Updates from the Research Team

Hi everyone! Recently, the research team has started compiling a bi-weekly research digest which analyzes an important or pressing issue for any team within WaterWalla. The availability of this resource encourages all team members to think more carefully about WaterWalla's direction and what products, ideas and services will shape the organization's future.

Most recently, the research team completed two digests. The first focused on BOP (bottom of the pyramid) marketing tactics. Researchers found that slum residents are early adopters of innovative technologies as they often benefit low-income individuals the most. Prior projects have found greater uptake of products among the youth because they are the most tech-savvy. However, WaterWalla's market is highly complex with members being from every age, education, and income level. The research team, as a result, is assisting in the development of a multi-level marketing strategy in which campaigns are designed to target groups with different consumption abilities.

The second research digest was an informative review about current healthcare or insurance plans available at the BOP. It was determined that ineffective governmental policies are a cause of peoples' poor health and sanitation habits. This leads to high incidence of water borne disease. Due to a further lack of organization in slums, it is difficult to maintain India's current insurance plan. To counteract the lack of organization, there is an increasing prevalence of clinics available to Dharavi residents. The government aims to bring one urban health centre for every 50,000 people in a given area but it is still unclear how the financials of this plan will form. WaterWalla, with its distribution network, aims to be on the frontlines of this battle against poor health with a specific focus on waterborne disease.

The research team is excited to continue its contribution to alleviate preventable waterborne diseases!  Stay turned as it will soon make its past and future research digests available on the WaterWalla website! Please contact us if you would like to learn more about what we do!




Happy Holidays from WaterWalla

Hi everyone!

The WaterWalla family would just like to wish everyone a happy holiday. This has been a great year for us and we are so excited for 2012!

Some highlights from our past year:

LAUNCHED our flagship store in Dharavi RECRUITED AND TRAINED 36 women to be our direct sales force PARTNERED with some of India's most forward thinking and innovative companies: Bajaj, Eureka Forbes, and TATA GREW the WaterWalla family by seven new members!

It's been an exciting year for us. A special shout out goes to Executive Director Soaib Grewal for his excellent work on the ground! Also, a big thank you to all our advisors, Mr. Ashwin Bhadri, Ms. Jennifer O' Brien, Mr. Manav Raheja, and our newest Mr. Neil Parikh. We are excited to welcome our newest members as well to the WaterWalla family and we can't wait for the opportunities 2012 is sure to bring!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our supporters-we couldn't have done it without you!



Aamer Shares BD Team Updates!

Hi everyone, It's an exciting time for WaterWalla and refreshing to see the size of our team grow after coming back from India this summer!  As expected, we have a lot of work on our plates making sure that our entrepreneur, Jitendra, is successful in running his very own store.  Especially for Business Development, this is an exciting opportunity for us to apply what we know to help Jitendra.

First of all, I think we owe a huge thank you to our technology parters so far--Bajaj, Eureka Forbes, and Medentech.  Their support has been crucial in getting our operations up and running, and we look forward to their continued commitment to our social mission.  Of course, we would like the residents of Dharavi to have access to an even wider variety of technologies and for Jitendra to increase his sales, so one of our primary objectives is to get our foot in the door with other technology partners.

Beyond this, we're looking at a range of services that we can start offering through our stores.  One of the most exciting is on-site water quality testing which will allow residents to bring in samples of their own water to be tested at our store.  We hope that services like these will keep our customers engaged and lead to positive educational benefits and better health outcomes for those that we serve.

On a much broader scale, we've been working full steam on devising our organization's structure.  With Soaib devoting his time to fully manage operations in India and as our organization continues to grow and mature, we are looking at a reorganization of our efforts so that we can have the biggest impact on the ground.  This means that we can also increase the scope of our operations, so look out for opportunities to join the team as we continue to expand!

That's all for now!  We'll keep you posted on our progress as we move forward.


Insights from the ground

How do we define our social impact? This has been a major concern for us over the last few weeks. Is there a single guiding metric or is it a set of variables? As a social business, this is what we use to calculate how much 'social good' we are actually doing. I had the opportunity to meet with Professor Mohammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in New York at the NYU: Grameen Lab Change Model in September, and he stressed the need for all social businesses to clearly define and share these metrics. A main question we are constantly asking ourselves is how can we measure this in a consistent manner? For every metric there is an intricate service framework created around it to facilitate its collection. By creating a mock-up of this framework we can easily check for the feasibility of measuring each metric proposed.

At the end of the day it is important for us to thoroughly evaluate what we do. This constant metrics collection when coupled with qualitative information from our users is what we are calling our 'Feedback Loop'. This is still in its infancy as a project, and it is truly a cross disciplinary one. More on that soon!

I bring all of this up because these past two weeks have been full of evaluation. It has been a very interesting time getting up to speed on the ground realities of our operations. It was very rewarding to see customers at our store the very first time I visited it. Our entrepreneur JT is hard at work and already has a full time sales staff.

We had a very productive brainstorming session at our store. Our business manager Santosh brings with him years of experience in the development sector. We have highlighted new marketing initiatives that I promise to document and share as they progress. We have also begun to consider other services and products we can expand to within the purview of our goals.

These ideas could not have been developed at such a fast rate in an office in Providence. Having a team on the ground gives a great perspective. The local knowledge the entrepreneur brings is key for us to respond to the needs of our users. We are very big believers in 'Participatory Innovation' our entrepreneur helps in generating ideas that we in turn refine and make scalable. It is the only way to actively respond in this market.

We are up to some very innovative and interesting things here in Mumbai. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts and developments on the ground on a weekly basis. So watch this space!



