Thursday, March 22, 2012

Transitions and the Art of Balance

About 3 weeks ago, I left Saurath Bihar and traveled to Delhi by overnight train (1st train experience in India success!).  Right around this time, Bhavana's confidence was slowly growing as the store started drawing more customers, and daily sales were beginning to rise.

A major part of this has been because wedding season is in full swing in the village, and several families are choosing to make their purchases here at Rangoli itself.  But another contributor to this, and perhaps a more interesting reason, is that many of the women who had never before come to Rangoli (whether because of some preconceived notions about the products or prices or otherwise) have actually started visiting!  And buying!  There's still certainly a lot more room for improvement, but this small victory has meant a lot for the team's spirit. And certainly for my own.  But perhaps most for Bhavana herself.  And the effect was quite visible as I started to see her smile more, and she seemed to be in generally better spirits.

When I told her I was leaving to Delhi for a while, though, she seemed concerned, asking how the shop would fare without me and when I would be back.  Stressing how far she's come since November, I tried to encourage her and show her that her that I'm confident that she can do it. She gave me a hug and told me that she would always remember me as the one who came to Saurath to help her start Rangoli.  And though we weren't exactly saying goodbye, I felt a certain sense of departure in the air - not only of my own, but also a feeling that things were now progressing to a new phase where Bhavana becomes the full and true owner of the shop.

Since I've been here in Noida, though, we've been staying in touch as I am still overseeing the shop's performance.  I've shifted my focus, however, to the overall model and concept of the women's shop.  After spending so much time delving deep into daily operations details, it's been a refreshing respite to work on the the higher level strategic planning. And I've definitely been bringing back those consulting skills to assess the model, fine tune its components and determine how we can make this successful on a larger scale.  Needless to say, my Excel skills are getting a good workout!

Of course, being in the city and working on a model meant for the village has its challenges. And sometimes I have to remind myself to think about what a high-level strategic idea might actually mean at a more detailed operational level in the village.  I'm struggling, but certainly learning, to balance these two.

More on my Delhi adventures to come. For now, here are some pictures from in and around the office:

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