Monday, May 05, 2014

15 Months Memoir

In 2012 my wife and I decided to move back to India, to provide Hita an opportunity to be in a different culture, OUR culture. We were trying to accomplish the following;

1. To see if Hita is academically interested
2. Travel India/Asia
3. Work for a Social cause

To see if Hita is academically interested

This is very easy to test in India. We put her into a local school that is absolutely academical. It would need a separate blog post to talk about that school. I will mention 2 things about the school to give you guys an idea.
i) The basket ball coach of the school was fat and clumsy. He would stand in the shade (when kids were sweating it out in sun) and teach kids how to play bball. It was so funny to watch, I would go 5 minutes early to pick Hita so I could watch him (my wife thought that was sick...).
ii) There was a swimming competition (dolphins day) in which Hita won, gold in backstroke and silver in breast stroke. If you win something outside of school, you can take your medal to school and they will announce it in the assembly(entire school, pretty cool). Naturally Hita took her medals. They said, we don't announce 2nd place and announced only the gold medal. Hita was perplexed and asked her teacher, If thats the case why do you give silver and bronze medals in school sports day!!!! As typical of Indian teachers, she shushed Hita.
I think we found our answer to this question. Coming from Australia, not knowing 2 of the languages taught in that school, Hita was in top 2 of the class. That's a phenomenal achievement.

Travel India/Asia

Some of the travels we did
i) 13 days of North India (Golden Triangle).
ii) 7 days of Leh/Ladakh.
iii) 9 days of Srilanka.
iv) 8 days of Nepal. (The feeling of, you are nobody in front of those mountains is priceless)

Lot of savings burnt but worth every penny.

Work for a Social cause

This is the most interesting part. When I was on Christmas break (2012) in Melbourne, I started searching for organisations that I could be part of. One day, came across Logistimo ( I wrote a 2 line (man of few words) email to them expressing my interest. I received a reply next morning from the CTO saying, please get in touch once you are in Bangalore. I contacted them 5 days after landing. Met the most amazing team that had been working for 4 years without pay to make public health care better in India and other poor countries.
What does Logistimo do? Well we build supply chain management tools (very similar to US army SCM), that works in any network context. Primary purpose is to monitor stock levels of vaccines and essential drugs.  Most of our users are just numerates. For the first time in my life, I proved lucky for a startup. After I joined, we became popular(hahahahah). Our customer base grew exponentially. From 2 districts in Karnataka to 2 states in India, DRC (Democratic republic of Congo), South Sudan etc. We achieved availability of 99% in couple of states in India, which happens to be better than US (One of the gates foundation guys told us). Soon we will do things (I cant disclose) that will revolutionise public health care for rural/poor.
Things that I learnt in these last 15 months has had a profound impact on my personality (you will know if you already know me... hahahah). When you see villages that do not have the basic needs of health care and sanitation, It changes your perspective. Growing up in India for 22 years, most of us know how corrupt the country is but some of the things I learnt, puts me to shame, to say I am of Indian Origin. I guess I can feel less shameful by donating couple 100 bucks on a website or even better, live outside India and write on facebook how much I miss the culture and vada sambhar of India (hypocrisy kills shame).
       I will mention 2 things here, just to give you an idea about the corruption and bureaucracy(don't want to depress you too much).
i) Some deaths are not reported(deliberately) as its a performance metric!!!! Go figure. Hard to measure the value of something when you have too many of those (I guess)
ii) Most refrigerator (ILR, used in health care centers) mechanics are on the payrolls of pharmaceutical companies.  If the vaccines and drugs in those refrigerators go bad where do you buy them from!!! Take a guess!!!

I am lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work with such awesome people/organisation where we don't have posters of our motto posted on walls (we don't have an office hahahaha). Its in our heart... IMPACT FIRST.

As a great person(Keshav Murthy, maybe) once said, "To give, you don't have to have too much. You need to know how it feels to not have enough"

Hopefully this piece will motivate some of you hypocritical bastards to get out of your couches and add value to the society, however small it is. Donating money and liking things on facebook is great but its no match for investing your time. If you are already doing it, I bow.

Watch this short movie made about us by Gates Foundation
Vaccine Logistics in Karnataka from CurleyStreetMedia on Vimeo.