Incredible India: Part 2 – Leadership Through Empowerment

Lessons From The First Mission

We have completed our first mission in Bombay, and quite successfully I have to say. We put in quite some work and effort to produce quality documentation and financial models that will help LeapForWord achieve their growth objectives. It has been a motivating mission with fascinating goals and achievements. During a feedback session with Pranil, the CEO of LeapForWord, I made a mental note of the “Andile’s Key Take Aways” from this mission, and here it goes:

  1. Captain

Pranil is the captain of this ship. He really leads by example and is well respected and appreciated by his staff of five. He makes sure everyone knows what is expected of them, and give them freedom to accomplish their goals without any interference. I really liked his authoritative style of leadership. I guess as a small team, it’s quit difficult to be hierarchal, but knowing Pranil, I know he would prefer the paternalistic leadership style even if his team were to grow from 5 to 500. He is committed to his cause, and is passionate about supporting children in learning English. He is a humble guy, never fancy and prefer a simple life. I have never seen him presenting in public, but I imagine him to be the guy you would want to listen to, just because of his honest face and hunger behind his mission.

  1. Teamwork

Being inspired by their captain, the LeapForWord team is dedicated to the cause. In fact, they live this course, their lives evolve around making a difference through LeapForWord. One can wrongly misinterpret this as “having no life”, which is not the case as these guys are truly committed. They work long hours and sometimes (actually most of the time) even work on weekends. The team knows what is expected of them and they never disappoint to deliver. This makes work quit easy for Pranil as he knows he can trust each and everyone of them with their work and doesn’t need to check up on them, which explains his paternalistic style of leadership.

  1. Good and Transparent Intentions

In the recent years, there have been a lot of village schools being closed down due to the high growth rate of private “English Medium” schools, NGO run schools and thus insufficient learners from the public village schools. The problem is due to the lack of quality English teachers. Most teachers can barely speak English themselves, let alone teach it. LeapForWord’s mission is not to take advantage of this situation but rather to offer a complimentary service to the troubled government system. LeapForWord offers training of English teachers from government school, and if they are still kids who fall through the cracks, LeapForWord then offer classes outside school to help those kids. This is important as they are not against the government system, but rather with it in fighting the good cause of learning English together.

With these lessons in hand, I am ready to move on to the next mission in the health sector in Pune. It will be interesting to see the differences between these sectors, and the next mission promises to be just as challenging and interesting. The next organization is a bit more experienced and has a proper organizational structure. It will be interesting to see changes from the “entrepreneurial” LeapForWord to the next mission.

Teacher Entrepreneur marketing campaign in Nashik

Teacher Entrepreneur marketing campaign in Nashik

Outside work, I have had the pleasure to watch the organized chaos and observe the day-to-day lifestyles. As with any other country, there are things India should be proud of and there are others not so much. Sticking with my optimistic side, I have witnessed an extremely tolerant culture amongst Indian people.

The Love of India

It’s the kind of tolerance that just glues people together. It’s an impeccable character that hinders hatred from the diverse tribes of India. Its the purity that allows mosque, churches and temples to be located several meters from each other, that allows slums to be positioned right next to five star hotels. It’s the fondness that enables Punjabis, Tamils, Bengalis and Kashmiris to tolerate each other. I call this glue, the “Love of India”. You see this love everywhere, from the wives wiping sweat off their husband’s faces using the edges of their shawls, from rickshaw drivers allowing other guys to squeeze in a tiny space in front of them without questioning them and you see it from the passion people like Pranil dedicated in making their missions a success.

With over 120 major languages, 29 states and 1,2 billion people, it’s the love that keeps this cricket mad nation together. I have experienced this love myself. A couple of weeks ago I went for a haircut. Not realizing that it was lunch time (Indian lunchtime start at 2pm), I entered the barber shop and found three men sitting around a small table, hands cupped like spoons and dipping chapattis into a small plastic container with a what looked like a mutton mince and gravy sauce.

Upon realizing this, I quickly retreated, “Sorry gentlemen, I didn’t realize it was lunchtime, I’ll come back in an hour.”

“No, no, no, please sir, have a sit and join us,” the gentlemen at the far corner responded.

