Monday, December 7, 2009

The Top Down (Approach).

I remember reading the vault guide and always wondering when in real life I would ever use the “top down” vs. “bottom up” approach.

And today, as I sat in Ahmedabad, Gujarat inside my friend's WagonR, it happened.

The answer to the “bottom” is the top down approach. In my mind, there are two very hot topics in the development space:
1. Climate Change
2. Bottom of the Pyramid

How do you reach the bottom of the pyramid, and do it in an environmentally sustainable way? The key: you start from the top down!

The answer potentially doesn’t lie in India, or if it does, it doesn’t lie in the slum community. In fact, in order to get those at the bottom of the pyramid to use more environmentally friendly products, or take loans to buy solar lamps instead of battery powered lamps, we need to start at the top. We need to start with influencers.

Who are influencers?
  1. Heroes – ex. Doctors (Okay not just any doctors, but doctors that live in small villages, they are huge influencers in small communities)
  2. Builders (builders higher contractors, laborers, and day workers, who all use tools, equipment, and supplies that are consumed by the top of the pyramid)
  3. Those with buying power (everyone idealizes those with buying power, people want to have the liberty to make the choices that others have, and they would probably make the same choices if they had the money to have that chance)
  4. Westerners (I am just going by what I see and hear here, this is not because I have an ego or something… even bollywood idealizes Americans)

Although we may educate the slum community on the benefits to the environment when using “green cement” or “solar powered” lanterns, if we aren’t using them ourselves, and if they aren’t being idealized on television or in movies (television and movies that get to the bottom of the pyramid), then why would someone want to take a loan to buy these things, or why would they want to pay more for them?

Let’s look at the typical buying pattern for any consumer when looking at solar lanterns as an example:
  1. Is the quality better? (perhaps, but not on cloudy days)
  2. It is cheaper? (initially no, but in the long run yes)
  3. Do most people use it ? (no, people generally have electricity lines running directly to their house)
  4. Is it better for the environment ? (yes, but remember initially it is more expensive)

A consumers will typically buy something if it is “popular” or they need it. And when they need it, they go for what is most reliable, and definitely what is cheaper. Secondly, most consumers like instant gratification. So why would someone want to get something expensive, when it only pays off in the long run?

In any case, besides the “top of the pyramid” being the influencers, they are also the highest consumers of excess crap. I mean even I’m guilty of it. I probably didn’t need to buy Nutella yesterday, but I did, because well, I like it. Okay so this doesn’t really have to do with Nutella, but more with not buying new things until we really need new things. Or not buying stuff, we really don’t need. What I mean to say is as influencers, policy makers, etc. , we should essentially start with ourselves.
So what is the conclusion? I am encouraging all of you to go and buy solar lamps, wind turbines, etc. to light your houses, instead of using the grid. Since I know that is not holistically practical, what I would like to do instead is to tackle the influencers one at a time. Maybe the doctor in the local village, or the builders who build things, or bollywood. In any case, please don’t take my examples as the end all, instead please understand what I’m trying to say.

This blog post is dedicated to Hasit and Elizabeth, the sidekicks who embarked on this journey and influenced my thinking.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Get ready, Meghana is back and in English (sorry, Kannada is hard to understand)!

Watch the preview for her new movie coming to theaters soon (if you are confused as to why I'm blogging about this, then check-it

Good Luck on your new movie Meghana!

BENGALOORED- PROMO from Swaroop Kanchi on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Meet Dharti.

Her mother, Geeta, use to help at my aunt's house (Nishant and Amish's house) and now Geeta's sisters, Dhaksha and Rekha, help at their house. Dharti came over one day with Dhaksha and Rekha (D&R) to play while D&R helped clean the dishes, mop the floor, etc. She was literally bouncing off the walls... singing, dancing, playing, and being silly. My aunt told me how smart Dharti was, and how quick she was to pick up on things... that's when the wheels started turning. I asked my aunt an array of questions, for which she had an answer to every...

