Archives for category: Energy

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.

On Tuesday, we drove 3 hours north to the village of Charba and visited with families that use bio gas or that want touse biogas. These interviews and surveys taken were very informative and crucial.

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

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Starting this week, we will profiling the stories of teams and individuals from our various partner schools in India and the US. Our first story is of an interesting team from Somaiya and Cornell, who took up Clean Cooking as the community issue they wanted to solve.  The members of this team include Mona Mahesh, Vikash Singh, Thomas Murray, Anirudha Kandharkar, Kristin O’ Planick, Ashish Wagle, Rachna Gadekar, Hasang Cheon and Hitesh Gandhi. I interviewed Vikash and this is what he had to say.

Q. What is the exact problem your team is working on?

Vikash – “Our team has focussed its scope of research and work plan to the area of Fuel combustion while keeping the fuel source intact (in our case-Wood). The traditional method of cooking involves Open-air set ups with wood as a major source of fuel. The process is inefficient and cumbersome causing high cost cooking, environmental pollution and community health hazards.”

Q. Any reason why you chose this problem?

Vikash -“The motivation behind choosing the above area of problem lies in the scope, reach and ease of operations to address the problem. Feasibility analysis and sustainability of business were key things which were kept in perspective.”

Q. What is the solution that your team is proposing? Do you think it’s feasible and scalable?

Vikash – ” The solution our team proposed was two folds: a. Modifying the collection of the fuel and consumption quantity; and b. Increasing the efficiency of cooking process through efficient stoves and cooking methodology. The feasibility of the solution came out of prior experience of collaborative models through association with NGOs and other non-profit organizations and suppliers of efficient stoves. With a collaborative network of local influencers, NGOs and partners, the model fairs well on the sustainability metric. A pilot project over 5 households and the scope of its replication throughout the community and the neighbouring areas makes the project promising.”

Q. Can you tell us something about the community you have been working with?

Vikash – ” Here is some data about the community –

  1. Type of Community– Rural
  2. Strength of community– 22 households (each household comprises of 7-8 individuals on an average). Total population is 158.
  3. Major occupation– Farming
  4. Average income/household– Rs. 3000 (The figures are conservative as they were reluctant to share the information)
  5. Energy consumption area under study – Cooking energy at household level.
  6. Fuel used– Major fuel used is wood, use of LPG is very limited and is used on special occasions only.
  7. Mode of fuel consumption – Collection of woods through an cutting trees.
  8. LPG cylinders are supplied from Panvel (an area in Mumbai )and used in rare occasions.
  9. No solar cooker establishment in any household.
  10. Frequency of fuel collection– Monthly. Bullock cart load of wood (Rs. 700-800 per cart).
  11. The produce of farming sold are in Panvel, as it is the major market near this area.
  12. Neighbouring community– Banghar Rural Community (160 households).
  13. Fuel used in households includes cooking processes like boiling water, meal preparation etc.
  14. Target community content with the present setup primarily because of lack of proper information on alternatives available
  15. Area of plausible business – Wooden stoves reducing the monthly spending from Rs 700-800 to Rs 400 and Exhaust improvement/efficiency.
  16. Community covered by NGO – Shantivan.

Q. What did you learn as a team by participating in the Acara Challenge?

Vikash – ” As a Team, we learnt to ideate, collaborate, plan, and develop models and research to extreme ends. Overall, ACARA Challenge has moulded the minds in a direction and the teams have learnt to follow that path.”

I want to take this opportunity to thank Vikash and the rest of the team from Somaiya and Cornell for sharing such interesting insights with us. If you are interested in getting your story as a team or an individual on our blog, do get in touch with me on BaseCamp.