Archive for the 'Updates' Category

Essmart: Building a channel through which products can sell

It has been a busy few months for the Essmart team. After the encouraging results of our pilot in January 2012 and the support of organizations like the IDEAS Global Challenge, we returned to India to launch our enterprise in August.

For the past two months, we have been focused on doing – on building our distribution network and getting essential technologies into local shops. We found office and warehouse space in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India. We brought on board our Director of Field Operations and a sales agent. We built relationships with 20 retail shops, and then cut this down to the 12 most promising shops. We started marketing our catalogue of essential technologies to shop owners and rural households. We tested and added a few new products to our catalogue. We have sold over 50 units through our retail shop network, and we are bringing on two new sales agents in the coming week to start expanding our reach.

It has all been very exciting, but in the midst of all this doing there has been little time for thinking. We have been focused on building relationships with shop owners so that we can sell products and get our business off the ground. But it is important for us to remember that our mission is not, in fact, to sell products. That is the task of our partner retail shops. Our mission is to build a channel through which products can sell.

To this end, we would like to forget all of the numbers for a minute and focus on our process. At the heart of our channel are retail shop owners, and we have been learning a lot by watching them over the past few months. First, we are learning about how crucial it is for shop owners to understand our product catalogue. It is not enough for shop owners to want to sell the products for profit; they must understand and believe in each product before they feel comfortable marketing it to their customers. Our demonstrations in shops have been critical in building understanding and confidence in our products. We’ve watched the comfort levels of our shop owners increase over time, to the point where they’re ready to take over the marketing.

Second, we are learning how important it is for shop owners to trust and believe in Essmart. The effort that we put into our relationships with shop owners far exceeds other distributors’. In rural India, companies come and go, taking advantage of the locals. As an enterprise based on a social mission, we take a different approach. We’re in this business for the long haul, and we need to build up our presence and brand. This begins with gaining the trust of the shop owners, who are more willing to sell our products when they know that we’ll be around to service them.

Each shop owner is different, which brings us to our third lesson learned: How much structure is needed to help our enterprise scale while also giving us the flexibility to cater to each shop? This is more of a question than a lesson learned, as we’re still trying to figure out the answer ourselves. We’re aiming to strike a balance between flexibility and structure as we’re creating this channel that facilitates and supports the flow of information and goods.

Despite lots of doing in the past few months, we still have a long way to go in building a sustainable, scalable channel for technologies that will change the lives of people in rural India. Some of this will be accomplished by doing – by repeatedly testing new ideas, increasing product sales, and marketing and servicing the products that are sold. But a good chunk will come from focusing on relationships with shop owners and end users, information exchange, and customer feedback. In a sense, these are non-tangible items that are not reflected in the numbers that we post. Yet although they don’t contribute to the nitty-gritty building of Essmart’s channel, they ultimately inform the shape of it.

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Written by Diana Jue and Jackie Stenson with Essmart Global, a 2012 IDEAS Global Challenge award recipient.

Essmart creates a marketplace for life-improving, essential technologies in places where people already shop. www.essmart-global.com

MIT IDEAS Global Challenge now on Pinterest

All IDEAS entrants, if you have visual content you would like to display to generate publicity for your team as public voting goes on, there is now a Pinterest board dedicated to showcasing all teams in the Global Challenge, MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Teams.  E-mail yangbodu@alum.mit.edu with your Pinterest username so that you can be added to the list of collaborators who can post to the IDEAS Board.  If you are not on Pinterest yet, you may request an invite via the site itself or by e-mailing the same address listed prior.  Happy pinning!

MIT Global Challenge Partner Wins Design Award!

Kudos to the entire IdeaCouture team led by Cheesan and Caroline for your outstanding work – we’re thrilled and here’s bending an elbow to you!

From PRWeb.com:

There is no shortage of wicked problems. Or good ideas. What would a digital platform look like for MIT’s powerhouse of innovative and entrepreneurial minds to collectively problem-solve the challenges faced by under-served communities without clean water, health care or reliable energy? That was the starting point for Idea Couture, the strategic innovation and multi-disciplinary design team that built and continues to power the MIT Global Challenge.

