By: Masaaki Hamada (Class of 2017)
My internship experience in Solidarity Consulting Project of SUD was to work at Open Eyes Project, the small startup company in Delhi, for a month, and I especially worked on developing brand strategy and digital marketing strategy as well as creating a new tour category in the company, the wellness tourism. It cannot be simply explained how rich my experience in the project was because the everything I have experienced there was new and eye-opening for me. It was about living in a completely different place with a different culture, working at a small startup and social enterprise, and thinking about which skills and knowledges I could apply to this small business which is managed by only 2 staffs including the founder.
Open Eyes Project is a social enterprise that organizes sustainable trips/tours in India in partnership with local nonprofits and associations such as female-only taxi service, the World Travel Market Responsible Tourism, etc. The company was founded in 2011, by Anna Alaman, an enthusiastic Spanish woman who studied a Master in Business Management at the EAE Business School and now is studying responsible Tourism Management at the Leeds Beckett University. The company has been developed its products and tour contents since its establishment and after 5 years of its dedication, it is finally becoming successful by inviting substantial number of guests in a year. It was the time the company needs to have strategies and structured approaches in each implementation such as in branding and digital marketing.
I chose the SUD’s program and Open Eyes Project because of two reasons: 1) I wanted to have an existing experience living in a country where I could never have a chance before; also, 2) an experience in the tourism business was attractive for me because my family runs hotel and restaurant in Japan, so I felt some connections between them. However, the learning at Open Eyes was much more than I expected before I traveled to India.
On my first day at the company, I was given a short orientation about office usage and the neighborhood, and after spending about an hour reading presentations and documents about company’s history and business, I sat with Anna. We introduced each other and she started with talking about her passion for founding this business. Then what she said to me was, “this company is currently run by only 2 staffs: myself and a local staff. There are too many things that we cannot do only by ourselves, so you can start doing whatever you think you are good at and necessary for this company.” I felt it was a simple but very difficult offer to answer because I was given too much of freedom to decide what I was going to do, at that moment. However, in the meantime I felt it was actually an essential requirement of any startups or ultimately of any size of companies. Because if you really want to make an impact in the company and consequently to the society, you are the only one who can decide which skills or knowledges you could apply to the company and its business, and more importantly you need to be aware if the impact that you are going to make is significant for the company and society.
I continued to think about my missions in the company during my internship by making few changes, and finally worked on the brand strategy by visualizing its brand identity and values because I saw a necessity in having coherent strategies and messages of the brand as the company started spending marketing expenses in their website design, brochures to potential partners, online advertisements, etc. Another area I focused on during my internship was the digital marketing strategy because the company is spending a substantial amount of expense in this area but without a structured approach.
As a long tern career vision, I am looking for my career in working for my family business and make a globalization and start new ventures in there. I believe that my internship experience at Open Eyes Project gave me a very important lesson for my future career. Working at a small startup which always needs more resources and times, has reminded me an importance of thinking about the impact of my day-to-day-work and making priorities in it. After having the experience of Solidarity Consulting Project of SUD, I am much more confident in taking leadership and ownership in creating new businesses.