GRADUATE BUSINESS CONFERENCE 2013
In February, we (Ranjith Ramachandran and Jessica Lehmann) were elected Executive Vice President and President, respectively, of the Graduate Business Student Association at Weatherhead School of Management. Soon after, we were informed that we would have the opportunity to participate in the 2013 Graduate Business Conference being hosted by the Indian School of Business, in Hyderabad, India. This annual conference brings together outgoing and incoming student government representatives from across the globe to discuss best practices and hear from keynote speakers on prevalent issues in the global business community. This year, delegates from every continent, except Antarctica, were present, and many of the keynote talks discussed conducting business in emerging markets.
The experience was unforgettable, and the opportunity to network with MBA students from all over the world was a great privilege. We made a lot of new friends and became particularly close with students from: University of Washington, the Norwegian School of Economics, Manchester Business School, McGill University in Japan, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Rochester. Each of the five days of the conference consisted of a best practices discussion among delegates, a keynote speaker, a panel discussion and an Indian-themed dinner and event in the evening.
Best practices discussions were quite fruitful, with many other student governments facing similar issues as ours, some of which were: how to create a culture of leadership at school; how to implement institutional memory; how to breakdown silos among departments; and how to use social media to engage the student body. We would brainstorm with other delegates who had similar issues as us, then discuss our ideas with the entire group. If other delegates’ institutions had already developed working solutions for these issues, they would then offer their advice. Ultimately, we developed a living document to share best practices and ideas throughout our terms of service.
The keynote speakers were world-renowned, including: Harish Manwani, the COO of Unilever; Dr. Mohan Reddy of Reddy Laboratories; and Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, a leadership consultant and mythologist. Dr. Pattanaik discussed the necessity of understanding cultures different than one’s own when trying to do business within them: “The easiest way to understand human beings is to understand the stories they tell.” He also deliberated on how trust affects business interactions: “In business, we’re constantly wondering: ‘Is he genuine, or is he strategic?’ You never know if a person is good.” All keynote speakers were very thought-provoking.
The evening dinners and celebrations put on by ISB were second-to-none and so fun! One evening, there was an outdoor setup mirroring an Indian bazaar, where one could get Mehndi put on her hand, watch a puppet show, have a fortune read or smoke a hookah. Another night had the delegates attending an outdoor comedy show featuring Indian comedian Sorabh Pant. This was followed by an outdoor Bollywood Night with billboards from Bollywood films surrounding a dance floor and Bollywood DJ. One night, an Indian dance troupe performed an amazing routine where they played brass plates with their feet.
Ranjith Ramachandran, MBA '14
Jessica Lehmann, MBA '14
HYDERABAD CULTURE FROM THE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE
The traffic in India is the epitome of organized chaos. There are very few traffic lights, and any semblance of lane designations is ignored. People honk almost non-stop. I have never seen anything like it. I ask Ranjith “How do you know when it’s your turn?” “Instinct,” he replies. After thirty-six hours of travel, we finally arrive in Hyderabad and ride in a Tata car to ISB. It is spring, almost summer, here, and I smell fresh flowers lining the road as we leave the airport. ISB is the most securitized university I have ever been to. Our cab is stopped at the gate, and it’s a good fifteen minutes of Ranjith speaking with two uniformed officers, and them making multiple calls before we are told that we need to go to the Infosys campus, and not ISB, for our check-in.
Infosys is a software engineering company with a beautiful campus just down the road from ISB. Infosys’s security is even tighter than ISB’s. Once in, the dorms are beautiful, and I go to bed (at 8 am local time!). When we wake up, I tell Ranjith that I want the real Indian experience. Previously, Ranjith had worked in Hyderabad for eight months and knows the city. We proceed to take three different autos (tuk tuk’s/tiny tiny cabs/rickshaws, etc.) to a nearby mall. The auto rides are amazing fun with up to six people cramming into one little vehicle that should, engineering-wise, probably not hold more than four people at a time. Legs and arms stick out of the sides of the auto, and at times, I wondered if the over-weighted car would make it up even a slight incline. Over the next few days, jet lag is a real issue: I’m waking up at 3 am, midnight, 4 pm, etc.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed India and its culture. I am applying for an internship there this summer, so if all goes well, I may have more stories to relay!
Jessica Lehmann, MBA '14