India the Dysfunctional Success

 

India has been really amazing. The big it factor that I took away from India was that it was truly a “mess that worked”. With so much traffic, businesses, and emerging markets, intertwined with the vast diversity in culture and ideologies it was hard to believe this country is on the forefront of things such as software development and analysis. In addition to the growing economy the difference from the United States was enormous. With struggling infrastructure of roads, sewage, and trash systems it was very humbling when arriving back in the United States of America.

While the US is a boiling pot of people from different ethnic background, India shed a new light on cultural diversity. The population of India is so immense and then adding in the different portions of the country that have been ruled by so many different emerging powers over the last centuries it is no wonder why India is so unique. While in the US people may speak English differently and saw a few words some normally wouldn’t use, or just use words in different ways India was completely different. It was so remarkable to me how we could go to a different part of the country and the language all-together as well as the main food, etc. had all changed. The great population has also had a huge effect on various other parts India.

India’s population in addition to being culturally diverse is affecting all the traffic, infrastructure or lack there of, and pollution. In many parts of India we had to leave several hours early to arrive at a destination that may have taken half the time to travel in the US due to the traffic. However, the traffic is bad mainly because of course the population, but is increased a lot by the lack of infrastructure. One example that was I like to use in particular was driving through Agra, which was the only way to get to the Taj Mahal (the country’s biggest tourist attraction and money maker by far), the roads had hug pot holes everywhere, with no road lines, low hanging electric wires, cows and people crossing the street, and various other things that the country should be obligated to improve. Other places I understood the lack of infrastructure, but it stunned me to see the roads that led up to such an important and monumental part of India.

India was a melting pot of different cultures, and ideas that lead to creative minds that think outside the box. This trip helped me realize why India works, and that’s because the people have a drive to survive and to do so in a country with such a huge population they have to be extremely competitive to earn success.

Categories: 2015 Trip

From the moment my feet touched American soil once more, my brain has been processing my 2 weeks in India. I really feel like sensory overload only begins to describe my experience oversees. Before leaving, people described India as a third-world nation, which honestly surprised me. I had never conceived that a nation in the top 5 countries of economy growth could be third world. But after walking on the streets where trash is at the tip of every footstep, riding in the tuk-tuks that swerve to fill any gap on the road, and using restrooms that you have to hold your nose I began to understand. The third world status comes not from the developing economy—which is taking huge strides forward—but rather from the delayed infrastructure and the means by which it rests physically.

One of my favorite days on the trip was spent at SDMIMD—a local business university in Mysore, India. It was there that I really gained insight into the passion that lies within the Professors, businessmen and women, and students of India. We started off our day with a presentation given by Dr. Robert Grobbauer on doing business in India. He spoke on many of the pros and cons to Indian business. He spoke on the upsides of democracy and the freedom that lies within in it, but also the difficulty this forms in making quick decisions. Everyone has an opinion that demands to be heard. The huge consumer base that lies within the Indian population alone provides enormous potential for Indian businesses. The largest con per say that Dr. Grobbauer spoke of was the weak infrastructure. From the increased time everything takes to the inconsistencies amongst Indian states to complicated legal system and procedures, India has some major work to do. If the economy is to continue to strive, the infrastructure must not hold them back.

The Indian market must not only keep up with other economies, but also catch up. Other markets do not sleep. I’m rooting for you India! May your passion and discipline lead you continuously forward.

Categories: 2015 Trip

Upon my arrival at home and now in College Station, I have constantly been asked, “How was India? Tell me all about it”. I catch myself saying the same thing every time. I tell them, India was amazing, but completely different than what you might think that it is. Sure, there are elephants and extravagant temples and women in colorful sarees, but most people do no realize or imagine the crowded streets, cows and stray dogs everywhere you look, lack of trash cans, delicious nan, or paying to go to the restroom. I am so glad that I was able to experience India and get a glimpse of what it is really like. We were able to see not only the struggles of simple things such as traffic, but also the struggles of operating a successful business in India. The hurdles that most companies are required to overcome are astronomical compared to the free market and conditions we face here at home. In some of my previous classes, we have discussed different aspects of Indian business and culture, but no amount of in depth discussion or PowerPoint presentations can shed light on what life and business is truly like in India. I kept a notebook of random thoughts and notes that I figured were worth keeping track of, which I highly suggest anyone going on the trip in the future to do. Some of my notes simply say “trash everywhere” or “met the sweetest kids at the school today”, but each one of the notes spark a specific memory that I will be able to keep forever. I also plan on making a photo book to have for myself and for my family. It is easier to show people with pictures what the experience was like rather than attempting to explain every detail. I tried to take pictures that captured the beauty of India, but I also wanted to capture and remember the rougher side of India. It is amazing to me that a country can have one of the Seven Wonders of the World (Taj Mahal) and at the same time have people living poverty only blocks down the street. I was also astounded at the amount of money poured into some of the temples, containing large solid gold figures and precious stones, while again people are fighting for a living in the same town.

My advice to future travelers is simple; soak it in! India is an extremely unique study abroad experience and there are so many things to see and learn. Talk to the locals! One of my favorite memories is the afternoon a friend and I spent speaking with students from a local architecture university in Bangalore. We spent the afternoon at a restaurant next to our hotel just discussing the differences in culture (many of them have been to the United States), politics, education, etc. It was incredible to hear their perspective and to see how aware of the differences they were. There is quite a bit of free time in the evenings! Spend it wisely! Go to the markets and local restaurants. Koshy’s in Bangalore is a great option. No air conditioning, but hey! It was an experience.

