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As a part of the curriculum at MICA, second year students of PGDM-C course recently embarked on a rural immersion program in different parts of the country. The rural immersion program aims to educate the students about various grassroot level issues faced by villagers and gives them a platform to interact and engage with organisations working towards the betterment of these communities. The programme also has secondary benefits, wherein the students acclimatize to rural life and learn how people in villages function. The aim of the course is to create a knowledge base for students to understand and embark on rural marketing efforts, as the industry is shifting their focus towards Tier II, Tier III cities and rural areas.

This year MICA tied up with multiple organisations like SEWA, Jaipur Rugs, UNICEF, Adani Foundation, Swades Foundation and others. The students were given branding and communication projects and required to stay in rural settings for two weeks.

A group of 5 students were sent to the heartland of Gujarat, Bhuj. The students were tasked with visiting schools and having conversations with girls between the ages of 12-17 years to talk to them about their menstrual health and the importance of using sanitary pads so as to maintain long-term reproductive health. This was a topic that was still considered an awkward one to discuss, one that parents and elders in the family dreaded to have with young girls in their households, the result of which was that general awareness such as information about the reasons behind the occurrence of the menstrual cycle and pre-emptive measures to take during those seven days of the month were unknown to kids who should have otherwise known them at the tip of their fingers.

Jaipur Rugs, one of the organisations partnering with MICA, is India’s largest manufacturer of hand-knotted rugs, with weavers settled across the state of Rajasthan in small villages. A group of 3 students stayed with a family in a tiny village called Divrala, about 2 hours away from the rustic charm of Jaipur. They were instructed to observe and understand the lives of the weavers, live amongst them and become one with the community. The experience brought forward many learnings about the bare necessities of life, true happiness and collectivism.

The Swades Foundation, founded by Zarina and Ronnie Screwvala, aims at empowering rural India also participated in the Rural Immersion Programme. 24 students visited the district of Raigad for the research. The students of MICA worked on various projects which included studying the impact of Swachchta Bharat Program in Raigad, study the aspirations & need gaps on life skills of college graduate students and ITI students for better career aspirations in Raigad based on findings and then suggesting and recommending a course of action for students of the village and institute. Over the course of two weeks the students stayed in various parts of Raigad, specifically - Mangaon and Mahad area to understand the lives and problems faced by the residents of the area closely.

The faculty-in-charge for the same, Prof. Mini Mathur says, "Rural immersion at MICA is a small step towards sensitizing budding marketers to understand rural India. Lower overall resources, but strength in terms of pooling resources, confidence, love and respect, is what our students witnessed in rural immersion. As against the earlier model of open immersion, we worked closely with 9 prominent organisations working independently or supporting government initiatives in villages across India"

Speaking on behalf of her batchmates, Malvika said, “I think we live in a world where the more we have, the more we want. And in the midst of all this, it was an eye-opener to be surrounded by people who were so content with the little they had. The rural immersion program is truly an enriching experience that helps one understand life better.”

Another student Joy said, “I'd like to thank MICA and Swades foundation for this wonderful opportunity. I have never and I don't think I will ever get such a chance to interact with and visit so many adivasiwadis across the 6 blocks of Raigad. It was humbling, to say the least, to hear about their lives, their livelihood, their concerns, what ticks them, what works and what they have to deal with on a daily basis. We all have our own fight. It's at times like these when I realise that their fight is far greater than any of ours, the fight for survival and sustenance. My 'tribal' immersion was truly an experience to cherish.”

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