Day 7: Seven Steps A-Planning

Hello! Sai here! We woke up early today and started off with a much awaited cup of chai and tea rusks (biscuits for dipping in chai). After Krishnabhai arrived at the guesthouse we immediately left for the factory for our meeting at 9:00am in Katol.

We picked up Rajeshbhai at the Setco factory and left to Katol to meet with a community leader. The goal was to learn more about the community specifically about the organizational structure, existing projects, and the leadership roles. Afterwards we walked through the community only observing and learning more about the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) outcomes.  We returned to the factory and went to lunch where Kabir began his roti-eating marathon.


Then, we left with three Setco Foundation team members for Dolatpura to meet with our partner families. First, we sat down with Sumitraben and her family to receive some technical stove feedback and then built the design we had built in May. We primarily observed this build to understand how comfortable Sumitraben was with the design. She did an incredible job replicating the stove, which was really awesome!


While Viral and I helped Sumitraben and her husband finish up the stove, Rachel, Kabir, and Salmaben went to speak to Chatrsinh’s family about the toilet prototype in addition to retrieving the sensor.


After we had completed our conversations we returned to the factory. After chai and refreshments we went into our next meeting with the Setco Foundation core team. We presented and discussed a tentative 7 step plan for the expansion of stoves. We had some important conversations about roles, responsibilities, and long term goals that are really exciting!

We returned home to a beautiful sunset and prepped for our meeting with Urja and the Setco field team early the next day.

Day 6: Six Vendors A-Selling


The day started off with another rendition of Maggi noodles. Then we headed downstairs where Salmaben met us to take us to pipe vendors in Baroda. Our hope was to fine the people who sell the pipe that we’ve been using for our latest iteration of our low-smoke chulha design. After three stops where we found PVC and galvanized steel pipes, we decided to head to a factory that one of the vendors said manufactured the clay pipes we were looking for.

After two unsuccessful stops, we dropped Salmaben off at the office so she could attend a meeting. Atul joined us to continue the search. We found another vendor who told us about the factory that he buys clay pipes from. We headed in the direction he described and, after stopping a couple times for directions along the way; we located the factory that produces a variety of clay pipes and fittings. The factory owner was nice enough to show us the process by which the pipes are extruded, trimmed, sun-dried, and fired. We learned a lot and walked away with a bag of mati and two chimney pipes free of charge.

When we returned to the factory we ate lunch and then read through a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA, similar to a needs assessment) summary document about the village of Katol, which is a community that we intend on visiting while here. After reading through the document, we had a long meeting with Rajeshbhai regarding how Setco carried out their PRA in Katol, what the local government and social structure are like, and average standard of living across different communities.


We packed up and headed back to Baroda where we went to Salmaben’s house (after freshening up at the guest house for a few minutes). We got to enjoy the beautiful view from her balcony and a very well prepared meal followed by some famous Havmor ice cream. It was a wonderful way to end a productive day.

Day 5: Five Awesome Meetings

Kabir here! Nothing screams waking up in India like Harishbhai slamming the door open yelling “up, up” as if the building was crashing down. We scheduled the car to pick us up that day at 9:30 and even though this wake up call was extremely efficient in getting us up at 7:00, Sai and I promptly went back to sleep. Waking up on our own accord, we were greeted by the smell of omelet and chai. While on our drive to the office we discussed cars with Krishnabhai and saw our first elephant!img_3652

Urja came to the office today with her son, so as soon as we entered we put our nose to the grind stone and cranked out our goals when visiting Katol and the future of stoves. During said meeting we were told that there was a meeting with the Setco Automotive President at 4 to present our education module given in Medapur. I was quite excited. After the meeting we met another partner of Setco, the SNEHA group, an NGO that focuses on large public health areas in Mumbai. We were introduced to the new Setco employee Elsa, and all headed to lunch together. Afterwards we anxiously waited for our appointment at 4. As it slowly approached I made sure my computer was cleaned, the presentation was beautiful, and Gujurati on point. We met with Mr. Sheth and Salmaben presented the slides. IMG_0132.JPGThe meeting went very well! Afterwards we took the input received from Urja and Salmaben and updated our stoves plan. Salmaben kindly invited us to dinner to one of her favorite restaurants. As we headed to the restaurant we stopped by the apartment to freshen up. I put on a mean looking jacket and called myself business casual.

