|The Trident Bandra Kurla Lobby|
|Pooja's Team with Pooja on the Left in the Middle|
During our visit to the Hub, we met Karen Peters (who is actually from Wisconsin, continuing to live in Mumbai with her Mom after her Dad's working time in the city), who with Adrienne Thadani founded a nonprofit called 'Fresh and Local' at the Hub. The organization aims to "design, plant and maintain fruit and vegetable gardens in the urban setting of Mumbai to address problems of lack of access to organic, nutritious, fresh and locally grown food." Their intention is to work with local people to create fifteen hundred gardens of a size that would benefit thirty people each.We also had the opportunity to spend a delightful evening with Pooja at Juhu Beach during our stay in Mumbai, discovering many intersections and connections in our lives. Our children will not be surprised to know that Pooja is our most recent "adoptee."
As the days went by, we began to more deeply understand the need for social entrepreneurship and an agressive civil and social sector in Mumbai (some say that the Indian government lacks the "will" to intervene in the seemingly insurmountable social problems). The city is gigantic - more than 19 million people by some estimates - and the great majority live below the poverty level of less than $1.00/day income. Mumbai is a magnet to Indians from rural areas seeking a better life, but many who arrive dreaming of Bollywood end up in prostitution or organised crime. The city's population has doubled in 25 years, with half living in slums. In some parts, 50,000 people are said to be crammed into each square kilometre.
This scale of poverty is nearly impossible to imagine, but impossible to ignore on most any street, where families live beneath tarps on the sidewalk, and young girls with babies knock on our taxi windows asking for money at intersection after intersection. More about our visit to Dharavi (locale of 'Slumdog Millionaire' filming) later in the blog.
|Creative Handicrafts New Building|
Today, Creative Handicrafts coordinates the production of 12 textile cooperatives spread in different slums, each one producing garments, complements, soft toys, and other handicrafts that are aimed at both local and international markets. The international market is managed through the NGOs involved in fair trade projects, the local one through exhibitions, sales at schools, universities, institutions, stalls and their own store. Johny notes how important it has been to the organization over the past several years to design and create products that sell based on their global level quality, rather than on their charitable development "story." In addition, a food catering and delivery project, Asli Foods, was born as an employment alternative to those women that, for several reasons, cannot get involved in sewing activities.
|Women in Training at Creative Handicrafts|
Although the organization's headquarters has moved in recent months into a large building donated by the Spanish government, Johny was kind enough to take us to their prior offices and workshops in a nearby slum. We were able to interact with kids at the creche, the women of 2 cooperatives, and women preparing food for the catering business. We learned a great deal from our interview, especially about the ways out of poverty by helping women in the slums and rural areas to become productive and able to educate their children.
The most striking thing about Mumbai, of course, is the extraordinarily stark contrast between the slums and the fast-paced, cosmopolitan, urban economic powerhouse that Mumbai is determined to become. We were most fortunate to be able to glimpse the private industry and government sides of the equation, due to the generous introductions made for us by Professor Prasad Kaipa, an Indian professor and executive coach to many Mumbai leaders, who our friend Mark Nepo suggested that we contact. The result was three fascinating interviews including Mr. Ravi Kant, Vice Chairman of Tata Motors; Mr. Prakash Apte, President/Managing Director of Syngenta India, Ltd.; and Rear Admiral (Retd.) Chary, Director (Shipbuilding) of Mazagon Dock Limited.
|Nano - the People's Car|
It would be hard to imagine a more wise, warm, gentle, generous and forthcoming an industrial leader than Ravi Kant. Having scheduled a 15 minute appointment, we were able to spend nearly an hour learning about his decade long tenure at the helm of the company, during which time its remarkable growth and transformation has occurred. At the end of our visit, he asked us to wait outside the office for a few minutes, disappeared for a bit, and then invited us back into his office, presenting us with a bag full of goodies - company literature, a recently published book about the Nano's painful and exhilerating introduction into the marketplace, and a lovely wristwatch for each of us (made by Titan Industries, a Tata company).
