Some wrapping up – Erin

Now that I have settled into a hotel in Mumbai, am finishing up my coursework, reflecting on my experience, and enjoying one more night in India, a few topics come to mind.

During the course, held in the unfortunately echoey MBA hall, it was often difficult to hear the speakers.  I did enjoy hearing from guests from different types of start-up companies, especially the drug producer/contractor founder.  He explained how he always knew he wanted to be in the medical field and worked his way into making his own company with partners he trusted.  The speakers expressed how important it is to find people you trust to work with and to share a common goal with your compatriots.  This is something I was glad to hear as Nonspec has had some issues making sure our team was working towards the same goals.  We have also found that it is very important to be on the same page early on and to continually check that things are in alignment.

Besides the snakes of course, it was wonderful being able to hear from every person in the class during the final presentations.  I had heard bits and pieces about different team projects in the dining area and in the Scholars House (where we were housed), but I didn’t get a full picture of the elaborateness of the businesses until the final day of class.  It was awesome to be able to purchase hand-made gifts form the Exceptional Children that had come in for my roommate’s presentation (since I had been wanting to since she told me about them a week ago!).  It was also great to hear the take-aways and highlighted experiences each team had with either their interdisciplinary teams, their chosen/assigned corporations, or their project styles.  I was happy to hear that the trends were all positive and that everyone got to learn so much about each others idiosyncrasies, lifestyles, and hobbies.

After the presentations, the group had our final event at Seven Beans, a local coffee shop that was started around 6 years ago by a college student as a third place to go that was fun and had a great community. We happily had frappes (pronounced like in the McDonald’s commercial…), coffees, pasta, nachos, and sandwiches. The group took TONS of photos and got to dance and towards the end had the pleasure of hearing from the founder himself.  He told us how he went in with a grand idea, not very much money, and not very much support, but managed to build a great place that people love.  He honestly told us that entrepreneurship is a series of highs and lows, with many more lows than highs.  His biggest low was something I could never even imagine.  About two years ago, he was at the office during shop hours when he got a call from his friend.  “Where are you, Seven Beans is on fire!”  Like anyone would, he thought he was joking.  He told his friend, what a prank and tried to laugh it off, but his friend continued.  The founder jumped on his bike and started heading the short distance to his establishment that he had build with his own hands…and into the crowd of people.  He froze in his tracks as he tried to process what he saw.

I was very affected by the story this guy, about my age had just explained.  I can’t even fathom the amount of emotions he had in that moment and during the months recovering.  I was so happy to hear that they had recovered from the tragedy, expanding into 2 other locations in South India (one is just about to hatch), and started a processing plant up to code, following sanitation standards.  The UML students liked Seven Beans so much we asked him if he had thought of expanding abroad!  He was overwhelmed by the question since his current expansions are taking so much power to make happen, but the excitement on his face when he talked about his team’s growth was amazing.


As for the parts of India I have visited, I have found a stunning difference in what different groups of people take pride in.  Although most of the UML students were from the New England area, I heard a lot of proclamations about the “US” which in real life even vary from state to state; similarly, India is such a large country that I can see this being the case here as well.  From what I have observed, in India there is great pride in the way one looks and dresses, a pride of religion, and a pride of food.  In contrast, with what I have seen in some parts the US, there is a pride in environment/building conditions and possessions (cars and technology being the most obvious that comes to mind).  This is a difficult thing to discuss, as I don’t want to offend, nor be too top level, but I do feel the environmental differences are profound.  I was shocked to see, for example, that Aquafina bottles in India say “crush when finished” as apposed to “please recycle”.  Don’t get me wrong, I know often waste is burned in the US in factories, but in India the norm is to burn piles of trash on the side of the street, seemingly at random.  A company that is so prevalent and large is not making efforts to reclaim, recycle, or prevent damage to the environment with their product and it is irresponsible.

I also personally had the problem with the lack of hand soap/hand sanitization in schools, hospitals (!!!), and restrooms in general.  I think this is something that would be an easy change that would help alleviate some of the health concerns in the area.