Will Dharti go to school?
What will happen to her?
If she is so smart why don't they put her in school?

It turns out that no one in Dharti's family (minus Dhaksha) is even slightly educated. If Dharti goes to school, gov't schooling in Gujarat is so bad, she won't learn anything and will have to go to tutions (after-school tutoring, which is super expensive). If she doesn't go to tutions, she will never pass and move to the next standard (grade level). In addition to tutions, she will also need help/guidance at home, to make sure she does her homework etc., and there is no one around to ensure that. My aunt has spent a lot of time contemplating whether to put her through school (she still has 1 year before she is old enough to enroll), but my aunt spends some of her time in the US. While she is in the US, there will be no one to look after her schooling.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could help Dharti and kids like her. There are NGOs that work to help kids get enrolled in schools, but they only help them until they are 14, then they are on their own. Most kids drop out after this point, because they can't afford to continue schooling. If Dharti drops out at 14, the next reasonable thing for her to do, is join her aunts. As for now, Dharti's fate is sealed, like her mother and her aunts, she will also take up being "house-help" as her profession.

Please don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having your profession be "house-help," if you take pride in what you are doing... but below, I explain why I am concerned. Dharti is lucky, in that her family has been coming to my aunt's house for a long time. If she continued with my family, they would treat her with respect and ensure her general well being, like they do for D&R.

In India, it is common to have "house help." These people usually live below the poverty line (bpl) and live in slums or chawls.

If you are lucky and your family has been working at the same house for generations, you are usually treated with some level of respect and "like" family by your employer (such is the case at my aunt's house), but if you are the type of "house help" that is serving multiple houses a day, you are usually treated as less than a human being. It is quite sad to watch the amount of disrespect that these individuals take on. They are so use to being mistreated and they seem to "brush their shoulders off" so well, you would think they don't realize what's going on (they do).

Sometimes I stop and think how many times I hear people in the US say, I would never "stoop" so low, or get treated in such a way to certain professions in the US (I am guilty myself), but really, these people have no alternative. They need to create a livelihood for themselves, and if that means being mistreated in the process, at least they can put food on the table for their families.

Fun Fact: Dharti (pronounced Duhur thee) in Gujarati/Hindi means Earth.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Diwali (Dipavali).

Happy Diwali everyone. For those of you who don't know what Diwali is you can read more about it here: It is a very important holiday for Hindus and Jains, but for two very different reasons. Among Hindus there is a different reason for why it is celebrated in the north and south, it's quite interesting considering it's the same religion (on a sidenote, for some Hindus the new year falls now, and for others its at a completely different time during the year... also interesting).

As for Jains (I am Jain (a Jain?), in case you didn't know), Jains celebrate Diwali because it is the day that Mahavira attained enlightenment.

In any case, Diwali is a blast in India, not only because you get vacation time =), but also because of the traditions that come with it. One particular tradition is partaking in the art of Rangoli. Rangoli is a form of sandpainting decoration that uses finely ground white and colored powders, and is commonly done outside homes in India (thanks wiki). Attached is a sample of the Rangoli that my cousin and I created (before my aunt, that master, laid her hands on it). Not to pat my own back, but I think it's pretty good...

Fun Fact: "Paisley" as the design is known in the US, is known as "Cari (Mango) Design" in Ahmedabad.

And yes, I intend on bringing back lots of bags of colors so that I create new masterpieces (originals) in the US of A.

P.S. we copied someone's Rangoli design, but don't hate.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vodafone ZooZoo.

How does one choose a cell phone carrier in a county in which he/she is unfamiliar with each service provider?

If you were someone who had logic and reasoning you would either:
1. Search the web
2. Ask the locals
3. Do a cost/benefit analysis

If you are Bijal or Meghana, you would base your decision solely on who has the best advertising =).

Check out these awesome ads by Vodafone (aired during Twenty20 IPL Cricket matches). I can never understand the commercials here because they are in Hindi, but these are pretty self-explanatory. My two favorites (out of the ones I've seen) are below:

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I originally wrote this post about two months ago, but was unable to post it with pictures included until now.

