Sunday, September 7, 2014

Great thanks to WDI, Krishi Star, fellow interns, and lastly Bandra for the wonderful memories...!!

Krishi Star Retreat to Chopra Farmhouse

Figure 1: Trip to Chopra farmhouse
The team spent a weekend retreat at the Chopra Farmhouse, farmhouse belonging to the company Director Agastya’s family, located close to Vangani. Our journey there took us by paddy field plots and farmers were seen tending young paddy shoots. The peak of monsoon season now is perfect growing this Khariff crop. We started with sessions identifying our personal values and how that corresponded to company values and Krishi Star’s value to customers. I shared with the team, important takeaways for me this summer. Other activities included are: visit to nearby farms, team building sessions, river swim, cooking dinner with Krishi’s tomatoes, and a night of singing together by the garden with fireflies. It was a weekend of great learning, team building, and lots of fun times.

Next Steps and New product

One of my next tasks is to determine whether Krishi Star should focus in single- or multi-crop in its product portfolio strategy. From my research on major agri players in India such as Pepsico, Hindustan Unilever, and Jain Irrigations, many serve the role as an Input supplier, supplying farmers with quality seeds, irrigation technology, pesticides and fertilizers and engage in contract farming. Some even collaborated with local Indian banks to provide loans to farmers. This alternate chain created new hope and channel for farmers to sell their produce. While we have seen this progressive option via contract farming, it is most relevant to processor actors with huge marketing capabilities and a stable and big market to sell to. For Krishi Star, the important takeaway from this exercise is realizing the importance of establishing appropriate backward linkages and determining target market need. Understanding limitation of production and financial capabilities is another important factor in determining next step strategies.

My final task is to evaluate product feasibility of the processed onion products. Four main types includes: Dehydrated onions, Onion powder, Preserved/Pickled onions, and Onion Paste. Dehydrated onion is the most mature category of all, with India exporting 118 crore (12% of all onion exports) of dried onion annually. The US is a major producer of dehydrated onion and in India, Jain Irrigations dominates. As mentioned in my earlier post, price hikes haunted onion prices lately due to shortage in domestic onion supply. In 2011, India imported onions from Pakistan and in 2013 from Egypt. This pose a potential for processed onion.

Bandra and memorable Hindu festival

Figure 2: Human pyramids

Leaving Mumbai and especially Bandra forced me to leave behind great sentimental memories that I would not have gotten had I not become a WDI fellow. Sad to leave behind people I have met in my neighborhood: the Frozen food shop Auntie, Gary from Pedro foods, and not forgetting Fruit seller Mama, whom I often buy bananas from. Despite living for a short time, I have witnessed few celebrations: India independence day, Hindu festival Krishna Janmashtami in Maharashtra. During the Hindu festival, locals form human pyramids to fetch a pot filled with goodies hung about 20-40ft high on local streets. It’s a competition and the team that fetched the pot gets awarded with real cash. 

WDI, Krishi Star and fellow interns...

Figure 3: Myself as WDI fellow undertaking my mission in India

I would like to extend my greatest thanks to the William Davidson Institute and Krishi Star (Bryan, Agastya, David) for a wonderful summer internship. Thanks also to other interns from Kellogg (Jason and Greg), IIT Mumbai (Aniket), Albert, and Remma for making work fun and enjoyable and for the  great times. One of the greatest takeaway is to be able to work in a team of people from various backgrounds held together by our common goal to empower farmers and end poverty. Will certainly miss the long and endless team meetings and not forgetting the Krishi Star post-it notes jokes!!!

Figure 4: Bandra station

Figure 5: Krishi Star team

Figure 6: Krishi Star team

Note to future interns #4:
1. If you are using Apple, you will want to know Maple, the local Indian authorized reseller and service center in case of computer breakdown. There is one service center in Santa Cruz.  My MacBook air wouldn't turn on and was checked in the service center. Although it took almost 2 weeks to repair, my laptop came back impeccable.
2. Cant stressed enough to bring mosquito repellent. Thanks to prior WDI fellow Rosser Ben Chen for donating his repellent to me! Those came in real handy!!! Go Blue!!

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