremely lucky to have been assgined to such a amazing client and wondrous country.  Lucep were incredible hosts and we were able to learn a great deal about the Indian technology and startup scene from them.  We thank the IBD program and Berkeley Haas for giving us this precious opportunity that definitely a trip of a lifetime.

For a more visual look into our trip, please check out our video blog:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-01RrWtqGmE

Arrival and Exploring the Brands of Madura

Full-time MBA students Lamees Alotaishan, Tyler Fisher-Colbrie, Derek Kenmotsu, Vanessa Pau, and Tina Ying are working with a major fashion apparel company located in Bengaluru, India aimed at determining the viability of integrating wearable technology into their product lines.

After a 20 hour journey, Team Madura landed in Bengaluru, India and hit the ground running. First order of business: retail therapy! In order to understand the Madura Fashion & Lifestyle brands, we visited four of Madura’s flagship stores of Peter England, Allen Solly, Van Heusen, and Louis Philippe. Each brand maintained its own unique personality and price point.

Understanding the nuances of each brand helped our team prepare for our mission: To explore the viability of integrating wearable technology into Madura’s product lines.

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The flagship store of Louis Philippe, Madura’s luxury brand

Tina and Lamees checking out traditional designs 

Tina and Lamees checking out traditional designs

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Derek can’t stop raving about Indian wedding attire

Fashion meets Lean Manufacturing
From concept to creation, the Madura’s Technology Management Center (TMC) brings fashion designs to life.

Our second day focused on observing and understanding the manufacturing operations of Madura. The TMC houses the most specialized seamstresses in the company. Their goal is to produce the newest concepts created by brand apparel designers.

From the TMC, we traveled to Anekal District to visit Madura’s manufacturing facilities. We observed the impressive mass production of Madura’s apparel. From elaborate embroideries to 120 operations that goes into completing a formal suit, Madura implements the lean manufacturing process, Kaizen, which they adopted from the Toyota Production System (TPS).

A glimpse of the Technology Management Center

A glimpse of the Technology Management Center

Outside of the Madura manufacturing facility

Outside of the Madura manufacturing facility

Ideating with Madura

We led Madura’s Product Development & Quality Assurance Team and four individual brand teams through five ideation sessions to create innovative e-textile solutions. We started by giving the teams an example persona with a pain point. Then we introduced them to the user-centric design thinking process to ideate product solutions that addressed that pain point.

We walked each group through the process, then broke off into teams to ideate around specific lifestyle applications that can be addressed by e-textile and smart clothing solutions. The teams went through a series of diverging and converging to finally come up with the most compelling ideas. Teams consisted of experts from product, marketing, design and textile experts. Product ideas ranged from fad fashion to futuristic technology concepts that are not yet developed. The ideation sessions were filled with energy, open-mindedness and creative prototyping. Afterwards, we shared a framework for launching these potential solutions through the Business Model Canvas tool.

Our presentation to jumpstart the ideation sessions

Our presentation to jumpstart the ideation sessions

Tina coaches designers and product managers through the ideation phase

Tina coaches designers and product managers through the ideation phase

A prototype of Life Connect, a garment that uses e-textiles to alert help

A prototype of Life Connect, a garment that uses e-textiles to alert help

An Excursion to Mumbai

Mumbai was a breath of fresh air, a very cosmopolitan city. From pushing through a bustling crowd at the Gateway of India and taking a ferry to Elephanta Island, our adventure to Mumbai was full of highlights. We also had the pleasure of catching up with the other Haas team that was based out of Pune, India.

At Elephanta Island, we captured the sight of a monkey feeding its little baby. The weather was very hot and humid, but was well worth the trip. There was a little bazaar under bright blue and yellow canopies on the island where visitors can shop for trinkets and crafts made by the locals. The island itself was a beautiful sight, with tropical palm trees and blue ocean surrounding the Hindu religious sights. We had a tour guide give us a brief explanation of the 1,200 year-old history of these sights. Then we topped off the night at a skydeck overlooking all of Mumbai while watching the UEFA Champions League Finals. It was the perfect conclusion to a successful trip!

Locals that we sighted on Elephanta Island

Locals that we sighted on Elephanta Island

The Trimurti sculpture at Elephanta Island

The Trimurti sculpture at Elephanta Island

For a more visual look into our trip, please check out our video blog:

Update from IBD Team Seva

Seva-HV Desai IBD Team – Clare Schroder, Laura Stewart, Lizzie Faust, Rene Castro, Santiago Marchiori.

Altruism. It is the defining characteristic of those we have met here in India working for the HV Desai Eye Hospital (HVD). Two months ago the Seva-HVD Haas IBD team came together in pursuit of financial sustainability for the non-profit eye hospital. HVD aims to prevent needless blindness regardless of one’s ability to pay, and they do so through subsidizing those unable to pay with the profits from those able to pay, as well as donations. In India, this model is not unique to HVD, yet it is far less common in our own countries of Argentina, Chile, and the U.S. HVD’s tireless dedication to this work is evident in the significant time they have spent supporting our work here in India. Their goodness comes through in their hospitality, ensuring our own comfort and enjoyment of the city. A hospital board member even welcomed us to his chocolate factory on Sunday, where we indulged in chocolate, organic foods, ice cream, a hike, a temple visit, and a local village wedding.

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The groom, a family member, and the bride

At the wedding, we quickly came to realize this was the marriage between poorer members of society, the people HVD seeks to help. And while we were unprepared for the wedding and had nothing to offer, the bride’s family gifted each of us with a coconut.

Overwhelming altruism isn’t the only new experience we’ve had in India. We’ve tried unfamiliar foods (our stomachs regretting only a small percentage), learned burping in public is socially acceptable, and seen eyeballs in the eye bank.

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Col. Deshpande showing us a cornea in the eye bank

We have also experienced the famous (or infamous?) Indian head shake/nod/wiggle. We had heard from our pre-departure cultural interviews that the quirky motion indicates agreement, meaning yes or please continue, so during our day of arrival presentation we felt prepared when the head shakes began.

We quickly took a nose-dive though, as the head shake changed to an inexplicably clear “no” head motion. How did we get the number of people blind in India wrong? Was our average cost of surgery that off? As each of us presented, we panicked in the same way, over explaining the more vigorously they shook their heads “no.” Our cultural interviews hadn’t prepared us for this – thanks Arun.

We progressed into our first week still uncertain about the head shaking, but happy to be in country, seeing the hospital we had heard so much about. We worked alongside doctors to brainstorm patient experience improvements, visited competing hospitals, and conducted over 20 patient interviews.