Recently honored with a prestigious IDSA 2011 International Design Excellence Award (Silver), in the category of Best Interactive Product Experience, the MIT Global Challenge is a digital co-creation platform that inspires, enables and supports the global MIT community to apply innovation as public service and drive solutions to the greatest global challenges.

Read the full announcement here.

IDEAS and Global Challenge Teams – Delivering Impact

Thanks to all the teams that recently providing some exciting information about the progress you’ve made over the last year to tackle barriers to well-being in communities around the world. Here’s a round-up of some of the good stuff we’ve learned:

6Dot (Braille Labeler)

· Milestones. In the spring of 2011 6Dot moved into new offices of the Stanford student venture incubator, SSE Labs. 6Dot has gained awareness through participation in three major conferences and expos, including the Stanford Cool Projects Expo, the California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CTEVBI) conference and the CSUN International Technology and Persons with Diabilities Conference.

· Impact. 6Dot has begun low-volume production up to 250 of their Braille labeling devices for market. As of April 2011 they had secured more than 70 pre-sale commitments.

· Income. In May 2011 6Dot won $10,000 in the Stanford Product Showcase.

· Press. The 6dot Braille labeler was featured in a TV report by ivanhoe.com, which features “Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science.”

BLISS

· Milestones. On May 11 BLISS introduced the Sozankaar collection of bags. Sozankaar means, “skilled with the needle” in Dari. BLISS has operationalized its partnership with Boston-based charity Barakat to provide its curriculum and training program in participating schools in Pakistan. On September 7, BLISS founder Saba Gul and BLISS were commended by the U.S. State Department in a gathering that featured Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. BLISS raised $8k as a finalist in the Unreasonable Institute marketplace, earning a coveted spot in their summer Institute.

· Income. $8,000 Unreasonable Institute;

· Press. BLISS founder Saba Gul (SM ’09) featured in the March/April edition of MIT’s Technology Review.
Founder Saba Gul’s International Women’s Day post for ThinkChangePakistan.

EmpleoListo! (AssuredLabor)

  • Milestones. Launched in Nicaragua and Mexico, AssuredLabor/EmpleoListo! has signed up over 100,000 job seekers. More than 40 prestigious employers, from Philip Morris International to Alcatel-Lucent to MacDonalds and Wal*Mart as well as numerous national and local businesses use the service to recruit candidates. Now has 14 full-time employees based in 4 countries, including: Nicaragua, Mexico, Pakistan and the United States. In October 2010 won the Omidyar Fastpitch Competition.

· Impact. Hundreds of successful job matches made.

  • Income. Raised $1M from prestigious angel investors and Venture Capital funds across 3 continents.

· Press. Recently profiled for their work with MIT’s Sloan Entrepreneurs for International Development by the MIT News Office; featured in Fast Company, “Text Here for a New Job”; and VentureBeat, “A Mobile LinkedIn for the Developing World”.

Continue reading ‘IDEAS and Global Challenge Teams – Delivering Impact’

Recap of a Launch

Its been a remarkable six months. Here’s a recap including links to some fun background and outcomes. Thanks to every at MIT and beyond who helped make this year a success, in particular our partners at the MIT150, the MIT Alumni Association, and Idea Couture along with our many sponsors. Download a copy of the interim report here.

