The Akshaya Patra Foundation is making a very big difference in the lives of India's school children. The India Lab team that worked with Akshaya Patra in 2011 had the privilege of making a big contribution to the future of this impressive organization.
Akshayapatra—meaning inexhaustible vessel—is an object from Hindu mythology that held a never-failing supply of food.
Appropriately, the Akshaya Patra Foundation's mission is to feed children in need so that they can attend school—and in the long term, break the cycle of poverty through education. In India, most children don't attend school because they have to work daily to earn a small wage, in order to feed themselves or their family. Akshaya Patra has partnered with local and federal governments, schools, and corporations to develop an amazing ecosystem that feeds children in need, so they can attend school rather than work for their meals daily. Currently, the organization feeds over two million children a day, with the goal of feeding five million by 2020.
The organization is one of the largest and most successful nonprofits in the world, yet they trusted the India Lab team to come up with their own project, scope, time line, and deliverable. After doing some initial research, the team proposed focusing on improving Akashaya Patra's online presence in the U.S. and U.K. with social networking and marketing techniques.
But once the team began to dig into the project, they quickly learned some things had to change.
"We realized the company had typical fast-growth organizational and scaling issues," says team member Birju Shah, MBA '12, "We immediately increased the scope of our project to include research, interviews, and recommendations in order to develop a strategic roadmap for Akshaya Patra. Our plan contained actionable and executable steps that would allow the organization to scale operationally, financially, and strategically to reach five million children by the year 2020."
The student team also benefited from some key takeaways. They learned firsthand that international business requires utilizing a global perspective and personal flexibility. One needs to be patient, open, and respectful of different cultures in order to get things done.
Says Shah, "India Lab was a fantastic experience. It helps you learn where you fit in the spectrum of a team, how to communicate and interact with people from a different culture, and how to execute a meaningful project in a short period of time."