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 Laura, Clare, and Santi doing some PFPS-style brainstorming with 7 residents

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Santi interviewing a patient

During those interviews, we began with, “How was your experience at HV Desai?” Head shake.

“Your experience has been ‘yes’? Could you elaborate on that?” It was after this interview, a few days in, that we mustered the courage to ask why people so often vehemently disagreed with us with their head shake while affirming yes verbally. We learned any head motion is a sign of agreement and we felt much better about our first week.

The patients have confirmed that HV Desai has incredible eyecare quality, value for money, the most advanced technology, and the most experienced doctors. We rarely heard about their altruism or their charity playing an important role in the eyecare provider selection process for the paying patients, the patients we need to attract more of to achieve financial sustainability. This finding is one we’ve seen not only in patient interviews, but also through industry research. Moreover, patient surveys and Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) data analysis have revealed the importance of amenities and eye lens differences. Again, not charity.

Here we are, five business students in India telling a nonprofit hospital to change their branding for the paying segment from a focus on charity to a focus on quality and affordability.

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Santi, Lizzie, Clare, Rene, and Laura being tourists, led by Outreach Coordinator Pravine

Unlike the staff and management, the altruism is not our target segment’s main motivator for eyecare. Our job now is to convince leadership that in addition to a shift in branding, building upon and reinforcing the most important needs of the paying patient – specific amenities, price transparency, shorter wait times, eyecare excellence – will create financial sustainability. Growing profits is not just for corporations, but also for a nonprofit hospital that can now provide even more free surgeries to those unable to pay.

 

Exploring Automotive Markets in India

FTMBA students Thomas Jacobson, Irene Liang, Justin Simpson, Elmer Villanueva, and Marshall Witkowski are currently in Bangalore, India, working on an International Business Development (IBD) project.

I looked left, saw open road, and took a bold first step across the street. A horn sounded and three motorbikes whizzed by, just several feet in front of me. Having forgotten again that traffic comes from the right, I stepped back to the curb defeated. Elmer, as usual, had fearlessly crossed ahead. With a new break in traffic, I darted into the road. I’d nearly made it to the median when I had to dodge one last tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) that appeared out of nowhere!

Safely on the median now, I contemplated the next half of my journey. I waited patiently for several minutes. Discouraged by the never-ending traffic, I decided to try crossing like the locals: walk slowly and deliberately one step at a time and just pray that the traffic doesn’t hit me. After a terrifying 30 seconds and amidst a cacophony of car horns and my own adrenaline-filled heart beating out of my chest, I finally reached the far side and raised my fist in triumph at my successful road crossing! I turned around to celebrate with my teammates, only to sadden at the sight of them still on the other side. They hadn’t made the journey with me. I had to wait several more minutes as they crossed one-by-one, each person utilizing a different strategy to get across.

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Our Project

Having now been in country for ten days, our IBD group has been hard at work on our client project. From the moment we touched down, our client has been extremely hospitable. They’ve provided us all the resources we need to succeed and we’ve truly enjoyed the experience. All of the top executives have made themselves available to us and everyone we’ve met is eager to meet us and help in any way.

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Last week, we also travelled to Mysore to tour the manufacturing facilities of our client. We spent several days learning about their processes and how their products are currently made. They held nothing back, showing us everything from start to finish. We gained great insights from the trip and it really helped to solidify our understanding of their capabilities and shape our thinking for our own product recommendation.

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This past Monday, we were able to visit the Mercedes-Benz Research & Development India office. It’s a large complex of about 4,500 employees and they shared with us all about their engineering work. When Mercedes-Benz first brought their cars to the Indian market, they uncovered some interesting insights about the local market. Their car horns are typically designed for 10,000 uses, which should last the life of the car. But here in India, horns are used much more often and customers were complaining that their horns were dying within just several months! Mercedes-Benz had to install a new car horn designed for one million uses.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit a prominent local startup that’s developing its own electric scooter. This visit was made possible through one of our Haas classmates, proving already how valuable our new networks can be! We were excited to learn about their growing business and they were excited to hear about life in Silicon Valley.

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We’re looking forward to the final week of our stay and the culmination of our project. Our final recommendation will be delivered to the client before we leave, and we sincerely hope that they will find it useful.

The Country and Culture

We’ve gotten a thorough taste of Bangalore during our time here. The food, mostly vegetarian, has been delicious. My personal favorite dish has been the breakfast dosa, which is similar to a pancake and is served folded over a mix of spiced vegetables. Others in the group have really taken to puri (pictured below), which is a deep-fried bread that rises and fills with air before being served.

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Last week, while in Mysore, we took a short break from work to visit the Mysore Palace. It’s a former residence of the royal family and a beautiful complex only about a century old.

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After our hard first week of work, we spent the weekend near to the village of Masinagudi, deep within the jungles of Bandipur National Park, also known as the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The weekend was largely used to relax and rejuvenate, and we took the opportunity to go on a jungle safari. We saw many deer and monkeys, a variety of birds, wild boars, a couple wild elephants, one mongoose, and the prized sightings of a couple large bison and two wild leopards! I loved how freely the animals were able to roam and, in fact, a couple wild elephants went on a nighttime adventure while we were there and caused quite some damage in a nearby village.

After all of our travel in the first week, we plan to stay in Bangalore for the second (upcoming) weekend and explore the city more. We’re having a great trip and really enjoying our IBD experience!

Updates from IBD India – Team ISB

A Tour of India by Kyle Bowman, Dickson Cohen, Hannah Davidoff and Sydney Thomas

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In less than three weeks, our Haas IBD team visited seven cities in as many states across India. We took four inter-country flights, one train, and three 4+ hour car rides. We spent more time in taxis than sleeping (unless, of course, you count sleeping in taxis) and rarely saw the temperature drop below 100°F. Throughout it all though, as a team, we leaned on and learned from each other to have a great cultural experience and produce a really awesome final presentation for our client.

Our project

Our client, the Max Institute of Healthcare Management (MIHM) at the Indian School of Business (ISB), is a new organization that was part educational body part think tank, with a mix of on-the-ground NGO sprinkled in. Our project revolved around helping them achieve their ambitious/audacious goal of transforming healthcare in India. Our task was to develop a strategic plan, with a special emphasis on helping them become a thought leader in the Indian healthcare space. So, you know, no pressure.

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Right away, we knew we were going to be dealing with big, hairy questions and ambiguity.  Between learning about the complex, dichotomous world of Indian healthcare and the confounding pursuit of “thought leadership” (how does one achieve what one cannot define?), we expected very few simple, clean answers. In light of that, we built a project plan around incremental steps toward actionable suggestions for our client.

