Going away is always more difficult than being away…

I shall be away from my children for 1 week. My daughter is having a week of tests at school. My husband was planned to be in Mexico for the full week. And my son finds it difficult I’m leaving. I’m getting a bit cold feet…

In the plane to Mumbai the excitement is there again. I’m on my first assignment @Women on Wings. During the online prep work, I got to know more about Bee-Keeping and Pollination, this should help understand the company Under The Mango Tree (UTMT) a bit better. The mission of UTMT is to improve the livelihood of 25,000 farmers by Bee-Keeping. I’m excited to support them in realizing this mission.

Day 1 I meet Vijaya, Founder & CEO of UTMT. She brings me to the team of UTMT Society, a non for profit organization. They are having their ‘Annual planning and review meeting’ in the next 2 days. A perfect opportunity to learn more about UTMT and its challenges. I also meet Tanveen, consultant for Women on Wings India, with whom I’ll be working this week.

I learn about the KPI’s on the Bee-Keeping ecosystem, conversion of farmers towards bee Keepers and Retention realizing in filled B-Boxes. Pollination by bees results in improved yield of crops which means that the farmer families don’t have to migrate. UTMT provides market access for the honey they extract, through their sister organisation UTMT Limited – a for profit company. We are shown the results of the no’s of farmers trained, Bee-Boxes placed and honey extracted. It takes 15 months before a B-Box is filled with bees and the first honey can be extracted. My notebook quickly fills up with questions and first ideas… At the end of the day Tanveen and I work out our notes and discuss them during dinner.

Day 2 we present our notes to the UTMT team. It seems that our understanding of the issues is in line with their thinking. Their presentations and the discussions that follow are on a more operational level. The field team is impressively young but senior at the same time. The company has been growing fast and they’re dealing with a lot of issues which they need to handle alone, far from the head office in Mumbai.

Day 3 we meet the entire commercial team. We are shown the production facilities in what is also the CEO office. It’s amazing how much you can realize in any space when you are flexible and inventive. UTMT can handle up to 2,000 jars of honey per day. Tanveen shows her designing skills and we do a shelf test at a market to see if the new packaging would stand out on the shelf. It does!

Day 4, the final day, Tanveen and I facilitate a full day workshop with the teams of both the Society and the Limited. The most important message of the day: how to reach 25,000 farmers with 2 filled B-boxes per day? UTMT needs to scale up heavily to meet its goals. The message does come across the team and the urgency is clear.

We do a ‘Vision exercise’ and for that we make combined UTMT Society & Ltd teams. It is the first time ever that UTMT Society & Ltd are working together. A special day for all of us! After lunch we do a ‘Bee Keeper Empathy Mapping exercise’ which is both useful and good fun. After the fun, it’s time for the final topic: what is the reason for existence for both the Society and the Ltd? The discussion is intense but at the end we have the joint reason for existence for both UTMT society and Ltd. It was a challenge to link the two and keep everyone on board. It’s only a first step; a new model needs to be set up to become sustainable as a business.

After this intense final day, I’m invited for diner by Tanveen’s cousin. Tanveen and I work a bit more and send our first results to Ellen and Ronald. After a full and enjoyable Indian dinner with Tanveen’s family, a cab picks me up. Time to go home, to my own family. A big thank you to Tanveen for making this week so pleasant and memorable for me.

Judith van Riet