Marketing to a different culture

Personally, one of the most exciting challenges of this project was developing a marketing strategy for a culture that was entirely different and new to me. As business students and marketing majors (myself included), we have a tendency to think we have it all figured out: run a Five Forces, do a SWOT, NPV, find the competitive advantage, differentiate, add in some other random b-school buzzwords, and poof! You’re done! Looking back, it is hilarious how off-base we were in our analysis and our approach to our analysis while doing our preliminary work back in the US.

Working

In country, we quickly realized how much of what we knew (or thought we knew) about business- marketing in particular- was not useful. How do you market a product to someone who has very little disposable income (and a high month- to month variance on what disposable income they do have), no television, no computer, and limited mobile capabilities? On top of all that, how do you reach consumers who have a completely different perspective on consumerism with different priorities, characteristics, and personalities, and entirely different outlooks on life, culture, and sense of self than what we we know as Westerners?

It has been a humbling learning experience to apply our knowledge and test it against an unfamiliar market.

Kwaheri, Kenya! (Goodbye, Kenya)

Every single morning since I arrived in Kenya, I’ve woken up and thought the exact same thing: Wow, I am in Africa. Even after three weeks, it still amazes me that I am here and that I got to take part in this amazing opportunity.

At Mount Kenya University

At Mount Kenya University

The project itself was a terrific challenge to undertake. After hours of work, both staying up late and waking up early to work, I am very proud of our efforts and am confident that our client will be pleased with our deliverable.

But being in Kenya, being further out of my comfort zone than I have ever been, was what I will remember most about this adventure. As I reflect, it is hard to believe all I got to do and experience while in Kenya.

I traced the steps of village women who walk a mile and a half to collect water three times a day, and helped carry their water back to their homes using the PackH2O.

I traveled to Marsabit (twelve hrs north of Nairobi) to treat and clean the feet of children infected with parasites called Jiggers.

I went on a Safari in the Masai Mara game reserve.

Hey, whatchya guys looking at?

Hey, whatchya guys looking at?

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We tried to get a giraffe to be the I, but it wouldn’t cooperate.

I shopped in the Masai Market in downtown Nairobi.

I went to Stone Town in Zanzibar (Ok, not in Kenya, but still awesome) and snorkeling in the Indian Ocean.

Not a bad view, huh?

Not a bad view, huh?

 

OHIO in the Indian Ocean

OHIO in the Indian Ocean

IMG_2257

I want this house

Colobus Monkey!

Colobus Monkey!

I ate more meat than is ecologically responsible at Carnivore.

And best of all, I met some of the most wonderful people in the world. Of all the things I am going to miss in Kenya, these Partners for Care guys take the cake. We have lived with them, learned from them, worked with them, and played with them. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and their friendship.

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These guys! Haven’t left yet as of this writing, but I already miss them.

I don’t know what’s left to say other than I am incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity and will never forget this experience. I hope to keep in touch with everyone I met in Kenya, and stay involved with PackH2O. It was an amazing product to work on and I hope the team’s work will be put to good use.

 

Trip to Downtown Nairobi

Last Monday May 18th Akshay and I went on a trip to Downtown Nairobi. The purpose of the trip was to explore the textile retail market and assess the availability of several components required to assemble the PackH2O in Kenya. We were also interested in obtaining information about industrial sewing machine retail prices.

Google Maps™ told us that it would take approximately 21 minutes to get there. Ha! The Mountain View giant had it all wrong. It took us about one and a half hours just to get to River Road, the major textile retailing zone in Downtown Nairobi. The traffic is extremely heavy, and it is advisable to plan trips adding approximately one hour or more to the standard itinerary.

Map

What Google thinks does not matter!

 

George from Partners for Care drove us with his characteristic “defensive” driving style, zigzagging through thousands of cars, SUVs and most of all, “Matatus”, the Kenyan colloquial name for their public buses. Matatus are really peculiar, colorful, highly decorated and personalized vehicles. Most of them include paintings of American pop culture stars or famous local slogans and sayings.