“No, I just had lunch and I am full, so you guys go ahead and enjoy your meal”, I insisted trying to escape.

“Ok then just have a taste my friend, it will be our pleasure as my wife cooked for us”.

There was no escape and I wanted to be nice, so I took a small piece of chapatti and dipped it in what I later learnt was mutton keema matar sauce, and indeed it was delicious.

‘Is it good?” the husband asked.

“Yes, it is”

“Ok then, have some more”, he commanded as he pulled a chair for me to join them around the table.

I tried to protest, but it didn’t work. If there is one thing I have learned in India, it’s the fact that you can never say “no” to an Indian. So before I knew it, I had a full piece of chapatti and dipping it in the delicious keema matar gravy. Fifteen minutes later after being served water, banana and had washed my hands, one of the guys finally asked, “So, what’s your name and what can I do for you?” I was so humbled by this experience as what they shared with me was food that was barely enough for three people, yet they couldn’t suppress the love, and they made space for another mouth without thinking twice about it.

As we move to Pune for our next mission, I hope I meet people like my barber. I am looking forward to experience a different city. I am looking forward to starting a new mission and helping a different organization. I will update you, once I am settled and well on our mission. Until then, be safe and please adopt the “Love of India”.

Till next time, namasthae 🙂

M.A.D.

Happy Snaps: clockwise from top-left: Holi Festival, Camel Riding, T20 Cricket World Cup and Happy Children

Happy Snaps: clockwise from top-left: Holi Festival, Camel Riding, T20 Cricket World Cup and Happy Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When being kind is cruel!

Kindness. Cruelty. Two opposite words. To those who’ve experienced them in one or the other way, these are two different worlds. Where one exists, the other doesn’t. Or at least that’s how I used to think. But this past Monday, I learnt something that gave me a whole new perspective on these two aspects.

A few weeks ago, a student group at TSiBA approached me for some advice on their business. Their idea won an entrepreneurship contest. But the organisers wanted them to turnover a certain level of sales of their product to claim the prize. The product these students have at hand (which I can’t disclose) needs refinement. The prize they won is an equipment that will help them refine the product. Now, without the equipment, they will need to either make or source a raw material that is not environment-friendly. If they have this equipment, they will be able to make the product in a ‘green’ way. And the students want to be green. It is one of their major value propositions. So they were faced with a dilemma: Should we compromise on our values and sell the product in its current state, which is not environment-friendly, or should we give up the prize?

Last Monday, I was a guest at the Rotary Club of Newlands’ weekly meeting. And I had the opportunity to sit and observe their entrepreneurship meeting. This group of business men was looking for opportunities to help budding entrepreneurs. I thought this could be an opportunity for my student group, and so I pitched my students’ business as an opportunity to these entrepreneurs, in case the students do not secure their prize. The group was excited about the green product idea and was open to help the student group. So, I felt very good about it.

On the way back home, I thanked Jenna (my colleague at TSiBA and a Rotarian; I was her guest at the meeting) for letting me go with her to the meeting, and told her this could be a good help to the student group. While talking about this students’ case we wondered why the contest owners wanted the students to sell the environmentally unfriendly product. We considered multiple possibilities and in the context of one of them Jenna shared with me the story of the little boy and his caterpillar.

One day, playing in his garden, a child found a caterpillar. Fascinated, he took it inside, and put it in a clear big jar. He nurtured it every day and took good care of it. A few days later, the caterpillar started building the cocoon. When he showed it to his mother, she told him how the caterpillar would undergo changes to become a butterfly. This fascinated the boy even more. He got very attached to his caterpillar and watched it all the time, eagerly waiting for the caterpillar to turn into a butterfly.

Soon, one day, the cocoon broke and the butterfly started emerging from it. The boy was instantly excited, but his excitement was short-lived. The butterfly struggled to come out, and this saddened the boy. It was hard for the butterfly, it desperately struggled to break the cocoon and emerge out, but it couldn’t. It kept trying. The boy became impatient. He couldn’t understand why the butterfly couldn’t come out. He thought it was stuck and just couldn’t make its way out of the little opening in the cocoon. So, he decided to help, ran to his mother, brought a pair of scissors, and very carefully nipped through the hole in the cocoon to enlarge it. The butterfly came out, but it was not what he expected. Its wings were small, and the body swollen. He was sad but hoped that in a few days the body would shrink and wings would grow large enough for it to fly. But that never happened. The butterfly struggled for the rest of its life, crawling with its swollen body and wings that were not strong enough for it to fly. It never flew and eventually died.