Little did I know that the restaurant we were attending was at the roof of an 8 story building with a roller coaster as the center piece. You don’t see that everyday. We were presented with a wide array and assortment of vegetarian and non vegetarian traditional Indian cuisines. I ate so much chicken tikka and naan that I fell into a food coma directly afterwards. We followed up dinner thanking Salmaben and watching 30 minutes of PK (a Bollywood movie) before we all passed out.

Day 4: Four Engaging Groups

Hi World! Sai here. There is nothing like waking up to a hot gingery chai at the beginning of a super long day. Before enacting our daily routine of hopping in Krishna bhai’s car, we had a rich breakfast full of vegetables and paratha (thicker roti).

When we arrived, we immediately sat down with Gayatriben to discuss the strategy regarding the indoor air pollution workshop that was going to be held at 11 in Medapur. We made some minor changes to the presentation (moving pictures around). Yesterday we had come up with a few questions that would be asked by the Foundation team.  We wished to present these questions before the workshop to have a very basic understanding of what the community feels about cooking. In a few days we plan on going to Medapur and asking those same questions to assess the impact of the indoor air pollution workshop.


At 10:30am the Setco Foundation (SF) team and us left to Medapur where we were greeted by the surpaanch and a Self Help Group (SHG) who were wrapping up a meeting in the anganwadi as we arrived. Salmaben began the introductions of the team while we helped Gayatriben set up the projector and screen. Then the workshop began!



During the presentation, Kabir and Rachel were observing the mens’ and womens’ reactions respectively while I was running around as cameraman trying to capture the whole event. The workshop lasted about 20 minutes and it involved a lot of great conversations. After finishing the main presentation, we were invited to several households to see their stoves and ask some questions regarding cooking habits.


We ate lunch as soon as we arrived back at the factory and sat down with Urja (Setco Foundation President) to review our goals for the trip and develop plans for where we are headed. This was an important conversation, which would likely continue through the remainder of the trip. Then, we tackled our last task of the day which was to go to Godhra to speak to the distributor of the ceramic chimneys. We asked questions about raw materials, cost, and other models that he might have. We decided that we needed to continue to meet and discuss with various vendors regarding chimneys.


After returning to the factory, we said good night to everyone and left for the guesthouse. It was a very long day with many different conversations that will hopefully help us moving along!

Note: I am responsible for photography this trip and I have about 10 min of intense YouTube training so please feel free give me suggestions about it!


Day 3: Three Languages Spoken

Hello peeps,

This is Zoha Momin, alumni of BLUElab India. I am in India on vacation and decided to stop by and visit the crew. I had a chance to meet a new face (Kabir), visit Dolatpura, mingle with SETCO, and interact with the community. Overall, it was a walk down memory lane and the team made it feel like I never graduated. Thanks for being so welcoming guys!

After eating Maggi for breakfast, we all drove with Krishna bhai to SETCO. It was great seeing him again, and he was practicing English with us. He is learning to speak the language by himself! It’s pretty inspiring.

Once we arrived at SETCO, we decided to change our schedule due to certain events in Dolatpura. Rachel took the lead in reorganizing the calendar.  After the team had a cup of chai, they discussed their plans for today. My plans were to visit the community and SETCO. In addition, the team needed translation support, and I was gladly available to help.

After lunch, we drove to Dolatpura. Everyone was taking their afternoon nap when we arrived. As soon as they saw the entire team, everyone walked to greet us. I was very excited to see familiar faces!


