Mumbai, Capital of Maharashtra: Yet another Adventure of GMBA in India
|Mumbai Skyline (Wikipedia)|
During a one-week holiday that XLRI provides its GMBA students in India, Weatherhead MBAs are encouraged to make the trek to Mumbai for several beneficial reasons that not only enhance their international network, but also expose them to experiences that expand their horizons beyond the farthest wake of the Arabian Sea.
Make sure you spend time on Marina Boulevard. The food in Mumbai is all encompassing. The walks you will take at night are enchanting. You will share meals and conversations with some of the biggest industries and players in the Bharat nation. Take the risk, introduce yourself, and be proud to be a Weatherhead Global MBA.
The Mumbai trip is packed with experiences that are spread out over four days at the end of the break. This allows for four or five days' worth of traveling beforehand. I linked up with my friend Soumy Singh, a Bollywood movie buff, mathematician and all around great XLRI GMBA classmate. Having been raised in Varanasi (touted as the world’s oldest city), Soumy and his family took me under their wing, showed me the Ganges River and enlightened me as to why it may just be the most spiritual place on earth. There really is no hospitality like an Indian family’s. (Thank you Soumy.) Then it was off to the home of Bollywood: Mumbai.
Traveling alone, I thought I might take a more adventurous route from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport to Victoria Terminus, where Carlos, Olanrewaju and I were staying. I contacted my GMBA senior Ankur Gupta from the senior batch, and asked him for advice.
He said, “Tasse, I know you can handle it. I wouldn’t say this to everyone. But instead of taking a taxi, grab the 5 p.m. cross-city train from Andheri Station and ride it to south to MumbaiCST / Victoria Terminus. Your lodging is close enough. And the hour-long train ride will show you side of Mumbai most don’t see."
Per Ankur’s advice, I said, "Namaskar" (Hello in Mahrathi, the language of Mumbai) to a fellow traveler from Gujarat (Northwestern India) and we caught an auto-rickshaw to the closest train station. With a few beads of sweat caressing my forehead, I stepped up to the ticket booth, bought my one-way rail pass and proceeded to wait among hundreds of other daily travelers who make the hour long trek from North Mumbai to South.
"This is India," I thought to myself, "These are its people. This experience is what separates GMBA from the rest."
Arriving around 7 p.m. in southern Mumbai, I bumped into the rest of the crew, we caught a bite to eat and got some much needed rest for the next day’s adventure.
Reliance HeadquartersAround 8 a.m. the following morning, a bus picked us up and drove us due north to the Reliance headquarters. Reliance has a reputation of dominating the IT services sector of not just India, but in the top rankings of the world. Their somewhat controversial stance on profit-driven initiatives made them a great case study as business students. Contrary to Tata-Steel who reinvests profits in communities for nation building and well-being programs, Reliance suggests that by developing the strongest sector of service skills such as IT services, it is providing jobs and career opportunities for the nation. Fortunately for us, we met with Mr. Kalpesh Ambani, Weatherhead MBA’97, to discuss their history, struggles, growth, future and opportunities within the company. Deep within the Reliance complex, through several security checks and a brief guided tour along a photo-laden hallway to their board room, we sat and spoke directly with Mr. Ambani, a graduate of Weatherhead’s MBA program. We were provided with tea, lunches and meaningful interactions which led to an elongated questions and answer session.
We then stopped in at a popular, but definitely chic eatery. Inside, we couldn't help but feel that backroom business deals and important lunch-meetings have taken place over meals and coffees inside the windows that face the busy Mumbai streets.
Bombay Stock ExchangeNext on the agenda was a professional tour of the world-famous Bombay Stock Exchange. We stood in the time-worn floors where thousands of traders once stood and screamed their bids for shares. You could feel the tension and the energy that once wrought those walls in the advent of electronic trade. After the tour, Rakesh Nair, an economist from the exchange, took us to the top of the building and into the strategic presentation board rooms where he would give us a two-hour-long lecture on the state of India’s economy, stock trends in the country, challenges to bringing the exchange about and his personal predictions for the future of places to be investing in the Bharat Nation. Then he proceeded to engage with us, interested in our program and also our thoughts as outsiders on the future of India.
