India: Into the Fray…

BEEP, BEEP, Whirrrr… HONK. The symphony of horns droned on in the hot and muggy day as our auto rickshaw flew down the street weaving in and out of the crazy traffic that ignored all of the signs and lines that tried to give it order. It was only our second day together as a team, and we had already braved several challenges in just getting the team together in the same house and getting around the city. Still, we knew were in for an even bigger test as the week at work started.

Monday morning came quickly and the team was weary eyed as we clambered into a few Toyota Innova vans to get to the airport and head to Mumbai. Although we had just landed in Bangalore a few days earlier, we were already off to our second city to visit with a few of our clients whose schedules had changed from the original plan. (Throughout the week, we heard rumblings of other planned trips, but were relatively unsure of what to expect from day to day or meeting to meeting.)

Arriving in Mumbai, we quickly went to the office and experienced our first in-person meeting in India with the Hindalco team. This first group of clients seemed quite excited to see us to, and even we knew that we had still more clients to meet, we were off to a great start. At the end of the meeting, we learned that we would be traveling to Chennai later that week. Combined with our weekend travel plans, we figured that we would be doing a large amount of flying all over the country. There is no doubt that this project is going to be quite a hectic three weeks!

Still, our team found time to enjoy the non-work hours and explore cultural norms together. That night in Mumai, our team tasted milk tea, which is a frequently enjoyed beverage in India. This is something we have continued to do nearly every place we have traveled this first week. It’s something I’m sure I’m going to miss when I return to the States… so it just might be something I keep up!

After the first meeting with Hindalco, half of our team (Kyle, Alex and Gopika) went to Pune, India the next day to speak with some customers of Hindalco, while the rest of us (Ponnu, AJ and Tada) planned to meet with our main contact on Epotec™ a secondary business we intended to work with. At the last minute, the meeting was cancelled, leaving us a bit puzzled. We were to have a workshop with them the next day and still had many open questions about their business. We hadn’t had a great deal of time to interface with this group or who we were going to be speaking with the next day. Instead, we met with our team advisor and spent until the wee hours of the morning putting together a power point deck that could cover a number of topics.

In the morning, wishing for our reliable cup of joe, the three of us piled again into an Innova hoping we had the right address for where we needed to be. (We’d learned our first night that addresses don’t always work in India). Walking into the workshop, we weren’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, our planning session with our advisor and his client counterpart happened a bit later allowing them to understand exactly who we were speaking with and adjust the schedule to accommodate the audience. All in all, the meeting went well! The clients appreciated the work we had done. Although not all of our proposals were accepted, the clients expressed interest in a few areas that we will pursue,

We took a picture with the full team representing heads of the company, R&D and a significant part of their sales team.

After finishing up, we headed home to meet with the other half of our team and tell them about this workshop, as they were to enter a similar workshop the next day.

One week in… and we are already very much entered into the fray. As we into the next week, I am wondering what other schedule and meeting changes are ahead!

Logistics in India Not Always Logical

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Guest House in Bangalore

A Street in Bangalore

A Street in Bangalore

As first timers in India, some of our team members experienced very intriguing “cultural shock” with daily activities that we take for granted in the US. One such shock was the logistics of moving around.
All of us flew to Bangalore, India last weekend, but did so separately. The client kindly arranged multiple drivers to make multiple trips in order to take each one of us from the airport to the guest house where we were staying.

Dosa: Southern Indian Breakfast

Dosa: Southern Indian Breakfast 

For most of the team members, this arrangement worked out fine. But for two of us, there were problems.
AJ Otey arrived in Bangalore about 1:30 in the morning. The driver was at the airport waiting, but obviously in a quite sleepy state. Several times, he dozed away and almost drove the car into a ditch. Fortunately, he found a tea stand, which still was operating that late at night/early in the morning, and with a quick cup, woke up.
But, that was not the end of AJ’s adventure. The driver had the address of the guesthouse on paper, but didn’t know the exact location. He had no means, such as GPS or smart phone, to get directions. So instead, he drove around he area, and asked whoever was available on the street for directions. Fortunately, the driver  eventually found the guesthouse after a 30-minute search.
Alex Minggang Li arrived at 4:30 in the morning. His driver overslept and didn’t show up at all. After about an hour of waiting, Alex decided to take a cab. However, none of the cab drivers at the airport recognized the address that was given by the caretaker of the guesthouse to team members. Fortunately, the client had emailed the team a brief description and the name of the district, which helped the cab driver understand the approximate location of the guest house. Yet, like the other driver, this cab driver had to drive around the neighborhood for almost an hour before finally finding the guest house.
The good thing is that all six team members arrived safely and relatively on schedule.
Later on, we found out that, even with GPS or Google Maps, a search of the guest house address yielded either a wrong location or nothing. Therefore, one can conclude that a very detailed street address will not necessarily mean that you will get to your destination without any hiccups!
In the eyes of people from the US, Indian logistics are not logical!
Many US visitors also can be amazed (or scared) by how traffic is managed in India. On the same street, one often finds pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, motorized tricycle cabs, cars, trucks, buses and even animals such as goats and cows all trying to get somewhere. On first observation, this traffic seems chaotic and illogical: people often don’t follow the lane lines, don’t turn on blinkers, don’t observe right of way rules, and honk all the time. But astonishingly, everything seems to work out… really well! During our stay so far, we have not seIMG_5033en even one accident on the road. Traffic moves rather smoothly, even during rush hour. Everyone knows what they are doing, and seems to be happy about it, too. Perhaps there is a logic underneath this seemingly illogical pattern of logistics. We will need to learn more and hopefully figure it out during the next two and half weeks.

