Finally time for the Taj Mahal! This was the place I looked forward to visiting most all trip. We had an early morning in order to make the three to four hour drive there. Being sick, I took the time to rest and get more sleep. Although I did enjoy looking out the window and seeing the Indian countryside, a new kind of scenery given all the big cities we shuttled between. As we neared, we drove through Agra or its outskirts. The city had an older less developed feel. I kind of wish our group had an afternoon to explore there with the interesting vibe I got from it.

When we got off the bus we had to walk a bit to the ticket counter and entrance to the site. Reading online I later learned that this was an intentional development to try and keep direct automotive pollution away from the site to lessen its deleterious effects on the structure. As we entered, I did not know about the other mosques and buildings surrounding the Taj nor did I realize it sat along a river. Walking through a high-ceilinged arched walkway to enter, the first view of the Taj Mahal was breathtaking. The sheer size of the building cannot really be grasped from pictures. We walked along the pools and fountains to get closer and eventually enter. At that point I got to take in the immense detailing in the marble. If someone wants to build me a resting place like that, I would not complain :) After a little lunch we then toured Agra Fort, another impressive structure for its size and detailing. A thoroughly enjoyable visit, I am glad the heat did not get the best of us seeing as it was hotter than anything we experienced all trip to that point.

The next day was our last day of activities and visits before our presentations and departure from India. How the two weeks went by so fast I had no idea! That day we went to visit Microfinance Ujjivan. While I had always heard about microfinance and the concept, it was nice to see an organization in operation. Further, they took us in small groups to go speak with some of their clients. This was definitely the best part of the visit. It showed me how incredibly impactful these loans can be fore families, especially for the women of the community.

Returning to the hotel, we had the rest of the day open to work on our projects. Following our presentations the next morning, I was very proud of our entire class for developing some truly interesting and unique business ideas. Later in the day, we had the last afternoon free to shop. Finding nothing in the market, I thought I might leave India without a souvenir for my parents. Low and behold one of the hotel gift shops became my savior. They had a level of stores with local crafts and I picked out a large metal elephant decorated in Indian colors and patterns.

Now back at home in the U.S., I cannot believe it has already been two weeks since our journey. Seeing and learning so much in those two weeks, I also learned of so many other areas of India we did not have time to visit such that I am already eager to go back. Until next time, Namaste!

Finally time for the Taj Mahal! This was the place I looked forward to visiting most all trip. We had an early morning in order to make the three to four hour drive there. Being sick, I took the time to rest and get more sleep. Although I did enjoy looking out the window and seeing the Indian countryside, a new kind of scenery given all the big cities we shuttled between. As we neared, we drove through Agra or its outskirts. The city had an older less developed feel. I kind of wish our group had an afternoon to explore there with the interesting vibe I got from it.

When we got off the bus we had to walk a bit to the ticket counter and entrance to the site. Reading online I later learned that this was an intentional development to try and keep direct automotive pollution away from the site to lessen its deleterious effects on the structure. As we entered, I did not know about the other mosques and buildings surrounding the Taj nor did I realize it sat along a river. Walking through a high-ceilinged arched walkway to enter, the first view of the Taj Mahal was breathtaking. The sheer size of the building cannot really be grasped from pictures. We walked along the pools and fountains to get closer and eventually enter. At that point I got to take in the immense detailing in the marble. If someone wants to build me a resting place like that, I would not complain :) After a little lunch we then toured Agra Fort, another impressive structure for its size and detailing. A thoroughly enjoyable visit, I am glad the heat did not get the best of us seeing as it was hotter than anything we experienced all trip to that point.

The next day was our last day of activities and visits before our presentations and departure from India. How the two weeks went by so fast I had no idea! That day we went to visit Microfinance Ujjivan. While I had always heard about microfinance and the concept, it was nice to see an organization in operation. Further, they took us in small groups to go speak with some of their clients. This was definitely the best part of the visit. It showed me how incredibly impactful these loans can be fore families, especially for the women of the community.

