Archive for January, 2010
January 21st, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
It seems like yesterday that I showed up to India severely under dressed in a bright red University of Maryland sweatshirt (I try to blend in with the locals when I travel).
This has been an incredible journey. I wanted a program and location that not only interested me academically but would also explore the indigenous culture and I definitely got that out of this trip.
Have you seen my tour group?
The people I have met along the way are what I will remember the most. From my first ride in a “Delhi Helicopter” with our crazy driver JP to Bhopal, our driver and guide out to Jaipur. The anecdotes from executives we met with at Avery Dennison and Tata Steel detailing the evolution of business in India, and the amazing mission the founders of the Ashraya Initiative have taken on. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with so many amazing people on this trip.
The class got together for final presentations and a wrap up meeting over lunch before folks start heading to the airport for flights home. It’s going to be weird not moving lock stock with thirty other people. On a more personal note, I haven’t been more than 15 feet away from Justin since we boarded a plane together in D.C. nineteen days ago.
While I was checking out of the Taj, I realized my next breakfast would probably not be a 5-star all you can eat buffet complete with bottomless double espressos. The accommodations within the program have been great but I have to admit that I’m glad I came over a few days early to explore parts of India on my own. That first morning we must have sat on the side of a traffic circle for 15 minutes watching the cars jockey for position. It was like television! I still don’t fully understand the bucket in the shower. The good news is I got to experience a little bit of everything while I was here.
Our flight didn’t leave until 5 AM so we had plenty of time to kill after our final group lunch. A group of six of us left our bags with the concierge and headed out for one more afternoon of sightseeing around Mumbai. We followed up a trip to a Hindu temple and public garden with a stop at a commuter train station just before rush hour. Wow! And that’s all I’ll say about that. The stragglers still waiting behind for late flights decided to coordinate for one last group dinner. We met on the roof deck of the InterContinental hotel along the waterfront for dinner, beers and one more Indian sunset.
After PriceWaterhouse Cooper finished tallying up our tab Justin and I headed back to the Taj, picked up our bags and headed across Mumbai to the brand new Four Seasons hotel to kill some more time before our flight. A couple classmates were up on the roof top bar with local friends.
During the first half of my trip I tended to focus on the foreignness of everything around me. Why are there campfires everywhere? Who owns that cow? As the trip went on I started to observe more and more material culture similarities between the U.S. and India especially among the young people. It’s a little ironic that I went to India to learn about this foreign culture and how to conduct business there and one of the last things I experienced was something as American as apple pie, a nightclub with hip hop music, over priced drinks and people trying to be seen.
When we landed in Delhi I remember telling locals that we were here for twenty days. The unanimous response was something along the lines of, “you’ll barely see India in 20 days!” I know that I saw and experienced quite a bit, but I understand now what they were talking about. I really only got the tip of the iceberg and for that reason I’ll have to come back.
It’s been an amazing 20 days!
January 19th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
Going off the recommendation of our tour guide from earlier a group of us headed out to a local restaurant for dinner. Somewhere between the thirty-two orders of naan the table took down and two personalized songs from a wandering Neil Diamond impersonator, someone at the table got the classic idea to tell the staff it was my birthday.
I loved the live acoustic rendition of “Happy Birthday” coupled with the version they blasted over the loudspeaker in the background, but my favorite part had to be my birthday cake. Blowing out what is essentially an industrial strength sparkler on a mud pie personalized with “Happy Birthday Slewis” was hilarious – Loved it!
Meeting with Tata Steel at the Bombay House
The trip is coming to a close. We met with Tata Steel at the Tata Group’s Bombay House headquarters. We used their Halo Room to meet in small groups with the Chief Information Officer and Chief Strategy Officer for Tata Steel.