Traffic is 98,37% matatus

Traffic is 98,37% matatus, or at least that’s what I think!

Typical traffic in Nairobi

Typical traffic in Nairobi

During the trip, I challenged myself to find at least one single running vehicle without any scratches, dents or other damage. I lost the challenge. According to the short sample I took during the duration of the trip, I can say with a 99% confidence level that the mean proportion of running vehicles in perfect shape on the streets of Nairobi at any time is 0%.

"Come on!! There's still an inch available!!"

“Come on George!! There’s still an inch available!!”

When we arrived to River Street, parking was a different story. George found a tiny spot between two cars. I thought that he was joking when he started to park there. When we realized he was serious about it, Akshay and I went out of the car to try to help by giving him distance alerts to each car’s bumper. I took us another ten minutes to get the car to a decent distance to the sidewalk.

We engaged in conversations with several textile retailers in the area. People was really friendly and helpful. At the end of the day, we were able to obtain good information for our project and Nairobi’s frantic traffic made our return to the house feel like it was quite an accomplishment!

 

Our Sunday Prize at the famous “Carnivore” in Nairobi

On consulting projects abroad, it is very typical to work during weekends in order to keep up with the required timeline. Last Sunday (May 24), my team and I worked very hard to get the first draft of our report completed. After everyone uploaded their assigned sections to the cloud, Jake was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together before 5pm. There were some sections still left to include, but we decided to work on those during the following week. Overall, we were very happy with the progress of our deliverable!

To reward ourselves for the great effort of the day, we went to “Carnivore”, the most famous restaurant in Nairobi! Carnivore is a rodizio-style grill, where you pay a flat rate for the meal, and they serve you with all-you-can-eat delicacies!

We invited George and Franco, some of our friends from Partners for Care. We had a great time tasting diverse and exotic animals (as permitted by the Kenyan law). One of my favorites was the grilled crocodile. I thought it tasted like a hybrid between fish and chicken. The service at the restaurant was marvelous, and the overall experience is highly recommended for travelers to Nairobi.

Amazed by the great food at Carnivore!

Amazed by the great food at Carnivore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once in a while during a project it is very important to relax, enjoy a change of environment and recharge for the following work sessions. Going to Carnivore was definitely something that helped us bond as a team, while at the same time clear our minds for a couple of hours.

As we approach the end of our project, we are very confident that our deliverable will be a high quality piece of work that our client will find extremely useful for future projects regarding the global expansion of the PackH2O™.

Home Sweet (PFC) Home

Throughout our time in Kenya, we have had the pleasure of staying in a variety of accommodations. Our travels took us north to Marsabit, west to the Maasai Mara, and east to Zanzibar, Tanzania, but our home base was the Partners for Care headquarters in Nairobi. Initially compared to the White House in terms of security and luxury (ahem, Kurt), the PFC house has become our home away from home as we made our way around Kenya. But getting in is not easy….

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Off the main road from the village is 2nd Mugumo-ini Drive in the Thome Estate. This bumpy road is the first step to reaching the PFC house. For safety reasons, we must be with PFC staff whenever we are outside of this first gate.

Gate 1

Gate 1

Gate 1 has two guards and is very well travelled as it serves the whole neighborhood.

Gate 2

Gate 2

Gate 2 is the first private gate. Passing through this barrier requires a signature (going both in and out), and the security guards take it very seriously. After a long bus ride home, filling out the paper work to get through this gate is very unwelcome.

Path to Gate 3

Our “running track”

This driveway is about .05 miles long. I know this because it is our running path – back and forth, back and forth is the only way to get any exercise. Ryan and I ran this path for 30 minutes to get some exercise one day and were joined by the guard. We were definitely outrun, despite the fact that he was in heavy boots, long wool pants, and a Michael Jordan jersey.