Overall, I had a great time in India and anyone going in the future should be excited for the trip! You’ll have an experience of a lifetime, that’s for certain.

 

-Caroline Fluke

Categories: 2015 Trip

Namaste! I can’t believe I’ve already been back in the US for a week. How time flies… This past week has given me some ample time to get to reflect and process. All in all, I’m so incredibly thankful to have had this experience. I firmly believe that there are some things that text books can’t fully teach you, and culture is one of those things. Firsthand experience is really what it takes to acquire an accurate understanding. I also believe that you can’t put a price on some things, and this India trip is a prime example. The memories made and lessons learned are far greater than any monetary value.

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to explore how culture can affect the dynamics of an international business environment. Out of all of our corporate visits, I think I most enjoyed our time with Akshaya Patra and the school children it benefited. It was so uplifting and rejuvenating to hear the laughter and joy of all these kids that are being positively impacted by the work Akshaya Patra is doing. A close second was the factory visit with TVS Motors. Learning about who the “typical” Indian customer is and what they want in a product, as compared to the US, was very interesting.

As far as cultural visits, seeing the Mysore Palace and the safari ride were two of my favorites as well. Though, our evenings free in which we were able to explore and experience the culture in our own ways were extremely fun. From roaming around the markets to seeking out local restaurants, there was always something to look forward too. As the trip progressed and I became more and more accustomed to the Indian culture, I think I began to enjoy our evenings off even more too. Overtime, the things that seemed “strange” at the beginning of the trip became more and more normal, and even enjoyable. This exemplified the truth that we, as humans, so often see “different” and automatically tag it as “bad” or “wrong”. But this trip reminded me of the importance of staying open minded and learning to appreciate “different” for what it is, not what is isn’t as seen through the lens of comparison.

To sum this all up, if you have ever had even the slightest inkling of interest in going to India—do it. The experience will be unlike any other, and I’m willing to bet you will find the culture as fascinating as I did. Sure, there may be many differences from the US, but there are also many similarities. And best of all, you’ll learn more about the Indian culture than a textbook could ever teach you.

Categories: 2015 Trip

After my two weeks in India I know that India is definitely the most unfamiliar and eye opening place I have ever traveled to in my life. I am so glad and thankful that I was able to participate in this unique experience in which I learned many lessons about foreign cultures and how business overseas is conducted. When comparing culture and business the culture was almost a polar opposite of what I am used to in America. However, with business I was able to see that it is fairly universal.

There are several aspects of the culture that have really stuck with me even after the trip ended. First, because of the amount of people living in a compact area, there is almost zero concept of personal space. Everyone is trying to get things done and don’t mind if they brush up against you. At the beginning of the trip we were standing in line to store our bags before going into a fort and we were getting cut left and right. We had a small space between us and the people in front of us because that’s normal for us. However, we had to stand where we were physically touching the person in front of us just to get through the line. Also, just walking and driving around in crowded areas you have to be assertive and lose your sense of a personal bubble if you actually want to get anywhere. Second, it was very interesting to see the peaceful coexistence of so many different religions and beliefs. We visited at least four or five different religions’ place of worship and nowhere did I see any kind tension or violence. Nor did I feel unwelcome while in those places of worship. While in India we were lucky enough to go to mass at a beautiful Catholic church and I was shocked to find that the service was almost exactly identical to those in America. The universality of Christianity and who Jesus Christ is was an amazing thing to see. Third, I was surprised to learn how different the different states in India were. Each state essentially has its own culture within India. Different languages, music, dances and even regulations for businesses exist between the Indian states. It is not uncommon for the average Indian citizen to speak two or three Indian languages in addition to English. This leads me to my last point of how surprised I was at the amount of English speakers there were. They start teaching kids English in the first grade and it is also the language of business in India so most of the people I encountered were able to speak it.

Going to India I expected to encounter different business practices and strategies but found out that business is pretty universal. The biggest difference is that India’s business is conducted heavily through mom and pop shops which make a lot of the people entrepreneurs. Their livelihood depends on selling their goods which is one of the reasons they are more aggressive with their sales tactics. I learned quickly to not make eye contact and to ignore most shopkeepers’ questions because they will do anything possible to lure you into their store.  Most common goods, supplies, and food items were sold in this manner and not by large corporations. One of the benefits of the mom and pop shops is that there isn’t a tax of any kind when you buy things there. Because of this, the chains and bigger companies that do have taxes are pretty heavy. Because there are lots of Indians who aren’t paying taxes on a daily basis they need to make up the revenue somewhere. You also have to negotiate pretty hard with the shop owners or you will get ripped off. However, in general how they run their shops and the strategies of the corporations we visited were similar to the United States. One of the unique challenges in India is a lack of infrastructure. This makes moving goods around slower and more expensive. For instance, in Bangalore, commercial trucks line up during the day because they aren’t allowed to enter the city until 10pm. The reason is the traffic in the city is terrible due to not enough driving space. That being said there are also good things about doing business in India. One of those is the abundance of cheap labor. TVS Motors had an assembly line that had more manual labor than we would see in America simply because it is cheaper to do so. Also, the large population sets up a large consumer market in which to sell products to. All in all, India is a wonderful place that has certain obstacles that it can overcome to be a great economy and democratic country.

 

 

Categories: 2015 Trip