The CIO shared with us the familiar story of the pioneering spirit that fueled Tata’s growth early in the 20th century when other Indian companies experienced stagnant growth due to governmental and economic limitations. We heard about JD Tata’s dream to bring the steel industry within India’s borders to help take his country to the next level. Here is a company in an industry that has not only experienced significant industry specific challenges in the last 20-30 years, but has also survived “British Raj” (Britain’s colonial rule), socialism and the nationalization of the industry, and India’s economic liberalization in the 90’s only to emerge as a global leader in steel manufacturing (and now processing thanks to the Tata Ryerson buyout announced after our visit in Pune).
During our meeting something that really caught my attention was the importance placed on corporate social responsibility (CSR) across the Tata Group from the very beginning. Tata has established itself as the leader in CSR and really set the tone for how other companies operate in India. From all of our interactions with various leaders at Tata, I get the impression that Tata has always had one eye on profits and growth and another on improving the welfare of its employees and the nation of India. In the early 20th century it was Tata that helped pass some of India’s first labor welfare laws and introduced maternity benefits for women in the late 40’s. The Tata Group funded the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (1936); the Tata Memorial Centre for Cancer Research and Treatment (1941); the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (1945); and the National Centre for the Performing Arts, (1966) and those are just four examples from Mumbai!
It’s clear that their motto, “Give back what you get,” has been followed for far longer than the recent wave of CSR popularity.
The CSR discussion made the obvious transition to how you get people to buy into a particular corporate philosophy. How do you create a vision from the top down that drives the type of mindset that says profits are the goal, but so is being true to your company and your country?
For Tata it all starts at the top with an inspirational mindset, followed by people focus, communication focus and a culture that encourages the notion of failure to move forward. In 2007, Tata created a “vision architecture” that gave all employees the tools necessary to improve the financial bottom line of the company. The goal was to foster an environment and culture that created a sense of passion that would keep Tata viable and engage employees. In the first year alone they received over 7000 entries from employees with suggestions for improvements.
Finally, we learned about IT challenges at Tata Steel. The CIO talked about the transition from 700+ unlinked sales offices in 1990 to one of the most technologically savvy IT infrastructures in the world. Tata has evolved from custom-built mainframes twenty years ago to today’s custom-made SAP and process mapping software solutions. The CIO brought it all together when he described the use of IT to enable the collection of feedback from employees complementing the “vision architecture” fostered throughout the company.
January 18th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
The first stop on our sightseeing trip through Mumbai was the Taj Mahal Tower & Palace Hotel near the Gateway of India where one of the ten coordinated terrorist attacks in 2008 took place. You can see from the picture I snapped that the Taj is still undergoing significant renovations.
Our guide walked us through the lobby and retold the story of how the terrorists entered the city via a hijacked fishing boat and dispersed to various locations around South Mumbai.
It’s so hard to resist….
Kids come up to you all over the place asking for money or trying to sell you kitschy souvenirs.
“Buy these postcards, 200 Rupees”
They ask for money and gesture with their hand to their mouth signaling to you their hunger. It’s one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever seen. Of course there is poverty in the U.S. but the sheer scale and prevalence of it in India is overwhelming. It’s not necessarily more in your face. It’s the kids, young kids. I know that I probably walk past half a dozen homeless men on my way to the Metro each morning. I don’t, to the best of my knowledge walk past half a dozen street kids every morning.
After some shopping, a group of us stopped to buy some fresh coconut juice from a street vendor. As we were standing around enjoying our drinks a small boy came over and wandered in and out of our group. He looked about a year older than my eldest nephew. He kept looking up at all of us, not asking for anything just looking. He was with a small girl, presumably his sister. It was obvious that they spend their days wandering the busy streets of Mumbai.
At the Ashraya Initiative we learned that the majority of street kids are put out there to make money for someone else and rarely do they ever reap the benefits of anything a person gives them. Even the guidebooks tell you that if you want to help wait until you get back home. Go online and find a charity that works with street kids and make a donation. But damn, that’s easier said than done when you’re standing in front of one of these little boys or girls. I looked at this little boy and couldn’t help but think he should have it better than this. One of my classmates didn’t finish his juice and gave his coconut to the little boy. He stared at it for a while before sipping on the straw.
