I have been traveling Southern India on my motorbike for more than 3 weeks now (for the 2nd time) and – besides experiencing a completely different India from what I already knew – I came to work with a group of fishermen. By coincidence. And I love it. I love their villages and the colorful boats …
The picture above is taken a few kilometers north of Varkala (Kerala) where the fishermen and mobile technology endevour started. By coincidence …
I drove down to the sea on my motorbike, I got off the bike to take a little rest and within minutes a few people were there to stare at me: a Western woman on her own riding a motorbike, the usual astonished reaction 😉
One of the guys spoke pretty good English. So we came to talk and he told me about an accident that just happened a few days ago when a fishing boat was found empty out in the sea. The village had lost 4 people … A sudden storm came up and hit the fishing boats, 2 making it back to shore, one lost at sea.
They also told me that the market prices for their daily catch are steadily decreasing … This is when I thought, wait a minute! I asked them if they had mobile phones – yes, they answered … So I asked them to meet the next day after coming in from fishing and bringing as many fishermen and as many women who are selling the fish – I promised them to show them some stuff on the mobile which might help …
The next day I went back. 30 (!) men and women were there and my translator Hassan …
And here is what happened there and in 2 other places during my travels around the Indian cap;-)
With a quick and dirty “how to do”-structure …
- See the need and have ready made solutions in mind.
- Identify the people you need.
- Get them.
- Get started.
- Improve process by moving forward.
- Implement in the usual daily routine.
- Invent and build.
- Practice. Practice. Practice.
- Demand ownership!
- Show quick results.
Translated to my spontaneous workshops in the fishing villages it means:
- They have no weather forecast at all. They only “read” nature … They always fish as much as they can, because they have no idea was the market is demanding. Very often they bring in more as they can sell and eat and the fish gets rotten … They only achieve low prices because many inbetween want to make money on their catch until the fish finally reaches the (end) buyer! For all of these 3 problems there are various mobile solutions available and accessible!
- The people needed: the fishermen and their women plus a translator and at least one who has access to a mobile phone. If I didn’t find an English speaking person in the village I went to the next English medium school or college and asked the principal for help. This worked surprisingly well in Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram.
- The best place to meet is right at the beach where they bring in the catch of the day and repair the nets …
- Start with those who are willing to start. Many others will join! Shortly!
- Make your points and show them how it could help them. Show them the tools and what they need to do. Very practical. They have to sit around you when you turn on the mobile! And they have to do it … Adjust by doing or when you realize you lose them …
- It is very important that this is NO EXTRA work and that the things they need to do smoothly fits into their daily routine.
- We had to find ways to make the mobile phones “water resistant” 😉 All in all we ruined 2 cell phones … I replaced them and I also bought for each village 2 additional phones. We found out that 3G access is no problem out in the water … another surprise.
- Let them work with the cell phones … Luckily a few programs were available in Tamil language … That’s another thing I learned: the youth in the village takes over when technology is involved. It were the young people who found out about the local programs and opportunities which are available in their localities. They were much better in this than I am … all they need is to understand that this is a solution for their problem …
- It is important that the village identifies at least 3 or 4 people who take responsibility and ownership of this daily job: get the weather reports, check the market demand and keep the conversation going with the various buyers!
- This way they will have quick results … one fishermen told me that within a week he made 500 INR more and had less fish to throw away.
Connecting the dots is very often all what is needed …