Indo-Gulf 2012 Final Reflection

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Everyone who had the experience to take the Business and Culture of the Indo-Gulf trip during winter term can agree that they will never forget the experience. When boarding the plane on the way to Dubai I think none of us truly knew what to expect out of the trip and out of our peers who we still didn’t know well; however, by the end of the trip we were all extremely very close. That was a good thing especially since people were feeling less than 100% on the flight home.

Everyone can agree upon the fact that Dubai was an amazing city where we had an amazing experience. When we first arrived people said they believed the city would be a good transition into what we would experience in India; however, we soon realized that aside from the Arabic language and the occasional traditional Emirati dress we could still have been in America. In the area the standard of living was relatively high and in the Dubai mall we were astounded by the lavish stores some of which we didn’t know existed such as a Versace home store. The buildings are all-new and look as if you could be walking in Epcot. Dubai is also home to the tallest building, biggest fountain, biggest fish tank, best hotel, and largest mall in the world.

When landing in India we knew we had arrived. A gush of India hits you as soon as you step foot off the plane. When driving on the bus we could see the immensity of trash and filth all over the streets. The large crowds were everywhere and it was easy to see the differences of how people acted in the streets than you would ever see someone act in America. Also the driving was chaotic to say the least somehow they could make six lanes of traffic out of a three lane road.

When talking to my classmates about the time during the trip where they had the biggest epiphany about life in India they mentioned different points throughout the trip. Four different events were mentioned throughout the trip as being significant. One was the rickshaw ride we took on the first day in Delhi. Where we saw the backstreets of Delhi and were driven through the markets in the area. Second was the walk through the streets in Ahmadabad where most of the group was convinced they were about to be hit by a car. Third was the touring of the Slums where we were able to see how the cities are major areas of commerce and provide jobs to many people coming in from rural areas. Most of the population in the Slums are immigrants and live on a salary of around $3 US dollars a day. Fourth was our trip to Everstone where they taught us to treat India as a United Nations of sorts with every region almost acting as an independent nation with different customs and traditions. The CEO also was able to explain how the Indian people co-exist and divided them into three different levels of the economy. First level are the employees who work for major companies ranging from moderate to large incomes. Second level was any person who provides services to the upper class. In fact the average manager in India has a maid and driver. The third level is the class that fends completely for themselves. This includes small business owners and people in the rural areas.

I can certainly say that all of our expectations for the trip were blown away by our actual experiences and thanks to the program we have been given an insight into two different cultures. India where there is a strong work ethic, unique culture, and bright future. Also we were able to learn about Dubai, which is a gem of the Middle East. Our trip of a lifetime consisted of: 2 countries 3 long bus rides 10 flights 1 world wonder 9 world heritage sites 28 happy students Tons of memories And more Without the program we would have never have been able to see as many places in such a short amount of time. The trip was eye-opening and overall is an experience no one will forget.


Delhi Belly Departure

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Delhi belly departure

By: Stephanie Pack and Lauren Pettit

I realize we haven’t been in Delhi for quite some time but this title seems to sum up the last day quite nicely.

Soon after our 6:30 AM wake up call, it became apparent that not everyone would be joining us for the last business visit. Six students had started their day in a Mumbai hospital with food poisoning and dehydration while the rest headed to Deloitte, one of the Big Four accountancy firms (aka a big deal).

6 plagued 22 healthy

Despite the absentees, the business meeting was amazing, definitely one of my favorites. After the Consulting Introduction and Company Overview, the presentation became more conversational. Having studied India for the past couple weeks, it became much easier to understand how law, demographics, and customs play into this particular business. Parag Saigaonkar, the Regional Managing Director, explained how having an office in India, in addition to America, reduces cost and makes communication much more efficient. He also gave us information on they types of employees they look for, how India’s hierarchical society affects employee relationships, and the breakdown of organized retail businesses vs. “Mom and Pop” businesses (5% vs 95%!). Rakesh Barik, the Director of Consulting, discussed the Operation and Technology aspect of Deloitte. On the proceeding company tour, we were able to see O & T in place in the communication center, where all employees receive language proficiency training. Having the opportunity to openly ask questions to these elite Deloitte managers and directors was hugely beneficial, especially to the business students. Throughout the course of the visit, from meeting, to company tour, to lunch with the leaders, we lost a few others to the plague. Thankfully Deloitte had a sense of humor about the whole situation.