A visit to Marsabit

Jambo!

This is my first blog post from Kenya. Our team landed in Nairobi in waves last Saturday and were greeted by overcast and cloudy weather. The driver who picked me up told me that the monsoon was late this year. Our accommodation is in a highly secure part of Nairobi, very close to most of the foreign embassies.

We had a meeting with our client on Sunday, where we were introduced to the Kenyan Team that has been working on this project. We went through a macro level planning of our next four days in Marsabit County, which is a twelve hour drive from Nairobi.

Early Monday morning we met with about twenty student leaders and staff from Mount Kenya University who were accompanying us to Marsabit. Mount Kenya University has been helping our client with field research and support. It was great to meet and interact with some peers!

marsabit team

Most of Monday went in travelling to Marsabit. It was interesting to learn from others that over the last few years, thanks to devolution, there has been much investment made locally for building roads and infrastructure. At Marsabit, we spent the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday gathering relevant data for our project and understanding the market for water packs in these regions.

We spent the first day visiting local schools that are getting free water packs. We got to talk to many locals and understand their issues. It was an interesting day and a great way to learn more about rural Kenya.

The second day, we got a chance to go to Parkishon village, which was an hour further into the interior of the main county district. We experienced first-hand how women in these villages carry water from a usually muddy source back to their villages using jerry cans.

marsabit water pack

All five members of our team tried carrying the jerry cans and then the water packs, which  helped us better understand the product. We surveyed the villagers at Parkishon to understand the pricing and usage of jerry cans among other things. I was able to gel well and have constructive discussions with local Kenyans on various issues. I could attribute it to having lived in a developing country myself and knowing the issues faced in such places.

We also visited the Marsabit county hospital and spoke to the chief doctor there to learn about the health problems that were specific for this region. We were given access to some great data resources that should help us immensely in our project going forward. I think that our initial visit to Marsabit helped us really sink into this project and country. We now know the product and the market better.

One of the most interesting parts of my Marsabit trip was that even in these remote villages, many kids could read English and were going to school every day. We also saw that the village was being connected to the rest of Kenya by a new highway. I am positive that this country has great potential in the future and am eagerly waiting for the next two weeks to see what more surprises Kenya has to offer!

First Week in Kenya! #TeamGreif

Week One in Kenya is on the books and has it ever been a whirlwind! It feels as though we have been all over this country in just this first week- from twelve hours north of Nairobi to six hours west to a brief border cross into Tanzania. We have seen the relatively modern urban setting of Kenya’s central capital city Nairobi, the primitive remote tribal living in the outskirts of Marsabit in the far north, and the unbridled wilderness of Masai Mara in the west.

We started the week on Monday traveling twelve hours by bus with Partners For Care and nineteen students from Mount Kenya University into the north of Kenya to a small town called Marsabit. Marsabit lies beyond the paved roads of Kenya’s developed cities. Our mission in Marsabit was to help Partners For Care (one of our clients for our GAP project) treat people in Marsabit, especially children, for a parasite called jiggers that is common in the red soil of the north. Jiggers emerge at night, when they come up through the soil and infect children’s feet causing a host of problems, most commonly malnutrition and severe aggravation of the infected area leading to sleep problems and difficulty paying attention in school. On Tuesday, we set out with the Mount Kenya University students to visit three local Marsabit schools and treat jiggers. The kids were amazing. Living in relatively austere conditions and infected with a nasty parasite, they were still full of joy and life. Most were excited to see us and were eager to talk with us, even though they spoke very little English. Still, we exchanged names and communicated the best we could. The Mount Kenya students were able to translate for us most of the time, but, even with that help, at one of the schools the local dialect of Swahili was different enough that even the Mount Kenya students had trouble communicating well. By the end of the day we had treated 79 school children of varying ages who would go home that night rid of a terrible (and more importantly preventable) parasite and sleep comfortably.