We had a Weatherhead dinner at the Taj Mahal Hotel that night, where several of the other Weatherhead students were staying just off of the world famous Marine Drive. Accompanying us was Dean Robert Widing. Here, we sampled some of the prized Indian gastronomy, while hearing stories about Dean’s praise for the Global MBA successes abroad.
I remember returning to my hotel with Carlos and Olanrewaju, just perplexed at how I got here;
"How did I get to do all of this intentional, meaningful learning around the world, alongside the company of great Weatherhead classmates all with different backgrounds, nationalities, stories and their own learnings?"
Leo Burnett AdvertisingThe following morning we made our way to the world-famous Leo Burnett Advertising agency. Arriving a bit early, we detoured for coffee at India’s own Cafe Coffee Day off of a side street of Mumbai and had a chance to interact with the jet-lagged Meenakshi. In between conversations with us, she was on her iPhone connecting us to updated attendees of the forthcoming Weatherhead alumni event and other information about our company visits. We really couldn’t have done it without her.
We eventually arrived at Leo Burnett. In our suits and ties, we were met Kumuda Rao, Executive Creative Director. She explained to us the overall mission and strategy of Leo Burnett, current consumer trends and the impact of effective marketing strategies, capturing the heart and soul of India through multi-media, multi-channel marketing and advertising.
If you're wondering why we stopped at an ad agency that may or may not have inspired the TV series Mad Men, you must note that advertising in India is more of an experience than it is elsewhere. Indian advertisements tell stories that rival made-for-TV movies; they have a beginning, middle and end; they’re full of love tales and heroism. They make you laugh and smile. They, essentially, embody the essence of Bollywood’s epic nature all before even mentioning a product name or purpose. Having had some experience with that back at XLRI in Jamshedpur, we were able to better understand the brilliant walk-through that Leo Burnett Mumbai and the three associates there that day gave us. One even walked us through the formula of a successful Bollywood film in a buzz-feed style spoof, expressing how deep they go to understand both their customer’s desires and the market of their customers.
Tata Consulting Services (TCS)Next, we met for a several hour presentation and conversation with the world-renowed Tata Consulting Services (TCS) in the famous Jet Airways building close to the Mumbai Theatre district. Mr. Ameet Nivsarkar, V.P. TCS Mumbai and Mr. Yogesh Thakore, also V.P. TCS Mumbai, walked through not only what it means to be a consultant in the IT sector, but also what it means to be a local company with an international presence. He discussed the struggles of working within different cultures and countries, but also the asset you have if you are able to seamlessly move in and out of different countries with people unlike yourself and help them toward solutions for their businesses.
Mr. Yogesh Thakore summed up quite proficiently what it is we are doing, and what assets we are building within ourselves in the Global MBA.
CWRU Mumbai Chapter Alumni EventFinally, that night we made our way to the Trident Hotel at Nariman Point. We headed up past the indoor waterfalls and classy light display into the Mexican room where our Case Western Reserve University Mumbai Chapter Alumni event would take place. After everyone had a juice or a drink and a few elegantly displayed finger snacks, Greg Stephens of the 2015 batch made a few remarks on the program. Next the Dean brought in GMBA 2014’s Class Representative Ankur Gupta--the same Ankur who advised me to take the train ride through the entire metropolis--to give a speech on his experience in the GMBA. With great energy he discussed the opportunities GMBA offers that separate us from the rest and the relationships we build between the three schools that will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Finally, Dean Widing made a set of remarks on the progress of the program in just two years and what the future holds, including the addition of a fourth country to the global MBA: France.
Since the event, the connections we made have Skyped in for CTX: BRACE (Global MBA Consulting Club) Meetings, met one-on-one with students and even visited with our fellow GMBA students when they have visited Mumbai. Making these connections shaped the way I spent the rest of my semester in India.
This article was written from Doha, Qatar, between meetings with management of Starwood Hotels, a company GMBA worked with in their first semester in Shanghai. The opportunities to network outside on an international level are absolutely endless. Quality interactions during the semester lead to meaningful relationships outside of class. And yes, that means jobs.