11 plagued, 17 healthy

Heading to the airport was certainly bittersweet. While I’m sure we were all ready to sink our teeth into a juicy all-beef burger, brush with tap water, walk down the street without causing a scene, and hopefully burn off the weight we put on from overloading on buttered naan, we’ve grown accustom to this place. India was for myself and may others, an eye opening and inspirational experience. This trip exceeded my expectations in every way possible. When else are you able to encounter everything from the world’s richest country of Dubai to the corrupted yet emerging country of India? We’ve visited Asia’s largest slum, one of India’s most competitive colleges, the worlds tallest building and biggest mall, the Taj Mahal, a mattress company, a steel melting plant, an orphanage and countless other life changing places. Participating in this study abroad course is one of the best decisions of my life. I speak for the class when I say our advisors did an incredible job organizing every aspect of this trip. Our hotels were top of the line, the business visits were extremely informative, the tours were enjoyable, and the restaurants were TOO delicious. We all thought we’d lose weight on the trip…. what were we thinking? During the first flight, a new wave of food poisoning circulated.

15 plagued, 13 healthy

Note: This food poisoning bug seemed pretty homogenous for everyone infected: 6 hours of violent vomiting and diarrhea. It just so happened that the boarding time for our flight to JFK fell at the exact same time as the peak of Caitlin’s food poisoning. Unfortunately she didn’t make the flight. However she and one of our advisors made the next flight and are now home safe and healthy.

From the time of departure another three students were affected. At this point, it just became kind of a cruel joke. Elizabeth, Sammi and I (Stephanie) occupied 3 of the plane bathrooms for at least a solid few hours before being isolated to the flip down chairs in the flight attendants’ quarters. I can honesty say that was and will remain one of the worst experiences of my life. It is unfortunate that this is how the trip had to end but at least I got to share the experience with all my new friends!

18 plagued, 10 healthy

Once we exited the plane, everyone collected their luggage at baggage claim (it’s a miracle that no one lost luggage at any point of the trip) and headed to the gates of their connecting flights either home or to Elon.

18 plagued and counting, 10 healthy and dwindling

True Life: Slumdog Millionaire – January 21

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Saturday, January 21

Mumbai, India

Our third day in Mumbai, although planned from start to finish, was both educationally and culturally eye opening.  We started our day off with a business visit to Everstone Capital Advisors.  Everstone is a private equity and real estate firm that focuses strictly on India. Their CEO, Danny Jhaveri, explained to us their business practices and process of private equity investments.  Following his presentation, we were fortunate enough to meet Roopa Purushothaman, a fellow colleague of Mr. Jhaveri and co-author of Goldman Sach’s infamous BRIC Report.  This was an extremely special opportunity for us as one of our pre-departure course requirements was to read and analyze her report.  She gave an extensive presentation summarizing yet detailing the economic situation in India over the last few decades.  Here are a few facts that Lauren and I found interesting:

  • The per capita income (PCI) in Goa, India’s richest state, is 7 times the PCI in Bihar, the poorest state.  In comparison, PCI in the US is at 2x while China is at 5.5x.
  • 33% of the world’s software engineers are in India while 25% of the world’s malnourished also reside here.
  • India is projected to be the biggest provider of labor force, adding 80-100 million over the next 10 years.

To conclude the presentation, Roopa described the 4 demographic shifts that will define India in the coming decades.  They include young households, urbanization, women’s employment, and migration patterns.

After a quick lunch break at the Phoenix Mills Mall, we headed for our afternoon tour of the Dharavi Slum, the largest slum in Asia.  Over 40% of Mumbai’s population resides in this area.

Each student group was headed by a local resident of the slum, who provided us with an insider’s view of the daily life.  We began by walking through the industrial community which consisted of leather, garment, aluminum, and automotive accessory productions.  These workers make an average of 150 Rupees per day, which is equivalent to $3 US.  Before moving to the residential areas, we stopped to play a quick game of cricket with the local children.  Surprisingly, Andrea and I both hit the ball!  As we made our way through the narrow alley ways, we saw the conditions in which these people live.  The average home consisted of one large room that slept each family member, with a small dining area for meals; only 30% of the residents have toilets located within their homes, and the remaining 70% have to use communal bathrooms located within the community.  These people did not have much space or material items, yet they were all very happy and perfectly content with their way of life.




