Long due: Introduction of our summer fellows

This is a long overdue post for us, for the past month and a half we’ve some great additions to our team here in Delhi as well as in Latin America. During the past weeks they have been working with us on all elements of our business – developing our work in Osmanabad, preparing materials for investors and working on our business plan.

This year we’ve had four fellows working with us and they’ll share some of their experiences over the next few weeks on our blog. But first, here are their introductions:

Robert LeBlanc

I’m currently pursuing my MBA at Harvard Business School (HBS). Prior to enrolling at HBS, I worked in management consulting and private equity, based in Toronto, Canada.

I joined WV for my summer internship to experience business at the BoP first hand. Ever since studying corporate strategy, international development and environment at McGill during my undergrad, I’ve been fascinated by the possibility of developing enterprise solutions to global issues, like pollution. WV, with it’s innovative approach to fully-integrated waste management, might be one such solution. And that’s really why I’m here, to see if it may be, to experience an incredible emerging market (India) and to learn from talented, dedicated people (Parag and the rest of the WV team).

Also, on a more personal level, I’m here to see if work in this space is really for me. Since undergrad, I’ve always felt that I wanted to work at the BoP in emerging markets, but, having taken a purposeful sidetrack in the corporate sector to build my skill set, I’ve never really tried. I’ve never actually worked for a social enterprise in an emerging market. So, I figured I should at least try working for one before launching a full scale career in the space post-MBA…

Beyond this personal question of “is this work for me?”, I’m most curious about the economics of the WV model. Coming from a consulting and investing background, I’m curious just what kind of return profile a genuine, owner-operated, BoP social enterprise can generate. What economic returns can the model yield? What social and environmental returns can it create? What are the tradeoffs? What can the different stakeholders tolerate across all three parameters? I hope to dig very deep into these questions over the rest of the summer. I’ll report back on my findings in a couple months…

Silpa Kaza

My name is Silpa Kaza and I am currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration in International Development at the Kennedy School. Originally from India, I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and have been on the East Coast or abroad for the past eight years. My academic background is in mechanical engineering and economics, and professionally I have worked on domestic healthcare policy simulations at the National Bureau of Economic Research as well as in waste management operations with a small environmental NGO in Gujarat, India. I am quite excited to be tying my disciplines and experiences together at Waste Ventures this summer.

Waste management became quite a personal issue to me during my time in Bhuj, Gujarat. Watching cows eat plastic bags because food was tied up inside, seeing plastic bags clog gutters, inhaling toxic fumes from waste that was burned daily, watching children play with garbage, and many other sights and experiences led me to work on waste issues. I also had the privilege of working with waste pickers in Bhuj and worked to understand both the generation and management of waste. I want to take the grassroots knowledge I gained in Gujarat and take it forward to other parts of India where Waste Ventures is expanding.

I am interested to see how the Waste Ventures model can ensure financial sustainability in addition to both social and environmental impact. Because my background has been research/NGO heavy, I want to learn about the potential of the private sector to address public sector issues without compromising social or environmental goals. I am hoping this summer I will be able to explore the connection between grassroots knowledge and scaling up Waste Ventures to address waste issues in a socially conscious manner.

Rachana Patel

I’m Rachana Patel and I’m a 3rd year student at the University of Michigan Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, a dual-degree MS/MBA program with the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) and the Ross School of Business.   My passion lies in creating behavior change around waste minimization, particularly in the U.S.  I learned about innovative business solutions to reducing waste-to-landfill while interning last summer at TerraCycle.  This summer, I seek to understand the broader spectrum of waste issues in developing nations in contrast to developed nations in order to see where one system may inform the other.  This has brought me to India to Waste Ventures where I am excited by the possibilities of simultaneous environmental and social improvement.  I hope to learn about how waste is perceived here in India as opposed to the U.S. and how attitudes may be changed such that they effect beliefs and ultimately behavior around waste management.

John Engler

I have over 5 years experience in the nonprofit sector, and have worked on projects including environmental education, integrated waste management, and community development, both in North America and Central America. Most recently I have earned an MBA from Duke University and I am currently supporting Waste Ventures as it considers expansion into Latin America.

I joined Waste Ventures for the summer so that I could learn more about social enterprise and the possibility of generating triple bottom line returns. I am particularly interested in discovering more about the types of regulatory structures that support the growth of social enterprise, and the process by which a segment of the social sector which has historically been dominated by charity can move towards self-sufficiency.