During our time at Haas, we conducted basic research on India’s healthcare system to get the lay of the land, then moved into case studies to gain more focused insights on what steps other organizations had taken in their path to prominence. We then set up interviews with as many stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem as possible so that we could gain a three-dimensional view of India’s healthcare landscape. Using those interviews, we hoped to identify gaps that the Institute could fill and concrete recommendations for them to take in the short and long term.

Somehow, it worked. Over the course of our project, we interviewed around 50 people spanning the public and private sector, as well as Indian and global organizations. We spoke with CEOs, country directors, and partners at organizations like the World Bank, GlaxoSmithKline, Brookings, ICICI Lombard, and the Kaiser Family Foundation. None of us could believe the access we got or how helpful and frank our interviewees were.

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Armed with candid insights from the sector’s major stakeholders, some key frameworks we’d come across through our Haas-based research, and some handy dandy PFPS skills, we prepared a final product that our client was very happy with.

Experiencing India

Spending time in so many different parts of India, we all quickly realized the diversity of India. From the food to the dress to the language, each place had a unique character. Chandigarh was our first stop. Our newfound friends and coworkers at MIHM helped us explore the local sights – from the rock garden to the Elante mall – and even took us to a local bar to experience live music! Even with this excitement, we couldn’t believe how quiet it was. It felt like a sleepy college town which, we came to learn, definitely made it an outlier amongst Indian cities.

A few days later, we were on a flight to Hyderabad. As the home of the larger ISB campus, we were able to meet a number of students at a Saturday night event who shared with us their love of healthcare and amazing recommendations of places to visit and eat. In between exploring the big tourist spots like Charminar, Golconda Fort, and Birla Mandir, we tried the famous Biryani at Paradise, watched a Cricket game from a local sports bar (go Mumbai Indians!) and had dinner at a rooftop bar in Jubilee Hills.

We woke up before the crack of dawn on Monday morning to head to the airport for Bangalore. We only had one day in Bangalore so we had to make it count! We definitely saw why it was called the “Silicon Valley” of India. The high-rises were beautiful (and expensive!) and the weather was perfect at a balmy 90 degrees. We didn’t have much time to enjoy it though, the next day we were able to sleep in until 4am to head to the airport to our next destination – Mumbai.

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Once we reached Mumbai, we were greeted by the loudest and craziest taxi line any of us had ever seen. We stood there dazed and confused for about 10-15 minutes until we began to pick up signals on how to navigate the situation and eventually found a cab. Dressed in suits, we squeezed into the back of a small Tata in 100 degree heat. But as we passed extreme poverty on our way to the hotel, we were given a new appreciation for our predicament. We passed a long winding shanty-town and gazed at men, women, and children struggling to survive in the heatwave. Throughout our time in India, we learned that almost 1,000 people died due to the extreme heat. These conditions continued until we rolled into the parking lot of our grandiose hotel which seemed extremely out of place. Some of us couldn’t help but wonder where the employees of the hotel lived and how they felt about coming to such a different world to work each day.

Throughout our time in Mumbai, in addition to our interviews, we also took a cooking class with a woman from the East of India who taught us about the very different Assam culture. Because the east of India borders with China, it has an interesting confluence of foods and practices. Another humbling experience was our visit to Ghandi’s house. From reading his letters to learning more about the past injustices in India, this experience helped us appreciate India’s impact on the course of history.

Our last morning flight took us to Delhi. We definitely found our time there to be the highlight of our trip. We visited the Taj, explored the shops at Delli Haat, and did a morning bike tour around Old Delhi. On the bike tour, we rode through the old trading center, a large swath of butcher shops, stopped for a Chai break, and made it back to our hotel in time to quickly change the head out to our next interview.

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Halfway through our last week in India, we had a traditional Indian experience of the train! To head back to Chandigarh for our final presentation, we took a 3 hour train from Delhi. When we first arrived at the train station, we were all pretty terrified. The floor was covered with people sitting on the ground eating, sleeping, and hanging out. There was nobody around who spoke english who could help us figure out which train to take. Plus, the trains that passed us looked like they came out of a 1950s movie. Once we navigated the station to figure out which train to take, entered our cars and found our seats, we were pleasantly surprised. For about $10 each, we received a three course meal, full liters of water, and a ride straight to Chandigarh.

Our last few days in Chandigarh were spent diligently focused on completing our deliverables for our client. Luckily, our hard work paid off as our presentation went really smoothly. We were able to enter the beginning of the end of our India trip feeling accomplished.

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Throughout our three weeks in India we experienced so many different cultures, foods and people. However, there were a few things that didn’t seem to change. We were shown “aggressive hospitality” all across India – from people going out of their way to help us find our next stop to waiters running across a restaurant to make sure we didn’t have to pour our own water. Almost every cab driver drove a Suzuki Maruti or Tata Indigo and preferred to roll down his window to ask directions from a stranger instead of using a map. When an Indian shakes his or her from left to right, bobbing a bit, it means “yes,” not “no.” And as a group of four Americans, someone will always ask to take a picture with (or of) us.

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Updates from EWMBA IBD – Team Bombay Teen Challenge

Berkeley-Haas Part-Time MBA students Ellie Erickson, Katherine Foos, Cecilia Mui and Tamara Patterson worked with Indian nonprofit organization Bombay Teen Challenge to craft a sustainable and actionable plan to generate profits from products created by women saved from Mumbai’s Red Light District.

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A Typical IBD Workday

On the day of our final presentation, we experienced the following: 4 hours of sleep, gave a sad farewell to 20+ inspiring ladies (more on them later), drove 4 hours on monsoon-worn roads bogged down with traffic while attempting to finish up our slide deck, held down car sickness, got a flat tire, ate granola bars for lunch (again), presented our final results to the board for 3+ hours, Skyped with the CEO of our client’s oldest customer, ate dinner with the organization’s founder, and at 10 pm decided we should wait to tour the Red Light District another time.  That was Wednesday.

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Human Trafficking

Set Beautiful Free is the customer-facing campaign of Bombay Teen Challenge, a non-profit working to prevent sex slavery.  Mumbai is home to Kamathipura, the 2nd largest Red Light District in the Asian continent with over 40,000 women working in 14 crammed lanes.  When we visited the neighborhood we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of “Johns” swarming the streets.  Our guide informed us that the ratio of men to women in India is 7 to 1, which aligned with what we were seeing on the streets (but contradicted what we found from a quick google search). We saw women standing outside dimly lit doorways with painted faces attempting to make them look fair skinned, waiting for business.  Our driver told us there were many Bangladeshi women, a desired ethnicity.  These women likely started out as girls in their home country with a promise of a desirable job in India.  That fate is true about 50% of the time.  For the other 50% of girls, they are sold to a brothel, locked up and forced into sex slavery.  BTC restores hope and dignity to these women by rehabilitating and empowering them through education and vocational opportunities in a safe environment.  We were tasked with trying to make the sales of the goods made by these women into a sustainable and growing venture.

