Caitlin McPherson, an MBA student and member of the iSEEK team, says, “Alok’s vision for iSEEK is truly incredible because it’s an entirely scalable project. It can be taken throughout the globe, with the same basic plan. It can be taken to every country around the world, and that was interesting to me and motivated me to get involved and help make a difference."
Most of the women currently involved in India are 16-20 years old with a fourth-grade education or less. They will be producing garments using a locally made fabric, Tasar silk.
Members of Purdue’s iSeek team include Krannert professors Alok Chaturvedi and Elaine Mosakowski (first row, center in this photo), as well as students Goran Calic and Caitlin McPherson, who are featured in this story’s video links.
“In India, what we are doing right now is training people on the ground on some basic vocational skills like cutting and sewing,” Chaturvedi explains. “We have already partnered with the Parsons School in New York to design a full collection of fashion apparel.”
Making cold calls to New York and Milan, Chaturvedi has also lined up partnerships to be announced this summer. “I did my research," he says. "I found the right people. If you have a good story and you have a good cause, I think people are more than willing to help. The same is true with many of our prospective corporate partners.”
Goran Calic, a PhD student in strategic management, is working with Elaine Mosakowski, professor of management, to develop the entrepreneurship curriculum for iSEEK.
“By entrepreneurship we mean everything meaningful and important about starting, running, and growing a business venture. It is selecting the right idea, finding support for the idea, both financial and otherwise, execution of the idea, and managing money and customers,” Calic says.
“We try to teach iSEEK participants that entrepreneurship is not risk-free. More precisely, we try and make clear that entrepreneurship is not necessarily for everyone and that there are trade-offs one must make when she attempts to run a business. Overall, the economic independence entrepreneurship provides is a powerful empowerment tool, and one we want to make as accessible as possible.”
Educating women with limited literacy skills requires new learning techniques. The curriculum will be accessed via cellphone and is highly visual. Most information is relayed through animation and games. “We are producing the games right now at Purdue,” Chaturvedi says.
The virtual classrooms will present virtual cases. Cases are gamified and in the local language. “Everything is taught through characters in the game,” Chaturvedi explains. Participants earn badges after becoming proficient in specific skills. There are five required badges, three in business skills and two in health skills. Once a participant earns all five, she will receive a certificate with a QR code on it, allowing her to obtain a micro-loan from a participating bank to start her business.