We didn’t end up getting into Delhi and our hotel until 5am after customs and transit. This was due in large part to the 7 hour delay we experienced in Amsterdam. This meant we were traveling for over 30 straight hours before we were finally able to stumble into bed in India.
Sunday we slept until noon and then had a lunch meeting with an Acara judge and investor Mr. Sanjay Bhasin. We discussed about what investors look for in new ventures and about the importance of the team dynamic and commitment of the team. In the afternoon we also had another meeting where we discussed our plan of action for the next three weeks. Still suffering from jet lag, we then took late afternoon naps and in the evening explored some shopping around Delhi.
Delhi is an incredibly densely populated city. The streets are impossible to navigate without almost being hit by a rickshaw or auto. It is such an extremely chaotic place with so many people in a hurry. The air quality is not the best, and there is dust everywhere. Part of the bad air quality comes from all the construction that is taking place in preparation for the commonwealth games this October. Another aspect to Indian life is the heat. Temperatures have reached well over 100 degrees most days and it has been important to carry several liters of water with us at all times.
Monday, we took the subway to the bus station where we then took a 5 hour bus ride north to Roorkee (the university of our teammates) After a grueling and nerving bus ride (there where several instances of playing chicken on the road where we were going head on against other trucks while making passes and one of us had to veer last second to avoid a head on collision) we finally arrived at IIT Roorkee. To give you a sense there are 7 IITs (Indian institute of technology) universities in India. These are the 7 best universities in the country and even considered the hardest universities to get acceptance to in the world. The university facilities are very nice, gated by guards with gardens, cricket and sporting fields, a top notch library and beautiful school buildings. After getting settled we met with Professor Rajat Agarawal of the school of management studies to discuss moving forward in the village of Charba (our case study/pilot program is run out of this village). We then met with the head of the school of management studies V.K. Nangia (a highly regarded and prominent figure at the university) to discuss our business plan.
It turns out internet is harder to come by than we originally thought.; Especially when traveling and on the go so much. Luckily the cell phone network is one of the best in the world and I have gotten reception everywhere. I even get reception in the rural village of Charba. There’s better reception here than back in the USA for sure, where I lose the signal in my house.
In the evening we sought out a family to take us in so we could spend the night in the village. We felt by staying the village we could gain even further insight to the psyche and daily lifestyles of the people our business is serving. Accommodations are meek (A hard table was my bed for the evening, and there were frequent power outages) but we had to understand the dynamic of the village and our customer if we are to get a sense of who we are dealing with and how to serve their needs.
Wednesday, we woke up at 6 am and started right away from where we left off, visiting homes and talking to people. Around noon we met with the Pradha (head of the village) to discuss bio gas and day to day operations with the villagers. A promising connection we made with the Pradhan was his referral to a self help group known as SHG. This organization consists of women that have started a savings account together and give out loans to help develop the community. We spent part of the afternoon meeting with them to talk about developing a partnership. Finally, after a 4 hour bus ride, we arrived late in the evening having taken over 40 pages worth of notes and over 300 pictures documenting our 2 day visit.
Our next steps involve organizing and putting all of the data into a report that can be analyzed further. Like most ventures you hit unexpected twists and turns while developing your business and BioServ has been no exception to these twists. Some assumptions have been right and some wrong, and much light has been shed. We plan to thoroughly review and analyze our data and make adjustments and tweaks to our business model accordingly. Once we haveregrouped, we will come up with a new plan of action and 2nd phase visits to families in the village of Charba. We anticipate our 2nd visit to the village to be early next week.
The people here are so friendly and the country has so much beauty to offer. We have taken over 700 pictures and counting in the first of three weeks! As for the team, we have all gelled quite well between our USA and Indian teammates and we really feel that we have compiled a great BioServ team. We feel with enough hard work it will be possible to make BioServ’s vision a reality. What a great opportunity!
Until we speak soon,
Anthony Jakubiak (Acara Challenge 2010 participant from the team BioServ)
Civil Engineering Undergraduate
University of Minnesota – Institute of Technology