Returning to the hotel, we had the rest of the day open to work on our projects. Following our presentations the next morning, I was very proud of our entire class for developing some truly interesting and unique business ideas. Later in the day, we had the last afternoon free to shop. Finding nothing in the market, I thought I might leave India without a souvenir for my parents. Low and behold one of the hotel gift shops became my savior. They had a level of stores with local crafts and I picked out a large metal elephant decorated in Indian colors and patterns.

Now back at home in the U.S., I cannot believe it has already been two weeks since our journey. Seeing and learning so much in those two weeks, I also learned of so many other areas of India we did not have time to visit such that I am already eager to go back. Until next time, Namaste!

Our last day in Mumbai started with a tour to see the Dabbawallas operate. This class activity gave us the chance to finally experience public transit in India. Now I thought the trains in China were packed. The masses of people I saw at Churchgate station made my experiences across China seem tame in comparison. We got off at a station that was designated a receiving/sorting center for the Dabbawallas. It was incredible to see how quickly the workers could sort the lunches simply by strategic numbers and letters written on the bag. It is still mind-boggling to me how they do all of this in a fairly traditional manner with little computer-aided logistics.

Later that afternoon we got to visit the Future Group, one of India’s prominent retailers. While they have a few different brands of retail chains, they also discussed their market research group. I found it very interesting how this team discovered that India’s younger population today is actually more traditional than the generation before them. This was an answer I did not expect. Further, I enjoyed hearing Mr. Biyani’s thoughts on e-commerce in India following a question I posed. While it is ever present in the U.S. and a credible threat to brick-and-mortar retailers, he feels that phenomenon is farther in the future for India, hence their continued focus on stores.

The next morning we had an early flight to Delhi where we arrived and took the bus straight to the Akshardham Temple. It is unfortunate the no cameras were allowed because this place was truly a sight to behold. I am still in awe that the structure could be completed in only 5 years. With the insanely intricate stone carving throughout it just simply seems impossible. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and taking in the beauty as well as reading the plaques with this religious story of Hinduism. However, the other activities we participated in there got a little commercial. I understand they are trying to appeal to a broad range of visitors. Still, I would have enjoyed my experience even more only taking in the impressive architecture and the new religious story.

Wednesday morning we were treated to a discussion with VK Singh, one of India’s External Affairs Ministers. It was quite incredible that such an important individual in India’s government was willing to spend time with our class. Our session with him brought up the topic of the Northeast Territories, expanding our knowledge of current issues in India. Following our visit with him, some of us elected to go on an abbreviated city tour of Delhi. Unfortunately, we only ended up having time to visit Qutub Minar. The inscription and detailing on the sandstone and marble of all these ruins was really beautiful to see. After our visit, I learned through online that there were many other ruins and heritage areas a part of or right near Qutub Minar. I wish we had more time to explore! It was still great to see and a picture of me there is the one I included with this post.

Our last day in Mumbai started with a tour to see the Dabbawallas operate. This class activity gave us the chance to finally experience public transit in India. Now I thought the trains in China were packed. The masses of people I saw at Churchgate station made my experiences across China seem tame in comparison. We got off at a station that was designated a receiving/sorting center for the Dabbawallas. It was incredible to see how quickly the workers could sort the lunches simply by strategic numbers and letters written on the bag. It is still mind-boggling to me how they do all of this in a fairly traditional manner with little computer-aided logistics.

Later that afternoon we got to visit the Future Group, one of India’s prominent retailers. While they have a few different brands of retail chains, they also discussed their market research group. I found it very interesting how this team discovered that India’s younger population today is actually more traditional than the generation before them. This was an answer I did not expect. Further, I enjoyed hearing Mr. Biyani’s thoughts on e-commerce in India following a question I posed. While it is ever present in the U.S. and a credible threat to brick-and-mortar retailers, he feels that phenomenon is farther in the future for India, hence their continued focus on stores.

