International travel opportunities give MBA students the opportunity to gain global perspectives and apply their learnings to real-world business problems. One of these incredible offerings is Wharton Global Health Volunteers (WGHV), a unique experience where students work as impact consultants with an international healthcare-related organization for a full semester.
The project culminates in a client site visit to validate findings and present insights. The following is a first-hand account from Surya Sandararajan, WG’24, and Komal Vaseer, WG’24, both of whom documented their experience participating in a WGHV trek to Mumbai, India.
This past summer, we had the incredible opportunity to participate in a WGHV project for ImpactGuru which was one of the biggest highlights of our first year at Wharton. It was an amazing experience that combined our passion for international work with a desire to make a positive impact on healthcare access in the developing world. The project aimed to improve access to healthcare and services for underserved and uninsured populations by collaborating with ImpactGuru, a donation based crowdfunding platform based in India, which enables patients to raise funds for medical treatments. Excited to test the skills we learn at Wharton at play in the real world, our team of five Wharton students embarked on a semester-long project to develop a US business expansion strategy for ImpactGuru, with the goal of helping them scale their operations and reach even more patients in need.
The experience began with our team syncing with ImpactGuru’s Chief of Staff to better understand the problem at hand and co-create a project plan. Impact Guru has grown at a rapid pace over the past few years and has been able to reach millions of patients in India. Their goal of expanding globally has already taken them to the UK but entering the US market came with a different set of challenges given the vast differences in the healthcare systems between India and the US. They knew that strategies that worked in India might not work in the US and that is where they saw a key area for our involvement. We kickstarted the project conducting primary research to identify the target patient and donor segments in the US and then developed marketing plans to reach out to these target segments in the most efficient way. During this process, the ImpactGuru team proved to be invaluable partners in proactively providing us with essential data to guide our analysis. Frequent touch points allowed us to fine tune our answers and ensure that our recommendations were actionable and aligned to the organization’s goals.
The partnership culminated with our team flying to Mumbai, where we were warmly welcomed by the ImpactGuru team at their headquarters. We had the privilege of meeting their leadership team to understand the mission of each division and how the divisions form a value chain from patient identification to provision of financial assistance for critical medical treatments to those who cannot afford them. Witnessing the dedication and compassion of the ImpactGuru team inspired us to work even harder to support their noble cause.
While working closely with the team at their headquarters, we learned about the healthcare system in India in depth and recognized how every single step in patient care is extremely challenging from a financial standpoint, especially for those who need the most care. It was an eye-opening experience that fueled our determination to develop a robust and realistic business expansion plan for ImpactGuru.
In between intense brainstorming sessions, we found ourselves exploring the vibrant city of Mumbai. From marveling at the iconic Gateway of India to enjoying pizza while overlooking Marine Drive, the city’s energy and diversity left a strong impression on us. We also went shopping at Colaba Market, where we found unique clothes and souvenirs to remember our journey.
One memorable aspect of our daily routine was discovering a charming chai (tea) and vada pav (local Mumbai snack) stand located just opposite the office. The ImpactGuru team frequented the place, and it quickly became our favorite spot to unwind and chat with our teammates, while sipping on the delicious cutting chai that soon became an integral part of our Mumbai experience.
Our Key Takeaways
The opportunity to work on such an impactful project alongside ImpactGuru taught us invaluable lessons in providing value to our clients. We learned to adapt and stay flexible when certain aspects of the project direction changed while we were on-site, highlighting the importance of agile problem-solving in a dynamic environment.
Additionally, learning about some of the unique aspects of the Indian healthcare system, immersing ourselves in the local culture, and embracing the city’s lifestyle allowed us to better understand the needs and aspirations of the people we were working to serve. It reinforced the significance of tailoring our strategies to align with the unique context and challenges faced by our client.
Lastly, the simple yet profound lesson of “eating where the locals eat” stayed with us. By embracing the local way of life, we not only discovered delightful experiences but also built meaningful connections with the community we were supporting. The small chai stall became a symbol of the genuine connections we forged during our time in Mumbai.
Overall, WGHV was a transformative experience that showcased the power of collaboration and the potential to drive positive change through business initiatives. It solidified our commitment to leveraging our skills at Wharton to create a brighter and healthier future for those in need around the world. As we returned home, we carried the memories and lessons from Mumbai, knowing that this journey had only marked the beginning of our endeavors to make a meaningful impact in global health.
— Surya Sandararajan and Komal Vaseer, WG’24
Posted: November 29, 2023