The initial project scope described the creation of a B2C marketing plan.  While in Berkeley, we discovered B2B was more appropriate and less than a week before leaving we uncovered critical operational gaps we then had to prioritize and address.  Our 20 minute Day of Arrival presentation turned into a 3.5 hour meeting, which established our credibility with the board members, and subsequently, staff were instructed to help us any way possible.  Over the next 6 business days we managed to build trust and gain invaluable insights into the organization.  Everyone recognized our objective participation and tried to help us in order to help the larger mission.  We stayed in Mumbai and at their campus in Badlapur to both learn about doing business in India to test rapid prototyping, as well as work alongside the women to understand their operations and how to best describe their message.  In the end, we completed a marketing plan, the core elements of a business plan, and strategic recommendations and specific contacts for which to follow up.  We even found a local store in Mumbai for them to sell their goods!

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Work Hard, Play Hard

When describing what we initially planned to do in India we said, “We’re basically going to go shopping.” While we did do that, the expanding scope, long travel time, and monsoon rains kept us from exploring much of the city.  We visited the Gateway to India, had tea in the regal Taj Hotel and even saw a movie (for $3!).

Seemingly with everything in India, there are too many more stories to tell about our experience so below are a few highlights and photos that encapsulate our time there:

  • When meeting each other at our first class in May, before we received our project assignment, we joked about a group of all women probably working with a non-profit or in fashion; we ended up doing both!
  • Meeting for over an hour with the General Manager of the Oberoi, a luxury 5-star hotel, provided an insightful conversation about Indian culture and its economic development—more than any research or study could have provided.
  • Meeting with the Consulate General of Iceland and getting his advice on business success, “Go ask my wife!”
  • Interviewing the Founder of BTC in the car for an hour after the 3.5 hour day of arrival presentation while in a downpour through roads flooded with 3+ feet of water, and only 30 hours after having landed in India. Talk about jet lag!
  • Laughing at how the ladies could make a bracelet in 5 minutes while Katie struggled to just start one for 15 minutes.
  • Having a focus group with the women to learn about their dreams, feelings about each other, and favorite movie stars.
  • Eating delicious crab caught at the local waterfall, cooked by the boys from BTC.
  • Giving each other DJ names – you’ll have to ask one of us to find out what they were 😉
  • Braving Mumbai roads for over 15 hours/week during the Monsoons.
  • Learning that if you’re the only one awake in the rural countryside area, all the bugs want to greet (and eat) you.
  • Seeing individuals, who have overcome so many obstacles in their lives, thrive in their element and really come alive when asking for their advice.
  • Opening a new product line and rapidly prototyping with one of their key customers.

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Conclusion

It isn’t often in business school that we get an opportunity to work in a group of all women.  We also got to learn more about India and Indian culture than any tour guide could have exposed us to.  The hospitality, warmth and recognition of human traits across socioeconomic boundaries were amazing to experience.  For instance, some girls told us they liked to spend the money they earned from making jewelry or chicken fried rice and joked with us about snatching vegetables from the garden.  Can’t we all relate to that?  As a reality check however, one of those girls ended up at BTC because of a coincidence when she was being shopped around to be sold to a brothel by a family member. This is just one of many stories of the amazing women hoping to benefit from our work, earn a dignified wage, own a humble home, and provide a future full of potential for their children.

To quote one of the many beautifully decorated trucks we saw, “India is great.”

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Updates from IBD India – Team SAP Ganges

Spring 2014 IBD FTMBA students Carmela Aquino, Dora Chai, Chasen Goudeau, Charles Guo, and Nate Wojck are in India working with SAP Labs India.

The road to the heart of the city teased us with twinkling night-lights in the distance, as we made our way past midnight into this strange, foreign town that would be home for the next 3 weeks. We would come to learn over the next few days and weeks that Bengaluru, or Bangalore as it was once called by the British, was once known as a “pensioner’s paradise” – for its relatively cool climate compared to the rest of the country.

These days, it was known more for being the technology capital of India, home to sprawling campuses of many of the world’s largest technology firms. We walked into Bangalore anticipating another version of Silicon Valley on the other side of the globe. We were not prepared for what we came across, a city that was both developed and yet steeped in so much tradition, both modern and yet traditional, and altogether unpredictable. What we learned over the next three weeks was that this would be a theme rippling across our experiences in India .

After 5 months of planning and 24 hours of travel, our team had finally arrived in Bangalore to carry out fieldwork for SAP Ganges, a project incubated by SAP Labs India, the research and innovation arm of SAP. For the next 3 weeks, we would be working with the SAP Ganges team to serve India’s unorganized retail industry, which is composed of several tiers of mom-and-pop shops, or  kirana stores.  They are small shops  that sell a rich variety of consumer packaged goods and bulk items such as rice, and could be found on practically every corner of most Indian cities. India’s 8 million plus kirana stores  account for more than 90% of the country’s multibillion retail industry, far outpacing the reach of modern big-box outlets, presenting immense opportunities and daunting challenges at the same time.

Reaching Indian Retail’s Last Mile

Our team had been preparing for this project for months, with numerous weekly phone calls with our project stakeholders from SAP, both in Palo Alto and Bangalore, and our IBD coach. We had interviewed subject matter experts and industry professionals to gain initial insights into our task. We had conducted research on best practices that could be applicable for the project. But the bulk of our work had to be done in-country, as it was only through fieldwork that we could find ourselves truly gaining the understanding needed to answer our questions. How could SAP truly help bring light to the whole unorganized retail value chain? How could we help bring SAP technology to kirana storeowners, many of whom had relied on pen and paper their whole life to account for their business?

sap1Team SAP Ganges visiting SAP America in Palo Alto in February 2014

Upon reaching Bangalore, we met with the entire SAP Ganges team. The diverse background of the team members, and more importantly, their shared passion for SAP Ganges impressed us. Many of them had switched into the project initially as volunteers. With the help of many of the members of the team, we set out to validate our initial hypotheses in the field by talking to kirana owners, CPG distributors, organized retail players, and CPG companies

The true highlight of the project was speaking with kirana owners, who surprised us with how unique they all were in their aspirations for their businesses and the practices they maintained that kept their businesses alive and thriving. Still, we found that many common things remained – many of these shops would have been around for more than a decade and had developed close community relationships. It has been customary for many Indian households to call the nearby kirana shop to pick up ingredients or household items, over going to a modern supermarket. It was also customary for many of these shop owners to offer revolving lines of credit to loyal customers, to be settled at the end of the month – offering a unique credit service that could be challenging to maintain.

