Jan 2015 - Sep 2016
Tap tap taptaptap tap… The heat is pressing in the small room and 25 dedicated pairs of hands of hands rapidly punches the data, faxed in from Europe during the night. Tilak on our foreheads mixes with sweat as we hear schoolchildren’s song streaming through the open windows, almost drowning out the whir of overhead fans and our host’s presentation.
We are in rural India, visiting Company A, one of 17 – and counting – centres that offer business processing solutions for a range of industries, including banking, insurance, telecom, and IT. The center is part of a business initiative to bring jobs to the people by providing opportunities for rural youth to enter the knowledge economy, without having to leave their families for the cities. So far the company has created 2500 jobs, and many more is underway.
Greeted on the steps with smiles, flowers and a dash of water we feel like royalty touring its basic facilities, the primary school and temple, from whose trust they rent the building. A lasting impression of wonderment and awe from observing this symbiosis of business, education and spirituality has settled in me.
Beep beep beep. Next. We form an orderly queue in front of the body scanner while our bags are being X-rayed and the armed guards keep an alert eye on the street. Security is not taken lightly in Electronics City, Bengaluru, home to about 200 companies working with technology or business process outsourcing. Carted around the 90 acre campus, with manicured lawns, all day food courts, gyms and pools, we learn the impressive stats of the 170,000 head strong consulting and technology multinational with revenues approaching $9 bn. Most originating from outside India.
A question and answer session takes place in an assembly room resembling a small parliament hall, where every desk is rigged with a microphone and camera. Seeing your own image on the big screen while speaking adds lashings of importance to your question and proves an instant hit in our group.
Studying technology and operations management in India is, besides academically relevant, a study of contrasts; from the spearhead of companies on the cutting edge of technology to the farmers who sell their soybeans from ox-drawn carts at the local market. Reading cases about the companies we visit, discussing them in class, and then meeting with their senior management for questions and answers is an engaging way of learning and gives us the chance to see how political and cultural differences impact operations and business ideas. Since India is one of the five major emerging national economies (BRICS) it is likely that many of us will have dealings with Indian companies in our future careers, and having a clearer picture of how globalisation works in practice is a great advantage.
Little time was spent sightseeing this time, but Bengaluru is in many ways exotic to a westerner, not least in the way traffic flows. The count of lanes painted on the road have little impact on the actual number of auto-rickshaws running abreast, and the teeming street markets are fascinating to watch. But familiar elements also exist. A stroll on Commercial Street and UB City in the centre of town reveals many familiar brands. Street advertising looks like it could be lifted from any western city, with Nike, Speedo, Levi’s and KFC all present on the high street – with slight local adaptations to fit the cultural frame, but still true to their identity. However, if I were to put my finger on a unique feature, the cow walking past McDonald’s really tickles the eye.Back to top of article