Wednesday we traveled another hour away into an even more remote area called Parkishon to visit a tribal village and see and experience first hand the water situation there. The people of Parkishon live extremely simply, sleeping in structures called manyatas made of gathered tree limbs and thatched roofs not tall enough to stand in. While there, we experienced what it was like for the women of the village to fetch water. We hiked about a half mile from the village to the nearest water source. There, we filled a 20 liter jerry can and took turns carrying it back to the village. It was an exhausting and uncomfortable the trip that, incredibly, the local women and girls have to make several times a day. Hopefully, we can make this difficult job easier with the PackH20 water backpack- that is our project’s goal after all!

All in all, this week has been a quite amazing and very eye opening. We have seen and experienced incredible things in just the first few days. I look forward to the next two weeks and the culturally expanding experiences yet to come!imageTeamGreifimage

Shanghai-No Filter Needed?

This week’s sightseeing experience was one for the books! We traveled all around smoggy Shanghai as we took a bus under tpic 5he Huangpu River and returned back via boat ride. A lot of noodles were consumed, and we all had an opportunity to experience different perspectives of the city…

 

 

 

 

 

You can also see below the Shanghai tower, which is the second tallest in the world after  the Dubai tower.

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Rob got the chance to take some pictures with some of the older locals and witness what is was like to float above the city…

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Thanks goodness for Rob’s good looks because the air quality is sub par, but that is why they need us here!!!

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This morning we are traveling to Beijing via train to continue our research.

Ethiopia: A New Experience

After a long and exhausting 18-hour flight from the United States, the OSU/OneHealth team arrived in Addis Ababa, the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. We had to board a prop plane in order to travel to Gondar, the first city where we would be starting our project.

Arrival in Gondar Airport

One of our client partners in the OSU/OneHealth initiative is The University of Gondar Department of Health Sciences. Pictured below is entrance to the main campus. We walked up 24 flights of stairs to reach the top of an incredible view of the city. The landscape in Gondar is absolutely gorgeous!

University of Gondar

3. University of Gondar_University of Gondar

We worked with the Head of the Environmental and Occupational, Health, and Safety Department, Zemichael, who is pictured below between Kelly and Carrie. Zemichael met us at our hotel, and our first meeting was simply for relationship building. Culturally, relationships are extremely important and meetings start with extended social pleasantries. This meeting was no different.

University of Gondar with Zemichael

As we got to know Zemichael, we talked about Ethiopian coffee, which accounts for 3% of the world’s coffee production. Before we started our official business meeting, Zemichael took us to a café to try authentic Ethiopian coffee, since most of the team members loved coffee. We were delighted to experience coffee roasted over hot coals, boiled in a pot, and then poured into a small, handleless cup to the brim. The coffee was strong, smooth, delicious, and energized the team for our official business meeting.

Authentic Ethiopian Coffee

No trip to Ethiopia is complete without experiencing traditional Ethiopian cuisine. Through recommendations, the team visited the Four Sisters Restaurant for lunch and most of the team tried the lamb tips, which were cooked in a spicy sauce of green and red bell peppers, and served with injera bread. While utensils are provided, they are not actually used when eating. Instead, you use your right hand to break off a piece of the injera bread, and then “scoop” up a portion of the lamb tips. The left hand is to be kept clean and is therefore not used while consuming lunch or any meal. Carrie and Kelly are sitting next to the cups and other items used for a traditional coffee ceremony.

Four Sisters Lamb Tibs

Four Sisters Injera

 

Four Sisters Tea Ceremony

 

Four Sister Group Photo

One of our clients, Giziew, took us to see the historic Gondar castles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were guided by a professional historian and learned fascinating facts about why the castles were built and how they were subsequently destroyed by the “fascist Italians” in the 17th century.

Gondar Castle O-H-I-O

Gondar Castle Group Photo

Overall, we’ve been very impressed by everyone’s hospitality and generosity during this trip. Everyone we have met and worked with has been extremely open and honest, and we look forward to another two weeks in Ethiopia!

From the Operating Room to the Brewery: Ethiopian Team Professional Post #1

Hello friends, family, and world at large,

Welcome to the best (though probably only) “Ethiopian-One Health-Ohio State MBA student blog”. For those who might be unaware, our team of six OSU MBA students has partnered with the nonprofit organization One Health to analyze the operations of Ethiopian factories and facilities. The ultimate goal of this project is to better understand how these facilities impact the surrounding people, animals, and environment. One Health’s overarching goal is to improve health and environmental wellbeing in developing areas. For this specific project, we are concentrating on hospitals, pharmacies, and factories that directly handle food or animal products.