Back in July, for my 26th (yes I'm getting old...sigh) bday, my friend Sendil (can be pronounced SEN-dal or SIN-dell) gifted me one of the most
personal/sentimental gifts I've ever received (note I said one of...). I had dragged him into a stationery store back in June, him and Gerard, if I recall correctly, and made them wait around while I checked out cool new things that the store was promoting.

Sendil, if you don't know him, is an eco-fiend. He works at TESLA motors (yes he's given me a lift in a roadster and it was AWESOME), and he will opt to take the bus instead of driving to spare the air even though he has a pretty sweet car (Check-out the post 'Beep Beep' for more info). In any case, instead of just buying me some ordinary stationery, he opted to combine my obsession with stationery, with his obsession with eco-friendliness.

Introducing (to those of you who I haven't already talked about it with) Green|Fingerprint Letterpress Stationery:
The envelopes are even personalized with my home address (which I didn't provide him). How awesome!

Green|Fingerprint uses 100% post consumer recycled and tree-free paper. And the picture doesn't do justice to how nice the stationery actually is. Anyways, check-out their site at

And for all of you ladies out there getting married, check-out their invitation sets... even you South Asian ladies, they'll create a design with paisleys (called mango print in India) or even Ganesha on it...if that is what you desire.

Fun Fact: Stationery is spelled with 'ery' and not 'ary'

Also, please stay tuned for other great gift ideas (also delayed)!

Thursday, October 1, 2009



I saw an advertisement for Slice yesterday, which brought back memories of family parties, Superbowl Sundays, Chuck E. Cheese (Showbiz Pizza) birthdays and every other kind of gathering in between (child appropriate gatherings that is).

I checked out Wikipedia to see whatever happened to the infamous Slice, and apparently it had a makeover in the U.S. (or at least the lemon-lime version did) and became Sierra Mist.

For those of you who have missed Slice, it will be making a comeback in 2010 (yes in the U.S.), but who knows if the formula will be the same so don't get your hopes too high.

In any case, cheers to the days of Slice (and Kool Aid yum=)).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


To start off my time in India, I spent 10 days in Delhi getting oriented with Indian laws, politics, health issues, etc., and managed to have some fun while I was at it =). As part of the 'fun', we partook (is that a word?) in a scavenger hunt, which was pretty stellar. Below are pictures from the scavenger hunt around Delhi, including some signs that I found to be pretty humorous:

1. CNG Rickshaw (not humorous)
2. Recommendation to climb the stairs
3. Amy's Heartthrob (a.k.a. Salman)
4. Lotus Temple
5. Watermelon with a side of flies
6. Partners in Crime
7. Pakistan and India are friends
8. Sunset
9. Random Building Top (edited per Anonymous' and Bhezad's help)
10. Your dad.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cadbury - Community Service 2009 - TIME

My love for Cadbury just got stronger:

Cadbury - Community Service 2009 - TIME

Shared via AddThis


Conserve produces fashionable goods out of recycled material. I heard about the NGO while I was in Delhi a week back.

I had an opportunity to visit Conserve’s studio and showroom and am thoroughly excited to share their products with you. Conserve started out producing goods from recycled polythene bags that are discarded along the street. If you have ever been to India, you probably noticed that throwing trash right outside of your house/car/rickshaw is completely legit (I’m not saying I support it, just giving the lay of the land). This is one of the many things that makes India look/feel dirty. There has been a tremendous push, especially in large metropolises, to get rid of the trash that has been discarded literally everywhere.

This is where the ‘rag picker’ comes into play. A ‘rag picker’ goes around the city picking up trash, similar to a garbage man, but he/she is way more skilled (than a garbage man). Not only do they pick up trash, they also separate goods into recyclable and non-recyclable goods. I had an opportunity to visit a rag-picker and see how they sort and separate large amounts of trash into plastics, paper, rubber (courtesy of an NGO called Chintan). They even further separate recycled materials into subcategories, for example separating plastics even further into bottle caps, water bottles, colored plastics, clear plastics, etc.