Soaibs First Post

It’s only been a week since I landed in Delhi, and I am already anxious to get to Mumbai. It’s been over a year since I last visited Dharavi, back then WaterWalla was still a ‘project’. We were just five very ambitious students from Providence with a rough plan and very clear goal: improving the conditions in which slum residents live in. I remember our first meeting with the heads of the women’s groups, and they asked if we planned to actually come back — they were sick of constantly being given false hopes and empty promises. That is when I knew it was real.

It’s been over a year since that conversation, and, now, the very women who asked us that question, helped us cut the ribbon to mark our first store opening. Operations on the ground are in full swing. The Indian festival of Diwali is here, and, as in every other part of the country, the residents of Dharavi are making their annual household investments. It’s the Indian equivalent of Christmas sales.

WaterWalla is asking the people to invest in better health this festive season. We decided that we needed to show that health is an investment, not just a necessity. Indian parents usually buy things for their children on for Diwali, so, this year, we want the residents of Dharavi to invest in the future of their children. Our Research & Education team in collaboration with the Design team did a great job creating this campaign.

It’s exactly this type of thinking that makes WaterWalla exciting. For us, it’s all about using local knowledge to implement new and innovative ways to help people. To solve an issue that plagues the country and has taken many lives thus far, we need to constantly listen to them and be willing to collaborate amongst ourselves and with the community.

I’ll be in Mumbai one week from now working fulltime as the Executive Director of WaterWalla India. I have been talking to our Business Manager Santosh and entrepreneur Jitendra (who I have nicknamed JT) on a daily basis. We are all very excited to be working together. Being a theoretical systems and service designer is one thing but getting the chance to put it to practice is the best opportunity I could have ever asked for.

There is work to be done, and I am confident that between the teams of WaterWalla India and WaterWalla USA we can make this happen. We are all ready to get out on the field and make what was once a mere thought a reality.

New members of the Research & Education Team!

The Research & Education team at WaterWalla just completed its Fall 2011 recruiting. Please welcome our new members:

1. Swathi Sampangi, a first-year MPH student at Brown. She is interested in continuing involvement in WaterWalla, and will be working on the literature review for much of this semester.

2. Kathryn Linder, a senior Neuroscience concentrator. Along with Swathi and Austin, she will be working on the literature review. In the future, she also wants to help design the community education campaign in Dharavi.

3. Hannah Rose Schonwald, a junior Environmental Engineering and Geology concentrator. She will be helping with designing the education campaign as well as sales data analysis and technology review and research.

4. Eleanor Batty, a sophomore Neuroscience and Physics concentrator. She will help design the community education campaign, along with Hannah Rose.

The team also has Brijesh Patel, a senior Biology concentrator who has completed preliminary research on community education campaigns designed by other NGOs for use in other parts of the world, and Rayna Chandaria, a sophomore at Brown who will lead all educational activities on the ground in Dharavi.

I am very excited about working with this team, and will keep you updated on all the work we produce in the coming months!



Intervention Context

For anyone out there who might be a public health professional we would love your feedback on a recent focusing document: our intervention context. Its pretty much a concise way of describing what we do, with whom and where and we would love to know what you think: Population Group/Audience/Participants:

The larger population that we hope to impact with this intervention is residents of urban slums, however the groups that we intend to work with, at least initially, are more refined. The first slum we intend to work in is Dharavi in Mumbai, India. This slum is the largest in Asia and with a population of over an estimated 1.2 million we have isolated three primary target audiences with whom intervening will likely impact more general social change. The first group consists of a women’s network in Dharavi with a high level of trust capital and a vested interest in the health and safety of their community. The second group is children of schooling age, around the ages of 8-12. And the third is a small group of entrepreneurs we select from a pool of applicants.

Health Behavior/Practice:

We want these three primary target audiences to promote the use of clean water technologies in the household and in society at large. Each group will accomplish this goal through different means:

Women’s Network: This is a group of highly influential women who actively want to promote healthier lifestyles in their community. They are extremely trusted and have the penetrance required to reach individual households. It will be their responsibility to interface with the matriarchs of Dharavi society, to educate them about the importance of clean water and to motivate them to invest in household sanitation systems and to look for signs of sanitary practices when consuming food and beverage outside the household.

Children: Children can be a big force for social change. By getting children excited about the use of these technologies and educating them about their benefits we hope that they will bring that excitement back home and drive their respective families to begin using clean-water tech.

Entrepreneurs: These individuals will be the means by which the larger target audiences can acquire the resources needed to use cleaner water in their homes and businesses. The entrepreneurs are charged with running the shops that will serve as the distribution network for the technologies, as well as to run their own profit-incentivized marketing campaigns targeted towards residents and businesses in order to increase sales, and thereby penetrance of the intervention.

Intervention Setting(s):

Our group will be interfacing with our participants in multiple locations, all of these locations however are located within the slums. We work with the Women’s networks in community centers within the slums. We intend to interface with the children via the schooling system. And we initially meet the entrepreneurs in our offices for interviews, but work with them most in the context of helping to develop their shops and networks in target areas within the slum that are isolated for having maximal retail presence.

Performance Setting(s):

Women’s Network: This is our most dispersed performance setting, the women’s network works within the households of slum-dwelling families, in community centers and in any other location that might serve to help them accomplish their mission of reaching out to families. They will operate within individual households, in schools where the may serve as educators, in community centers where they may host functions etc.

Children: The performance settings for the children are school and home. School is where the children will develop their excitement for the initiative and in doing so they motivate other children to feel the same way. The primary performance setting however is the home, where these children will convey their excitement and knowledge to their families in an effort to promote behavioral change.

Entrepreneurs: The primary performance setting of the entrepreneurs is their local shops where they will actually sell the products and technologies required to impact behavioral change. They will also be interfacing with local businesses and community centers in order to broaden their appear from a marketing perspective.