Saturday, September 15, 2012
I set out to write this blog as a start to finish description of the Weekend MBA trip to India. It rapidly got lengthy and I knew I would never finish it fast enough to post here for class. I have published that more detailed description in my personal location. It is a work in progress. If you are interested in more please follow this link:
This blog is my overall impression of the trip. India is a place many of us have read about, seen in movies, or perhaps on "The Amazing Race". That can provide a glimpse into it but when you visit India you experience India.
India is not a neat and tidy place. It is vibrant, noisy, colorful, crowded and a place that makes you think. You see contrasts of the very poor living in conditions that only provide the most basic of shelter or comfort. Surprising close you might see the homes of the upper middle class or wealthy. There is a mingling of all kinds of people as you travel around the country. There was also an emphasis on service with people providing high quality services of various kinds with a pleasant manner and a smile.
The city of Chennai was our first visit. It was active even at 4AM when we drove from the airport to our hotel. The bus passed through red lights with barely a pause. Our visit the next day to the T.Nagar Market was quite an introduction to the country. It was crowded, noisy, smelling of flowers and spices. There were all kinds of goods for sale with shops crowding up to the curb. The pedestrian traffic is often forced into the street and makes for an interesting experience for a visitor used to the more orderly system in the USA. The street are crowded with people, bicycles, auto rickshaws, cars, trucks, buses, and sometimes animals. This makes crossing the street interesting and possibly hazardous. If you cross the street the traffic will tend to flow around you and the drivers seem adept at avoiding obstacles. The sound of horns is constant.
Chennai is growing with people moving into the city and it getting more crowded. There are many infrastructure needs with sidewalks to fix and a metro rail to finish. I was struck how much trash there was all over the place. It surprised me that the city or state government had not taken an initiative to try to clean it up. I suppose that cleanup like that is not a thing that the politicians would promote as its not a grand item like building the metro rail. The city also had a booming IT corridor that is helping employ the engineers and others that comprise the growing middle class. Traveling around the city on our air conditioned bus drew attention and people would look curiously at us. If you caught someone's eye and waved you would usually get a big smile and wave in return. This would occur throughout our trip.
The trip took us to Delhi which was more orderly and appeared to have more investment in infrastructure and general cleanliness of the city. We visited our first major tourist site there, Humayun's tomb. This is an impressive red sandstone structure from the Mughal period and is the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent. If you never visited another you would be suitably impressed. Our trip took us to more when we drove south to Agra. The trip itself was 4 or 5 hours of honking horns and a constant array of sights along the road. Upon reaching Agra we visited the tomb of Akbar the Great a even more impressive tomb of a similar style to Humayun's. After that visit we passed the Agra Fort a sprawling structure that we did not visit. Finally we visited the Taj Mahal. Pictures and discriptions don't do it justice. It is truly impressive. I had always thought it was in a rural area having seen the gardens around it. It is actually right along the river in Agra. The rural impression is simply that the gardens are so large it you don't realize there is a wall around all of it and its within the city.
The purpose of our trip was not sightseeing. We visited the National Management School who hosted and guided us on our visit. We visited Cognizant a major IT consulting company. We went to the campus of Larson &Toubro and learned of the long history the company has in India for infrastructure and many engineering type of projects. They are also getting into the IT space with L&T Infotech. There was a visit to the Renault Nissan factory that I missed due to being sick. The not for profit eye hospital Sankara Nethralaya was especially impressive for the work they are doing providing eye care, including surgery, to the poor. While in Delhi we visited Airtel, India's largest mobile phone carrier. There was much to learn about how business and marketing takes place in India and the CXO dinner was a good opportunity to network with executives in business.
India was such an interesting experience and I glad I had the opportunity to visit. The people are friendly, the food is good, and the atmosphere is dynamic. India has many challenges such as its growing population, corruption that is too prevalent, and dysfunction in politics and government. Still many changes have been made and the country is more and more ready for business and the positive growth that it can bring. The country is more open than ever to foreign investment and result is growth. We should keep watching as India is open for business.
Thanks to everyone on the trip and especially the faculty and staff on both sides of the world who made it all happen.