The tiny hole in the cocoon is the key to butterfly’s metamorphosis. The struggle that it faces to get through that small opening, forces the fluid from its body into the wings and one day when the wings are strong enough for its body, it breaks free from the cocoon and flies out. But the little boy’s caterpillar never got to that stage. The child’s kindness subverted the natural struggle that the caterpillar needed in order to develop the necessary strength in its wings and break from the cocoon.

We all go through struggles in life and it is just natural for us to feel sympathy when someone we know struggles. And we don’t stop there. We try to help them in whatever ways we can, to alleviate their struggles. That is precisely what I was trying to do for my students. So when I heard this short story from Jenna, it struck me instantly that by doing so, I was, in a metaphorical sense, widening the tiny hole in their cocoon to help them come out, without realising that their wings are not yet strong enough to fly if they come out of their cocoon.

An important lesson learnt about the journey of an entrepreneur. The long term success of an entrepreneur hinges very much on how s/he responds to the struggles. In fact, I wonder now whether an entrepreneur can build a sustainable business if all the resources required are made available to him/her. How s/he finds solutions when the required resources are inadequate/not available is such a big part of her/his learning process. Don’t get me wrong. I am not against the idea of helping entrepreneurs. All I am saying is perhaps we should not offer help before they try. They need to be immensely driven and should have explored on their own to find solutions to their challenges, and any help that is offered should be a result of their dogged determination to seek that help. Being kind before they explore options to find solutions is tantamount to being cruel to them.

I’ve been reflecting over this story all this week, and I realised that this is relevant to the growth of not just an entrepreneur but any person, and I felt I gained an important insight into leadership. Struggles help us discover who we are, what we are capable of. Through struggles we find out what works for us and what not; we realise our potential. As leaders we enable our proteges to realise their potential. I feel convinced that a major part of our job as leaders has to do with kindness. The kinder we are to our proteges, the crueler we will be to their growth. Sounds so ironical, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced it is true.

Till next time,
santom!

From the edge of old continent!

Bonjour à tous,

I always find it difficult to write about things that require a touch of literature, melodrama and character in it. I am good at writing reports and answering questions. The best way I could think of writing such a blog was to use a question answer format. I also believe that anyone traveling to a new destination is bound to come across these questions. I have been here for almost a month and I have had the privilege to answer questions asked by people coming from various backgrounds. Here it goes:

# The landlady

Landlady: Do you speak French?

M: No, I don’t but I am learning one sentence/ word a day.

Landlady: You know everyone here either speaks French or Wolof?

M: Yes

Landlady: How will you get the work done? How will you communicate with people? How will you give directions to the taxi driver?

 M: Bonjour –>  je m’appelle Mustafa  –>  #&*!(((####  –>  $$$  –> ^&^#@!!**((   –>   Merci   –>    Jarra Jeff. It’s basically Introductions, lots of sign language/ phrases, agreeing on the price because there are no meters in the taxi and thank you in Wolof.

Landlady: I love Bollywood movies!

M: Which Bollywood movies do you like?

Landlady: I like all the movies that star Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh khan. I grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan movies. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham is my favorite.

# Colleague at work

M: Can you suggest me a place for haircut?

Colleague: I recommend you go to a professional stylist.

M: Why?

Colleague: Don’t you see! All the men here have pretty much the same hairstyle. That’s the only hairstyle most barbers know (keeping it round and short).

# Start-up 1

Start-up 1: What are you doing here? How long are you here? What will you be doing?

M: I am an MBA student from ESMT doing a fellowship at CTIC, Dakar. I am here for 5 months. Most of time is used in talking to the start-ups, figuring out their business model and working with them on specific problem areas such as company valuation and financial modeling. Other responsibilities include helping the incubator (CTIC) with hands on approach in daily operations.

Start-up 1:  Oh you got an ESMT t-shirt. You must know all about mobile technologies?

M: No, not really.

Start-up 1: What did you study at ESMT?