Overall Visitor Traffic for the Period

visitor_traffic_google

And the Winners Are…
(Browse teams here: http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/teams)

$5000 Community Choice Awards

  1. LOW COST CURRICULUM FOR THE BLIND
  2. AQUA
  3. INNOBOX SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING TOOLKIT
  4. INDIAN MOBILE INITIATIVE
  5. EYECATRA

$5000, $7500 and $10,000 IDEAS Juried Awards

  1. BIODIESEL – $5000
  2. EYECATRA – $5000
  3. HYDROHARVEST – $5000
  4. LOW-COST CURRICULUM FOR THE BLIND – $5000
  5. SAFE WATER WORLD – $5000
  6. INDIAN MOBILE INITIATIVE – $7500
  7. SOLAR AUTOCLAVE – $7500
  8. INNOBOX – $10,000
  9. LOW-COST AUTOCLAVE – $10,000
  10. ASSISTIVE TECH – $10,000

$10,000 Global Challenge Juried Awards

  1. KOSIM WATER KEG
  2. SOLAR AUTOCLAVE
  3. PRACTICAL ENERGY NETWORK – winner of the School of Engineering’s Global Villages Challenge
  4. INDIAN MOBILE INITIATIVE – congratulations on your sweep in all three award categories!
  5. MAA-BARA – Winner of the Mohammad Yunus Challenge to Alleviate Poverty through Improved Agricultural Processes

Community Choice Voting Participation – Vote Sources

visitor_geolocation

Community Choice Voting Results

communitychoice_results

Continue reading ‘Recap of a Launch’

Seasons Greetings, Friends of Innovation!

Dear friends of innovation,

globalchallenge_ppt_holidayAs we round the corner on a year filled with challenges large and small, one thing we can count on is that 2011 will bring many more. Its why the world needs people like you more than ever – to take on the problems of our time, to wrestle with them, and to mold solutions to them that work.

There are few more exciting places to see that contest play out than in the classrooms, laboratories, and field sites where MIT faculty and students are at work.

MIT President Susan Hockfield said in her most recent message to the community, “The world has never needed MIT as much as it does now. The major challenges of our age are increasingly shaped by science and technology, and by daunting problems of quantitative analysis and complex synthesis.”

The MIT Global Challenge is one of an ever-growing constellation of resources at MIT that support student problem solving around these challenges. When we launch on January 7, 2011 to the worldwide MIT community, we’ll be doing so with at least 16 new teams and a community of members like you – faculty, students, alumni, and friends – that is more than 2,300 strong.

Its going to be an exciting run-up to the May 2, 2011 awards ceremony, and I hope you will find ways to engage with us and support these incredible young innovators who have the passion, talent, and ethos of service to apply their gifts to the urgent challenges of our time.

Thank you for being a part of it.

Please help us by promoting the MIT Global Challenge to people and networks you think should know about it – those willing to define innovation opportunities, mentor teams, and underwrite awards. Click here to download a recent press release that can help! Questions? Please don’t hesitate to reach out by phone or email.

Until 2011, wishing you and yours warm holiday greetings.

Marketplace Update | December 9, 2010

Hello Challengers! Lots of good things happening as we plan for launch exactly one month from today! Here are a couple of ways you can help:

  • Host a local alumni launch event! Celebrate MIT150 and the launch of the Global Challenge as a platform for local engagement. Email your ideas and inquiries to lhtorres@mit.edu
  • Spread the word! Reach out to fellow alumni and potential collaborators who can contribute by defining problems, identifying community partners, and supporting teams. Encourage them to register at http://globalchallenge.mit.edu
  • Entrants, a special request: Please create your team, complete your profile! Launch of the MIT150 and the MIT Global Challenge is right around the corner. When we go live at the beginning of January, we’ll have one of the largest visibility opportunities this year. Please help us maximize community engagement by ensuring your team is visible and “Help Wanted” requests are live.

Now the news…

In the Marketplace: 17 teams

  1. Alumni, friends, collaborators: there are 15 help requests from teams, including designers, nutrition experts and more. Browse here:
    http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/help/wanted
  1. Teams: there are 15 help offers including experienced grant writing, team members with design and management experience, and more. Browse help and connect with potential collaborators here:
    http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/help/offered

(And, don’t forget: please “Close” your ad if it has been filled!)

Continue reading ‘Marketplace Update | December 9, 2010′

IDEAS and Global Challenge Generator 10/13

Want to learn from major international development organizations about opportunities for students to get involved?
Want funding for your innovative service project?
Want to recruit members or mentors for your project, or find a project team to join?

