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.