Fieldwork for SGE Immersion in India

by Mallory Martino, MBA ‘14 & Michael Ditter, MBA ‘14 (6/7/13)

Mallory Martino, MBA ‘14 & Michael Ditter, MBA ‘14

SGE immersion team assesses the viability of a global pharmaceutical company’s plan to bring diabetes awareness, education and treatment to semi-rural areas of India.

Over spring break, we had the incredible opportunity to travel to Patna, Bihar, one of the fastest growing regions in the northeastern part of India. As part of the Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) Immersion, our team of four students assessed the viability of a global pharmaceutical company’s plan to bring diabetes awareness, education and treatment to semi-rural areas of India. The four of us were thrilled to have been assigned this project as it was at the intersection of many of our interests – healthcare, developing country economics, base of the pyramid initiatives and social entrepreneurship. Two of us had the great fortune of making the long (did we mention long!) trip to Patna to do fieldwork. It was the first trip to India for both of us, so we knew we were in for an adventure!

diabetesWe began our journey in Washington, DC and arrived in Patna 23 hours later! Suffice it to say we were the only “tourists” on that flight.  We knew we were going somewhere unique when the immigration officer couldn’t understand why we were traveling to Patna…his home city!  On our flight from New Delhi to Patna we were fortunate to meet a gregarious World Health Organization (WHO) doctor, Dr. Puii. She graciously gave us her contact information and told us to be in touch. She turned out to be a great connection bringing us to two breathtaking Hindu temples; providing us the opportunity to visit the WHO offices and to speak with her incredible colleagues running a polio eradication campaign in the state. In addition, we leveraged our Johnson/SGE networks to set up meetings with different organizations doing relevant work in Bihar including the Bihar Voluntary Health Association and the National HRD Network. These groups provided helpful context about development in Bihar, particularly around the state’s infrastructure, education and healthcare systems.

fieldworkOur trip served as an opportunity to perform fieldwork for our SGE immersion project - evaluating a new market opportunity for diabetes care services in India for a global pharmaceutical company.  India’s population has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world and the people in semi-urban and rural areas do not have access to proper care and treatment.  Our goals were twofold: 1) evaluate the business opportunity for the pharmaceutical company, and 2) assess the viability of scaling the proposed business model through the development of social enterprises established by female rural healthcare workers.  We also examined the value for different stakeholders to bring diabetes services to semi-urban and rural areas of India.  

The trip was very humbling, rewarding, interesting and challenging at times.  We spent a lot of time in local villages interviewing diabetic patients, doctors, pharmacists and women healthcare workers.  As we walked around the villages, it was fun to see the kids and interact with them. Their playfulness and sense of joy were contagious!   We were both very moved by the people of Bihar; they were so welcoming- inviting us into their homes, serving us chai tea and sharing their stories.  Children in India

Our time in Patna was quite the adventure and we are both so grateful to the SGE immersion and our sponsor company for giving us the opportunity to interact with so many wonderful people who are working to change the lives of people living with diabetes. We will certainly never forget the kindness and hospitality we were shown while traveling throughout Bihar and look forward to returning to India!