Rady Alum Explores Design in Rural India

India

When Rady School of Management alumnus Richard Woodbridge arrived in Chennai, India in July 2009 to explore energy solutions for India’s immense population of poor, rural residents, he realized they could not afford the $20 stoves one company designed for them.

After speaking with the residents of this rural village as part of a project for the Centre for Development Finance, affiliated with the Institute for Financial Management and Research, he realized people making $2 a day could not spend that much money to reduce stove pollution. To solve the problem, Woodbridge designed and helped construct a $1 filter fitting existing stoves.

“A lot of Western companies project needs on the people and the solutions they think will fit, but often those solutions aren’t in line with what the people will use or pay for,” Woodbridge said.

The 2009 Rady graduate put to use lessons in finance, microeconomics, macroeconomics, distributions and supply chains. “Pretty much the whole MBA was condensed in my work, and I was able to practice it in a real-life situation.” In one project, he organized vast government data on the rural poor for business use.

Woodbridge returned to the U.S. in April to write publications based on his research. Later, he hopes to work in product development, but would love to return to India. “The people were great. It was the friendliest, safest place I have ever been.”

To learn more about Woodbridge’s experiences in India, read his article from the 2010 Rady Business Journal.