Then come get connected at the IDEAS Generator -its the perfect venue!

Please join the 2010-2011 IDEAS Competition and Global Challenge for our annual Fall Generator. We’ll have the opportunity to hear from a panel international development practitioners in the field about the “innovation as service” opportunities they see, along with students pitching project ideas and skills. This will be followed by a networking dinner around innovative solutions to community needs. Here are the details:

  • What: IDEAS Generator feat. International Organizations Panel + Networking Dinner
  • When: October 13, 2010 / Dinner Panel starts at 7:00pm, followed by pitches and networking
  • Where: Morss Hall (Blg 50) / Walker Memorial

The dinner will feature a panel of representatives from locally-based major international development agencies discussing what their organizations do, and what they don’t know how to do! In other words, this panel will focus on where there is space in the work of these organizations for innovation and entrepreneurship from MIT students. The following panelists have been confirmed:

Acción
Susana Barton, VP and Program Manager of Innovations and Integrated Solutions

UUSC
Gretchen Alther, Senior Associate, Rights in Humanitarian Crisis
Patricia Jones, Manager, Environmental Justice Program

Mercy Corps
Ruth Allen, Director, Community Mobilization, Governance, and Partnerships

World Education
Gill Garb, Director, World Education/JSI Bantwana Initiative and
Shirley Burchfield, VP, Africa Division

UNICEF
Christopher Fabian
Communication Specialist, Director’s Office, Technology for Development

Moderator: Joshua Schuler, Executive Director of the Lemelson-MIT Program , a non-profit organization based at MIT that, among many other things, encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems.

*****************

The Generator will have two recruitment open mic sessions with a prize for the best presentation in each category! The networking dinner will also include other activities to help everyone get connected with the right team mates (you don’t have to give a pitch). Feel free to bring along small prototypes and presentation materials that help describe your project. Participants who do sign-up to pitch will each have 60 seconds to pitch their projects to the audience. Pitches must be professional, practiced, and to the point. RSVP by October 11 to globalchallenge-rsvp@mit.edu to sign-up for an open mic opportunity, with the following included in your email:

Pitch Category One: Recruit The IDEAS Dream Team

  • Team name:
  • Project summary (50 words max):
  • Recruiting needs:

Pitch Category Two: Get Yourself “Hired”

  • Your name:
  • Reason a team should hire you (50 words max):
  • Type(s) of projects sought:

Questions? Email Lars or Kate at globalchallenge [at] mit [dot] edu  or visit http://ideas.mit.edu for more info. See you there!

A Shoutout to BLISS from Hillary Clinton (Crossposted)

Exciting news from one of our 2009 IDEAS winners, Saba Gul of Business and Life Skills School (BLISS). Cross posted from her blog here.

Some 200 diplomats, entrepreneurs, imams, popular media figures, and comedians joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in breaking the fast on September 7th, 2010 at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.  What made this grand event different from last year’s was the inclusion of 70 young Muslims from across the country that the Department identified as “some of the best and innovative Muslim leaders under the age of 30″.

To be hand-picked as one of these 70 change-makers to represent my work with BLISS was a true honor. But to be mentioned in Hillary Clinton’s speech (full texthere and video here) as one of the young people “who had already accomplished extraordinary things” by starting “a program to keep Pakistani girls from dropping out of school” was exhilarating!

Read more…

eHealth, telemedicine, capacity building, and learning

Love this video of the incredibly articulate Chris Moses ’10, who was awarded a Davis Projects for Peace Fellowship and participated in the Public Service Fellowship and Grants program. Here, he discusses Sana (formerly MocaMobile). Sana earned a development grant from the MIT IDEAS Competition, and went on to win the mHealth Alliance Award and Vodafone Wireless Innovation Prize. The $150,000 in awards will enable the group, of which Chris is an integral part, to improve their telemedicine-based health care delivery system for rural underserved populations.


Chris Moses on MIT TechTV