The final two weeks of our three week trip will be spent in Addis Ababa because of its large population and industrial presence. However, now we are in Gondar, a smaller city in the northwest region of the country. We are working closely with faculty from the local university, who have been instrumental in arranging our visits to the various facilities. Our first day was spent touring the only hospital in the city, which is operated by the university.

On the first day of our trip, we met with our Gondar contacts at the University of Gondar campus and finalized our itinerary for the week. We made plans to visit the University of Gondar hospital, Dashen Brewery, a local glove manufacturer, and local pharmacies.

 

University of Gondar Campus; First meeting with local client contacts

University of Gondar Campus; First meeting with local client contacts

As you may have guessed, there are some noticeable differences between an Ethiopian hospital and one found in the United States. What they lack in technological equipment and training, however, they attempt to make up for with resourcefulness and resiliency. For example, while the newly opened cancer treatment facility has no oncologists or cancer drugs, doctors provide a place for patients to bring outside drugs and have them administered. In the operating room, surgeons work through mid-surgery power outages without even a momentary lapse in concentration.

Arguably, the most unexpected aspect of the visit was how honest and non-defensive the hospital workers acted towards us. They were not ashamed of admitting issues and pain points in their operations; they genuinely wanted feedback on how to make the hospital better.

While our GAP team was amazed at how they could do so much with such limited resources, there were still some startling observations during the visit. For example, the bio-hazard waste from the cancer treatment area had not been disposed of since the facility opened over a year ago, and was piling up in plastic bags in a small outdoor area directly behind the building. Many areas (such as the ICU and some operating rooms) held multiple patients with no barriers between them, while those not currently being attended to were often laying on the ground outside of rooms. There were also several waste management issues, such as liquid waste being discharged directly into a nearby stream.  In contrast, the hospital pharmacy had a very robust process for monitoring its prescriptions using a foreign inventory management software.

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Team in front of Dashen Brewery

These are just a small portion of the observations (both positive and negative) our team collected. The accommodating nature of everyone we interacted with enabled us to learn more than we ever anticipated, but we also saw an opportunity for future teams to perform more in-depth analysis of the hospital’s operations.

Our second site visit in Gondar was the Dashen Brewery. It provided some much needed contrast to the somber nature of the hospital tour. When we arrived, we were immediately impressed by the sophistication of the factory. It was extremely clean; there were numerous automated processes; and, they tracked key performance metrics such as bottle breakage and percentage of under-filled bottles. We still identified areas of improvement, such as better worker adherence to protective equipment guidelines and enhanced lighting in areas where manual labor is required.

Our final site visit, to a glove factory, was cancelled due to permission issues, but we were able to visit two local pharmacies and observe their processes.

The team has been able to collect an immense amount of information in just the first week, which has caused us to place even greater emphasis on developing a final report that is well-structured and succinctly articulates our key findings.

Looking ahead, we will begin working in Addis Ababa on Monday. We are currently in contact with the local university there to schedule facility visits, but unreliable internet poses a significant challenge. Our last email took 35 minutes to send!

In the meantime, we are preparing for our next site visits, enjoying a few Dashen beers, and wondering what happened on Game of Thrones last week.

Check back next week for another update!

Tanzanian Lunch Meeting at a Greek Restaurant…Wait, What?

In true Fisher networking fashion, we landed a lunch meeting with a local water solutions manager – a tentative third degree connection to our group. Our first business meeting on Tanzanian soil went well, despite the distant network link and unavoidable jet lag. Vincent runs a drilling and construction company in Arusha, a former division of a company focused on bore holes for water wells. Drilling did not fit directly under our scope of work with GWI, but meeting with an industry expert, regardless of the role, proved interesting and provided a lot of background for our future interviews and village visits.

Throughout our coursework for GAP, we continually focused on the cultural differences between the U.S. and Tanzania, especially in terms of relationship-building and business etiquette. We knew we had to start slow, building trust and a relationship before we even thought about bringing up the business questions we had. Although Vincent attended university in Canada and had plenty of experience with Western business norms, we discussed his experiences, his company’s history and the family business with interest.