The next morning we had an early flight to Delhi where we arrived and took the bus straight to the Akshardham Temple. It is unfortunate the no cameras were allowed because this place was truly a sight to behold. I am still in awe that the structure could be completed in only 5 years. With the insanely intricate stone carving throughout it just simply seems impossible. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and taking in the beauty as well as reading the plaques with this religious story of Hinduism. However, the other activities we participated in there got a little commercial. I understand they are trying to appeal to a broad range of visitors. Still, I would have enjoyed my experience even more only taking in the impressive architecture and the new religious story.

Wednesday morning we were treated to a discussion with VK Singh, one of India’s External Affairs Ministers. It was quite incredible that such an important individual in India’s government was willing to spend time with our class. Our session with him brought up the topic of the Northeast Territories, expanding our knowledge of current issues in India. Following our visit with him, some of us elected to go on an abbreviated city tour of Delhi. Unfortunately, we only ended up having time to visit Qutub Minar. The inscription and detailing on the sandstone and marble of all these ruins was really beautiful to see. After our visit, I learned through online that there were many other ruins and heritage areas a part of or right near Qutub Minar. I wish we had more time to explore! It was still great to see and a picture of me there is the one I included with this post.

It was our first day in Mumbai and a visit to a Bollywood studio was on the agenda. With an Aunt and Uncle who work in the Hollywood entertainment industry, seeing the sets and the actual tapings was not a new concept to me. However, the visit did remind me of the vast amount of time and resources that go into numerous sets that are only used once. Further, it was very interesting to learn how India has segmented film industries based on the language in which they are produced, which makes sense given the many languages and dialects across the country. Moreover, I did not know that Bollywood produced almost double the number of films compared to Hollywood. Nor did I realize how Bollywood is spread out versus centralized like Hollywood’s studios.

That evening we were treated to a bevy of University of Michigan alumni guest speakers. It was refreshing to hear from younger undergrad alumni closer in age to us. Their personal perspectives on different aspects of doing business in India were extremely engaging. Also, after dinner they took us out on the town. Keeping with the theme of the day, it was Bollywood night at the club.

The highlight of the next day, Sunday, was touring Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Before the tour, I was only anticipating seeing dense, impoverished living conditions. I had no idea about all of the industry activity that occurs within Dharavi. It was amazing to see such a range of economic activity. Most inspiring was seeing how hard everyone worked and the happiness maintained due to the opportunity people see from living and working in Dharavi. Indians migrate from all over the country to take advantage of those chances. Most touching was the smiling kids and their eagerness to say hi and wave when they saw us walk past. We learned that there is a proposal to replace Dharavi with developments. Without having done any research, I hope this does not happen as I cannot imagine what all of these people would do to support themselves without the industries of Dharavi. The proposal seems like it would not help improve the poverty situation in India at all.

Although the visit to Dharavi was the most eye opening and transformative experience of my time in India so far, my best pic from these days is of the Mumbai skyline at sunset as seen from Nariman Point. Tomorrow we see the Dabbawallas in action, a teaching point from TO 313!

- John McCarthy

It was our first day in Mumbai and a visit to a Bollywood studio was on the agenda. With an Aunt and Uncle who work in the Hollywood entertainment industry, seeing the sets and the actual tapings was not a new concept to me. However, the visit did remind me of the vast amount of time and resources that go into numerous sets that are only used once. Further, it was very interesting to learn how India has segmented film industries based on the language in which they are produced, which makes sense given the many languages and dialects across the country. Moreover, I did not know that Bollywood produced almost double the number of films compared to Hollywood. Nor did I realize how Bollywood is spread out versus centralized like Hollywood’s studios.

