ACWUS at Acara

– by Shruti Syal


The coming fortnight charts ACWUS’ progress through the development of its business plans. We work on our Stakeholder Plan, Financial Plan and current budget, Funding Application, Construction Plan, Monitoring Plan, and Recruitment Plan as the Acara Summer Institute steers our progress to lay the best plans.



Day One was about icebreakers, introductions, and layouts. Check out ACWUS’ plan layout in the image above. While we’re focused on delivery of hands-on ecological education, which would be a more immediate source of income, we’re focused on achieving the following end goals for future revenues:


Proof that we’re hard at work ūüôā




Day Two was about DESIGN. Specifically, Human-Centred Design. We participated in activities that focus on understanding customer needs and speedily developing prototypes to suit their requirements. As much as it has been helpful to to learn about the point of our education in environmental and sustainability studies through the lens of ACWUS, this exercise definitely helped by going OUT of context. It gives a sense of how to develop prototypes for different things, developing a generalized way of looking at product / service generation.


So far, our interactions have been exclusively with organizations. The colleges we’d like involved in the program, the professionals we’d like contributing to the development and actual execution of ACWUS, the potential apex coordinator, the organizations who could work with us on ICT…although we have had informal, undocumented, uncategorized interactions with the residents of the JJCs and students who would be the direct benefactors of one of the services we generate. Time to formalize those.


The second bit we covered are details on our business model, identifying clearly the following categories:

Customer Segments

Value Propositions

Delivery Channels

Customer Streams

Key Resources

Key Activities

Key Partnerships

Cost Structures

The best part about developing one’s work into these segments certainly makes it easier to represent on a public platform. It, sometimes, makes us aware of something we may not have thought of as yet, or a different way of looking at things, or raises the necessity to shift priorities in order to develop ACWUS into a full-fledged venture. It’s funny how generating a score on all segments actually gives you a clear measure of maturity. This Business Model Canvas Maturity Model (BMCMM) has been articulated by the University of Minnesota (organizers of the Acara Challenge and Summer Institute), licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Here’s our brief:

Gotta love post-its.




Day Three was about elevator pitches. The idea was to generate a 250-word explanation of what ACWUS does and why, how, and what makes its approach better than the current alternatives. The day was spent working on social, financial, and environmental value propositions that could be pitched to investors / funding agents.


With ACWUS, numbers are the biggest challenge, so we’ve been mining data from multiple services that are similar to different aspects of our plans, in order to generate a holistic budgeting and revenue-generation scheme. That’s our biggest challenge and the one we have to work out over the next two days. Venture capitalists love ventures with large consumer bases, so we think ACWUS would be a much better sell to government agencies dealing with water and wastewater resources, and urban greening, and educational institutes of course.


One easy advantage I can see with ACWUS is that we’re¬†setting up relationships where none exist AND delivering skills:

We want the JJC residents to value environmental hygiene by getting them involved in the monitoring.

We want students to understand on-ground realities of environmental management by involving them in the monitoring of a real-world project.

We’re getting students and communities to interact with each other.

And this scheme of work is grounded in one very astute observation:

For in the end we will only conserve what we love. 
We will love only what we understand. 
And we will understand only what we are taught.

-Baba Dioum




Day Four has already turned out to be most interesting in our navigation of establishing ACWUS as an organization:

For Profit or Not For Profit?

There are several considerations we will be evaluating as we hover around this question over the next twp months. What are our organizational requirements, recruitment plans, capital requirements, liability willingness, ¬†and the legalities of taxation, banking, incorporation, and registration. We’ve latched onto a quirky, intelligent chap from Delhi, Pankaj Jain, who heads Impact Law Ventures, in order to help us beat out these details after we’ve been through it.




Days Five and Six were spent building, revising, re-revising, and re-re-revising the presentation we finally pitched to VCs. It was quite a fantastic experience, particularly grateful to Julian Marshall and Fred Rose from Acara for asking us simple questions that we had not-so-simple answers to, point blank, forcing us to think simplistically, and realize what we can do to make ACWUS different, and financially self-sustaining.

A fun exercise on team-building was the Marshmallow exercise:

Our darling tower crashed. Spirits high as ever though.




Day Seven was sheer fun. Watching presentations, delivering, to-and-fro Q&As with VCs, and ending on a high note at the crowded but very snazzy Toit in Bangalore, was fantastic.

Check out the 7-minute presentation on YouTube.


Looking forward to meeting with some of them over the next month who’ll still be hovering in Delhi for field research.

More to come.


This entry was published on June 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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