Tuesday, September 4, 2012

India.... One of the most unique places in the world

India.... One of the most unique places in the world....
It has been 14 years since I left India chasing the American dream. It is surprising how much has changed in these years, and in many ways, how little. While I found myself lost in the cities that I knew so well since all the landmarks are different now, I also noticed that the infrastructure, traffic, poverty, cleanliness have not progressed much since I left.

This trip to India was also unique for me. Travelling with my cohort allowed me to see and experience India in a different light and as a western tourist from a developed country. I was sensitized to aspects that I took for granted earlier and had found totally normal. I enjoyed the auto rickshaw ride with an added sense of adventure. This trip to India allowed me to reconnect with my roots and also see up close the change in professional India.

One of the unique things in India that is apparent off the bat (since cricket is the most popular sport) is how secular and tolerant the country and its citizens are.... We saw a church right next to a temple and a mosque not too far away. During the day, one can hear the Hindu temple chantings, church bells and Muslim calls for prayer. Unless you hear a name, one cannot recognize that people interacting are from different religious beliefs. People are cordial, welcoming and hospitality is big in the Indian culture.... "Athithi Devo Bhava" meaning Guest is God.

India presents several striking contrasts. Right from the airport upon arrival, one can witness the enormous gap between the different social strata. One can see high rise buildings with luxurious apartments and slums / shacks in the same 360 view. While one can notice luxury vehicles on the road, beggars cannot be missed either. There are reduced signs of the original caste system but the social gap seems to be ever increasing. There is a wave of urbanization going on in India and migration to bigger cities for work seems to be the key factor contributing towards increased upward social mobility and a growing middle class.

In India, we visited five companies viz. Cognizant, Shankar Netralaya, L&T, Renault-Nissan JV and Airtel. The selection of the companies from different sectors and with unique business models presented a significant learning opportunity with regard to the head and tail winds that each of the businesses were faced with. It helped me expand my understanding of the Indian market and challenges for conducting business there.

The international trip marked the completion of the first year of the MBA course and is truly the high point of the curriculum thus far. Having the opportunity to celebrate this milestone with my cohort friends and getting to know them better is priceless.

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