When I first learned of the opportunity to study abroad in India, my immediate thought was, "What better way to experience the country!" The structured atmosphere of a study abroad course would be the best way for me to experience the culture, see the sights and also gain international experience. Like many of my classmates on the trip, I did not take advantage of the study abroad opportunities during my undergrad studies, so this was an opportunity I could not pass up. I have a background in advertising and media sales, so understanding how a business positions their products and services for the diverse population of a mega market like India was particularly interesting to me.
While in India, we split our time between Delhi and Mumbai. Both cities are beautiful and diverse in their own unique way. During our time in both cities, we met with businesses ranging from international advertising agencies to an automotive manufacturing company to Medtronic. Our meetings with these businesses covered topics such as the challenges their business faces with day-to-day operations, social media, marketing tactics, social responsibility and market expansion in India.
We arrived in Delhi in the middle of the night and were immediately met with the chaos and pollution that encompasses the city. We were also welcomed by the Indian hospitality, as everyone we encountered was warm and eager to assist us in any way needed. Early the next day we were met in the hotel lobby by our local tour guide who led us through the city as we visited historical and religious sites all day. We were all in a little bit of a haze as our bodies acclimated to the time change and the new culture.
During our day of sightseeing we visited Old Delhi and experienced the crowded and narrow streets typical of India. There were rickshaws, bikes, motorcycles and cows navigating the streets of the city while monkeys ran overhead on tangled power lines. We also visited multiple spiritual sights, including the largest mosque in India, the Lotus Temple (home to the Baha’i faith) and the site of Gandhi’s assassination. This first day in Delhi immersed us in the diversity and history that is at the core of India. The next day we had the opportunity to meet with J Walter Thompson and Minda Corporation. On our last day in Delhi we took a bus ride to the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. It was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Dehli and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit one of the most iconic wonders of the world.
Mumbai is often referred to as the New York City of India. It is the largest city in the country and certainly more metropolitan than Delhi. While in Mumbai, we visited eight businesses and had time to explore the city on our own. We met with eBay, Yes Bank, Parag Food, Thomas Cook, Ogilvy, the Retailers Association of India, Medtronic and Jaslok Hospital.
I appreciated the diverse nature of the businesses we were able to meet with. Each has its own set of challenges and offered different insights into the business culture of India. When we were not in business meetings, we had the chance to explore the city. There is an energy to Mumbai that I have not seen anywhere else. We explored the Colaba Market, took a ferry to Elephanta Island, did a walking tour of Dharavi, the largest slum in Mumbai, and wandered the neighborhoods surrounding our hotel.
A Lasting Experience
My main takeaways from my time in India are co-existence and new friendships. India is such as diverse country – there is a range in culture, religion, language, literacy, values and symbolism. This diversity is a major challenge for businesses in India who market their products and services in a country with more than two hundred spoken languages, a large illiterate population and vastly different cultural values.
I came home with lasting relationships I know I will keep long after I graduate. The experiences we shared in India created deeper relationships than those that form in the classroom. I'm halfway through the Part-time Flex MBA program and this trip reinvigorated me to push through my remaining courses.