Greetings from Mumbai! It’s amazing that it’s almost the end of summer (and, sadly, the end of the CRTI Fellowship), but it’s been an action-packed last couple of months out here in India.
Unlike the rest of this year’s CRTI Fellows, I opted to head to India, and have spent my summer working with fellow CRTI-alum Bryan Lee’s company, Krishi Star. Getting here proved to be a little difficult, with a longer-than-usual visa turnaround process, and then a stressful few days trying to find proper housing, but I quickly settled into the city and the job.
On the work front, I’m working for Krishi Star, whose mission it is to improve the lives of impoverished rural farmers in India. We’re doing this right now by partnering with farmer-owned small businesses (food processing units, in particular), and utilizing their excess capacity to process whole peeled tomatoes, which are then marketed and sold under the Krishi Star brand.
The company has already done a few production runs of the whole peeled tomatoes, and we’re looking to ramp up production again in a few weeks once tomato prices stabilize (it has felt like the biggest news ever here at Krishi Star, but in case you’ve not seen in the rest of the world, Indian tomato prices have gone a little crazy lately).
Just as importantly, though, the company is also looking to expand into new products and new markets, which has been the focus of my Fellowship this summer.
As we grow the business and prove out the front-end model of working with farmer-owned processing units and marketing under the Krishi Star brand, we’re actively looking to identify the next important product or crop. The entire team has been focused around identifying what that next product/crop will be, what market channel we’re going to focus on, how we’re going to connect the back-end to get it produced, and how we’re going to drive it to as many customers and consumers as possible. My main focus for the summer has been leading this process, guiding the other interns (some local, some from other US schools) and FTEs through market research and business strategy.
Outside of work, Mumbai has been an amazing experience, and certainly one I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate without the opportunity provided by the CRTI Fellowship. I’ve seen as much of the city as possible (a tall task in a metro area of over 20 million people), and have assimilated into the local forms of transportation, taking trains, buses, and rickshaws everywhere I need to go.
With one week left on the clock, I’ve got a fair bit to finish up, but all-in-all things have come together pretty well this summer. It’s an exciting time for the company, with a number of big things on the immediate horizon, and it’s been a great privilege to have been a part in shaping our future.
This final weekend will be an amazing culmination of the summer, with a team trip out to the rural areas of Gujarat, visiting farmers, farmer-owned producer companies, and a few other key contacts that will help to grow the business.
I didn’t know what to expect from this summer when I finally landed in Mumbai (which makes it easy to say that it’s exceeded my expectations), but looking back, I can say that there’s nothing I would have changed. The ups and the not-so-ups; the work and the outside-of-work; the commuting and the exploring. All of it made for an unforgettable CRTI Fellowship.
All the best from Mumbai!