In any case, Conserve has advanced its processes and now uses a variety of recycled materials (including tires) to produce really cool products, some of which I have photographed above. You can find their products at Wholefoods in the U.S. and visit their website at

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Welcome to India.

Chandni Chawk.

Hi friends, sorry for not blogging sooner. Haven't had internet access. .am currently writing from a cafe that has internet (not to be mistaken with an internet cafe).

Here is a taste of India... more to come, when I have more stable internet.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sonar + Facebook Groups.

Like Sonarrrr... Radar, or maybe that's MARCO/POLO... whatever, who are marco and polo anyways? you ever get on facebook and go to the info section of your friends pages? Don't lie, you know you do... Well, I don't normally, but I have this friend, I call her Sonar (I have a @copyright on it, so back off), her name is actually Sonal, and well, unlike most people who join millions of groups, or those of us, who are almost at the zero end of the spectrum, she joins... interesting groups, in particular, groups that I would never be able to join. Allow me to explain with some examples:

Her groups/ Why I can't join:

1. Girly Movies/ I love them, but I might love bollywood and disney more
2. Caloricious Food and Smartass Friends/ I have trouble pronouncing Ca-lor-i-cious
3. WESTBRANCH/ Ladies and gentlemen, I grew up in Criminal Hill (formerly known as Chimeny Hill), not Westbranch!
4. I judge you when you use poor grammar/ I can't judge people with poor grammar, because well, as you might have noticed, I am no grammar queen
5.Please Try To Pronounce My Name Correctly/ I like it when people call me bihal (NOT), okay maybe I can join this one...
6. Houston. It's Worth It/ I agree it's worth it, but probably not for you!
7. For Those of You Who Think Those Rolling Backpacks are Just Ridiculous/ I kick myself everyday for not filing a patent for rolling backpacks. seriously, I love them
8. I Love Taco Bell/ enough said.

I am sure some of you will promptly go to facebook and join some of these groups, which is fine, but while you're there "friend" Sonal... if you can find her amongst the 9,300 Sonal's that are searchable.

If you have anymore fun groups for Sonal to join, please Suggest!

P.S. Sonal, how about "friend" for grammar??? What, do you not like facebook anymore =)?

Brazil Gone Bollywood.

My friend Moneeza is on a project in São Paulo, and while chatting with her on gchat (google chat for those of you who still use hotmail/yahoo/etc.), I learned that Brazil (Brasil) has gone Bollywood.

In fact, they have gone more bollywood than the U.S. in my opinion. They have a telenovela (soap opera), yup that is right, it runs 6 times per week and it's called Caminho das Índias.

According to Wiki, it currently ranks as one of the most watched shows in Brazilian television. The storyline examine beliefs and values that differentiate the Eastern and Western world and the central plot revolves around a forbidden love between two Indians of very different origins, Maya and Bahuan (I think they hit the mark on typical bollywood).

The main characters consist of Brazilians acting as Indians, instead of Indians acting as Indians... and the guy is, well, NOT a sight for sore eyes =).

In any case, I'm not very found of the opening, it reminds me of the days when American Eagle put Ganesha on Flip Flops (re:, but the acting is reminiscent and eerily similarly to those soaps my family friends watch on zee-tv (

And just for the record, as is the case with 99% of bollywood movies, I am sure this too will have a happy ending (exactly why I love bollywood and Disney =))... Moneeza, keep us posted will you?

Check-out the intro and a clip of the show, songs and all, courtesy of Youtube.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Run Baby, Run Baby, Baby Run Run.

[Short post]

My friends, Puneet and Chan, ran the SF Marathon yesterday.

I am so proud of them, it was their first marathon. I have a hard time running more than 5 miles...sigh.

Anyways, way to go gentlemen (Puja's influence)!

