Real Estate and Finance
Jan 2019 - Sept 2020
Oxford University made history by welcoming the largest percentage of women leaders to Saïd’s EMBA program in the September 2019 cohort (40% of the class). I got the opportunity to audit the program’s Global Rules of the Game module in Mumbai taught by Professor Mari Sako. I was joined by fellow classmate Sohail Choudhry. The week-long module allowed us the opportunity to visit companies that included Amazon, and Tata Motors. The CEO of HSBC India also spoke with us and shared insights on the business environment and the challenges related to alignment of government policy with the goals of the banking sector.
The India growth story is of particular interest to business students, investors, and entrepreneurs alike. Here are some noteworthy facts and insights I learned:
The challenges I noticed in light of the growth story:
There is a substantial gap between the rich and the poor with a missing middle which is visibly large. Taking rides in a Tuk Tuk or taxi will expose the reality on the ground as you pass by slums right beside established neighbourhoods. Western companies like Amazon and Walmart have faced backlash for predatory pricing strategies and monopolising the local market. In addition, Modi’s populist agenda has been controversial and blamed for causing divisions in the country. There is also the concern of the “informal economy” in India which constitutes 45% of GDP and thus puts some of the growth story figures into question. The most glaring concern however is the inequality in the country whereby a million young Indians enter the workforce every month, but less than half are either employed or employable. With a rising population and a lax policy on education, it is imperative for the government to focus on public-private partnerships to address the gaps in the education system and ensure the young Indian population does not miss the chance to become skilled workers.
With all the facts, figures, and challenges highlighted, India is poised to become the third largest economy in the world by 2030. On a personal note, I found my interactions with the locals quite pleasant. The staff at our hotel was warm, hardworking, and thoughtful. The business leaders we met emulated an aura of humbleness and thoughtful leadership for the future. Given the glorious history of the country and growth trajectory, it begs the question: will India become the next superpower?
Our short trip dictated a packed agenda with 6AM start every morning and activities that went on till 10PM every night. On the social front, the September 2019 class is an inclusive group and really made Sohail and I feel welcome. The cohort hails leaders from around the world in several sectors. We dined over many lunches and dinners learning about each other’s lives and engaging in thought-provoking discussions about the future of India and the world. During the trip I got questions from both cohorts about how one compares to the other – while I won’t draw specific comparisons, I will say that Oxford has a way of attracting great people; and that our J19 cohort’s noise level is quite high, especially during social occasions.
On our last night I went to drinks at the recently opened Soho House Mumbai hosted by S19. As I looked over the rooftop terrace admiring the breathtaking views of the ocean and the sunset, I was reminded of the common thread between our two cohorts: the insatiable desire to learn and do better. Complacency has no place at Saïd Business School.