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Tag: young entrepreneurs


Alum Q+A: Saving the environment and improving women’s lives, one pad at a time


ruralgirls2This is part of a series of profiles of Harvard alumni who are young entrepreneurs in South Asia.

Menstrual hygiene is an obstacle for women in many developing countries, including India. Even as the use of sanitary pads becomes more widespread, new environmental problems have emerged for proper disposal.

Saathi, founded by several MIT/Harvard graduates who met while studying mechanical engineering, is trying to change that. They have developed an eco-friendly pad made entirely from local banana fiber that is fully compostable and bio-degradable.

SAI recently spoke with three of the founders, Kristin Kagetsu, CEO, Amrita Saigal, CFO, and Grace Kane, CTO, to learn more about the product and how they hope it improves the lives of women in India.

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Alum Q+A: Saving lives at birth


IMG_20160504_233926This is part of a series of profiles of Harvard alumni who are young entrepreneurs in South Asia.

In developing countries such as Pakistan, many births take place at home and are often attended by unskilled birth attendants in suboptimal conditions. This leads to a prevalence of infections – especially umbilical infections that can lead to life-threatening neonatal sepsis.

Sabeena Jalal, an alum of Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and currently based in Karachi, is trying to do something about it. She has developed a special blade to be used by midwives to cut the umbilical cord. The blade is made of zirconia, which prevents bacteria from growing and does not rust. Jalal hopes that this tool will reduce the rate of infant mortality in developing countries.

SAI recently spoke to Jalal about how she developed the idea, and her experience as a young “entrepreneur” in South Asia.

SAI: Tell me a bit about the background for this product. What problem are you trying to solve?

Sabeena Jalal: When I worked in medicine at a government hospital, I got the idea to develop something that no matter what the environment is – hospital or home – a woman giving birth will be healthy.

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Seed for Change Q+A: GoMango


Image_01.1 - CopyThis is the last in a series of profiles on the student finalists in SAI’s Seed For Change Competition. On May 6, finalists will pitch their ideas to a judging panel for the chance to with a $40,000 grant to implement their idea in India.

Friday, May 6, 3:15PM: Seed For Change Finalists Presentations

Soujanya Ganig, Ed. M Candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Education and SAI Student Coordinator, recently spoke with Francesco Wiedemann about gomango, which provides low-cost refrigerated transport to food producers in India.

SAI: Can you tell us the story behind how you first developed the idea of gomango?

Francesco Wiedemann: Naren [another GoMango team member] and I met in the Design Thinking class of Prof. Srikant Datar in the fall term 2015. We both had a background in engineering and were excited to work on something tangible and meaningful over the term – originally as a class project. Naren, due to his roots, knew about the extensive lack of cold supply in India first hand, and I, having a background in supply chain and logistics, was eager to apply my knowledge. So very quickly the idea of gomango was born: we wanted to help India transport its perishable goods affordably, efficiently, and sustainably.

Through our extensive interviews with experts and potential customers in India, and as a product of rapid prototyping, we soon realized that this idea had the potential to become more than a class project. So we actually started to go through further prototyping and writing a business plan for our startup: gomango.

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Seed for Change Q+A: Torr Energy


Torr Energy presents their idea at SAI's original pitch competition

Torr Energy presents their idea at SAI’s original pitch competition

This is the first in a series of profiles on the student finalists in SAI’s Seed For Change Competition. On May 6, finalists will pitch their ideas to a judging panel for the chance to with a $40,000 grant to implement their idea in India.

May 6, 3:15PM: Seed For Change Finalists Presentations

Soujanya Ganig, Ed. M Candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Education and SAI Student Coordinator, recently spoke with Kasey Wang, Harvard Law School student, about Torr Energy, a for-profit company that uses a series of technologies and a unique model to produce and sell low-cost waste-derived solid fuel in remote areas.

SAI: Can you tell us how you first developed the idea for Torr Energy?

Kasey Wang: Clean energy is something that I am passionate about. My father had worked on hydroelectric power with China’s Three Gorges Dam and also on solar power in the United States. Later, when I worked in Congress, I saw how the BP Oil Spill of 2010 harmed the people and environment in its vicinity, and I worked on wave energy and other replacement energy initiatives. This concern about energy and the environment encouraged me to apply to an Energy Ventures class, where I met Kevin, and through him, my other teammates Swati and Zach. Kevin had first conceived of the beginnings of Torr Energy when he visited India and saw the immense amount of waste lying around. I look forward to continuing to work with my teammates to harness renewable energy from agricultural waste in India to improve the lives of those who need it the most.