 

store visit 2Speaking with a FMCG distributor at a kirana store

sap2Our team and our client visiting a kirana store in Bangalore

nate&chasenNate and Chasen discussing notes from our interview at our first kirana visit

These kirana shops keep themselves stocked by relying on their distributors, who would visit the shops on a weekly basis to take orders and fulfill them by ordering from the CPG companies. Since each distributor was dedicated to only one CPG brand primarily, any given shop could be dealing with more than 40 distributors. Accounting is done primarily through pen-and-paper, and shopkeepers rely on their books, intuition, and memory to estimate how much inventory is in their shop and how well they are doing financially. Still, these methods are not foolproof. SAP Ganges, with its all-in-one Point-of-Sale device offered a better way for these shop keepers to keep track of their sales, manage their customer credit lines, and keep stock of their inventory. But would shop owners be amenable to it? Our work lay in understanding how to reach SAP Ganges’ target kirana storeowners with the message that would truly appeal to them.

Surprises

Along the way, we were surprised by many things. We had assumed that certain aspects would be more important than others in selling the SAP Ganges solution. And yet kirana owners would surprise us with how they valued some things over others, and completely disregarded certain aspects that we had initially surmised to be important.

For instance, we initially thought the price of the device was too high for kiranas to fully absorb. However, throughout our interview process we learned that many of the upper-tier kirana owners were receptive to the price and possessed a willingness-to-pay that was much higher than what we assumed. We quickly learned that these storeowners saw value in one of the device’s most subtle features, which was the ability to print a receipt and give it to their customer. Phone orders are extremely popular in India, and shopkeepers spend significant time handwriting their bills for their customers. SAP’s solution would allow them to more quickly prepare these bills and provide a more professional invoice than the handwritten alternative. As a result of our discovery and understanding of the value of being more professional for shop owners to compete with emerging organized retailers, we decided to focus our messaging on selling SAP Ganges as “the next generation of affordable point-of-sale technology that promises simple and professional business management.”

kirana1An owner of a kirana store that sells primarily bulk goods

sap3The Nandi Departmental Store, our first kirana store interview

On the contrary, we were also surprised by how many storeowners were unreceptive to change. Many of these kirana owners had worked in their shops for decades. To them, technology was an unnecessary distraction from their current business operations. Even though we could see the value, in particular the efficiency, that SAP Ganges provides, we began to understand why these owners were resistant to adoption. Given the success of their business to-date, they didn’t see the need to invest in a device to make their business better. These owners also have yet to be exposed to the modern technology and retail systems of the United States and other developed countries; therefore, they couldn’t even imagine the benefits that such a technological solution could deliver.

Ultimately, we knew we needed to be sensitive to the kirana owners’ behaviors and practices and couldn’t force a product onto them. Therefore, we decided to focus our marketing efforts on a specific target segment of kirana owners that could envision the benefits SAP Ganges would provide them.

The interviews and visits were immensely helpful in that they provided us a first-hand exposure to SAP Ganges’ target customers, the unique role they play in the Indian society and the transformation India’s retail industry has been going through. Through our visits to the distributors and a local wholesale market, we came to appreciate the entrepreneurial spirits of Indian businesses, from the likes of the Reliance Industries Limited and Tata Group that touch every aspect of Indians’ life to Mr. Raghuram M.V.’s small distribution company which supplies packaged goods to thousands of kirana stores in Bangalore.

sap4Team SAP Ganges visiting distributor Mr. Raghuram M.V.

Not Just Work

Outside of our 5-day work schedule, our team still found time to hang out and explore India. During our first full-weekend we took a trip down to the southern state of Kerala, which was recommended to us by our client. They told us about the houseboats we could rent to explore the Kerala backwaters. These boats were decked with full kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. We could stay overnight and our boat staff would cook for us while exploring the waters. Our client introduced us to  a friend who owned one of these boats and we moved quickly to finalize our transportation plans to Kerala.

kerala

sap5View from our houseboat on the Kerala backwaters

We decided on hiring a driver to drive us down to Kerala and back over the weekend. Drivers in India are pretty affordable, and hiring one is much better than trying to navigate the insane driving in India. Flights to Kerala last only about an hour, but since we planned the trip on such short notice, flights were expensive and we would’ve had to figure out transportation once we landed. Little did we know that the trip to Kerala would take 14 HOURS one-way! We left late Friday night in order to beat the traffic and didn’t arrive to the houseboat until about 2:00pm on Saturday. Granted we stopped to see elephants along the way, but the trip lasted much longer than originally anticipated. Not to mention that driving on Indian highways at night is one of the most terrifying experiences ever. Once you get to Kerala, the highways become one lane in both directions. In the middle of the night, our team woke up to find ourselves driving head-on with another car on the highway! At the last minute our driver would swerve back into his appropriate lane, all in an effort to pass the slow-moving car that was in front of us. It was like a crazy game of chicken, waiting to see which driver would flinch first in order to avoid a head-on collision. This practice of passing up others on the highway was the norm in India, and only us Americans were the ones who seemed to be terrified. We learned how to deal with this by just closing our eyes while we were in the car—ignorance is bliss right?

Kerala was amazing, however. Once we boarded our houseboat, our captain took us to a remote Indian village where we spent $50 on live crab, prawns, and fish. This much seafood would’ve cost over $100 in the States. Our cook prepared the best meal for us as we rode the backwaters and drank Kingfisher (one of India’s most popular beers). During the night we docked, played games, laughed, and listened to the rain while sitting on the deck of our boat. It was such a relaxing experience, aside from the mosquitos, that brought our team closer and gave us a deep appreciation for India.

seafood1Picking up some fresh seafood from a village in Kerala!

seafood2Tons to choose from!