If your coconut had enough fruit in it the vendor would scoop it out and give it to you in a plastic bag. As we left I realized I had no use for a bunch of fresh coconut so I handed my bag to the little boy and got one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. I don’t have a picture of him smiling but I will never forget the look on the little boy’s face.
January 17th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
Our last meeting in Pune was at the Tata Management Training Centre. This is the third time the TMTC has hosted students from the Smith School. Opened in 1966 by JR Tata, the TMTC was established to educate and train managers and foster economic growth across India. The facilities are housed on the grounds of a beautiful old bungalow and is large enough to accommodate up to 60 people for overnight lodging and meals, and even has a business library. TMTC regularly brings in world-renowned business school faculty to teach tailored management courses to individual companies. Areas of expertise include: Finance & Ethics, Leadership & Organization, Markets & Customers, and Strategy & Innovation.
During our visit we heard from four senior executives over the course of the morning and afternoon. My biggest takeaway was how successful they have been with creating a business excellence “mindset” among top managers. TMTC teaches that results are driven by corporate strategy which in turn is fueled by an obsession for the customer, process orientation, high performance work culture, execution excellence, constant improvement and innovation and finally, sustained and superior business results. There is an understanding that it’s not one of those things or a couple, it’s all or nothing.
Very impressive to say the least.
Following lunch overlooking a beautiful pool and some pictures with our hosts we headed back to the hotel to check out.
Our last long bus ride
The bus ride up to Mumbai was pretty easy until we got to an area called Navi Mumbai. This is the area just east of Mumbai and includes large commercial buildings, new apartments and hotels and with all of that comes…..traffic.
When we arrived to the Taj Presidente it was the same old story, lavish hotel lobby, rose water to sip on, exquisite floral arrangements and countless people ready to make your stay as stress-free as possible. Everyone checked into their rooms and met back down in the lobby to go out. Fortunately, some of our classmates had family and friends in Mumbai who suggested some clubs.
Prior to this trip my Indian friends described Mumbai as more cosmopolitan and “New York-ish” than Delhi. Inside the club in Mumbai was one of the few times I felt like I was not in India. The music, the club design, the people (most eclectic mix of people I’ve seen in India so far) – you could walk into this club in any major city in the world.
(Okay, I take that back, the other time I felt like I wasn’t in India was when our driver took us to that restaurant in Jaipur. We walked in and I thought I was at an Elks Lodge meeting in Ames, Iowa)
According to my friends, Mumbai caters a little more to the youth culture that is drawn to Mumbai by Bollywood. Nightlife seems more accessible in Mumbai. With the exception of a few hotel bars in Delhi we didn’t really come across clubs and bars like I’ve noticed here in Mumbai. In Delhi, you really had to look for that kind of stuff and it generally closed early compared to clubs and bars in Mumbai.
After Pune, it became obvious that there is another component to this course. It’s not just about “Competitive Advantage through an India Strategy,” it’s also about meeting new friends. A week ago we hardly knew each other’s name. This is only a hypothesis, but I’m pretty sure if you take a large group of people and throw them into a foreign culture they will develop friendships quicker than they normally would in a classroom in D.C. or College Park and I think that has been the case with this group. Personally, I usually wait a minimum of 4 weeks before I fast dance in front of someone, but that hasn’t applied to this trip….chalk it up to close quarters on the bus and Kingfishers.
Another great night out with friends. Starting to realize in the back of my mind that this journey is coming to an end.
January 16th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
Pune is a big time college town. Over 100 institutes and nine universities call Pune home. Since this was one of our first full evenings on our own we decided to hit the bar scene and see what Pune had to offer in terms of nightlife.
Here is what I learned:
- Warm vodka and soda is a terrible drink, however it’s far better than the ramifications of enjoying a drink chilled with ice cubes made with regular tap water.