M: I completed my MBA degree from ESMT.

Start-up 1: When did ESMT start the MBA program?

M: It’s been 10 years now. I was in the 10th batch.

Start-up 1: Oh man, the world knows about the ESMT MBA except for the Senegalese people!

M: It’s very well known and reputed institution in Germany.

(The air was cleared after I learnt that Senegal has its own ESMT – Ecole Supérieure Multinationale des Télécommunications. A well-known institute in West Africa for mobile technologies).

IMG-20160222-WA0010

Tea session with start-up founders

Start-up 1: What are your plans for the weekend?

M: Not much. I will most probably head to one of the beaches near Dakar and then go running in the evening. I will go the famous Charly’s bar later in the evening. If you are free then we can go to the Disco (The word discotheque is seen outside every club in Dakar and is very famous amongst taxi drivers).

Start-up 1: What do you think of the crowd here? You did go out partying?

M: I am not big fan of hip-hop/ pop music that is played at most of the places. American hip-hop artist are really well known here. Well-known joints have an interesting mix of people with a lot of Mauritanians and Lebanese.

(Some 30000 Mauritanian refugees live in Senegal and equal number of Lebanese people who settled here in the 1860’s)

Start-up 1: What else do you do in free time?

M: I generally watch a football game at a friend’s place or pub/ restaurant. Sometimes I just walk around the city with my camera clicking pcitures. Its fun watching a big game “Senegalese style” (Kids and adults stand outside restaurants/ bars watching the game, cheering and hooting, as the world goes around them).

# Start-up 2

Start-up 2: What do you think of Dakar?

M: I like the weather. It’s warm and sunny. I also like Corniche (the seafront). So far the people have been nice, helpful and courteous. I had no difficulty finding an apartment and I never felt unsafe in the city.

Start-up 2: Did you choose to come to Dakar?

M: I chose to come to Dakar.

Start-up 2: Why?

M: I like going to places that are not so much on the tourist map. It’s like going into the unexplored. I also did some research and found out that Senegal is one of the politically stable countries in the region with a deep-rooted culture for music, arts and food. I’m also doing something I like and believe in.

Start-up 2: Did you visit the real Dakar/ other side?

M: Oh yes, I did visit the other side. It resembles any other developing country. It’s like a dark underbelly under the fair and beautiful Corniche (Corniche, the seafront, houses businessmen and politicians surrounded by embassies from other countries and a French military base). The other side is the grim reality that showcases a developing country with haphazard streets, unplanned infrastructure and poor living conditions.

Start-up 2: Why did you go there?

M: I attended an open lecture for the underprivileged. I was accompanied by two colleagues who gave lectures on importance of entrepreneurship and financial planning in one’s life. (CTIC is also active in promoting entrepreneurship amongst the poorest masses in West Africa).

Start-up 2: How do you see it going forward (growth and development in Senegal)?

M: I expect it to grow because of demographic advantages, political stability and industrialization. But I also see problems in availability of natural resources and other areas such as energy. Senegal is not rich in national resources like fresh water and most of the energy resources are imported. Its not known for a big industry such as mineral ore, chemicals, or other natural commodities except for fishing. So it really needs to have a sound strategy to cope with industrialization, growing population and increasing energy needs.

M: What do you think of the economy?

Start-up 2: It’s slowly changing now. We have discovered oil off the Atlantic coast but lack of equipment, experience and oil drilling techniques resulted in Senegal settling for 10% of the total value generated. Majority of economic value should go to Senegal but international politics and lack of resources has led to Senegal settling for a small share.

M: Is it just you who feels like this because people don’t seem to be talking about it so much?

Start-up 2: No it’s the millennials of Senegal who think like this. The previous generation did not care so much about the economic resources of the country but this generation understands economics and it has access to information.

Start-up 2: Where have you been till now? Did you visit Goree islands, Saly and other beaches around Dakar?

M: I have been to Saly and the white sand beaches there. We rented out a beach house for the weekend for some team building exercise. I also visited Saint Louis (the erstwhile capital of Senegal). I plan to visit Goree islands and pink lake because it looks spectacular in the pictures.

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Lessons on entrepreneurship and personal finance

# Sachiko on the Beach

Sachiko: (Playing tourist and taking pictures of kids playing on the beach).

