Archive for the ‘Nicole Orillac’ Category

Whose vision of serving the poor?

July 20, 2009

Does the vision of serving the low income segment of society extend beyond the investors and CEO of a social enterprise?

In my opinion, only an affirmative answer to this question will ensure that the vision of serving the poor is fulfilled (however long it may take…).  Watch what the team of doctors running AyurSEVA Hospitals has to say about their vision and motivation to work for this organization.

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STOP. R E F L E C T. GO!

July 5, 2009

“Environment matters, but in the end, when it comes to tackling the question, What should I do with my life? it really is all in your head. The first psychological stumbling block that keeps people from finding themselves is that they feel guilty for simply taking the quest seriously.”

The previous paragraph is an excerpt from an article written by Po Bronson entitled “What Should I Do With My Life?” (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/66/mylife.html). It is the last line  that caught my attention as it relates to how I am feeling at this stage of the Fellowship.  My energy level to start searching for the “what’s next” in my career is very low because I am not clear where I want to go. Two months ago I thought I knew. Now I am having doubts.

One thing I am sure of after this year’s experience as an AF Fellow is that I want to continue to be part of the social sector. What is the role I want to play? This I need time to figure out (and I am not talking of a day or two). However, the pressure I am feeling from the environment is making it difficult for me to get off the fast track and reflect. There is not a single day that passes by when I don’t hear the question-“Now that the fellowship is coming to an end, do you know what you want to do next?” I hear that question loaded with high expectations that do not necessarily match mine.

According to Bronson the biggest obstacle in finding the answer to my question is that I “feel guilty for taking the quest seriously”. And he is right, I do feel guilty. But not for taking the quest seriously, but rather for taking the time I believe I require for this quest.

Talking to my sister who is finishing her MBA at one of the top ranked business schools in Europe, I could hear the same frustration. She is bombarded everyday with e-mails about job openings she “should be applying for”. The career center spends tons of resources in helping the students find the job that will double their previous salary, but is it the job that will make the students thrive as leaders? So many resources are spent in presenting options for the “what’s next”, but how much do these schools spend in helping future business leaders figure out the “what’s first” that Bronson alludes to? (My sister and I are constantly exchanging books and articles to fill the gap.)

What I see in common in these two examples is the artificial deadline that society imposes on us (and that we accept) for taking the quest to find ourselves. Is it that bad to graduate from your MBA or finish a competitive Fellowship program and not have a job lined up? What would be the result of society giving more value to the time for quest in people’s path? More leaders “confident of their place in the world” (Branson), contributing towards building a better society? I believe so.

Scaling up in “The Many Indias”

April 24, 2009

‘India is merely a geographical expression. It is no more a single country than the equator’- Winston Churchill

Had I read this quote five months ago, I would have not understood what it meant. But after living, traveling and working in India for exactly that long, I can say that Winston Churchill was exactly right. In India, like in any other large country as the US or Mexico, I expected to find some regional differences in people’s tastes for food or music, their accent, dress code, etc. In my mind, these differences give countries their character and do not have major consequences for business other than the opportunity to bring in some variety to the portfolio of products or services. In India, however, regional differences go FAR beyond the ones I just described. For this reason many authors to talk not about one country but “the many Indias”.

For an enterprise trying to do business across the Indian territory, it is critical to be aware of all the nuances of “the many Indias”. Allow me to illustrate what I mean by this using AyurVAID: Hospitals, the organization I am working in, as an example.

AyurVAID: Hospitals is a local business with the mission of providing high quality, affordable Ayurveda (India’s traditional system of medicine) treatment for chronic illnesses across all socio-economic segments and across India (and some day abroad). In line with this vision, AyurVAID: Hospitals opened six small to medium sized hospitals in three neighboring states: two hospitals in Kerala, three in Karnataka and one in Maharastra. The hospitals are located in urban areas and three of them in the big cities of Mumbai and Bangalore.
At first glance AyurVAID: Hospitals’ strategy of expansion seems very straightforward, but in practice things are let’s say a bit more….complicated. Here is how:

Language– At each location, all sign boards and advertising material have to be translated into at least 2 different languages (English + local language) and 4 in the case of Mumbai (high immigrant population). Our doctors need to speak 2 to 3 languages to communicate with patients, English to communicate with the management and international partners, and Malayalam, the language of Kerala, to speak with the staff.

Human resources– The roots of the Ayurveda system of medicine can be traced back to the state of Kerala. Although today Ayurvedic Medical Colleges train doctors across the country, training institutions for therapists are still highly concentrated in Kerala. Hence, hiring locally becomes a difficult task and most of the therapists have to be relocated from Kerala to other states. Then again, most people in Kerala have a strong affinity for their state and prefer not to leave it.
Systems of medicine– Whereas in other parts of the world, Allopathic or “Western Medicine” is the norm, in India, patients have many other well established options to consider like Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Allopathy and Unani. In competing with these different options, public awareness about Ayurveda is a big challenge. If we take allopathic medicine as an example, most people today know what to expect when they go to a doctor, to a hospital or understand if someone says they need a “dialysis”. On the other hand, Ayurveda means a variety of things to different people, particularly as the distance from Kerala increases. To test this last point, I decided to interview people in the streets and hotels of Kerala (to get some out of state opinions) and asked them one simple question….Observe.