- Watch your back, you never know when two classmates are going to hoist you up and parade you around the bar like you just won the super bowl.
I would have chosen the smallest person on the trip, but to each his own.
- My neck hurts. The ceiling was 9 feet, your friends are 5’11, and you are 6’5” do the math and see the second point.
- There is no greater feeling then cruising down a street in a motorized rickshaw at 2 AM with your head out the window like a Labrador retriever.
Great night out with the Smith crew! One more day in Pune then back on the bus to Mumbai.
January 16th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
The differences between Delhi and Pune are super obvious! Lets see, my teeth aren’t chattering, sound is only 74% car horns and overall it appears much less crowded.
Our first meeting was with Tata Ryerson, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Steel, the second most geographically diversified steel manufacturer in the world. Tata Ryerson is the largest processor of steel in India. You only need to walk around a major city in India and see the construction to realize steel is big business around here.
We got the opportunity to hear about the Tata Ryerson joint venture as well as the recent buyout of Ryerson’s 50% stake by Tata Steel Ltd. Afterwards we split into groups and toured the processing plant. As I walked around the facility I thought about my grandfather who worked for Great Lakes Steel just south of Detroit, MI and I remembered the mill along the river near my hometown that used to light the night sky bright yellow every time it poured molten steel. The steel industry has undergone quite a transformation (to say the least) as a result of globalization.
Our next stop was the Ashraya Initiative for Children (AIC). This was easily the most memorable of all of our company visits so far. We met with Julia, one of the founding members of the Ashraya executive team and were astonished by how much she and her team have accomplished! The initiative has two focuses. The first is a residential program for 11 kids in need of permanent housing and a loving family atmosphere (the goal is to take on 15 kids when they get enough funding). The second is an educational outreach program that provides meals and tutoring to 150 kids each day!
Julia walked half of us to the local slum all of her kids call home while the other half stayed behind to help the kids paint a wall with colorful handprints. When we got to the entrance of the slum Julia hesitated to take us in. She said that our presence would cause quite a scene. An elderly woman appeared and greeted Julia. The woman, a friend of Julia’s invited all of us into her home. We walked past the only bathroom in the slum, through the narrow walkways and past countless children, removed our shoes and entered the woman’s home. Immediately she ran off and secured two bottles of Pepsi to share with us. I was struck by the woman’s generosity.
It was a matter of seconds until the entire doorway was filled with onlookers. I’m pretty sure part of the curiosity was spurred by the fact that none of the kids had ever seen a size 14 loafer. I think three kids sailed one of my shoes around a puddle.
All jokes aside these kids pushed and shoved to get into the house to see us. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. They went wild for the pictures and videos we took of them. They would pose for a photo with a friend or sibling (the oldest would do the time honored and global tradition of putting “rabbit ears” on the younger kids’ heads) and then they would all gather around us to see their picture on the backs of our camera. At one point there must have been over twenty people inside a 12 x 8 ft room!
The poverty in India is both overwhelming and heart wrenching. It’s amazing to know that there are people like Julia and her team out there helping kids in need!
January 15th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
It’s our last day in Delhi as a group. It doesn’t seem like very long but the way the trip split between traveling with Justin and then joining the group makes it seem like two distinct trips. We have one more lunch meeting at another Taj hotel in Delhi before we head to the airport to fly down to Pune for the next leg of our trip.
Our professor lined up what turned out to be a great meeting with a senior executive from DSCL. DSCL has operations in Chloro-Vinyl, agri-sectors and an assortment of value added businesses. They used to be a part of a larger, family owned conglomerate before the business was divided up into smaller units.
Our speaker described the liberalization of India’s economy in the early 90’s and opening up of India’s markets to international competition. Without competition there was never reason to look outside the firm for forward thinking strategy. Corporate strategy was driven more by government licenses, limited competition and a lifetime employment policy similar to Japan’s. Our speaker explained that while companies in the U.S. were taking entrepreneurial risks, Indian companies were much more conservatively run, often focusing more on hedging and controlling risks.