That evening we were treated to a bevy of University of Michigan alumni guest speakers. It was refreshing to hear from younger undergrad alumni closer in age to us. Their personal perspectives on different aspects of doing business in India were extremely engaging. Also, after dinner they took us out on the town. Keeping with the theme of the day, it was Bollywood night at the club.

The highlight of the next day, Sunday, was touring Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Before the tour, I was only anticipating seeing dense, impoverished living conditions. I had no idea about all of the industry activity that occurs within Dharavi. It was amazing to see such a range of economic activity. Most inspiring was seeing how hard everyone worked and the happiness maintained due to the opportunity people see from living and working in Dharavi. Indians migrate from all over the country to take advantage of those chances. Most touching was the smiling kids and their eagerness to say hi and wave when they saw us walk past. We learned that there is a proposal to replace Dharavi with developments. Without having done any research, I hope this does not happen as I cannot imagine what all of these people would do to support themselves without the industries of Dharavi. The proposal seems like it would not help improve the poverty situation in India at all.

Although the visit to Dharavi was the most eye opening and transformative experience of my time in India so far, my best pic from these days is of the Mumbai skyline at sunset as seen from Nariman Point. Tomorrow we see the Dabbawallas in action, a teaching point from TO 313!

- John McCarthy

Waking up the next morning and looking out the hotel window, I saw a public transportation train system go by making Bangalore appear a bit more cosmopolitan and or modern compared to what I saw in more traditional Chennai. The view from our hotel is pictured above.

Our first activity for the day was a visit to Ann Arbor Brewing Company. It was an enjoyable lunch and beer sampling while hearing from a Michigan alumnus who worked extremely hard to bring a piece of Ann Arbor over to India. We learned how there was actually substantial interest in India for American style microbreweries, something I had not known before and found pretty interesting. However, what I found most amazing was the amount of work that had to be done with the government since the establishment was essentially a completely new concept to India.

Later that evening a guest speaker, Mr. Sarath, treated us to a presentation about his work as a naturalist including many environmental and wildlife themes. Before it began I really had no idea what to expect from the talk. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Sarath’s discussion; his passion and vivid pictures from his travels engaged me. He made me very disappointed that our class did not have time to visit at least one of India’s wildlife sanctuaries. But his stories did add many more destinations to my travel wish list that hopefully I will have time to reach some day.

The next day was focused around a visit to TVS Motor. To get to the manufacturing facility we actually drove back into Tamil Nadu. We were treated to four guest speakers as well as a factory tour. While the two-wheeler manufacturing plant started to blur with the other two factories we already visited, a speaker particularly intrigued me in the afternoon talking about understanding the market for your product and tailoring your message based on customer segment. He offered up some TVS ads that were a treat since I had not watched any Indian television since arriving. And in no time our time in Bangalore was up; we were off to the airport to fly to Mumbai!

- John McCarthy

Waking up the next morning and looking out the hotel window, I saw a public transportation train system go by making Bangalore appear a bit more cosmopolitan and or modern compared to what I saw in more traditional Chennai. The view from our hotel is pictured above.

Our first activity for the day was a visit to Ann Arbor Brewing Company. It was an enjoyable lunch and beer sampling while hearing from a Michigan alumnus who worked extremely hard to bring a piece of Ann Arbor over to India. We learned how there was actually substantial interest in India for American style microbreweries, something I had not known before and found pretty interesting. However, what I found most amazing was the amount of work that had to be done with the government since the establishment was essentially a completely new concept to India.

Later that evening a guest speaker, Mr. Sarath, treated us to a presentation about his work as a naturalist including many environmental and wildlife themes. Before it began I really had no idea what to expect from the talk. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Sarath’s discussion; his passion and vivid pictures from his travels engaged me. He made me very disappointed that our class did not have time to visit at least one of India’s wildlife sanctuaries. But his stories did add many more destinations to my travel wish list that hopefully I will have time to reach some day.

