IBD Suritex

Written by Gloria Gerngross,  Sophia Kaady, Deepak Nainani, Isei Nakae, and Lyndsey Wilson

The sun was setting on the rural landscape, the grassy highlands of rural Peru, as Gregor’s truck bounced over unpaved, rocky roads, all five of our team members squished into the backseat as he sped to the new textile workshop before night fell. We had spent the day in a bus from Lima, winding our way through the Cordillera mountain range for 8 hours and ascending 14,000 feet to Huancayo, where our client was waiting to introduce us to the women who worked in the textile workshop, and the alpaca breeders who lived in the highlands.Suritex-group

We arrived at the construction site with just 20 minutes to spare before the horizon was swallowed by the darkness. Gregor’s eyes lit up as he waved his hands, pointing at empty space above the large foundation as though showing his blueprint for the new plant. Where we saw exposed rebar and hand-laid concrete bricks, he saw a room for the women’s children to play, a resting area for alpaqueros that came to have their fibers weighed, graded, and dyed, and a weaving room four times the size of their current plant’s. We left inspired by Gregor’s vision for growing his small social enterprise and energized to use our business skills to enable this dream to become a reality.

Suritex 2 AlpacasThe Project

Our team was hired by NESsT, an Oakland-based impact investing firm, to help its portfolio company, Suritex, increase its revenues by expanding sales of alpaca-blend textiles into the U.S. market. Though Suritex prides itself on its high-quality products created through technically sophisticated dying, weaving, and fiber-blending methods, it is their impact on the rural Lima region that is truly incredible. Suritex pays above-market prices for alpaca fibers, ensuring continued livelihoods of agricultural communities. They hire and train single women to operate machinery and manufacture textiles, creating jobs in communities struggling to develop economically. Our team met several women who worked in their factory, and their young children played while they fed colorful yarn into the large looming machines.Suritex loom.jpg

Prior to arriving in Lima, our team focused on understanding the U.S. alpaca-based goods market, sales channels, and our client’s capabilities to create designs and products that U.S. customers would be excited to buy. However, the disparate nature of the imported alpaca-based goods (textiles, clothing, and yarn) market made it difficult to collect any quantitative data, so our team relied on information collected by visiting local stores, and interviewing sales partners and customers.

This preliminary research led us to conclude that our client needed a re-brand, targeted marketing towards high-income, socially conscious customer segments, and to emphasize their strong social and environmental impact to differentiate themselves among hundreds of textile importers. We were excited to meet the client, visit the processing facilities, and better understand how we could make Suritex stand out among competitive exporters of similar products.

Suritex - loom 2The Focus Changes

Once in-country, we learned more about Suritex’s technically sophisticated and uniquely socially-conscious supply chain. Our meetings with the textile mill workers and the alpaqueros confirmed the importance of scaling Suritex’s efforts, and inspired and energized us to develop a sales and marketing strategy so that U.S. customers understand the impact that their Suritex purchase will have on the community.Suritex working.jpg

It came as a surprise to our team to learn that our client had already hired a marketing consulting team, so we were no longer needed in the proposed re-brand!  While our team had initially focused on creating branding and marketing strategy that would enable Suritex to successfully enter the US market, we had to do a 180° pivot and reframe our project. When our focus had to change, we spent hours whiteboarding and reframing the problem, ultimately pivoting to more of a sales and product strategy. Our focus turned then on researching the logistics of how to actually sell products in the US: who to sell to, how to sell them, and which products to sell.

Suritex thread.jpgThe Final Presentation

Our final presentation provided Suritex with tactical recommendations on how to begin selling products in the US, and how to modify their current product offerings to ensure U.S. customer interest in their products. We provided a thorough go-to-market guidebook that included sales on online platforms (such as Etsy or Amazon), hiring a fulfillment center and sales reps to manage buyer relationships, and which certifications and trade shows to pursue to access the right B2B customers. Our client, a technical and operations-focused career manufacturer, was very happy with the detailed recommendations. Our team left energized by the important work of Suritex, driven by the knowledge that our recommendations would enable Suritex to reach its goal of building more manufacturing facilities closer to workers’ communities, hiring and educating more workers, and ultimately developing these rural economies to support the sustainability of this artisan trade.Suritex finished product

Healthcare for India’s rural populations: Delivering medical services on motorcycle to the last-mile in the State of Bihar

The Bihar countryside

The Bihar countryside

Team WHP is in India working with WORLD HEALTH PARTNERS  to evaluate the sustainability of motorcycle courier-based pharmaceutical delivery and medical sample pick up for patients that lack access to centralized and sophisticated healthcare.