The boys decided to speak with Praveenbhai while Rachel and I visited Sumitraben and Sangeetaben. We spoke with the women about their roles in the stoves and toilet projects. We received feedback from them in regards to their thoughts about the technology, their current roles, their future aspirations, and specific improvements the team could make.

dsc_0096The conversation with Praveenbhai was about his current thoughts on the project and how it should proceed. Upon receiving feedback about both projects, we learned that Sumitraben built a low smoke chulha for her sister. We drove to her house and learned that the stove was destroyed during the monsoon season.

Once we arrived back to the office, the team decided to reconvene and discuss our findings. There was a lot of discussion on future implementation plans and finalizing the design. All in all, it was a great day. The car rides were occasions to discuss the projects, snap chatting was a norm, Dolatpura kids teaching us kite flying skills, SETCO’s constant flexibility, and everyone in the village demanding beautiful photos to be taken.


The faces of the BLUElab India team changes, but the vision, motivation, and energy to impact the communities keeps growing from year to year. I remember the first trip Erica, Mike, Mitch, Brianna, Jon, and I made. We have come so far, and we have accomplished a lot. SETCO’s support and BLIP’s hard work is a perfect combination with Dolatpura’s motivation to collaborate. BLUElab India will always be a place that I can call home.

Thanks for letting me visit guys and good luck. I know you will kill it!



Day 2: Two Baby Cows

Hi, it’s Rachel here! Today, after starting the day with some wonderful homemade breakfast courtesy of our caretaker, we went to the Setco Foundation’s Kalol office. On the drive, we talked about our goals for the trip. We are primarily collecting information for the duration of our time here. We’re beginning by learning about the current status of our stoves and toilet in Dolatpura – how they are functioning, what the community reaction is like, and possible future steps related to the technologies. We will also be entering two communities, Medapur and Katol. Representatives from our team have visited both of these communities in the past, but we are hoping to assess the possibility of establishing more long-term and involved relationships with them to co-design technology.

We arrived at the Setco office and were greeted by our dear friends, including Gayatriben, Viral, Rajeshbhai, and Salmaben. We were also introduced to some new faces at Setco who are involved in their very successful sports programs that are helping boys and girls in the area develop self-discipline, confidence, while giving img_3606them the chance to explore new opportunities. We sat down with the field team to discuss our planned itinerary (after catching up a bit and talking about the sangeet we attended).

During the conversation, we learned more about a presentation that Gayatriben and Salmaben gave to community members in Dolatpura (150 of them! A huge attendance!) about the dangers of indoor air pollution that our education sub-team had collaborated with them to create. The community interacted a lot during the presentation, which was really good to hear. We hope to learn more about how they perceived it during our time in the community.

After our meeting with the field team wrapped up, we did some itinerary shifting based off of a local election schedule. Then, we had lunch in the canteen and headed to Dolatpura. We saw Sumitraben and her family. While checking in with them, I met a new friend. She greeted me with “Hello, what’s your name?” I was so surprised to hear English and we had a nice little chat that definitely stretched both of our vocabularies.

Then, we headed to the farm owned by Chatrsinhbhai’s img_3597family. There were a lot of new faces! We made plans to come back tomorrow when we would have more time to have longer conversations about the toilet.

We left once we had a scheduled time arranged at which point there was a herd of cows crossing the road right in front of us.

We did some work when we got back to the office. Then we drove back to the guest house (running into some rush hour traffic near Baroda). Zoha greeted us when we arrived! It was so nice to see her after a while, especially in India. We talked about our plans for Dolatpura with her for the next day. After some more of Harishbhai’s wonderful cooking, I succumbed to jet lag immediately.

