While the first week in Nepal was more research oriented in nature, this past week we organized the research and developed a solution from all the resources we utilized. Thus, we spent a lot of time in the Patan work area we established. In order better access some of the financials to understand the current operations, we visited the main Aatmiya office where accounting and administrative activities are conducted. We received some decent information in regards to the costs for the organization as a whole, as well as some transaction history from the business checking account. However, in general, the information was not specific enough and going forward, financial recording needs to be standardized: specifically, more detailed by individual product versus solely cumulative.
As a team, we also evaluated some of the emails between clients and the economic center to get a better feel for the sampling and ordering process. These emails, however, were not specific enough for us to gain a thorough understanding of sales and sampling procedures and limited our ability to help standardize these processes. Again, moving forward this process needs to be more standardized and one of our goals will be to work with Aatmiya towards this standardization.
After reviewing all the information we received thus far, we came to the conclusion that we need to focus heavily on the branding aspect to capture further business. However, we did feel the need for an organizational overhaul due to the fact that margins are not clearly accessible and perhaps even accurate, and the sampling process has a significant amount of gray-areas. In order to create a working model tested against a real world situation, we decided that we needed to initiate an actual order. Our solution? The ‘Brutus Project’. We have asked the Didi’s to create a sample doll of Brutus, the Ohio State mascot, and we hope to try and sell this product on campus and/or at local vendors. By doing so, not only will we be promoting the Aatmiya brand and expanding current business, but we also hope to use this project as a way of standardizing costing, negotiations, and the sampling process by witnessing first-hand how a client responds in our business negotiations. If the project goes as planned, we hope to expand into other Ohio State, hand-knit products and develop this business as part of the internal brand (AMA).
Recognizing that creating an internal brand (AMA) would require a significant amount of capital, we set up a meeting with the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) to talk about programs or micro-financing that could be made available to Aatmiya. This was a great business experience as we were able to observe the UN operations and hear about the perspective and organizational structure of a UN global program. We spoke primarily with Vinda Magar, the director of UN Women. She shared details regarding UN efforts in Nepal and mentioned the MEDEP program. Essentially, this program provides guidance, oversight, and financing for entrepreneurial efforts, and in the past has made women’s empowerment based organizations the majority of businesses enrolled in the program. How to enroll Aatmiya was not made very clear, but Mrs. Magar stated that it would not be too difficult. As a group, we will continue to look into this option and hopefully utilize the program to expand into our own internal brand, targeted for next February.
With the longer-term goal of having an organic brand for Aatmiya, namely AMA, we worked with the web developers of the current website to better reflect an option to ‘opt in’ to the Aatmiya/AMA business, while including information on the other projects that Aatmiya support (education, healthcare, etc) . We met with the web developers on Friday to implement the changes, which was a smooth process. The developers were more than happy to accommodate our requests and said they would complete it all by the following Thursday. As we will be out of the country by then, we will review the changes to the website via internet. Eventually, the goal is to create a more eCommerce-centric website for the AMA brand, which will take over more of the direct consumer marketing and display the available Aatmiya/AMA products.
In our final work this week, we created a slidedeck of recommendations based on our findings and analysis, which we presented to the client. We explained our vision, our business operations model and our goals for the future. The entire Aatmiya team was very excited about our ideas and showed a strong willingness to adopt our recommendations and work with us to grow the Aatmiya brand and create a true Economic Center in Patan. As a team, we are more than enthusiastic about working on this project this summer and into the fall and hopefully passing along the project and our progress to another GPP team in 2018.