Overcoming the challenges of getting tossed out into the global mix of corporate competition was an enormous challenge. I wasn’t shocked to hear that they incorporated the use of large consulting firms. Actually, I think we were all extremely impressed by the size and variety of the firms they employed. It seems that at one time or other DSCL has utilized every top consulting firm in the world to help them become swift, sleek, outward looking and customer oriented through IT best practices and organization building. It was like a history lesson hearing how DSCL positioned itself for growth and global competition.
DSCL’s customer centric strategy is evident in its Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar initiative. Here is this enormous company that manufactures various agri-business products used across India and they also have over 300 bazaars that sell their agricultural products as well as other consumer goods to customers throughout India. Imagine if Monsanto or Cargill decided to have stores throughout America where they sold their products and staffed the stores with crop science experts to help farmers cultivate the best crops possible. This idea has had a revolutionary impact on India’s farming capacity.
The last item I found extremely fascinating during our speaker’s talk was his emphasis on the importance of relationships in India. In so much of the rest of the world the phrase, “its not personal, its business” seems to be the norm. In India, it’s exactly the opposite. Business relationships in India mirror family-like interactions regardless of whether its between a customer, supplier, employee or shareholder.
Okay, well that’s the longest I’ve typed in my blog without mentioning some crazy interaction with a wild animal or form of transportation that is smaller than me.
After our meeting with DSCL we headed to the airport for our flight down to Pune.
Jet Airways Flight 234: “Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby.”
Pune Air Boss: “That’s a negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.”
That didn’t stop our “pilot” from making not one but two passes. The first time we tried to land we got down to about 150 ft and he throttled up out of nowhere, a little unnerving to say the least. After we came around and tried to land again with the same result I started handwriting a will and looking for a notary public. God forbid my baseball card collection and $287 Roth IRA get tied up in some sort of estate legal battle. We finally landed on the third try to a thundering round of applause from the Smith crew. To no surprise our pilot in training did not step outside the cockpit as we exited to say thanks.
"There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?"
Late night trip to a call center
We boarded a bus for the hotel with just enough time to grab dinner up on the roof deck before heading to a Convergys facility. Our instructor told us a while back that you couldn’t come to India and not visit a call center. I was surprised to find out that Convergys is much more than just a warehouse full of phone operators. We met with some senior managers who took us through the relationship management competencies that make Convergys a global leader in client/customer management. More than half of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies are Convergys clients. Convergys works closely to specially train each representative to specifically work for individual clients.
Walking through the center it was incredible to observe all of the interactions simultaneously taking place. During our host’s presentation we learned about some of the techniques Convergys uses to tailor how they handle calls for each client. For example, we all know the guy on the other end of the line who introduced himself as “Mike” is more likely named “Mandeep.” This isn’t to appear more Western, it’s to move the conversation along and better serve the customer. Instead of spending 40 seconds explaining a Hindu name that roughly translates as “light of the mind” to a client’s customer they can get down to solving problems.
Tomorrow we’re meeting with Tata Ryerson and Ashraya Initiative.
January 13th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
This morning we drove out to a stretch of highway outside Delhi that dozens of large multinational companies call home. We met with several members of Avery Dennison’s India operations.
Avery Dennison has hosted Smith students for the past three years and this year they did not disappoint. They rolled out the red carpet….literally. When we showed up we were greeted by the senior management team and shown into an outdoor tent they had set up for our morning meetings.
Avery Dennison is a company that doesn’t necessarily have the name recognition of a Proctor and Gamble or Anheuser Busch, but If you ever wondered where major brands purchase their product labeling you would find that Avery Dennison is responsible for providing a wide array of label options to dozens of consumer goods companies. They make everything from the plastic label around your water bottle to those crazy ads covering entire city buses.