Day 1: A Pigeon on Some Concrete


Kabir here! We started today with an unruly knock at the bedroom door from Harish bhai at 7:30 with the warm smell of omelets, the difficulty of breathing associated with the sautéeing of green chilis, and the coveted first cup of chai to start the day. I however started my day entertaining Harishbhai with a coughing spasm after he fed me a whole green chili affirming me, “they are not bad at all”. Krishnabhai met us after breakfast to take us shopping for traditional Indian clothes for the Sangeet dance, later that day, of Urja’s mom’s best friend’s son…so pretty much family. We found a stunning ghagra for Rachel that encompassed traditional India and the moderns of her youth. The owner of the store showed us different folding techniques of the dupatta that changed the formality of the clothes in accordance to the event. Total game changer. Now it was the guy’s turn to find the clothing that would make us stand out, give a killer first impression, personify confidence much like Rachel’s choice. So obviously we based our decision off of color and shininess.

When we returned back to the guesthouse we were greeted with subji and an endless amount of roti. Since we are planned to meet with Setco tomorrow we sat down afterwards, obviously with a cup of chai, to discuss what had to be taken care of in Dolatpura. dsc_0060We divided it into two categories, toilets and stoves, and tackled each piece identifying our goals, how we can relay these goals to Setco, and how Setco can help us.
Finally, perhaps the most important conversation, what in tarnation we will do for the dance. I took it upon my shoulders and decided that I would do the sprinkler, Rachel the lawn mower, and Sai the disco. Afterwards we continued with our work and discussed the goals for Medapur. Sai practiced his photography skills capturing photos of pigeons on concrete for hours.

We got all perdied up. We Messages Image(1186933718).pngput on our kurtas, our ghagras, and took way too many selfies. Rachel also flattered Sai and I by taking some wonderful pictures. After some confusion in communication with location and time we arrived to the venue where the party was held. Urja and her mother greeted us and led us to the vast array of Gujurati street food. We chowed down, avoided dancing, and hoarded freshly made Jalebi. We promptly left after Urja, took more selfies, and returned home. Jetlag was still our adversary, so we hunkered down, changed, brushed our teeth and called it a night.

Day 0: Let the 12 Days Begin

Namaste, this is Kabir! I’m on the education and finance subteams and this is my first time traveling with BLIP.

There were no crying babies…for the most part. IMG_3466.jpgWe started our winter break journey by traveling to the Newark airport from Detroit. Everything was flowing smoothly until Sai got pulled aside and searched because he didn’t think a Microsoft Surface was a laptop. As we exited the plane taking our first step onto New Jersey soil, we were greeted by a plethora of signs that had no relevance to finding our next flight. After thoroughly investigating every crevice of the whole airport we finally found the Air India desk and received our remaining tickets. I was able to use my nonexistent charm and lack of confidence to get three seats altogether for the dreaded 14 hour flight from Newark to Mumbai.

During the flight we slept and watched movies on and off. Sai told me to play a brain game, which broke my television. We were then given “sandwiches” which consisted of two slices of bread, a packet of ketchup, and a slice of cheese too small for the bread. We reached Mumbai and let our families know of our arrival. We continued to Ahmedabad where we apologized profusely to driver Krishnabhai for arriving late in our newly invented language Hinglish (a combination of HinIMG_0074.jpgdi verbs and English pronouns). Though it was difficult to stay awake during the three-hour drive to the guesthouse, the sights we saw were rich with color and cultural nuances that we love about India. We enthusiastically counted the cows on the road, clutched the seat of our pants as we whizzed past trucks asking for us to, “blow horn ok please”, and marveled at the endless amounts of flora. We arrived and were warmly greeted by the caretaker Harishbhai. He prepared us Maggi, the better Indian Ramen, and wished us a pleasant night. Jetlag took three more lives that day as Rachel, Sai, and I fell into a deep slumber until tomorrow.

Though it is our first day here, we already know how fast the trip will go. Rekindling with the Dolatpura community and the Setco team we will feel at home again. To imagine the relationships we have formed and will form on this trip, we are extremely lucky and I am so proud to be on such a wonderful team.