RUDI – An Exciting Start

Our first several days on the subcontinent have been nothing if not eye-opening.  India’s unique cocktail of sights, sounds and smells can be exhilarating, fascinating, and overwhelming…often all at the same time.  After the sweltering affair that was our exploration of Mumbai, we arrived in Ahmedabad on Sunday evening.

On Monday morning we set out to SEWA headquarters, eager to learn more about the work that we’ll be doing with RUDI over the next few months.After a general SEWA meeting with all of the Foster project groups, we sat down to talk RUDI business with Umaben, who has acted as the organization’s chief officer for some time now.  We were also joined by Rupesh Singh, a recent RUDI intern who has transitioned into a full-time marketing professional for the organization, as well as Ranju, a quality control specialist for RUDI’s processing centers.

We worked the entire first day at SEWA’s main rural offices, but the hours spent there were far from boring.  Uma, Rupesh and Ranju introduced us to RUDI’s most recent business model, and the challenges that have been presented in the process of trying to scale up their operations.  We learned a great deal about the organization’s procurement, processing and distribution practices, and bombarded our hosts with questions we’ve been anxiously waiting to ask for weeks.  Luckily for them, they were able to gain a brief respite by sedating us with a delectable Gujarati-style lunch.

After hashing out our schedule for the week, we returned to the quirky Lemon Tree Hotel, where we met with the rest of the project teams before heading to an elaborate dining experience at {picture of a lantern} restaurant.  (Sorry, that was the closest we got to a name…)

This morning, we took off early, met Rupesh at the rural offices, and set off for Pij, a town outside of Anand.  There, we toured a RUDI processing center and interviewed its chief managerial employees.  We were impressed by the processing that took place there; the sorting, weighing, and packaging was being conducted at a highly professional level.  As it turns out, the Pij center is one of RUDI’s most effective processing locations.

We had the opportunity to ask questions of the In-Charge at the processing center, her second in command, and a Rudiben (rural salesperson) all at once.  They patiently provided answers to any and all topics we were interested in, and we learned a tremendous amount about how the Rudiben sell to rural village customers.  The Rudiben we spoke with was kind enough to invite us out to the village where she sells to, and we excitedly accepted.  We packed our van with several processing center employees and the Rudiben herself, and set off for a village just outside of Pij.  There, we interviewed a sub-Rudben who works under the woman who had taken us there, and learned a great deal about her sales strategies, her customers, and even her family.  They kindly showed us their property and its plentiful agricultural resources (tobacco, maize and mustard seed all grown in the same place!) before inviting us to tea on their front porch.  The tea was excellent, and the adorable children surrounding our meeting added to this heartwarming rural family experience.

Afterwards, we traveled back to Ahmedabad while Rupesh gave us the lowdown on all of the coolest Bollywood flicks out right now.  These have been a truly incredible couple of days, and though tired, we’re all surprisingly energized by the unique experiences we’ve had thus far.  Tomorrow, it’s off to RUDI’s most effective processing center to observe practices and interview more stakeholders.  We’re excited for what lies in the days ahead!

 

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