For EMBA S16, we truly experienced the meaning of this adage on our first international module to Mumbai, India in early December. Growing up in New York, I have many Indian friends and consider myself quite exposed to the food, customs and culture of this BRIC nation. I enjoy going to Curry Hill (Murray Hill) and Jackson Heights, two Indian neighborhoods in New York City. I have watched Bollywood films and even dressed up in a sari for my Indian friends’ weddings. However, nothing compares to visiting the country and experiencing its rich history and culture through my five senses.
Descending into Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport two weeks after Modi’s decision to abolish the existing 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, EMBA S16 faced the first business challenge in an emerging market – Where can we exchange rupees? Prior to the trip, many of us scouted the exchange bureaus and banks in our home countries for rupees but to no avail. Luckily, we found a single currency exchange bureau at the airport that would allow an individual to exchange up to 4,000 rupees ($69 USD) for use at cash-only facilities. For the rest of our journey, we relied heavily on our credit and debit cards. While Indian citizens were suffering from the currency crisis, the cash shortage was creating a great business boom for local electronic payment companies.
During the rest of the week, we visited many companies, including a Bollywood movie studio, the Bombay Stock Exchange, a business incubator and Mahindra Lifespaces. One of the most memorable conversations we had was with our tour bus guide, who helped to shuttle us between locations in the mist of unpredictable traffic. During our talks, we learned that, while he grew up in the slums, he graduated from university and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in physics. To top it off, we found out that the tour company he is affiliated with was started with the idea of offering part-time employment to university students from the slums, so they can make a living while pursuing higher education. We were excited to experience first-hand the services provided by this socially responsible enterprise, and to see its positive impact in providing upward mobility for Indian youth.
India has experienced tremendous growth in the last few decades; however, the country is still in dire need of infrastructure development. This trip has provided me with an opportunity to not only learn about India but to spend quality time with my classmates outside of Oxford. My hope is to experience the infrastructure improvement that the Modi government promised its people in future trips to this growing nation.
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