I know this is getting long, but this is what happens when I am off with new friends, everything pours out when I get the chance…  So in other news, Nonspec has officially had our device tested by a patient in India!  It was simultaneously a terrifying, exhilarating, and overwhelming experience.  Our device was able to take a load we never expected to happen in real life (when a poorly made socket collapsed) just like it had in digital testing!  Thanks to our wonderful BVB team; Shruti, Chaitanya, and Kalyani we were able to capture information about prosthetic use from three different patients in their local language ranging from ages 8-60!  We have a lot to work on when we return home and can’t wait to send our next iterations to our team to return to the clinic for trials!

We are strangely heading out at 1:45pm Saturday, Mumbai time to a 1 hour layover in London, followed by a flight direct to Boston where we will be landing at 9:40 pm on Saturday after traveling for about 17 hours in the same day!  …It is going to be weird man…   See you all when I get back!

Begining of Class in Hubli! – Erin

After a very delayed flight from Delhi, we arrived in Goa right before dinner time to take a 3 hour adventure through the windy, bumpy, switch back roads to Hubli.  We fit in 4 vans and passed a lot of trucks and 2-wheelers on the way, but got to see the sun set over the country side and it was beautiful.  Most of us fell asleep for an hour or two after dark, but I was half awake as we drove through the city center of Hubli.  The lights, advertisements, businesses, and activities, even in my out-of-it state made me very excited to explore the city.  When we arrived at the BVB campus we were welcomed by the students we had come so far to meet and the long hours of travel were made worthwhile.  They helped us with our luggage, placed hand made, amazingly nice smelling flower necklaces around our necks and painted our foreheads symbolizing our energy centers and had our first meal from the new restaurant start-up on campus.  We were placed in our rooms with a roommate, taught about the shower heaters and we all gratefully crawled into bed.

The first two days were spend at our company sites, making observations and learning about the businesses.  Our team of 7 visited a prosthetic and orthopedics clinic.  At first it was a bit awkward.  There were several different language barriers between our team, the clinician, technicians, and patients, with 3 languages being spoken on site by different parties.  There were also a lack of exceptions from all sides on what exactly was supposed to happen on the first day and who was in charge.  Luckily, we were able to get on the same page rather quickly and start working together to learn the current process in the clinic and explain how our technology can assist the cost issues their patients face.

Our amazing team of BVB engineering students were able to discuss experiences and concerns of the patients and relay data to us so we could collectively discuss the patients needs and how we can aim to address them.  We hope to return several times during our trip as we have made adjustments for our device to fit with their socket technology for testing purposes.

We have been able to adventure into the city twice now to explore the malls and of all things, have Domino’s pizza.  We celebrated Jake’s birthday with very sweet, moist cake that was fed to him by several students, then to his surprise smeared all over his face, a tradition UML was unaware of!  To finish off the celebration many of us ended up at an arcade to play fooseball, shoot a Daisy air rifle, ride a mechanical bull, or just observe the craziness.

So far, I have been able to ride in a rickshaw/auto/3-wheeler, a 2-wheeler, a bus, just travel by foot, and ride in a student’s car which are entirely different experiences on the road.  Through these experiences have slowly developed an understanding for the horn honking patterns in India, which is basically an exciting communication system for passing different vehicles and pedestrians.

Last night I ventured to “The Hill” to see the sunset over the city as well as see the city light up.  It was beautiful weather (around 70F…sorry for all you folks back home :] ) and a great place to walk around with foliage and a children’s park (cause we are kids!).  I also got to do pull-ups on the top of the hill which I have been dying to do.

And a new addition I was not expecting to write today….Prof. Mehta and the other professors organized a humane wildlife re-locator to bring in two snakes to the class room!  We got to hold a 7ft rat snake and see a cobra out of a container!  It was really exciting and for those who were afraid of snakes (not me) it was a way to overcome a fear and become more creative in the process.

I will write again after our cultural visit on Sunday!

Delhi Day 1 – Erin

We just completed our first day in Delhi after getting into the airport at 1:25am local time.  After catching a few hours of sleep we had a great buffet breakfast, made a trip to the ATM for Rupees, and took our bus to see India’s first mosque, the site of Gandhi’s last days, some of the president’s 250 acre home, the Indian parliament, and a temple.  Driving through the city, which I learned was home to about 18 million people, and seeing the business of a Friday was exciting.

We are  off to the Agra and the Taj Mahal early tomorrow morning and heading to Hubli the next day (Sunday).  We should be able to update more when we settle in at BVB!