A Social Enterprise Work Experience in Bangalore, India
25.11.2012 - 17.12.2012
The Embrace Innovations Team in Bangalore
From Jaipur, I flew to Bangalore for a three-week work experience there with a social enterprise called Embrace Innovations. Embrace Innovations is a start-up health-care company that produces innovative technologies for emerging markets. The first two products that they launched were infant warmers. In India, about 40% of the babies born are low birth-weight infants, which means that they don't have enough fat on their bones to keep warm. Therefore, a lot of them suffer from hypothermia. Incubators in hospitals are very expensive for the families. In addition, another alternative called kangaroo mother care, which is skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant, can be difficult to practice in a practical sense. Indian cultural barriers would prevent a woman from exposing herself in front of men, even within the home, not to mention that there are times when women cannot practice skin-to-skin contact when they have to shower, go to the bathroom, sleep (for fear of smothering the baby), work, etc. So the two Embrace products fill the void for the hospital as well as at home, where the incubator technology is too expensive for those who need it and the baby needs to remain warm but no one is available to deliver skin-to-skin contact to the infant.
Within Embrace, I worked on a project building an internal communication model for the company. Through various methods (posters, emails, presentations, videos, etc.), I educated each of the staff about kangaroo mother care so that everyone in the company would be on the same page when it came to positioning our new product. I really wanted to gain some operational experience with a social enterprise in India, and working on this project for 3 weeks was a great way to do that in a short amount of time.
I lived in a loft with a few of my work mates (all expats as well), and was able to participate in some pretty cool company activities, like a brainstorming meeting every Friday afternoon called Metisto and the annual company retreat.
Here is Jane Chen, one of the founders of Embrace (who attended Stanford Business School; she and the other partners actually created the idea of Embrace during a class at Stanford) speaking at the company retreat.
My colleagues. The company was 80 people. About 5 of us were expats. The rest were local hires, which was pretty cool, as I got to build relationships with native Bangalorians.
Becca, Saranya, Me, Honey, and Pompa at the retreat
Becca, Saranya, Brad, Me, Shristi, Honey, and Madhu at the retreat
Overall, my time at Embrace was a fantastic experience. I learned a ton about how businesses operate, particularly as a start-up, as a health-care company, and in a place where the target customers live in rural environments. Those circumstances presented a lot of unique challenges to the company that was both educational to observe and at the same time rewarding in that I was able to partake in its achievements.