Engaging Asia 2014 Part I: India

Since the beginning of my MBA adventure, there has been talk of this Engaging Asia program that is offered between first and second years in the Oregon MBA.  What was murmurs last fall turned into rumblings in winter term then full on discussions in the spring.  What actually happened during the first half of September was everything I was expected but nothing I expected at the same time.  The overload of sights, sounds, smells, and humidity is something I will never forget.  The balance of work and play was delicately met and the lack of sleep opportunities were matched with opportunities to fully explore and experience an area where I have never been.  But honestly, one of the coolest things this trip offered was the ability to fly completely around the world in 15 days—something that may rarely ever happen again.

Our adventure started out with an early morning flight from Eugene to Denver, then Denver to Newark, then Newark to Mumbai (a mere 15 hours direct).  The Mumbai airport was a complete dichotomy from the surrounding area.  A beautiful and new facility greeted us and allowed us ease our way into what was anticipated to be the largest culture shock.  Once we stepped out the door, however, we felt the full force of India: new smells, humid weather (even at 10 PM), honking horns, and feral dogs fighting in some bushes near the arrival pick up area.  Dorothy, we weren’t in Kansas anymore!  Our bus ride to the hotel was yet another wonder.  Cars zipping in and out of any open space available and traveling on a new bridge which diverted traffic across the bay and seeing everything from new buildings being built to blue tarp roofed dwellings right next door.  If you have ever seen Slumdog Millionaire, the images presented there about life in the city are accurate!  Seeing it in a movie is one thing, physically experiencing those images is quite another. We arrived at our hotel which was simply amazing!  We definitely felt in a little protected bubble whenever we returned here and the staff was definitely looking out for us.  Since we arrived at the end of the Ganesh festival, going out of the hotel was ill advised at times.  However, the food and service was amazing and it was closely located to the Gateway to India as well as other beautiful landmarks.

The first day we were allowed to explore and get adjusted to the jet lag and climate.  This consisted of a very sweaty walk to and from the Gateway to India, a terrifying cab ride (that never actually got us to our requested destination before we had to change plans and return to Nariman Point), and the Indian version of a tapas restaurant (I am not sure if they fully grasped the concept of tapas).  I also saw a multitude of creatures on the street including feral dogs and cats, cows, goats, chickens, and even a cobra (with its charmer).  India definitely held a surprise at every turn.

Our next two days were full of meetings which included Silicon Valley Bank, TCS (Tata Consulting Service), Khaitan & Co (one of the few full service law firms in the country), Qualcomm Ventures (with backed companies).  These meetings were informational and interesting (for the most part) and definitely highlighted the major differences one would face if they were to engage in business in India.  From major infrastructure or factory projects to daily consumer buying habits, business in India is its own creature and coming in with a western attitude doesn’t always work well.  One of the major company highlights was meeting the entrepreneur behind housing.com.  This website needs to be in the US!  His story, attitude, and product were awesome and this is definitely a company to watch in the next few years.  Finally, after three full days of this loud, bustling, and ­­­dichotomous country, we took a red eye flight to Shanghai to experience our second developing country

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.