Gate 3

Gate 3

The last and final gate allows access to the house. The same guard from the second gate runs alongside the car and opens this third gate for us (which probably explains why he was much faster during our run).

driveway

Driveway/Parking Lot

At any given point, there are between two and six cars parked in this driveway. They are washed everyday (even if we do not drive them), and are often shuffled around to make room.

House

Home Sweet Home

Welcome home!

This house became our home; we lived upstairs in two rooms (four girls in one, eight guys in the other) and slept in bunkbeds cloaked in mosquito nets. Two of the Partners for Care staff live at the house, while others freely come in and out to do work, or sleep on the couch for early morning wake up calls. We feel so fortunate to be welcomed into their home with open arms and tried our best not to be a nuisance. While I’m happy to return to Columbus and sleep in a house I do not share with 15 other people, I will miss my Kenyan home……and my new GAP family.

Last day in Zanzibar

As our trip to Zanzibar came to an end, we spent the final day visiting historical sites and getting in some last minute beach time.  Stone Town is filled with interesting locales and the island itself is a crossroads of East African, European, Indian, and Arabic culture. This results in an interesting mix of architecture and a complex history.

Churches and Mosques mixed together in Stone Town

Churches and Mosques mixed together in Stone Town

 

The West side of the town is a maze a tiny streets that can be difficult to navigate, but exploring the city is well worth the effort.  Each turn reveals art stands, boutiques, corner cafes, historic sites, and locals willing to chat.  While the weather and scenery are beautiful, some of the cities more somber landmarks point to a checkered past.  We took a guided tour of the old slave market, and it was a sobering experience to understand how bad the conditions had been and learn about the huge volume of people who passed through the slave markets of Zanzibar.

Our guide shows how slaves were collared down in holding pits.  This room was meant for 75 women and children.

Our guide shows how slaves were collared down in holding pits. This room was meant for 75 women and children and there’s little to see of it outside this picture.

Monument outside the old market.

Monument outside the old market.

Anglican Church outside the market.  The British were instrumental in ending the slave trade in Zanzibar.

Anglican Church outside the market. The British were instrumental in ending the slave trade in Zanzibar.

After touring the town, we hired a local cab to take us to the East side of the island and Pongwe beach.  We found out the hard way that the tourist season hadn’t started yet, and most the hotels with beach access were still closed.  Luckily, our cab driver was willing to press on. After a drive through the town of Pongwe, we came across the Zanzibar Rock Resort.  We sat down to have lunch and were able to walk down to the water right from the resort’s sea side restaurant.  (I’m not a paid sponsor of the Zanzibar Rock Resort, but I would highly recommend staying there if you ever end up on the island.)

I would have taken more pictures but I was too busy enjoying the beach

I would have taken more pictures but I was too busy enjoying the beach

We were sad to say goodbye, but eventually we had to jump back in the taxi and head to the airport.  Visiting Zanzibar was a great time and the perfect way to wrap up the team’s last week in Africa.

The Wheels on the Bus to Marsabit

(Note – Date of bus trip, Wednesday, May 13th)

Today, we left for Marsabit, a small community in northern Kenya, along with Partners for Care staff and students from Mount Kenya University to treat local school children who have been infected with Jiggers. Jiggers are tiny parasites that burrow into open skin, particularly under finger and toe nails, and can cause a loss of nail, toe deformation, or even gangrene.

We are all very excited about our trip, but first there is the twelve hour bus ride to get there. There isn’t a whole lot to say about a day spent on a bus, so, I decided to write a song to make our bus drive more interesting. I call it “The Wheels on the Bus to Marsabit”.

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Seriously? 4 AM?”

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “What’s my latitude? Oh that’s right. Zero!”

equator

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Wake up, Andrew! Only six more hours.”

Andrew Asleep

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “So…dirt roads from here?”

dirtroad

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Cough! Cough! Cough!”

kerriandmebandana

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Are you sure we are going the right way? There are camels everywhere!”

camels

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Almost there, Travis.”