Puneet finished in record time, so I wasn't able to catch him at the finish line... Pun, why do you always have to run so fast?!? =) (...kidding of course)

Below are some pictures I shot after the race:

Friday, July 24, 2009

It Ain't the Butterfly, It's the Chupa Chup.


[Written on July 15]

So last night, I was at J.Lee’s place. We were getting set to go watch the midnight premier of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (it was awesome!!!). I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and I even wore my Gryffindor cloak and brought my wand!

Sorry…I digress. Okay, so back to the topic at hand. We were in the kitchen grabbing a snack and all of sudden Jess pulls out a Chupa Chup! Have you ever had one? If you thought tootsie/blow pops were good (for they record, they aren’t), you will think these things are godsend. They are delicious. She got them as a party favor from a wedding she was at. What a great idea…no?

I first had Chupa Chups when I was studying abroad in Santander, Spain during high school. The university I was taking classes at had a food-truck right outside the building and one day I happened to try one and became hooked. I literally had Chupa Chups and tiramisu ice cream (the other treat I got hooked on) everyday for the rest of my time in Spain.

Anyways, if you haven’t had Chupa Chups, I suggest you get a hold of some (if you’re in SF, you can get them after your meal at Tropisueño)… and remember it ain’t the butterfly, it’s the CHUPA CHUP.

Note: Apparently the work "Chup" in Tamil (the language) means “suck.” Oh how the 'world of words' amazes me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lucky Ladybug.

Almost every Tuesday, my co-workers and I go to the local farmers market to get lunch. Today was no different (it is 7/7 however =)), except that while waiting in line for Donna’s Tamales (vegetarian + vegan…, my coworker Aditi tried to kill me.

Okay, I’m kidding; she only took a swing at me because she saw something crawling on my arm (in my defense I didn’t know that something was crawling). In any case, when I realized it was a lady bug, I started to panic. I frantically asked her where it went, and eventually found it on the ground, still, as if her attempt to shew it away might have literally scared the life out of it. My heart sank (yes, I’m a drama queen), but then I gave it a little tap and it scurried away. Oh, how relieved I was. During this whole process, my coworker as well as the people standing behind her whom I yelled at (“Be careful! There is ladybug!”) looked at me befuddled.

And that got me thinking… where did I get this notion that ladybugs are lucky? I googled ‘why are ladybugs lucky’ and although I didn’t find a great reason, I did find that a lot of different cultures around the world find ladybugs to be lucky. So even though my coworker and the onlookers thought I was crazy, I now know I’m not!

Also, I used to have this toy ladybug phone, and when you pulled it the wings flapped. I tried to search for it and find a picture, but couldn’t. Did anyone else have this toy?

Btw… has anyone used Bing, the new Microsoft search engine? I just tried it to ask my ‘why lucky ladybug’ question, but it yielded the same results as Google. I guess I’ll have to read up on its value proposition.

Friday, July 3, 2009

You Can't Have Any Color You Like.

For those of you who live in New York, I was wondering if in the last year, you have see any streets lined with bright pink (with black polka dot) trash bags (like the image above). At first when I heard about the "anycoloryoulike" project, and its attempt at the beautification of trash (with biodegradable trash bags), I thought "wow that is cool (eco-friendly)!!!"

But after further consideration, I decided that even though I love PINK, and the thought of pink trash bags sounds cool (in theory), it is not! Why would you ever want to beautify trash bags?? Beautifying things makes people more attracted to them, which makes them want to have/use them. Take the iPod, although mp3 players were out for a while, Apple's ability to create this sleek, fun to use device caused a music/technology revolution. I hope this isn't what happens with these trash bags (they are scented too apparently). We want to produce less trash not more!!! By giving people pretty trash bags, you are encouraging them to throw things away. I support the biodegradable aspect, but you can already buy bags with that feature, and for a lot cheaper.

So really, we don't want/need trash bags in "Anycoloryoulike", and I dislike(potentially hate) your project, Adrian Kondratowicz (I don't dislike you however, since I don't know you). The only great thing about these bags is they are $35 per 10, so who the heck (I had another word here before) would buy them anyways? Who, you ask? BIMBOS!