Vincent, Tyler, Jeff, Drew, Jake, Alec and Dadrien enjoying George's Tavern

Vincent, Tyler, Jeff, Drew, Jake, Alec and Dadrien enjoying George’s Tavern

Truth be told, after the pleasantries had been exchanged and Vincent prompted us, we peppered him with questions. We thoughtfully and graciously paused during the actual meal – a Greek restaurant with some dynamite burgers (Vincent’s choice)! All too eager to get things going after 7-weeks of coursework, class and twice-a-week meetings, we hit the ground running and began gathering the information we so desperately wanted for our final report.

After the meeting, we were able to debrief and discuss some of our strong points – along with “areas for opportunity,” aka “weaknesses”. Vincent’s Western education enabled us to conduct ourselves in a slightly varied, but typical manner. In hindsight, it was a great transition opportunity for our team. Rather than the immediate shock of a heavily traditional Tanzanian meeting, we had the luxury of a buffer meeting to smooth out the kinks.

Beyond the Lions and Elephants in Arusha

I don’t want to claim that our first few days in Tanzania were tops among GAPers, but I challenge any location in the world to compete with the awe-inspiring Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. Seeing huge horizon-to-horizon herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle followed by pools of massive floating families of hippos and, of course, the fierce predators lurking in the bush was an amazing experience. Although, in our case, the predators were either trotting along the dirt road, looking like cuddly creatures, or lounging in the shade of ubiquitous acacias. We were lucky enough to see the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino). Despite its dire history, this term was coined by the big-game hunters looking for the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. For us, it meant that we had an extremely lucky three and a half days. It’s amazing where you can end up just 72-hours after your last presentation of the semester.

The terrifying, deadly leopard...taking a nap.

The terrifying, deadly lion…taking a nap.

Despite the grandeur and breath-taking beauty of these areas, I think it’s safe to say that our team was just as pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome we received from the people of Arusha who serve the major nature reserves nearby. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, is also nearby, but located in the opposite direction of the Serengeti. Understandably, touristic hubs cannot provide for countrywide generalizations. In these areas, tourism is king and positions like a safari leader are highly coveted and diligently studied for. Still, the warm welcome we received from locals during our walks. and the selfless nature of our bed and breakfast staff was touching. For a little insight, one team member lost his wallet the first night during a taxi transfer. Charles, the bed and breakfast manager, took it upon himself to track the taxi down and ensure that the contents remained untouched  – hours after the initial loss. Needless to say, the wallet was returned immediately upon our return from the safari in pristine condition. Continuing to go above and beyond, the other employees taught us Swahili every night, while we dined in the communal outdoor dining room with the B&B’s other guests. Coming with little more than the essentials (jambo, asante, kwa heri) we tried our best amidst the friendly laughter of our teachers.

Our fearless leader, Salum, and the GWI team on safari.

Our fearless leader, Salum, and the GWI team on safari.

 

Tanzania and its people certainly have not disappointed. We can’t wait to see what lies beyond Arusha as we continue on to Dodoma, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.

Marketing Research in Shanghai

We started our primary marketing research in Shanghai on Monday, 9th May by visiting some electronic stores in certain malls. We wanted to better understand consumer behavior and pricing, and also be able to estimate the market size if we introduce our client’s product to the Chinese market. Trying to talk to the sales representatives at these stores as college students working on a project, we realized that they were quite secretive about their sales information, and even refrained from sharing any in depth information about the products that they had on display. And so, we had to resort to some other story to tell the sales representatives in other stores in order to get them talking. We did not ask any sales information from then on, but tried to learn more about the purifiers that were being sold: the different brands, price ranges and also if they sold filters in the stores. It turned out that only one of the stores sold a particular brand’s filters, while all other stores mentioned that customers would have to purchase replacement filters in after sales centers of the various brands.

FilterThe other difficulty we faced was in talking to the general public passing by the stores about their air purifier purchasing experience. Everyone seemed to have a bias about being open to people asking them questions, even though we had our Chinese experts approach them. They almost always assumed that we were selling air purifiers, and therefore were keen to get rid of us. However, when we tried the same with some of the Americans or Europeans living in Shanghai, they were very happy to share their experience and were much more open than the local people. So the important lesson we learnt was that it would be necessary to know the people you interview for primary marketing research information and not to try and talk to strangers in public places.

Also, we had a survey prepared to send out to known networks and this seems to be With Phoebethe most successful approach. Although people do expect some incentive at the end of the survey like ‘Red Pockets’, connecting to people through WeChat is highly effective. WeChat is the main social media channel in China and using it is very convenient to reach out to known people and groups and request them to fill out the surveys. We also grew our network with the help of Ms. Phoebe You, the director of the OSU Global Gateway Office. We learned that it would have been important and beneficial to make contacts here prior to coming in order to be able to get in touch with useful resources for marketing research.