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Seed For Change Q+A: The Craftsmen


This is the first in a series of profiles on the student finalists in SAI’s Seed For Change Competition. On May 6, finalists will pitch their ideas to a judging panel for the chance to with a $40,000 grant to implement their idea in India.

May 6, 3:15PM: Seed For Change Finalists Presentations

Soujanya GanigEd. M Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education; SAI Student Coordinator recently spoke with Aaron David Mendonca of The Craftsmen, a small forest enterprise facilitator that creates new value chains, provides year-round employment, and trains communities in sustainable harvesting practices.

Aaron David Mendonca presents at the Seed For Change initial pitch event in March.

Aaron David Mendonca presents at the Seed For Change initial pitch event in March.

SAI: Can you tell us how you first developed the idea of The Craftsmen?

Aaron David Mendonca: For a while now I have been thinking about how as architects we are taught to design centers of concentration – buildings and cities – but not the vast backgrounds that support them. We tend to focus our design efforts on places towards which materials and energy flow and concentrate but not the places from where such resources are subtracted. So, with wood construction in mind, I began an accounting exercise to test the mathematics of purchasing the materials to build a building versus investing in the land from where those materials might originate. Thus I began to gauge the state of Forest Practice in India and the policy that aims at conservation. And, In the process discovered how mechanisms of cooperation lead to regulation and restriction. I became aware of the ways in which top-town forest management efforts had become counter effective through the undue pressures they exert on forest dwellers. It was clear then that forest stewardship might be approached through livelihood creation so that forest communities could be economically empowered to steward their dynamic, far from equilibrium ecosystems.

The Craftsmen essentially converts collector economies into craftsmen economies towards year round economic activity that engages modern sensibility with age old sensitivity.

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Alum Q+A: A new model for education


This is part a series of profiles of Harvard alumni who are young entrepreneurs in South Asia.

peter

Peter Lauenstein-Denjongpa

By Soujanya GanigEd. M Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education; SAI Student Coordinator

Peter Lauenstein-Denjongpa is putting his Master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to good use. He is the founder and principal of the Taktse International School, a not-for-profit coeducational school located in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, near Gangtok, Sikkim, India. The school encourages creativity and innovation among students, with a goal of “producing the compassionate and ethical leaders that developing societies so desperately need.”

The Taktse school is one of SAI’s internship site partners for Harvard students.

SAI recently spoke to Peter, who grew up in the US and has relatives in Sikkim, about why he founded the school and what it is like to be a young entrepreneur in India.

SAI: Where did the idea of Taktse International School come from?

Peter Lauenstein-Denjongpa: The story of Takste is connected to my story. My mom taught me that we must give more to the world than we take. [Growing up,] I kept visiting Sikkim and saw cousins who were so intelligent but they really did not enjoy school in the same way as I did. So all this laid the foundation for the school. So a few years after college I came back and started this project!

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Alum Q+A: Using entrepreneurship to impact education in Pakistan


This is the first in a series of profiles of Harvard alumni who are young entrepreneurs in South Asia.

By Soujanya Ganig, Ed. M Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education; SAI Student Coordinator

ImranImran Sarwar is the Co-Founder & Managing Director of Rabtt, an organization based in Pakistan that aims to change the education landscape by connecting with students at a personal level, and catering to their individual talents through intensive summer programs and year-round workshops. The organization has already impacted 1600 school students and 350 university students. He founded Rabtt after graduating from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government with a masters degree in Public Policy.

SAI recently spike with Sarwar about his organization, and what it is like to be an entrepreneur in South Asia.

SAI: You’ve said that Rabtt has taught you the value of experimenting and taking first steps. How easy is it to take those first steps in Pakistan? Is there an entrepreneurship- friendly environment?

Imran Sarwar: It’s not easy to take those first steps. It is not easy anywhere in the world, and it is especially hard in South Asia. And even when we have taken those first steps, it takes so much convincing and explaining.  This is because there is a culture around failure and there is no value in experimentation. It is different; in the United States failure is respected.

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