India: a land of contrast.  In New Delhi, where our team has spent the first week, boasts some of the highest concentrations of wealth and power in India, but also an expansive population of poor and marginalized citizens.  Healthcare in India takes a similar tack, with top medical care available to those who can afford it, leaving the majority of the country with highly variable access to basic healthcare services.

We started our project in the New Delhi headquarters of WHP, one of the world’s most lauded and agile healthcare NGOs.  Backed by the Gates Foundation, WHP applies innovative market-based solutions to improve the quality of healthcare for India’s rural poor, including running Telemedicine centers and an developing an in-house generic brand of pharmaceuticals.   Specifically, we’ve arrived to investigate the operations of WHP’s Last-Mile-Outrider (LMO) Program, that delivers pharmaceuticals and provides sample pick up for distant patient care regions.

The team spent the first week in the office, trying to beat the record temperatures (114 degrees!), preparing for our immersion in the state of Bihar, one of the most underdeveloped and poor regions in India – in week 2, we dove right into ethnographic interviews, data collection, and the lives of Bihari’s.

Where the cool kids hang out

Where the cool kids hang out in Bihar

Bihar was a world apart from Delhi – the oppressive humidity (highlighted by pre-monsoon rains), the striking beauty of a far-inland tropical plain, the stark austerity of the average villager, and the random fact that the best lychee fruits in all of India come from Bihar, all created an experience unlike any other.  As we drove around Bihar to conduct our research, we saw firsthand the potential difficulties in delivering basic healthcare services (or any services) to some of the most remote regions in the country – how might we optimize and improve WHP’s current delivery and courier operations?  Our minds were racing.

How can we teach someone anything about optimization when they take it to the next level? #nextlevelbatchprocess

How can we teach someone anything about optimization when they take it to the next level? Eat your heart out Terry Taylor

Within the first day, we saw the varied and complex landscape of healthcare services, to include the surprising proliferation of village scale pharmacies, a wide-ranging offering of medical “professionals,” and the significant opportunities for innovative solutions to make an impact in the effectiveness of LMO motorcycle couriers.

TOP & BOTTOM: The team bears the Bihar heat & humidity (barely)

TOP & BOTTOM: The team bears the Bihar heat & humidity (barely)

TOP: Getting into the details BOTTOM: Last-Mile Healthcare is a family affair: Father and son help a patient connect to a remote Doctor on ReMeDi Telemedicine software

TOP: Getting into the details
BOTTOM: Last-Mile Healthcare is a family affair: Father and son help a patient connect to a remote Doctor on ReMeDi Telemedicine software

As the week progressed, we began to discover the challenges in implementing a self-sustaining motorcycle delivery operation.  The endeavor faced obstacles such as a lack of economies of scale, inefficient order quantities (of drugs to pharmacies and doctors), and typical personnel issues that plague projects in the developing world.  Despite the daunting issues, team WHP gathered a host of data and reluctantly returned to Delhi, where we found the 110 degree temperatures to be “a dry heat” and the lack of cows, trash, dogs, and gangs of curious villager to reflect an absence of charm.

Bringing our 1st world problems to Bihar: "We'd like to pick our own fresh Lychee"

Bringing our 1st world problems to Bihar: “We’d like to pick our own fresh Lychee”


Nikita & Jon fit in with the locals


Everywhere we went, crowds of curious onlookers surrounded us. We were the “Bieber” to their “Fever”

Now back in the Delhi office, proudly wearing the badge of having experienced the “real India,” and armed with battle-hardened digestive systems, we began the task of analyzing and generating a cohesive recommendation for WHP in order to take decisive action on their LMO program.  Stay tuned.


The villagers promptly recommended: “Leave the jumping to Jeremy Lin and stick to your MBA.”
Either career path seems dubious at this point