Beyond Kerala, our team got to explore Goa, New Delhi, Agra, and Mumbai. We didn’t know how huge of a country that India is, and one needs more than a month to explore all that it has to offer. As a team, we found Mumbai to be such an incredible place. We were disappointed that we only got to spend one night there (for work purposes) but we were able to get a glimpse into how amazing it was. Our client took us to the Gateway of India, where we posed for photos after being heckled by a photographer. (Indians are very persistent!) We saw the Taj Hotel and ate dinner at Leopold Café, both sites of the devastating terrorist attacks that Indians refer to as “26/11.” Mumbai was the last trip that our group would take outside of Bangalore, and it marked an incredible end to our exploration of India.

mumbaiTeam SAP Ganges visiting Mumbai

Departure

Our departure from India was bittersweet. While we were excited to return to warm showers, consistent electricity, and American cuisine, we knew that we would never be able to experience India the way we did again. IBD was a once in a lifetime opportunity that allowed us to fully immerse ourselves within the richness that is India.

Despite India’s complicated and long history of British governance, we were impressed by how resilient the people of India are. Practices and customs that we observed on our trip dated back to India’s early history, and there are very few societies that have been able to maintain their cultural integrity throughout hundreds of years.

There was never a dull moment in India. Every street, corner, temple, market, and car-ride was a surprise that kept us so intrigued. There were so many moments that our team would sit in silence while in traffic just observing what went on before us in the streets. We asked many questions in order to get a better understanding of what we were seeing, but we left knowing that there are just some things we won’t understand about India.

We left India with all sorts of feelings and thoughts. It is chaotic yet it is vibrant with abundance of life. It is blessed with thousands of years of history yet exhibiting enormous potential reclaiming its historical prominence in the world. It could be overwhelming yet you can always expect to be greeted with a friendly smile. It is such a rich place that is so indescribable, and no one will understand how different of a place it is until you visit.

We loved India, and we hope India loved us back.

departureFinal departure from Bangalulu International Airport with blessing from our dear Indian friends

Updates from IBD India – Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Mumbai & more!

Juan Zarruk is a full-time MBA student working on a Spring 2014 International Business Development project in Chennai, India. His team is assessing the attractiveness of the U.S. IT services market and developing an entry strategy for their client.

Consulting for an IT Company in India

Part 1: The Chennai Express (San Francisco to Chennai)

sify1

Earlier in the semester, our client told us that the San Francisco-Chennai flight duration was the same regardless of whether we traveled eastbound or westbound. We decided to test this hypothesis by having the members of our team each fly in different directions, through different countries. The results:

-Shortest flight: Juan flying through Germany: 21h 10m

-Longest flight: Amar flying through Korea and Singapore: 30h 40m

In fact, Juan and Greg left San Francisco at the same time, flew in opposite directions around the world, and met in the Chennai baggage claim about 21.5 hours later. Should you ever travel to India from San Francisco, the the best options have one layover and will take you to Chennai in 21.5 hrs +/- 25 mins, regardless of whether you fly east or west.

First day at work

Wait…what?…did you say work?

After two semesters of business school, we had to readjust to corporate clothes and the hotel-office routine: wake up > get ready > hotel breakfast > office > hotel; needless to say the jet-lag didn’t help!

sify2Welcome ceremony at company headquarters

Fortunately, our client had prepared us a very warm welcome to their offices in Chennai, followed by meetings with C-suite executives that spent all day walking us through the company’s different businesses units.

Toward the end of the day, we worked with the client to finalize our schedule for the next three weeks. The itinerary included visits to the company’s installations in four different cities. For the next three weeks, our schedule was packed with internal and external meetings with their key personnel, customers, and competitors throughout India.

sify3

Bangalore & Mysore

By the middle of our first week, we traveled to Bangalore, home of India’s “Silicon Valley.” There, we met with officials from Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), a government agency created in the early 90s to promote Indian development and export of software and hardware. Next, we had a series of meetings at the main corporate campus of Infosys, an impressive complex that hosts more than 30,000 employees. In a golf cart, our host toured us around the huge campus that has its own shops, canteens, coffee shops, gym, swimming pools, among other amenities.

sify4IBD team @ Infosys campus

We spent our first weekend sightseeing in Bangalore and Mysore. On Saturday we wandered around the city, visiting its main sights and (of course) riding traditional auto rickshaws (you bet you can fit four Haasies in a rickshaw).

sify5Auto rickshaw drive

The next day we woke up early for a three-hour drive to Mysore, where we visited the beautiful Mysore Palace, as well as some other temples and churches. By the end of the afternoon, we returned to Bangalore to pack and get ready for our Monday morning flight to Mumbai.

Mumbai

Monday morning of our second week started with a 4am pick-up from our Bangalore hotel to catch a 6am flight to Mumbai. After arriving, we went to our hotel to drop off our luggage and freshen up before heading to the company’s Mumbai office to conduct interviews with the regional sales team and prepare for a presentation we were to give the following day to fifty of their customers. The presentation — part of a day-long customer event hosted at one of the company’s new data centers — was a success!

Thankfully, our client rewarded us by arranging for us to spend Wednesday exploring Mumbai. Accompanied by one of their employees, we visited some of Mumbai’s main sights: Hanging Gardens, Gateway of India, Leopold Café, Gandhi’s house, and Bandra, to name a few. Later that night, we met with some of our local friends for food and drinks.

sify6Team having dinner at Escobar Tapas Bar, Bandra West

Delhi & Agra

The next day, we were back on a 6am flight, this time to New Delhi, our last stop before returning to Chennai. By this point, we had grown quite familiar with inter-city Indian business air travel, particularly in the very early morning! And though we were just halfway through our in-country part of the project — and had a ton of work ahead of us — we were sadly beginning to feel that the trip was coming to an end.

Thursday in Delhi was filled with meetings with the company’s north-region sales team, and on Friday we assisted with the company’s sales conference, where we once again presented to the company and its customers on the latest IT Trends in the U.S. market.

It was a great opportunity to meet more of the company’s customers and a number of leading CIOs from North India.

Weekend time again!

We decided to make the most of our last weekend in India by starting the day with a 5am drive from Delhi to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Needless to say, seeing the breathtaking Taj Mahal was definitely worth the few hours of sleep we got the night before and the four-hour drive in each direction.

sify7From Left to Right: View from the inside, Team trying to line-up for a picture, Greg & Juan holding the Taj

We knew before coming to India that some of our classmates were also in India working on IBD projects. What we didn’t know is that in Delhi, a city of ten million people, our classmates would be staying at the hotel next door to us! On Sunday, we met with our friends from two other IBD teams and set out to explore the chaotic beauty of Old Delhi, visiting Humayun’s Tomb and walking around downtown before heading to the world-famous Karim’s restaurant.

sify83 IBD teams at Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (Courtesy of Julie Barmeyer)

Chennai’s wrap-up

On Sunday night we flew back to Chennai, where we spent Monday through Wednesday consolidating our insights and finalizing our conclusions in advance of Thursday’s final presentation to the client. These final days were filled with in-office meals and more coffee than our previous weeks in India put together.