Travissleeping

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “HOLY $%#&! That was a big pothole.”

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “There is a paved road right there. Why are we not on that?”

pavedroad

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “George, stop taking pictures of people sleeping!”

sleepingonbus

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Phew. Made it. I’m getting to old for this…stuff.”

The Kenyan Landscape

Family farms in a mountain valley in Machakos. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Family farms in a mountain valley in Machakos. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

The day after we arrived in Kenya, we traveled to a small village near Machakos, a mountain region forty miles southeast of Nairobi. The hilly terrain provided a great birds-eye view of dozens of terraced family farms and river valleys.

Part of the GAP Greif team in the mountains at Machos

Part of the GAP Greif team in the mountains at Machakos.

Sunrise on the drive to Marsabit, just north of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Sunrise on the drive to Marsabit, just north of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

The drive to and from Marsabit (http://bit.ly/1PuDgo6), 327 miles northwest of Nairobi, provided an amazing opportunity to see a large swath of the Kenyan landscape. We left the house around 6am, stopped briefly in Isiolo (http://bit.ly/1cMkQxh) and Merille (http://bit.ly/1FvOunC), and arrived in Marsabit around 6pm. Our actual drive time was 10.5 hours to cover 327 miles. The first 257 miles were paved, until Merille, where the pavement stopped. There was another swatch of pavement between Merille and Marsabit, but it was only about fifteen miles long.

Travel speeds on the tarmac (the more common term for asphalt/paved road in Kenya), could reach 50-55 mph, but there were dozens and dozens of speed bumps that slowed us down. Installed in common pedestrian and livestock crossings, the speed bumps alternated between the normal single humps we see in the US, and a series of 2, 3, or 4 smaller bumps in succession that required the bus to come to almost a complete stop to avoid throwing the passengers in the back out of their seats (which still happened to those of us in the back from time to time, anyway). There were also multiple police checkpoints marked by roadblocks and tire spike strips because the highway we were on is the main road up to Ethiopia. The checkpoints were predominantly used for vehicles traveling south, to prevent illegal entry from Ethiopia, but the bus still had to slow to a crawl or complete stop to weave around the spike strips or wait for the police to remove them. It took us about five hours to reach Isiolo, 167 miles from Nairobi.

Mount Kenya and farmland, near Nyeri between Nairobi and Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Mount Kenya and farmland, near Nyeri between Nairobi and Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

Kenya is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We traveled from the lush green landscape of Nairobi, through grassland dotted with trees, up to Nyeri, where we saw Mount Kenya to the east. Isiolo marked the start of the drier landscape, turning to desert reminiscent of the Southwestern US all the way up to Marsabit. The town of Marsabit is the capital of Marsabit county. The town sits in a forested area on an extinct volcano, Mount Marsabit, but the surrounding area below the mountains is desert.

Camels by the side of the road Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Camels by the side of the road Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

Most of the other travelers – students from OSU, Mount Kenya University, and PFC staff – slept for the early part of the trip, but I only napped for an hour, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing out on the opportunity to soak up the amazing landscape.

The view from the Hula Hula school in the mountains of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

The view from the Hula Hula school in the mountains of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

I was able to capture quite a few nice pictures after the rain stopped, and the water dried off the windows. I took even more once I realized that my window opened, and it was warm enough to do so. (Overnight temps are in the 60s here, so it is a little chilly for us to drive with the windows down, and positively freezing for the Kenyans who bundle up in scarves and parkas during the overnight hours!).

 

Desert landscape south of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Desert landscape south of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

North of Isiolo, the landscape turns to brushland and eventually to desert. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

North of Isiolo, the landscape turns to brushland and eventually to desert. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A river on the route from Nairobi to Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A river on the route from Nairobi to Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Farmland north of Nyeri, near Mount Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Farmland north of Nyeri, near Mount Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Lush green landscape outside of Nairobi, en route to Masai Mara. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Lush green landscape outside of Nairobi, en route to Masai Mara. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several days later, the drive to Masai Mara National Reserve gave us another opportunity to see more of the country. The drive to Masai Mara first took us north west, and then south west, towards the border with Tanzania.

