My Café

Hi CASI followers! So internet is temporarily back, but will probably still be pretty unreliable because monsoon season is approaching… During the monsoons it downpours for days on end, last week there was heavy rain for 3 ½ days straight, from Friday until Monday morning. At first I did not realize how big of a deal the monsoons would be for this region, but their impact is almost immeasurable. The monsoons make or break whether local farmers have a good or bad harvest of their crops. The rain and wind causes the fruit to fall off the trees, and the flooding effects the vegetables. In addition, most of the village houses are made out of mud and brick so often times if they are old, houses will collapse, or experience severe leakages. But above all the landslides are the biggest problem; they can isolate entire villages by cutting off the main road, and they make it nearly impossible for work to go about as usual. For example this weekend Jason, Nathalie, Shobana and I went to a village called Ranikhet and it took us 4 ½ hours instead of 3 because we had to go on an alternate route due to landslides. I am not telling you all of this info to scare you, or make you think its not safe here because it is! We have an excellent place to stay and are privileged to be living in modernized structures, but what we are seeing and what the region we are living in is experiencing is so different than any type of natural phenomenon I have been in.

Okay enough about the climate! I haven’t been able to update you all on the projects I am working on for Chirag. So originally I was only working on computerizing the inventory system for KGU, but a couple of other projects have popped up as well. The inventory system is very challenging and I have enlisted the help of a man named Gutam, who has worked for Google for a number of years and if very good at programing. Originally we were looking to make the inventory system in excel so it could be used without internet, but the amount of formulas that are necessary to report the inventory for 3 different shops is nearly impossible to write. We are still working on the excel system, but also researching possible software to download and implement in the shops.

Along with the inventory project I have also been functioning as a marketing intern for the KGU website, I went through and updated text, as well as pictures and the layout of the website. With Gutam’s technical skills and my business analytics we make a pretty good team! The new website will be up and running soon, if you want to see the old one here is the link: (p.s. if you want anything from the shop let me know and ill get you a shawl, or scarf, or stole! They are so pretty and really cheap for being hand woven, a stole is 850 ruppees, which is close to $14 USD). In my previous post I am wearing one of the Kilmora stoles in the picture of me in Nanital if you want an idea of what they look like :).

KGU also has this side project where they are looking to build a café in the back of one of their Kilmora shops. Right now Anurag (my boss), Keith (a professor from the University of Washington), and I are working on the project. They are collecting the cost data such as electricals, kitchen equipment, ingredients, etc; and I was collecting the number of footfalls the shop had per day. From here we are looking to do some financial analysis to see if the café would be profitable and what prices to mark their items. I really like working on this project because it has made me respect and understand why I have to take some of the boring and monotonous classes in Wharton such as finance and accounting. If I ever want to take part in starting a business, or having my own business I will have to know the fundamentals. It is great to be able to apply what I have learned in the classroom to real life situations because it allows me to see that what I am learning will have an impact on my life later on. I am not just learning formulas to do well on a test, but to do well in my future working career.

To end here is a picture of Nathalie, Jason, Shobana and I helping to build tables for the Chirag school. They will use these tables for their arts and crafts classes. We knocked down an old building and used the bricks to make the tables. To hold the bricks together we took dirt and water and really got into it, using our hands to lay on the dirt and then pile up the bricks. It was a great experience because this is how a lot of the houses are made in the village, so we got an insight into the local culture, as well as an opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the Chirag school!


The tables will not be too tall, only a foot or so off of the ground because the children will sit on mats on the floor to use the tables. One thing that is hard to adjust to in India is the lack of chairs used for meetings, schooling, and workshops. All big events are conducted without chairs; people just sit on the floor. You see old men and women sitting perfectly still with their legs crossed, and then you see the interns squirming, trying to find a way to sit comfortably. My hips and body were not made to sit in a cross-legged position; it is physically impossible, but when you have to sit on the ground for hours on end you have to get creative about new ways to compose yourself without looking like a complete fool!

One thought on “My Café

  1. Ah, say Hi to Keith for me! Ask him about his expert Himalayan baking skills. haha.
    The Cafe sounds like a wonderful idea, and it’s so exciting that you have such an important role in its conception.
    oh man oh man what I would give to have some of KGU’s honey! hehe.

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About Alexandra Iqbal

I am an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. This summer I am traveling to the northern region of India where I will be working for CHIRAG - The Central Himalayan Rural Action Group for 10 weeks. I will be working with micro finance and supply chain management of the fruit cooperatives in the region. I am looking forward to an exciting and cultural experience this summer! My journey in India starts on May 17th when I arrive in New Delhi.