Thursday finally came. After working hard during the spring semester, and even harder during our in-country part of the project, our project culminated in a final presentation to the company’s Chairman, CEO, and main executives, with audiences joining in person and via videoconference from India, Singapore, San Jose, and Dallas.

sify9Omar ordering food at the local FIFO Cafe in Chennai

We just spent our final hours at the client’s office in Chennai, socializing our findings and conclusions with mid-level executives and making final edits to our presentation before circulating it one last time to the company’s executives.

As we prepare to leave for the airport, we can only thank the IBD faculty and our client for making possible this incredible business and cultural experience. The client’s warmth, hospitality, and commitment enabled us to have not only an incredible work experience, but also a deep and eye-opening journey that covered 2,894 miles of India by air and land.

Updates from IBD India – Team World Health Partners: Adventure Level 5!

Spring 2014 IBD Team World Health Partners (Crystan Allan, Julie Barmeyer, Dan Hudes, Jeff Routh) is working with small village healthcare providers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, India.

 

Haas at the Taj

7667 miles and 8 flights later, the 2014 World Health Partners (WHP) IBD team arrived in Delhi, India to assess the organization’s financial sustainability. For three of us, this was our first time in India (Crystan had previously visited the Golden Triangle). While we had some expectations, we were really unsure what our experience would be like, but we were excited to embark on our “Adventure Level 5” consulting project!

During our three weeks here in India, we traveled hundreds of miles to reach small village providers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Unlike the rigid and heavily regulated healthcare industry in the US, Indians rely extensively on the informal provider sector. WHP provides a platform to help ensure that the rural poor receive quality healthcare. WHP has had a long and fruitful relationship with IBD, so we were fortunate enough to leverage past projects during our research phase in Berkeley. For this year’s project, we focused on assessing areas where WHP could improve profitability for long-term financial sustainability. While we have high standards for ourselves, we felt an added pressure to provide quality recommendations that would help such a noble organization!

ideating2Team members Crystan Allan, Dan Hudes, and Jeff Routh ideate in WHP’s Lucknow office

Our trip put us through a variety of emotions- we were surprised, excited, frustrated, pleased, delighted, terrified, and humbled. This was the trip of a lifetime and one blog cannot sum up how much this experience has impacted us. So, to help our readers understand our experience, we’ve created our Top Ten Memories from our time abroad:

Indian Traffic -On our first day in Delhi, one of our Indian classmates shared his thoughts on driving: “Lane driving is so boring”. Apparently, Northern Indians feel the same way because we experienced the Delhi Hustle throughout Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. After sitting in a traffic jam on a bridge for seven and a half hours, (caused by cars crossing to the opposite side of the road to overtake traffic in both directions) we will never complain about traffic on the Bay Bridge again.

Bridge TrafficHour 3 of the traffic jam on the Gandhi Bridge in Patna

Taking the plunge with street food in Uttar Pradesh – the guidebooks warned us to not eat street food; we did anyways. And it was some of the best food that we had on the trip. The savory samosas with spices that made our mouths sweat and the fresh lassi with raisins, nuts, and shredded coconut made our afternoon break between interviews all the more memorable.  Dan can attest that it truly was the best lassi because he tried to find an even better version in each town we visited, but to no avail.

lunch breakDan Hudes and our interpreter, Rajeev, enjoy their samosas and treats

LassiThe magical lassi!

Appreciating California Weather – Temperatures hovered around 115 degrees Fahrenheit and air conditioning was non-existent in the villages. The entire team battled heat stroke with Emergen-C, electrolyte jelly beans, and hand fans given to us by our hosts. We were amazed by how the villagers took the heat in stride and their nonchalant exclamations that “If you think this is bad, you should see what it’s like during monsoon season”.

Seeing “Wicked” Problems Firsthand -this trip truly took us out of our comfort zone. While we comfortably read about the problems in developing countries, India’s rural population faces challenges that we couldn’t fully grasp until we saw them first hand:

– Widespread Malnutrition – one pregnant patient weighed only 32 kg (71 lbs) and poor prenatal care continues the cycle.

– Tuberculosis Epidemic – 40% of the population is infected with TB; but the long term, continual treatment is challenging to villagers who work long hours and have limited electricity during the day and no electricity at night.

– Seasonal Cycles of Diarrhea and Pneumonia – children and adults alike are impacted by the yearly diseases that the summer and monsoon season bring. The majority of the patients we interviewed and visited with had one of these ailments.

ORS deliveryA young patient receives Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) to treat prolonged diarrhea

PatientA villager waits to receive a telemedicine consultation 

Trip to the Taj Mahal – through extensive SMS text planning (we forgot how long it takes to send a text using T9), we were able to meet up with Dora Chai and Charles Guo from another IBD team based in India to visit the Taj Mahal. Many landmarks are touristy and underwhelming, but the Taj was everything it was cracked up to be. Impressive, majestic, and magical.

Rock Star Status – as we ventured outside of the major cities, we quickly drew a crowd.  Our fair skin, blonde hair, and height dropped jaws and inspired children and adults alike to gather around us to stare- everywhere we went people asked us to pose for pictures.  We now have a new appreciation for celebrities who dream of anonymity!

Fan ClubFrom Left: Dan Hudes, Crystan Allan, and Julie Barmeyer conduct an interview with an extensive fan-club in the background

Appreciation for Indian Hospitality – We visited a number of rural healthcare providers who have very little disposable income.  Despite their financial status, every host offered us a shaded place to sit, beverages and/or their best snacks.

Snack BreakWonderful hospitality allowed the whole team to enjoy a lassi and dhokla brea

Indian Ingenuity – With a population of 1.25 billion people and limited resources, we saw several creative solutions to everyday problems.  Need to get somewhere and the bus is full?  No problem, climb on top and hang on!  Wheelchair stuck on the rugged roads? No problem, use a half-wheelchair half-mountain bike! Everywhere we looked, we saw creative solutions to life’s everyday problems.

WheelchairFor your on and off-road wheelchair needs

HOVRedefining “High-Occupancy Vehicle”

Embracing the Colors of India – everywhere we went, colors flooded the scene. Women donned colorful kurtas and saris, Tata trucks were painted bright colors, and even the food was a palette of colors. Whether the local people were working in the fields, celebrating a marriage, or attending a meeting, the streets are always alive with rich reds, deep purples and bright blues.

