Field Work in South India

It has been a while since I have updated anything on here, as last year was a whirlwind of working full time, grad school, and building a community in West Palm. I often felt guilty for trying to give any time/energy to this, when I had so much more on my plate. Now, as part of my program (Masters of Science in Global Development), I am on a field work assignment for 10 weeks in Bangalore, India and really want to share all that I am experiencing. I have known about this trip for months but it wasn’t until I got settled here that I was able to fully process where I am and what I am doing. I’m thankful for the time and space traveling provides and the opportunity for growth in this season.

I am now coming up on the end of my third week here and I love it so much. It has been one of the most empowering, fulfilling experiences of my life and I am sad at how fast it is going by! I am here with three other women, classmates from my program, and we are all working on a variety of development projects through relationships cultivated by our program director at PBA. We are also conducting our own individual research projects, for which the data will serve as the basis for our Master’s thesis (next years’ stress… ).

I am working with an organization called Versys (http://versys.in/) and their Business Development Center, which serves as an entrepreneurial training center and launching pad. I am working closely with a few graduates from this program and helping them develop their small businesses. One of these is a handcrafted, leather goods company called Tvakh. It is run by a man who is an incredible artisan looking to sell his goods to a wider market. I am helping him develop his ecommerce sales through Etsy, social media and a website. I created a business plan for him last week and we are now working towards a few different initiatives to drive sales and increase production. I meet with him and his wife (who have become such dear friends) every few days at their home so we can update each other on progress that has been made individually and work together.

The second project I am working on is a clothing/accessories boutique called Juvi, started by a woman name Vikholi who has a heart for providing opportunities for marginalized women. She offers them an educational program for sewing and crafts and then sells their goods in her store. They are currently struggling to make ends meet and cover the costs required for their program. I am helping her develop some new products which I believe will sell better in a US market and am connecting her with an artisan importing/distribution company which would buy products regularly and sell them online/at trade shows in the United States. I am also updating all of their marketing - website, social media, portfolios and business cards. If anyone has any jewelry design ideas, graphic/web design skills and would like to volunteer some remote help — I would love to connect! I am really seeing the struggle of entrepreneurship in a developing country, it gives me even more awe and respect for the people who pursue it.

* If you are interesting in supporting either of these businesses by shopping their products, I will be posting links and pictures over the next few weeks. I would be happy to bring back any orders to the US to avoid international shipping fees.

Both of these projects are so fun for me - I am getting to practice entrepreneurship which aligns with a personal goal to eventually start something of my own. I have also grown to build beautiful relationships with the owners and am honored by the trust they have given me with their work. They are essentially letting me make any changes I deem necessary and we have already been dreaming about what it would look like to work together long term. Each of these efforts could be full-time but I am practicing time management and learning to let go of perfectionism and the need to be productive 24/7 (definitely not how developing economies function). Lastly, I am trying to leave time for my own research, which will be what I spend the majority of the next year on.

My research proposal has narrowed since I have gotten here. I originally planned on studying the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs but through a lot of reading and personal development I have come to shift my focus towards the social enterprise movement which is growing rapidly in this modern city. I am hoping to examine how these small, conscious businesses are operating and then examine them through an eco-feminist lens. I will be writing more about this project specifically as I develop my methodology and collect data.

Thank you to everyone who has continually supported me through this journey, I’m looking forward to connecting more over the next few months and would appreciate any insight or connections that may seem relevant.