All of these factors make the business at AyurVAID: Hospitals challenging and exciting! One success factor as we continue to grow and do business in “the many Indias” will be to strike the right balance between standardization and customization of our services.

“Be Patient With Yourself”

February 16, 2009

This month I want to share with you not about the investment that I am working in but about myself and my personal experience in the first few months of the Fellowship.

Before flying to India I was part of many conversations in which the common theme was that in order to really make a positive social impact in the lives of the poor we need to slow down… Extend time lines, think in terms of processes not tasks, take into account the infrastructural limitations of the countries when designing a business plan, etc. All of these conversations, plus the many hours in the classrooms at LSE discussing the failures of development efforts in the last few decades, helped me prepare to transition to a work environment that would require a large quantity of patience. Patience with the external circumstances that would shape the way I worked. What I did not foresee was that I would need even a larger quantity of patience with myself and the impact that my personal transition would have on the work I was ready to do.

Find out why by watching my video.

Delivering traditional medicine in modern ways

January 19, 2009

The entrepreneurs at AyurVAID: Hospitals are testing a business model that promises to overcome the scale up challenge of delivering medical care to the masses based on Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine. According to RV Raman, Head of Marketing at AyurVAID: Hospitals, there are about 18,962 Ayurveda companies registered in India today. Most of these companies focus on offering ayurvedic products (from medicines to toothpaste!) and spa related services, however no one has been able to come up with a successful, scalable model to deliver health services. (Ironic considering that Ayurveda is a system of medicine that has been around for more than 3,000 years!) In this video Rajiv Vasudevan, CEO of AyurVAID: Hospitals, explains some of the challenges inherent to the Ayurveda “industry” and some of the strategies the team has developed to overcome these obstacles.

The people behind scenes

January 10, 2009

When I first read this article published yesterday on the DNA Bangalore newspaper I felt moved by Daniel’s story of resilience. Then my thoughts drifted to another character in the story, Dr. Belaku Chandu[1] from AyurVAID: Hospitals. The reason why I found myself thinking of Dr. Belaku is because the article reminded me of her reaction one of those days that Daniel heard the sound of the fire crackers.

I was sitting in the hospital’s kitchen having dinner with the staff and doctors when the noise of the firecrackers filtered the hospital building. Dr. Belaku immediately stopped eating her food, she rose from the table and went in to the hallway. She stopped for a few minutes as if waiting for something to happen and then disappeared into the first floor. Then I heard laughter.

When Dr. Belaku came back to the kitchen and I asked her what was that all about she told me Daniel’s story and how the noise of the firecrackers had affected her in the past few days. With a smile in her face she said, “The first day Daniel was very scared by the noise. She thought it was the noise of shotguns and her nerves started to jerk again. The second day she was just startled and dropped her food tray. Today, she recognized the noise and she just laughed!” She was paying attention to Daniel’s progress day and night.

Dr. Belaku’s story exemplifies the type of personal and organizational commitment that makes a social enterprise thrive. Everyday I spend at AyurVAID: Hospitals I am in awe of how devoted the caregivers and doctors are to the patients and to the organizational mission. Every single one of them believes in the healing powers of Ayurveda for treating chronic illnesses and is committed to AyurVAID: Hospitals’ mission of taking classical Kerala Ayurveda to as many people as possible in India and around the world by offering affordable, high quality services.

This article also highlighted for me the positive ripple effect of investing in a social enterprise. Acumen Fund’s investment in AyurVAID: Hospitals operation’s in India is helping reach people in Africa! Although Daniel may not belong to the low income class at the BOP that Acumen is trying to reach, there is no doubt that she was a person in need of physical and spiritual help, and that her courage in sharing her story of improvement through Ayurveda provided in the AyurVAID: way, will help this team of committed doctors and entrepreneurs communicate to all its promise to solving society’s health needs.


[1] Her name was misspelled in the article.

Discovering Kerala and AyurVAID:

December 15, 2008

In this short video I share some of my first impressions of Kochi, my new hometown, and AyurVAID:, the organization I am working with. Thank you to everyone at AyurVAID: for making these first thirty days in India a great experience.

Video Blogging

October 27, 2008

As part of the fellowship program, we will be video blogging every month from the field.  For our first assignment, we answered questions about training highlights, preparing for the field, and our hopes and fears for the year to come.

Premal Desai

Sophie Forbes

Ramakrishnan Hariharan

Joanna Harries; or see my blog

Mubarik Imam

Karthik Janakiraman

Heidi Krauel

Joel Montgomery

Nicole Orillac

Suraj Sudhakar

Stay tuned for our next episode…