We met with the head of India operations who took us through some of the challenges he faced getting Avery Dennison up and running after the opening up of the Indian economy in the early 90’s. I came to appreciate the “roll with it” spirit and patience that so many managers had to have in order to succeed in India following drastic economic changes.
I was equally impressed by the operational efficiency inside the actual plant. Avery Dennison currently utilizes Lean Six Sigma quality management strategies to manage processes and control costs in a low margin industry. Walking through their facility it was obvious that these strategies have been successfully implemented across the entire facility. I’ve toured my share of manufacturing plants and even worked in one myself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more organized facility in my life.
After the meeting we hopped back on the bus and hit the road for Agra. The group is driving out to Agra to see the Taj Mahal before returning to Delhi for a few more meetings. Our guide said the trip should take 4.5 hours. The operative word is “should.” The trip Justin and I took to Jaipur took five hours out and nine hours back. I braced for the worse case scenario.
Passing the time in traffic can be rough. The job of tour guide on an Indian road trip requires you to have a finger on the pulse of your group and sometimes that means stopping the bus to pick up a couple cases of Carlsberg and Royal Challenge beer (affectionately renamed “Royal Drainage”). Couple 22s and a group male roadside bathroom break later and I felt people were really starting to get to know each other.
The next morning when I finally saw the Taj Mahal up close I was speechless. I feel like I can only describe 50% of this trip so far with pictures. I have previously seen amazing sites in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra in books and magazines, but there is something about touching the inlayed semi-precious stones that adorn the entrance of the Taj and seeing firsthand the painstaking craftsmanship that went into each delicately inscribed section and understanding the experience in a way that cannot be captured in a still photograph. Awesome time, definitely a bucket list experience.
The Taj is 360 years old, my teeth are 32 years old...someone buy me some whitestrips!
As far as I’m concerned there is only one way to follow up a cultural experience like your first trip to the Taj Mahal and it’s a trip to an Indian McDonalds.
“Yeah, I’ll have the Chicken Maharaja Mac.”
Where's the beef?
After lunch we got on the bus and headed back to Delhi. Every year our professor takes the class to a big Lohri festival in Delhi. We arrived just in time to take in a couple musical acts before heading outside for the biggest Indian buffet I have ever seen. The Lohri festival is a huge event in North India. It’s a celebration of fire and the earth’s movement closer to the sun. Outside they had placed one enormous bonfire surrounded by smaller versions throughout the festivities. Great food, live tunes and Budweiser….does it get better? I submit that it does not.
January 12th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
Today is my first day with the Global Studies class. Woke up early to grab some food. Looking over the class itinerary it’s pretty obvious that we’ll be eating better than we did during the first half of the trip. During breakfast I kept noticing familiar faces filtering in to the restaurant. Our last class together in D.C. was over a month ago and since the majority of the class is from the Part-Time or Accelerated MBA program reintroductions are in order.
At 9:00 AM the entire class boarded a luxury coach for a day of sightseeing around Delhi. This was a completely different mode of sightseeing then Justin and I had grown accustomed to in India. Knowing that for the next 10 days we’ll be living in 5-star hotels, traveling via luxury coach and moving as a 40-person group makes me happy that I chose to come over early to experience some things a little more intimately on my own. Window seat on a giant tour bus is slightly different than head out the side of a motorized rickshaw doing 25 mph through congested traffic circles. I will say this, sitting on a bus and not having my face two feet from the exhaust of the motorized rickshaw next to me in traffic is a nice change of pace.
The bus squeezed its way through the narrow streets of Old Delhi and dropped us off at the Jama Masjid aka the “Friday Mosque” near the Red Fort. Jama Masjid can hold up to 20,000 worshippers on any given day. Voluntarily feeding the pigeons in the outdoor mosque was probably not the greatest idea. Its safe to say that pair of socks is not making the trip back to D.C.