Kids: Don’t take our picture. You are not supposed to take our picture and then show it to the world.

Sachiko: But, but …(I was trying to capture the essence of Africa). Here, I deleted it.

Kids: Let us check. We need to make sure you deleted the pictures.

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Sunset at Plage du Virage, Dakar

# The morning coffee guy

M: Please don’t put so much sugar in my tea. It is too sweet for my taste.

Original Gangster: Man you are not an OG!

M: What’s an OG?

Original Gangster: You are from India and you don’t like sugar in your tea. Everybody in Senegal likes his or her tea/ coffee sweet. You are not an original gangster.

IMG-20160222-WA0009With the Original Gangster

# Colleagues at work

Colleague: Do you have family or friends in Senegal?

M: No

Colleague: So why did you choose to come to CTIC?

M: I believe that CTIC’s efforts are sustainable in the long run and the outcome of these efforts will have a higher net impact in term of economic development when compared to other non-profit models. The idea of creating a culture that enables entrepreneurs to build businesses will have a far-reaching impact in the long run. I felt that I could actually contribute to the society by doing something here.

Colleague: Do you like the food? Can you cook?

M: Yes the food is good. I usually eat croissants for breakfast and Yassa for lunch to satisfy my Indian taste buds. Evenings I usually cook something. I am slowly learning about the African spices.

Colleague: Do you like our country?

M: Yes, it’s been interesting and amazing so far. I look forward to explore it further.

To sum it up Senegal is at an interesting junction where the current policies and factors will heavily influence the future. Like most developing countries it has its share of problem. Concurrently it has the spirit to achieve something great. The current situation and state of affairs in Senegal are well summarized by the following African proverb –

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

I hope you enjoyed my blog and experience in Dakar so far. I plan to have a follow up on this once I have more question & answers to share.

Till next time, Jarra Jeff!

Let there be food.

I love food. I enjoy growing it, preparing it, eating it, sharing it…I take it for granted that I have always had access to the food I need and hopefully always will. It breaks my heart to know that millions of people globally cannot access food that they need.

The nutrition centre at Baraka Health centre provides a nutritious meal daily to at least 150 enrollees. Some are enrolled on the feeding program due to being clinically malnourished, while others are referred here by the community team due to extreme poverty. School meals are also provided for pupils in two primary schools within the slum. For many of these people, this is the only meal they’re sure of.
Enrollees are monitored regularly for improvement. When there’s a steady clinical improvement or they are able to sustain themselves financially, they are weaned off the program. However, the painful truth is that re-enrolment rates are high. As Caroline the nurse in charge of the centre told me, and I quote: “my main challenge is that the poverty is not going away, as soon as I wean someone off, the open slot is quickly filled by a new person or someone previously on the program who has relapsed”.

With the kitchen team--Josephine and Wilfrida

With the kitchen team–Josephine and Wilfrida

Vegetable sauce

Vegetable sauce

Cooking the beans

Cooking the beans

Queueing up

Enrollees queueing up

Serving the food

Lunch is served!

Cleaning up

Cleaning up

I made a new friend

I made a new friend!

 

I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the Nutrition centre on this fellowship, to support German Doctors in helping people access this basic right I’ve always taken for granted.

-Deola

Paying It Forward

A better world. Many wish it. Few take actions for it. And fewer strive to realise it. Since the beginning of February I’ve had the privilege of being an active part of an organisation that strives to make the world a better place.

Extreme poverty. Living in shacks. Congested houses, six people living in one small bedroom. Unhygienic sanitary conditions. Teenage pregnancy. Rampant gangsterism. High crime and school dropout rates. These are the harsh realities of life in a township in South Africa. Growing up as a child under such circumstances you literally grapple with life. Education and opportunity are synonymous with luxury.

Shacks

Shacks

Upgraded hostel

Upgraded hostel

Common room for kitchen and water faucet in a house of 3 bed rooms. Three families live in one bedroom.

Common room for kitchen and water faucet in a house of 3 bed rooms. Three families live in one bedroom.

This is about 65% of a room in an upgraded hostel

This is about 65% of a room in an upgraded hostel

One of three beds in a bedroom in a township. One bed is meant for one family of six people. Three people sleep on this bed, the man, his wife and the youngest child. The other children sleep on the floor of the bedroom and the common room.