A "cactus tree", which is actually a type of euphorbia, the same family as Poinsettias. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A “cactus tree”, which is actually a type of euphorbia, the same family as Poinsettias. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

Again, the landscape was lush and green as we left Nairobi. Fertile farmland gradually became more desert-like as we traveled west, and finally turned to grassland dotted with trees and hills inside the park.

The grassland of Masai Mara National Reserve. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

The grassland of Masai Mara National Reserve. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

The park is somewhat bowl-shaped ringed in parts by large ridges, one of which separates Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya from the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. There is no man-made border between the two parks, and animals move freely between them.

The Mara River, with a crocodile in the foreground and a hippo in the background. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

The Mara River, with a crocodile in the foreground and a hippo in the background. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

Every July marks the migration of the wildebeest, who travel from Seregeti to Masai Mara. They cross the ridges and the Mara River for a few months, where they gorge themselves on the tall grasses, then mate before returning to Serengeti to give birth and repeat the process the next year.

A view of the Rift Valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, Kiambu, Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A view of the Great Rift Valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, Kiambu, Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

 

The drive to and from Masai Mara also took us through the East African Rift portion of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches from the Red Sea to Mozambique.

 

 

 

Our next adventure will take us to the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us on the shores of the Indian Ocean!

A panoramic view of the rift valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, west of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A panoramic view of the rift valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, west of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A Poem about a Kenyan Desert

We thought that traveling would be really neat,

We didn’t know that we would be cleaning feet.

A mission trip was outside our project scope;

But, understand the people – that is the hope.

I gathered my thoughts on the bus ride home,

Here is the result: I wrote a poem

Bus Group

The trip began by boarding a bus,

There was barely enough room for all of us.

The twelve hour journey was crowded and rough,

The road was not paved, by the end we’d had enough.

Scenery

Twelve hours of bumps and a whole lot of dirt,

Limited water and food made my head hurt.

But this trip it is not about all of my woes,

We must get the bugs out of kids’ toes.

Pastor Hirbo greeted us with his famous smile.

One look at his face and the trip was worthwhile.

Jiggers bite the feet and burrow into the skin,

Over one million are effected, where do we begin?

We knew we would be with medical staff in Marsabit

But, we didn’t know that we would be a part of it.

John_Andrew_Me Cleaning

Apprehension was high and nerves were shot,

MBA students yes, but medical students we were not.

We broke into groups and were shown our tools,

Some drove and some walked to the nearby schools.

Wash, soak, rinse, then dry-

The vaseline makes the jiggers go bye.

Ryan Treating

My shoes are red and covered in dirt;

But, that’s nothing compared to how my heart hurts.

We arrived to help make Kenya jigger free

I didn’t know how much it would affect me.

Bus at Village

The kids were strong and tried to smile,

But, the treatment was painful and took a while.

The sight of one boy made my heart break in two,

The jiggers got to his feet and he didn’t know what to do.

Boy with gloves

The shame on his face and pain in his eye,

A lump came to my throat and I started to cry.

I got comfort from my team; we worked as one.

We were committed to help until the treatment was done.

The last step in the process is putting shoes on their feet,

The one-for-one model from Skechers, which was pretty neat.

Putting on Shoes

At the sight of the shoes, the kids formed a line,

All of them wondering – will one of those pairs be mine?

Shoe line

More kids than shoes, a sad realization-

How can we truly help this great nation?

Over 300 were treated with kindness and care,

And jigger prevention they are now well aware.

We debriefed from our days and said our goodbyes,

The impact of this experience was truly a surprise.

Jake Carrying

 We started the journey a bit distressed.

As we leave, we are feeling overwhelmingly blessed.

Farewell to Marsabit and it’s desert air,

This brief look into our trip; I’m glad I could share.