Our first day with SEWA

This blog was originally written on December 10, 2013 after our first day with SEWA.

Our first day at SEWA started with the staff singing a prayer and welcoming our group. Each of the representative from different SEWA companies gave an introduction of themselves and how they became involved with the organization. The whole time I couldn’t stop smiling with how excited I was to be here and couldn’t believe this opportunity to be working with such amazing women. SEWA’s work over the past 40 years has made tremendous impacts on women’s lives and it is humbling and an honor with be learning from their staff.

After the warm welcome we had a productive first meeting with our RUDI counterparts, Umaben and Ranjuben. We were pleasantly surprised as to how clearly defined the scope of our project was and how well it aligned with what we were expecting, given the limited information prior to arriving. Uma has big plans for the company and is eager to increase sales at a rapid pace. Rudiben or RUDI “sisters” are women sellers of RUDI brand products that are the heart of the business and the primary distributors. Our project builds upon a channel analysis that last year’s UW group completed in which they identified the Rudiben as a key component to increasing sales that is well aligned with SEWA’s mission of employment and self-reliance.

We will be doing an analysis of the Rudiben to identify their successes and opportunities for improvements to increase sales. We will also consider the customer perspective with a local market analysis at the village and household level to understand current customer preferences and identify steps to reach new households. Finally, we will identify what type of support RUDI can offer the Rudiben to reach their sales goals with a focus on mobile phone technology.

We enjoyed listening to Uma describe her objectives for the project and a bigger vision of where she sees the RUDI company going. After first becoming involved with SEWA over 30 years ago when she moved to Gujarat for marriage, Uma has impressively worked her way up in the organization to become the RUDI Manager. Ranju is newer to SEWA and will be accompanying us on our visits to six villages in two districts in Gujarat. While Ranju worked on a checklist for our project, our team spent the afternoon developing questions for interviews with Rudiben, their existing customers, potential customers, and identifying information we will need to obtain at the village level. Lunch was served to us at SEWA with a simple dahl and curried vegetables with rice and all attempts at eating skillfully with our hands without dribbling sauce were made. When Ranju delivered us the checklist later, we were pleased to find that we were on the same page as her checklist overlapped well with the list of questions we had developed.

We are are excited about the direction and scope of the project but we are also becoming accustomed to waiting and unexpected changes. Tomorrow we are off for our first field visit to interview Rudiben, their customers, and do village level analysis. We’ll be staying overnight in the district of Surendranagar since some of the villages we’ll be visiting are far away and back in Ahmedabad late on Thursday night. So far so good, rolling along on IST (Indian Standard Time) and thrilled to be having this experience.

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