After the mosque everyone paired up and hopped on bicycle rickshaws. My driver was 5’4” and a buck thirty tops. The look on his face when I crawled up on his rickshaw was priceless. He wasn’t bigger then my left leg. Toss Justin into the mix and the dude needed a runway to run down to get enough momentum to pedal. The ride took us through the narrow streets of a part of town known as Chandni Chowk that houses hundreds of little shops selling everything from incense to fruit to beautiful saris. There were points in the ride where I didn’t even have to get out of the rickshaw if I wanted to shop. Some of the little alleys are as narrow as six or seven feet.
The scariest part of the ride wasn’t the traffic or the fact that the rickshaw seat was barely screwed into the bicycle it was the electrical wiring that loosely hangs down all over the streets. I’ve never seen so much wiring in a city.
Someone call an electrician
The class regrouped at the Chandni Chowk subway station. Justin and I tried to ride the subway three days ago and gave up. We watched three packed trains go by before conceding. It was absolutely shocking to watch people get on and off the subway cars. I figured the entire group was about to experience the same thing. This particular station actually had designated boarding and exit lanes on the ground. There were also attendants all over the platform making sure patrons were allowed to exit before new passengers boarded. We split up and hopped on a single car at various entrances. I had asked our guide how many stops we were going and he told me one so when we got to the next station I lowered my shoulder like a fullback and busted through to the door. The three other guys I was with did the same. It’s a little disheartening to exit a jam packed train in a foreign city only to turn around and see the other twenty six members of your class on the train waving at you. Thank god Justin bought a cell phone.
That night the class hosted a cocktail/dinner reception in a ballroom at the Taj Palace for area professionals and local Smith administrators. A senior executive from Standard Chartered Bank of India gave a 30-minute presentation on the challenges his company faces as it evolves to meet the needs of a growing middle class. This was the first of several meetings we have scheduled across India with entrepreneurs and senior managers.
January 11th, 2010 by scott under Uncategorized. No Comments.
Its our seventh day in India and I almost forgot about the academic part of the trip. We hit up our usual spot for breakfast and decided to take one last stroll through the ‘hood, when out of nowhere a small man jumped out of a group of men drinking tea around a small fire. It was J.P.! Our very first rickshaw driver…..you never forget your first! This was the crazy man who drove us all over Delhi our first day and set us up with the tour company we used for our trip to Jaipur. What are the odds of running into a familiar face in a city of 13 million and a neighborhood that 800,000 people easily call home?
I didn’t bother to shower before or after breakfast. We were leaving to check in to our rooms at the Taj Palace hotel (queue the Jefferson’s theme). I threw my dirty laundry into bags and checked out as fast as possible. We got to the Taj and I’m pretty sure they thought Pig Pen from Peanuts was checking in. When we walked into our hotel room it was like two kids walking into a Toys R Us. It was amenity overload! A thermostat, showerhead with enough water pressure to pin you to the back of the tub, CNN, and laundry service that was more expensive then every article of clothing I gave them to clean. Probably should have tossed my Fall ’02 Gap and Eddie Bauer collection and started fresh…it would have been cheaper.
The concierge found us a driver to take us to a few sites we had yet to see. The driver took us to the Lotus Temple.
3:30 in the afternoon and they shut it down early for no reason. We asked the driver and he said that its not at all uncommon for tourism sites to close down unexpectedly and without warning. Fortunately for us we could snap some shots from on top a fence nearby.
Our next stop was Humayun’s tomb.
Also closed early.
This time our driver even went to the gate and asked why. He got a curt “because” from the armed guard at the admission gate. Now we were batting 0 for 2 on sites with a climbing fare meter on the cab. We decided to cut bait and have the driver take us back to the Taj Palace. Along the way we asked if there was a liquor store he could stop by. We’ve been drinking poor man’s Kingfishers in Karol Bagh and after our failed attempts to see a couple sites I wanted a cold beer.
When I finally found the liquor store it looked more like the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Pure chaos. I got in what I thought was the line and found myself further back in the line within 10 seconds.