THE BLOG
09/24/2013 09:13 am ET Updated Nov 23, 2013

Slum Dreams

As we wait in the transit lounge in the Ninoy International Airport, we're battling an odd mix of emotions. On the one hand, it's incredible that we've come so far. It was only one year ago that we even got to know each other, when we began our business school journey. On the other hand, our goal to make effective use of off-spec food seems like a far-away dream. Lying in between these two perspectives, today are the four of us and our business plan. We have brainstormed over this dream of ours for months now, and the more we learnt about the business we were entering, the more we understood the value of our role in it. Now as the four of us and the company we formed, called Poshnam, head to the finals, the excitement is palpable.

We named our company Poshnam, after the Sanskrit phrase for, "healthy eating." We're aware that food in India is a source of family bonding, and we want our business to play a role in strengthening the connections and health of families through improved access to nutrient rich foods. What started out as an idea has today, after numerous iterations and a two-month accelerator in Boston, has grown into an actual pilot project in Hyderabad. We're now not just responsible for ourselves, but for many others who really need this project to succeed. Poshnam plans to build a platform where off-spec food is brought from farmers' cooperatives, and then distributed to slums for consumption. The residents of the slums, especially through their women's self-help groups, will take on the distribution functions. The thing about "off-spec food" is that it's high on nutrition but low on visual appeal. Currently, off-spec food already reaches the slums, but it goes through so many middlemen over such a long period that its nutritional value goes down.

Enter Poshnam. We aim to form a direct link between the food producers and the consumers. We will cut down the transit period by a couple of days and ensure quality control through cold storage and lab-testing facilities. Putting all this together, we hope to create sustainable micro-enterprises in collaboration with the slum residents.

The four of us met at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), in Manila, Philippines, where we're studying for our MBA. We all bring very different, but fortunately complementary, talents and experiences to the table. Raj Bordia hails from the state of Rajasthan,India and has a background in corporate strategy. Shivesh Gaurav is from Uttar Pradesh, India and is a mechanical engineer. Ravindra Rapeti, a communications graduate and co-founder of a successful online car pooling service, is from Andhra Pradesh,India.Finally, I am from Gujarat, and have worked in retail pharmacy. Good fortune brought us together to form a team, and now we're at the threshold of winning an important $1 million investment at the Hult Finals.

Our challenge at the Hult competition was to present a way to combat the global food crisis. As we prepare for the final presentation on September 23 at the CGI Annual Meet in New York, we hope to convince the eminent jury of the effectiveness and importance of our business model in addressing that very challenge.

Our dream is about to turn into reality.

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