In addition, a bunch of magazines claim that these beautiful trash bags were meant for dual purpose - to beautify the city and help bring attention to how much trash we throw away. If that is true, then why the hell are you selling them[trash bags] on your website? I am semi-open to changing my mind about these bags and your project. But please, EXPLAIN.

Pictured below is more Bimboness (note: the photograph, as art, is cool):

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dollars without Borders - Growing Microfinance in China

Wokai hosted a launch event this weekend that focused on microfinance in China. The event was amazing and extremely successful.

Below are some shots I captured from the event and photos of some movers and shakers in the microfinance space including Maya Chorengel, Premal Shah, and Courtney McCoglan:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beep Beep (said in mousey voice).

Remember the Chevron Car Commercials with those cute animated cars? As I was looking for a picture of one of those cars, I came across this website: You can actually buy toy versions of these cars. How cool is that (maybe you already new that)?

According to wiki: The commercials themselves, done in a similar fashion to Creature Comforts, were crafted by Aardman Animations, the same studio that has produced films such as Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (I never saw it). A year later, Chevron gas stations began selling the toy cars featured in the commercials. Chevron underestimated demand in 1997 and increased production to 700,000 on each of 4 or 5 new models at the time, compared to 500,000 in the previous year.

Anyways, my friend Sendil just bought an M3 (BMW) in yellow and I was trying to find a Chevron car that looked most similar to it. I came up with two options: Casey Coupe and Tina Turbo… I’m not sure which one fits better (neither are perfect).

…Any thoughts?

I think I like Tina Turbo better, since it’s more box shaped like Sendil’s car, but Casey Coupe looks more sportier, which better characterizes the M3.

Okay, if you take nothing else from this post, at least note the following two points:
  1. There is a really cool website where you can go and buy miniature Chevron Cars, play games, print stickers, color (yes like coloring), etc =).
  2. You should ask Sendil for a ride in his wicked M3, it goes from 0 to 60 in no time.

Also, do you think Chevron would ever be willing to make a hybrid "Chevron Car" (such as the Toyota Prius), or something similar to the Tesla Roadster ( – once I get to the show room, I’ll do a post on it)?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Oh Lulu...lemon.

So when you buy something from lululemon atheletica, they give you this bag that is pretty sturdy and is meant to be reused for a reasonable amount of time (meaning it's not as everlasting as a tote bag). Anyways, when I went there to buy something (I've only been once), I received said bag, and started to use it to transport stuff to and from work.

One day, my co-worker Sunny came over to talk and my bag was beautifully resting on my desk. He was in mid-sentence when he all of a sudden exclaimed "What the Hell (or maybe f***)?" In any case, he had read the following on my wonderful lululemon bag: "I will spend winter 2009 in Mexico with Sunny =) & our baby!" If you checked out the pictures above, you would have noticed that the artwork on the bag looks like my beautiful penmanship, it's not, and therefore I did my best to try and convince him that the writing was actually printed art on the bag, and that I didn't intend (and still don't) to have a baby with him this summer.
Thanks Lulu. No seriously, the bag is really cool and can handle all my jizunk.


Since childhood, I have had a fascination with matryoshkas, or nesting dolls as we call them in English . I was probably introduced to them by Mr. Rogers or something and I have wanted a set ever since.

Matryoshkas date from 1890, and are said to have been inspired by souvenir dolls from Japan. However, the concept of nested objects was familiar in Russia, having been applied to carved wooden apples and Easter Eggs; the first Fabergé Egg, in 1885, had a nesting of egg, yolk, hen, and chick (yes I also have a fascination with Fabergé, but I would never want one).
Recently my coworker went back to Russia for work, and brought me back my very own matryoshka (isn't it pretty?)! Imagine how excited I was!

Thanks Osanna!
Note: History provided by Wikipedia: Matryoshka