Gita Ramamurti ’17
Internship: EarthEnable, Kigali, Rwanda
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Favorite Yale SOM Class: Global Social Entrepreneurship
Having worked in a management consulting firm and with global-health NGOs before coming to Yale SOM, I was eager to try something different during my summer by interning for an early-stage social enterprise. My internship search led me to EarthEnable, a growing startup based in Rwanda that is striving to eradicate dirt floors in the country. Dirt floors contribute to significant health and quality-of-life issues for families who live on them, and cement floors, the primary alternative, are too expensive for many families to afford. EarthEnable tackles this problem by installing earthen floors made out of local materials in customers’ homes, an option that is much cheaper than cement while still being high quality.
This summer, I’ve been piloting an even cheaper do-it-yourself version of the floor that EarthEnable trains rural customers to construct in their own homes. The experiences I’ve had in this role are varied and really draw upon what I learned in our core classes, from Customer and Employee to Innovator, Operations, and Accounting.
For example, I’ve conducted in-depth market research interviews with base-of-the-pyramid customers, organized a launch event at a bustling marketplace, modeled different compensation packages for our sales reps, walked door-to-door in rural villages selling our product, updated QuickBooks as we prepared our Rwandan tax forms, prototyped cheaper designs for our priciest tools, and even transported equipment to customers on the back of a scooter.
What I love about this startup environment, then, is how it has allowed me to touch all aspects of a business in a hands-on way. Some big takeaways I have from the summer are:
- Get out of the office! Spending multiple days each week out in the field with customers has been vital for sparking new ideas and also showing me how my initial assumptions are usually way off base.
- Test out new ideas early, even if they’re not 100% fully-formed yet (this has been quite an adjustment for a compulsive planner like me!).
- Recruit and develop talent far earlier than you think you may need it.
- Recognize that striving for both social impact and financial sustainability is a constant negotiation, and there is often no obvious answer to what balance is optimal.
I’m excited to explore these issues and more during my next year at Yale SOM!