MICANS EXPLORE THE NITTY-GRITTIES OF RURAL INDIA AS PART OF ITS RURAL IMMERSION PROGRAM

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Neil Patel

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As part of the Rural Immersion Program, second-year students of MICA, Ahmedabad, worked on various social impact projects that included mapping lockdown stories of rural kids to studying father's involvement in parenting. Every year, MICA-The School of Ideas conducts the Rural Immersion Program to familiarize its students with rural realities and enhance their awareness and sensitivity concerning the rural population's issues.

As part of the program, the students visit various villages and interact with different stakeholders to understand their problems. However, due to COVID restrictions, the entire experience was conducted online. Sharing details, Prof. Kallol Das, Chair, Rural Immersion Program at MICA, said, "This program aims at understanding and refining marketing strategies to improve the efficacy of interventions in rural markets. This was the second year of us conducting this program digitally, and we are overwhelmed by the kind of response we have received from our partner organizations."

Commenting on the value of experiential learning, Dr.Preeti Shroff, Dean, MICA, said, "Rural Immersion is one of the many unique field-based and industry-relevant initiatives that MICA offers. The idea is to offer our students a creative and action-learning pedagogy to work on real-life problems facing the organizations and society. Since the pandemic, MICA faculty has worked hard to transform field-based learning into innovative online experiences, where our students use digital tools to analyse and provide solutions to our rural-project partner organizations."

The projects this year included studying fathers' involvement in parenting in the rural areas of Odisha, Jharkhand, and West Bengal (CRY), mapping the impact and effectiveness of water and sanitation financing in rural western MP (ASA-Bhopal), a study of Dinosaur Fossil Park (Gujarat Forest Department), the study of start-up ideas among rural students (Samvedna Foundation), explore e-commerce opportunities for coastal women fish vendors (Vrutti), study and awareness about mental illness center in Kheda district (Blind People's Association), and many more. 

As part of the program, 214 students collected data for various projects. In addition, each group was mentored by a MICA faculty and a nominated official of the partner organization. The online immersion lasted a week, starting with a briefing session by the partner organization, followed by multiple meetings with their officials to better understand the rural population.

One of the teams studied the Kevdi-Eco-Tourism site in detail and recommended improvement in the Gujarat Forest Department's existing facilities. To understand the current situation, the students conducted secondary research to understand other existing eco-tourism sites across the country, and interviewed forest officials, tour operators, and locals, especially the youth. The team said, "The site has potential but not marketed well. So we have given an itinerary and recommended enhanced booking systems. In addition, flying squirrels are unique to the spot; hence, we recommended focusing on this element while marketing the site."

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