Zhuo’s Internship With Drishtee on Gharaunda Project (1)

Drishtee is a company focusing on rural entrepreneurship development in India. According to Jyotsna, coordinator of talent acquisition, Drishtee operates as an “umbrella”. These include the Drishtee Skill Development Center; the Drishtee Foundation (NGO); the Drishtee Rural Apparel production (DRAP); and the Centre for Education and Entrepreneurship Program (CEEP), etc. New organizations are growing under this umbrella.

Drishtee has the strongest presence in Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where most of the projects are located. These village kiosks are run under a franchising or partnership model with the goal to empower the local people.

Before my first day in the office I spoke with other interns and employees who shared the guest house with me. The diversity of the projects is represented by interns with different interests and training. Kyo-min, a Korean movie maker, is here to make a documentary about all of the projects under Drishtee. Teja, an MBA candidate, is working on a women’s empowerment project. The project I will be working on, Gharaunda, is a rural housing project which envisions a sustainable community environment to support rural housing implementation and expansion.

Since the 2008 Kosi Flood in Bihar, the Indian government has been trying to construct low-cost and resistant rural housing using eco-friendly materials, among which are bamboo and unbaked mud bricks. There is already one pilot house built up in the Saurath Village, Bihar using these two materials. I am following up on earlier intern research on bamboo. My job is to develop a business model for mud bricks to allow micro-franchising. It is not about specific design of the house but more about the line of production of mud bricks as a suitable construction material. To reach the final deliverable, I need to do research on the production technique, cost, environmental impact, and social acceptance. Among all of these topics, the cost and benefit of the model matters most for potential rural entrepreneurs; the environmental impact is more critical for attracting partnership.

Pilot House in Saurath (credit to Gharaunda Project, Drishtee)

Pilot House in Saurath (credit to Gharaunda Project, Drishtee)

Mud brick making (credit to Gharaunda Project, Drishtee)

Mud brick making (credit to Gharaunda Project, Drishtee)

During the first week I conducted general research on mud bricks as a construction material. I researched geographic patterns, material performance and ways of production. However, I realized that the research on the material itself was not the main problem with this project. There has been no sign of participation in the mud brick making business or use of mud bricks as construction material among the villagers since the completion of the first pilot house in 2015 in Saurath.

Former interns conducted a survey on bamboo in Saurath, and discovered that people still preferred concrete and burnt bricks if they can afford them. Faced with this situation, I shifted my focus and wrote a report to reflect on the existing pilot project. I identified three main barriers for further expansion:
1. The villagers separation from the pilot project; 2.The high cost for the prototype; 3. Requirement of regular maintenance

Further, I proposed that any follow up research should serve to:
1. Reduce the cost for the prototype; 2. Promote social awareness of mud bricks as a construction material.

In terms of the first focus, I recommend that research should be conducted on improvement of existing techniques and innovation in the business model.
In terms of the social aspect, it can take years to change the perception of a new material in a relatively conservative rural setting. However, I also believe that once there is a first successful case in the village, resistance will be much lower for the next housing project. Moving forward from the first built prototype, it will be important to maximize the social effect of our work and to promote public awareness about the benefit and affordability of mud bricks housing.”

Leave a Reply