During my recent spring break, I traveled to India to participate in the UW Global Business Center’s Global Consulting Project. I wanted to apply my classroom learnings and gain hands-on consulting experience. There is no better way than by working with the clients on-site and halfway around the world!
Our trip included seven days of travel in India followed by seven days working with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. SEWA is a trade union that promotes the rights of self-employed female workers and aims to organize them for full employment and self-reliance. In partnering with SEWA, I was assigned to assist with Rachaita. Rachaita promotes the livelihood of women construction workers, ensures they gain relevant skills, and procures consistent work. They do so by providing technical training, employment opportunities, access to a tools library, and protection from exploitation.
In recent years, Rachaita has experienced a major decrease in projects, leaving members without work and threatening its sustainability. My team was asked to provide recommendations to reverse the trend and increase project procurements. We visited current and past construction sites, an informal work meet-up site, the training center, the tools library, a member’s home, and the headquarter offices. We met and interviewed contractors, members, customers, and committee members. We were inspired by every woman we spoke with. The women are motivated to gain skills and remain proud of their work, despite prejudices against them in the industry. On our final day at Ahmedabad, we presented our findings and signed a letter of engagement, documenting our key deliverables in the next months for our final recommendations.
I found our visit to a member’s home to be the most memorable part of the trip. She invited us to her home for chai and proudly presented the bungalow she built along with her husband’s beautiful ceiling plaster design. She shared many stories with us, from her ancestors’ achievements to her children’s dreams. She had worked extremely hard and continues to do so for her family. Her story was similar to other SEWA women we met. Even though financially they do not have much, they are happy and content. It was truly a humbling experience because it was so different from the excessive consumerism in mainstream western culture.
During our India tour, we visited Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Each day we visited historical sites and experienced a variety of Indian cuisine. My next favorite experience after the Taj Mahal was celebrating Holi, a spring festival of colors. We celebrated with the locals and visitors by throwing colored powders, while dancing to music.
After our trip, my team analyzed key issues and developed actionable recommendations, tools, and marketing materials to help Rachaita procure more projects. We presented our recommendations and they were very well received by Rachaita and SEWA. I look forward to maintaining our relationship with Rachaita. Having to work across language and cultural barriers, this project has enhanced my cross-cultural communication and interpersonal skills. In addition, being exposed to how business is done in India has enriched my global business perspective. I am so grateful for this experience and hope that our work positively impacts these inspiring women’s lives.
Yun Lu is a candidate in the Evening MBA Class of 2020. She is currently a program manager within Business Operations at the Boeing Company defining program controls to monitor developmental milestones. She transitioned from structures engineering, where she attained seven years of experience in design, analysis, and production roles across multiple aircraft programs. Outside of work, Yun enjoys hiking, traveling, and trying new restaurants.