We're looking forward to opportunities that may arise to share the results of Dave's sabbatical research with Mr. Kant, as he is becoming deeply involved in his "retirement" role as Chairperson of the Board of Governors for the new Indian Institute for Management/Rohtak, a graduate school intended to "produce world-class managers and leaders through its philosophy of exposing students to real life unstructured situations apart from imbibing them with knowledge of the analytical tools and business philosophies required to be a success in the current, and foreseeable, economic scenario."
If Ravi Kant was pure charm, Prakash Apte, President/Managing Director of Syngenta India, Ltd. was pure delight. With a self-deprecating style, an infectious laugh, and an amazing story of leading his company's transformation, our interview with Prakash was surely a highlight of our Mumbai experience. We were so fortunate that he agreed to our interview, and then drove 2 hours from the city of Pune to Mumbai (on his day off!) to meet with us as our hotel.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of a company like Syngenta (http://www.syngenta.com/) to India's survival. The company's purpose, "bringing plant life to potential," indicates its commitment to helping farmers increase their production, while preserving the environment, and ensuring healthy food supplies for all. In other words, their work as a huge agribusiness is sustainable agriculture through two main types of products: seeds and crop protection.
We will look forward to sharing the story of Syngenta's recent change initiative, which was based on a marriage of two things: wise business strategy and the Indian spiritual concept of sankalpa; san meaning "altogether," and kalpa meaning "idea." While having much deeper meaning than can be stated here, the idea of sankalpa in this context means taking an individual and collective oath of intention or will toward a specific outcome. While strategy is rational, sankalpa is pure intuition.
The final Mumbai interview, with Rear Admiral (Retd.) Chary, Director (Shipbuilding) of Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), was a fascinating look into the supplier/builder of warships, stealth frigates and submarines for the Indian Navy and others. Mazadon also builds offshore platforms and associated support vessels for offshore oil drilling. It also builds tankers, cargo bulk carriers and passenger ships and ferries. The shipyards of MDL were established in the 18th century. Ownership of the yards passed through various entities, including the British India Steam Navigation Company. Eventually, Mazagon Dock Limited was registered as a public compan in 1934. The shipyard was nationalized in 1960, and is now a function of the Government of India.
Admiral Chary (also having taken time away from a national holiday to visit with us at our hotel) shared with us his perspective on the differences between his lifelong career as a Naval officer, and the challenges of managing the enormous complexities of a huge government organization, employing thousands of unskilled (but now cross-trained) employees doing extremely difficult and demanding physical work, along with highly skilled workers doing very technical and precise work.
By the end of these interviews we were a tired pair, and knowing that we would be unlikely to visit Mumbai again, we went looking for a brief "tourist" experience. Little did we know how much territory we could cover with our wonderful driver from the Trident. Beginning with a visit to Ghandi's home, we ventured onto a brief shopping expedition, and then on to the primary sites of Mumbai's November 2008 terrorist attack. During the attack, witnessed worldwide on television, 120 people, some from the US, Australia and Europe, but primarily ordinary Indians, were killed and many hundreds wounded. One of the first targets was the historic Leopold's Cafe, a favorite hang-out of foreigners, where we had lunch during our tour. Then we went on to the famous Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where hundreds of people were held hostage and many died (the other hotel attacked was the other Trident hotel at Naimon Point).
Finally, and completely impossible to describe, was a brief visit to the gigantic Dharavi slum (the site of the filming of the movie, 'Slumdog Millionaire'). We had actually passed up a longer Dharavi visit and interview with the founders of Reality Tours, due to pure exhaustion, but we did get a bit of a walk-through down one street with our driver. Our immediate and surprising impression (besides the oppressive heat) was an alive hub of entrepreneurial activity taking place in the most unlikely and harsh environment imaginable. In every shop we saw, there was an enterprise at work recycling scrap - from large, household applicances to all sorts of other metals and plastics. Untold numbers of people just trying to eke out their survival from the rest of the city's discarded trash. And a few goats.