One of three beds in a bedroom in a township. One bed is meant for one family of six people. Three people sleep on this bed, the man, his wife and the youngest child. The other children sleep on the floor of the bedroom and the common room.

Drying area

Drying area

Man preparing smileys. A smiley is the head of a sheep cooked on fire and cleaned up. It is called a smiley because the sheep's teeth are visible!

Man preparing smileys. A smiley is the head of a sheep cooked on fire and cleaned up. It is called a smiley because the sheep’s teeth are visible!

The streets lined with local beer shops

The streets lined with local beer shops

In my two weeks so far in Cape Town, I met some people who grew up in townships. One student had been an active gangster for years before he decided to change his life for better. He is articulate, passionate, energetic and aspires to be an entrepreneur. His vision is to create opportunities for young people in townships so they can choose goals over guns. Another student does hair dressing over the weekend to make ends meet. She wants to help grow her mother’s business of tailor-made beaded garments and shoes. A successful entrepreneur I met yesterday grew up with 27 other people in a three-room house in the Langa township. I found him to be an astute businessman. He has been running a successful business for over 6 years and is a motivational speaker for school children. I am sure I will meet more such people in the days to come.

These people are living examples of the kind of transformation that will create a better world. Their transformation was ignited by the Tertiary School in Business Administration, TSiBA, a non-profit private business school in Cape Town that offers bachelors degree in business administration (BBA), to underprivileged children. It is also home to TSiBA Ignition Centre, an incubation centre that supports entrepreneurs through business and leadership mentoring and training.

TSiBA strives to build entrepreneurial leaders by igniting young minds who in turn can become agents of social change. It has done this by creating a sustainable business model around the idea of paying it forward. The students and entrepreneurs at TSiBA are from disadvantaged backgrounds who cannot otherwise afford university-level education or professional business mentoring. Most of them hail from townships. Their education and mentoring is sponsored by donations, volunteering and consultation services from supporters. The beneficiaries do not pay back, rather pay it forward by creating jobs and driving social change by empowering other underprivileged people. TSiBA supporters pay it forward through their donations and volunteering support.

As part of ESMT Responsible Leaders Fellowship (RLF) program. I am supporting the TSiBA Ignition Centre. RLF is a voluntary program , which gives us ESMT students an opportunity to add value to a social change initiative by leveraging our business skills. I was convinced of the value RLF adds to society and had decided to participate in it even before I started at ESMT. During the MBA, I came up with three criteria to select the organisation for my RLF participation

  1. A cause I am passionate about
  2. Scope for leveraging skills and insights gained during MBA
  3. A culture I’ve never been exposed to before

The opportunities at TSiBA Ignition Centre fitted the bill perfectly. TSiBA is all about empowerment, something that I am passionate about. At TSiBA I have the opportunity to choose what I want to do. There are many initiatives. Skilled people who are willing and able to lend their time and effort to TSiBA’s mission are in short supply. There is ample scope for leveraging the skills and knowledge I gathered from my professional and MBA experience. Through initiatives at Ignition Centre there is opportunity to engage and work with entrepreneurs and other organisations, to share my experiences with them, and to be part of their learning journey. Interactions with TSiBA students is another exciting opportunity to learn and understand the South African culture.

At present my work spans the following:

  1. Leading an entrepreneurial initiative with the goal of setting up an emerging enterprise and building a sustainable business model to enable partnership with one of TSiBA’s donors.The project will also provide the second-year BBA students, a first-hand experience of the challenges entrepreneurs face in the real world.
  2. Profiling, screening and selecting entrepreneurs for TSiBA’s student consulting project program, done in collaboration with another university in the US.
  3. Guiding a micro-finance project, to roll out a pilot to a group of women from Zimbabwe and test the feasibility of the idea.
  4. Lecturing and mentoring students on Entrepreneurship and Leadership & Self-Development.
  5. Mentoring entrepreneurs

This is a great learning opportunity, and I have a strong sense that this will be an enriching experience. I thank TSiBA for the opportunities provided and my alma mater ESMT for the opportunity to pay it forward through the RLF program.

Till next time!
santom