Mumbai – January 20

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Day 11 in India began with a visit to one of the largest data server providers in the country. Prior to our visit I assumed a data servers were just large computers that housed information regarding online activity and facilitated the hosting of websites. I was surprised to learn that the company offered a variety of different services for their clients. They could do everything from creating an intranet within a company to providing firewall protection for sensitive client data on company websites. The general manager Karan Kirpalani explained to us that the incredibly low-cost of labor and the vast number of educated peoples makes India a much cheaper alternative for companies. Karan then brought us around the facility to show us how the actual hardware. We walked into one room that looked like a scene out of mission impossible, a completely white room with the servers sitting in the middle. He then brought us to a room where people are available 24 hours a day for assistance. It didn’t register with me at first, but afterwards I realized that the people at Netmagic are the ones we call from the U.S. when we have a problem with the services provided.

Our second business visit was to Pan India Food Solutions . The company owns a chain of restaurants and the food supplier for their restaurants. We actually had lunch at one of the chain restaurants that the company provided food for. During the business visit, we visited the kitchens where they make half cooked foods where they later send to their restaurants to further be prepared for customers. Pan India Solutions supplies food for their restaurants in various states throughout India. We watched breads, soups, desserts, gelato and several other foods be made in the kitchens. After our business visit we enjoyed ourselves at Professor Gupta’s family’s home for dinner. We were all very thankful for the exquisite meal and the Gupta’s hospitality.

First Day in Mumbai – January 19

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Before talking about our first day in Mumbai, the two Zachs would like to give a special shout out to their fathers who both recently celebrated birthdays. After a quick and painless flight out of the smallest airport any of us had ever seen, aboard a propeller plane(we didn’t know they still allowed to fly those commercial), we landed in Mumbai. Everyone’s first impressions were vastly different than they were when we landed in Delhi. Right away we could tell that Mumbai was a much more built up, westernized city. The group enjoyed some of the local cuisine (Domino’s) for lunch aboard our bus as we drove through the city. Tall skyscrapers filled the skyline but looking a bit lower we could see many slums packed with people as is common in India. Along the way we stopped to see a large outdoor laundry facility where many local people have their laundry done. As far as the eyes could see different shades of every color for every article of clothing  were hanging from rooftops, laundry lines, and any other sort of drying system the locals could come up with. It was amazing how many clothes we saw hanging from lines attached to the buildings, a much different system than we are familiar with in the U.S. but organized and efficient nonetheless. We hopped back in the bus and continued our drive through the city. Not far from this simple outdoor laundry facility we saw the most expensive home in the world, highlighting just how little separation of classes there is in India. It was a modest 27-story home, with the first 7 floors devoted only to cars. Complete with three helipads, it houses a family of 4 and is valued at around 2 billion dollars.

On the way to the next stop during our city tour of Mumbai we were informed of interesting facts about the city that make you think about how big of an impact Great Britain had. Originally the city was named Bombay which in translation means “great bay,” but the city was renamed Mumbai because locals did not like how the city was named by people that did not live there. Mumbai is on the water and before all of the big business started to happen it was for the most part a fishing town. The goddess of the fishing community is Mumbai, the legend goes that one day when she becomes enraged she will drown the city with the waters from the Arabian sea.  Other facts for which we found interesting was that when the country first gained independence its population was 340 million, while currently the population is around 1.2 billion people, and 18 million live in Mumbai. The country gets 75% of its income money from the city of Mumbai alone, as well is home to many of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country.

Our next stop was the Prince of Wales Museum, where we saw an array of exhibits, from art to historical artifacts as well as animals that had been stuffed and preserved. Our quick visit to the museum was followed by a trip to the Gateway of India, a beautiful arc structure, similar in nature to the India Gate we saw in Delhi, but with a different purpose. It was built to commemorate the landing of King George V and the queen in India. In large letters in the middle of the gate is enscribed, “Errected to commemorate the landing in India of their imperial majesties King George V and Queen Mary on the second of December MCMXI.” After a quick group picture, and the consequent price negotiations with the hawkers taking the pictures, we finally headed for the hotel.

