For Annie Chor ’15 and her teammates, trying to determine how to best assist a social-sector enterprise in India’s developing regions, getting to know the workers in the field was critical. As part of the Global Social Entrepreneurship course, Chor took part in a consulting project in rural India last semester.
“You have to do a lot of field work and analysis to understand the needs in villages,” Chor said. “When we were on the ground, we literally covered half of India, and we asked a lot of questions.” Chor and four of her classmates worked with Saki Unique Rural Enterprise (SURE), a for-profit organization that has created a network of rural women who sell eco-friendly, energy-efficient projects within their communities.
Based in the Osmanabad district of India, SURE seeks to empower women through economic development while supporting sustainable energy. SURE was one of five social enterprise organizations in India that partnered with teams of Yale SOM students on a variety of projects focusing on specific challenges faced by the organizations.
The 22 students who participated in the consulting projects shared their experiences as part of Yale SOM’s student-run Social Impact Lab on February 18 and February 25. They stressed that research—both in the field and back in the U.S.—was crucial to assembling recommendations for their clients.
The SURE team performed a business model analysis that called on the SURE’s top leadership to narrow its focus and concentrate on the organization’s top priorities. Students also recommended that, instead of taking product dealers’ advice, SURE entrepreneurs needed to be more proactive in choosing products that meet villages’ unique needs.
“We wanted them to think about how a product would interact with the market,” said Alexa Allen ’15. The students also recommended that the women entrepreneurs implement a peer-mentoring program to share best practices.
Students working with Britti Prosikshan, a for-profit enterprise based in Kolkata that provides skill development and employment referrals to youth across India, targeted the company’s marketing and financial challenges. A government-funded initiative, Britti provides services through a network of local entrepreneurs operating more than 350 franchises.
The student team performed an analysis aimed at developing a business model for the franchise entrepreneurs. Recommendations focused on helping the franchises become more financial sustainable by expanding the network and attracting more students through targeted marketing.
Students working with the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA), meanwhile, recommended that the nonprofit organization focus on developing internal benchmarks and strategies to lower its troubling, and costly, employee attrition rate. SNEHA works to improve the health of women and children in underserved areas of the Mumbai region.
The project identified best practices for frontline workers and called for the organization to collect more internal data, including an exit survey for departing employees. “We feel this would help them get feedback on their management practices,” said Chocku Radhakrishnan ’15.
Other GSE student consulting projects included the Delhi-based TARAoorja team, which worked with a social enterprise incubator to improve its business model for providing electricity through solar-powered microgrids in rural area, and the Kolkata-based BASIX Krishi Samruddhi team, which explored business models aimed at improving the livelihood of farmers.