Colors of IndiaWomen in a rural village make a pilgrimage to the holy river

Lasting Friendships – when even a short weekend road trip can make the best of friends, three weeks of travel, work, and play in a foreign country will cement a group together, for better or for worse. We’ve seen each other at our most vulnerable and have grown from the experience together.

Haas in IndiaHaas teams converge to visit the tourist highlights of Northern India

Our three weeks of IBD in India have been incredible – from relishing in the culture to being part of a business team in a foreign country, this has been one “school project” that we will never forget!

New FriendsMaking new friends on the streets of Old Delhi

Updates from IBD India – Team Seva

Spring 2014 IBD Team “Eye of the Tiger” is in Hyderabad, India working with LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), a pioneer in delivering world-class eye care to those in need, regardless of ability to pay.  The team—Christine Hamann, Dave Haas, Janel Orozco, and Bob Weishar—are working in partnership with LVPEI and the Seva Foundation to identify operational improvements to the non-profit’s existing Vision Center Model as they continue to scale in order to reach India’s most rural populations.

Welcome to India! Our team touched down in India—the first thing that hit us was summer. As in 100 degrees. At 1am. The first 48 hours were full of rapid introductions to life in and around Hyderabad: delicious food full of a new combination of spices, intense traffic, the need for much lighter-weight clothing, the reminder that our varying American accents are quite difficult to understand, twice-daily chai breaks, and an incredibly warm and welcoming team eager for us to jump into the last phase of the work we have been focused on since January.

Fortuitous timing… Our team feels especially lucky in the timing of our in-country work. First, mango season in India peaks in the months of May and June, and our team even managed to get a tour of a mango farm one evening after work. Second, and far more importantly, we witnessed the creation of a new state. For the last 50 years, factions of the state of Andhra Pradesh have petitioned for the separation of the Telangana portion of the state—and on June 2, 2014 (following the July 2013 official decision) the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh occurred. Our team returned from eight days away from Hyderabad to the city decked out in celebratory banners, flags, and lights; the official birth of the new state was launched with music, official speeches, and an hour of fireworks.

Our work Our team is working for the LV Prasad Eye Institute, a 26-year-old leading eye health organization dedicated to serving anyone in need of eye care—from vision screenings to cataract surgery to vision impairment rehabilitation—regardless of a patients’ ability to pay.

seva1IBD team sees the management and reporting structures in action for a remote vision center without EMR connectivity

Since its inception, LVPEI has treated over 17 million patients from locations across India, with over 50% receiving free care. LVPEI employs an interesting business model: offer a tiered level of customer service but identical clinical care to all, meaning wealthy patients can pay for a private room with A/C, an faster check-in process, and more creature comforts—while subsidizing one or more patients who cannot afford to pay.

Our team was charged with two specific projects at the start of the semester, each focused on the primary care base of LVPEI’s pyramidal eye care delivery structure: the vision center. LVPEI has a network of 109 vision centers across the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with plans to expand to 150 vision centers by the end of 2015. Our two deliverables for IBD are 1) help LVPEI identify and implement operational improvements to the vision center layer of care and 2) build a case study of recommendations for the expansion of the vision center model within LVPEI and for other organizations looking to adapt the vision center model to their own work.

seva2An LVPEI vision technician assesses a patients’ vision at a Community Screening Program

Our in-country time has been focused on two activities: conducting interviews with as many vision technicians (the single staff members who each run one vision center) as possible, and visiting the larger clinical institutions that the vision centers feed into—regional secondary and tertiary care centers as well as the Center of Excellence in Hyderabad—to understand the vision centers’ role in the larger eye care delivery model. This has meant that we’ve spent time in Hyderabad, traveled to Thodokurthy, took an overnight train to Paloncha, and spent many, many hours traveling with the incredible LVPEI staff to remote locations that are often hours away from the nearest secondary center on small and (very) bumpy roads through rural India.

The design process Our team landed in India with ideas and hypotheses about the challenges the vision centers face—but needed a rapid way to see if our hypotheses were correct, obtain new information that was impossible to know learn working from Berkeley, and come up with recommendations for the local team. We chose to use the human-centered design process. By adapting our interviews with insights learned from each previous staff member we spoke to, we were able to build out a more complete picture of the challenges faced at the vision centers, as well as test new theories in rapid succession with feedback from the local team.

seva3Identifying our course of action through solution laddering

Part of the design process to truly understand the customer experience. Janel went beyond herself and had her annual vision checkup at the first vision center we visited in Nagarkumol. The vision tech, if slightly thrown off at the request, quickly moved into an efficient and thorough eye exam.

seva4Janel Orozco receives a comprehensive vision exam by an LVPEI vision technician

Combining this work with the operational analyses of data collected over the course of the semester and last three weeks, we have identified key recommendations (some that look very different from our initial hypotheses) for the team here at LVPEI. We are looking forward to presenting these final recommendations to the senior leadership team at the end of our engagement.

Team building…and cultural exchange? A key to working in India is adapting to local customs and the flow of work and life here.  It has not been difficult to fold the aforementioned chai breaks into our workdays—even better that chai time is a mandatory break from your computer and is used to socialize with colleagues. We might keep this tradition when back at Haas. However, we don’t think some of our traditions will live on following our departure. Thinking it would be a fun teambuilding experience, and certainly would mitigate work stress (and the delicious but endless supply of chapattis and rice), our team brought along the Insanity workout series. While we tried, we couldn’t get any of our new colleagues to join our daily workouts…

All work but some play… The healthcare sector in India works a six-day workweek, giving Sunday Funday a whole new meaning. Despite the shortened weekends, our team team managed to pack in a number of activities to round out our understanding of and experience in India. From a day-long riverboat adventure to a Hindu temple complete with a beach picnic and lots of people eager to see if a group of Americans could copy their boat party dance moves, to fire-roasted dinner at a Paloncha truck stop, to haggling prices for bangles in the market surrounding the Charminar in Hyderabad, to tucking into the famous biryani at Paradise Restaurant, we feel like we’ve experienced a range of life across central India.

seva5The IBD team with the Paloncha secondary center kitchen staff

Lessons from India 

As our team wraps up our work with LVPEI and the end of our first year of the Haas MBA, we have a few IBD lessons to share:

  • The design process works: while we certainly had inclinations for solutions at the start of our in-country time, our best ideas came through the processes of rapid ideation and customer interviews in the field.
  • Fans (and A/C) are your very best friends during summer in India.
  • Your clients are your greatest resource—make sure to get to know them as people, not just your clients!
  • Running for trains in 115 degree heat is not the best travel plan.
  • Related: train platforms can be really, really long.