After settling into our rooms, many of us headed for the markets. Our fine-tuned bargaining skills came in handy, as we negotiated for shoes, jerseys, glasses, and fake watches for ourselves…and of course gifts for our wonderful families at home. After the markets we enjoyed dinner at a great seafood restaurant called Trishna along with a couple of the local beers, for culture of course. The first day in Mumbai was busy, but we definitely started off on the right foot. Please see the bottom of this post for some pictures from the day.

Zach Guarino and Zach Feldman

Bhavnagar – January 18

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January 18

Our day in Bhavnagar started out with a presentation from Rajendra Ship Breakers. The original plan was to go to the shipyard, but because of a security clearance issue, we were not longer able to tour their facility. This is a prime example of the bureaucracy in India. During the presentation, we discussed methods of shipbreaking, the importance of recycling materials, and the economic effects of globalization on shipbreaking. After the presentation, we were able to tour part of their recycling facility, where materials are made to send to individual buyers.

Following the tour, the shipbreaking company hosted a lunch at a resort in Bhavnagar. The meal was a traditional all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, consisting of paneer (cottage cheese  cubes), nan bread, yogurt, rice, and vegetables in curry. We’ve all developed a taste for the various spices that this country offers!

The day concluded with a visit to a Hindu temple in a renovated ancient cave where we participated in a religious ceremony. After visiting lots of temples and mosques throughout our trip, it was great to be a part of a small ceremony. We each received a flower that we put in a basket to offer to the Hindu gods while the pandit (Hindu priest) chanted a good luck prayer in Hindi. We proceeded back to our hotel, a renovated old palace, where about a dozen little girls performed a cultural dance for us. Some of our classmates joined in and learned some dance moves at the end. We ended our night on the hotel lawn with a delicious buffet dinner sponsored by Rajendra Ship Breakers. It was great to experience a more rural part of India, and we are excited to continue our journey in Mumbai!

Laura Van Drie and Lauren Kiddy

Ahmedabad – January 16th and 17th

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Monday January 16th

Today we took a city tour of Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is located on the State of Gujarat, in northwestern India. It is famous because it was Gandhi’s headquarters and home during the fight for India’s Independence in the 1940’s. The city tour included three stops in Ahmedabad: the Gandhi memorial museum, a Jainism temple and a mosque.

The Gandhi memorial museum was located on the property where Gandhi resided. The memorial consisted of three museums that contained different historical information on Gandhi’s life and artwork. Along with the museum we were able to see his house. The museum gave students a chance to learn about Gandhi’s non-violent philosophies. It also showed us how Gandhi’s peaceful non-violent revolts lead to India’s Independence.
The next two stops on our city tour were a Jainism temple and a mosque. Jainism is a branch of Hinduism that focuses on preserving life. They do no believe in eating meat or root vegetables because it is a source of life. The temple was intricately sculpted from sandstone. After visiting this temple we proceeded to a 16th century mosque located in the old part of Ahmedabad. In order to reach the mosque we had to proceed on foot. This gave many of us a first hand view of Indian traffic in which we were engulfed by a sea of people, rickshaws (Motorized tricycle) and merchants. Upon reaching the mosque we entered into an empty courtyard with the mosque located in the western end. The mosque was astonishing and was made up of over 250+ pillars. The mosque gave us a historical perspective of Ahmedabad.

Tuesday January 17th

Today we visited Veeda Clinical Research located in Ahmedabad, India. Veeda conducts Clinical Research for development of new and generic drugs. The company presentation on the pharmaceutical industry was very informative and allowed many of us to learn about an industry that we knew very little about. It covered the development of new drugs and the processes a company has to comply with in order to prove that the drug worked and did not have any negative side affects. For newly developed drugs, one in ten thousand reaches the retail market. Veeda Clinical Research was a very unique company to visit within India. It was unique because we were able to learn about how people here are more likely to participate in clinical trails due to lack of healthcare and income. After the company’s presentation, we toured the company’s labs and clinical trial area.

After the company visit and a brief lunch, we boarded the bus for our drive to Bhavnagar. This drive was very different from any other road we have traveled thus far. The “highway” was a two lane road barely wide enough for our bus. It gave us all a new understanding of the lack of infrastructure in India. Upon arriving in Bhavnagar we checked into our luxurious palace hotel.

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