The next day was focused around a visit to TVS Motor. To get to the manufacturing facility we actually drove back into Tamil Nadu. We were treated to four guest speakers as well as a factory tour. While the two-wheeler manufacturing plant started to blur with the other two factories we already visited, a speaker particularly intrigued me in the afternoon talking about understanding the market for your product and tailoring your message based on customer segment. He offered up some TVS ads that were a treat since I had not watched any Indian television since arriving. And in no time our time in Bangalore was up; we were off to the airport to fly to Mumbai!

- John McCarthy

Dabbawallas

One of my favorite parts of the trip was learning and seeing the Dabbawallas in Mumbai. While we had learned about it previously in TO301, it was great to see the dabbawallas in action in real life. Previously, I did not realized that they used public transport via trains and that they didn’t use computers for the supply chain operation. Because of this, it was that more impressive that they rarely ever deliver the wrong lunch. One thing that I noticed was the sheer number of lunchbags that were just at that one station. Picking up a bag, the dabbawalla knew exactly where the lunch was headed based off the coding of the bag. Despite the large number of deliveries, there was clearly strong system behind the approach. Additionally, it was interesting to hear how the dabbawalla profession was passed down the family, though many of the dabbawallas we spoke to mentioned how they wanted better lives for their children. Overall, it was a great experience seeing the dabbawallas’ work in action.

Angela Wang

Matthew Nelson - August 18, 2014

Today we got to visit Sundaram Clayton. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, because the automotive industry is right up my wheelhouse. It was interesting to see how the company implemented quality standards to become a best-in-class company. Also, the company invested in their employees, created a family environment and helped them develop their skillsets and marketability.

After the visit, we had the pleasure of meeting three guest speakers, my favorite being Gopal Srinivasan. After doing some research on him, I was very interested in hearing his perspective on entrepreneurship in India. He did not disappoint, providing insight on the economy, the government, the business climate and the society at large.

We also had the chance to meet Vikram Kapur, who introduced us to the Amma Unavaga cantinas. These cantinas provided subsidized food for the poor from a clean and sterile environment. I take it for granted that when I purchase food from a restaurant, the kitchen is sanitary. For many Indians, that is not a safe assumption to make. This program has its share of detractors, but until a better solution is found, the Amma Unavaga is a great program that improves the quality of life of its customers.

Matthew Nelson - August 16, 2014

The group took our first visit today. We visited Heritage Village and Mammalapuram, a city that was named after King Narasimhavarman I, who was known as the “great wrestler” who never lost a battle. Mammalapuram is famous for its architecture, with many beautiful open-air relief stone carvings. We took a ton of pictures and enjoyed the scenery, then enjoyed a buffet meal at “MGM” beach resort. The resort happened to be located net to Dizzeeworld, a knockoff of Disneyworld. It is amazing the level of copyright infringement that occurs in different countries. After we got back to the hotel, we changed and enjoyed a welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant. I took that time to get to know some other group members, then headed to my room to start preparing for the next day.

August 25, 2014
Our last day in Mumbai started with a tour to see the Dabbawallas operate. This class activity gave us the chance to finally experience public transit in India. Now I thought the trains in China were packed. The masses of people I saw at Churchgate station made my experiences across China seem tame in comparison. We got off at a station that was designated a receiving/sorting center for the Dabbawallas. It was incredible to see how quickly the workers could sort the lunches simply by strategic numbers and letters written on the bag. It is still mind-boggling to me how they do all of this in a fairly traditional manner with little computer-aided logistics.
Later that afternoon we got to visit the Future Group, one of India’s prominent retailers. While they have a few different brands of retail chains, they also discussed their market research group. I found it very interesting how this team discovered that India’s younger population today is actually more traditional than the generation before them. This was an answer I did not expect. Further, I enjoyed hearing Mr. Biyani’s thoughts on e-commerce in India following a question I posed. While it is ever present in the U.S. and a credible threat to brick-and-mortar retailers, he feels that phenomenon is farther in the future for India, hence their continued focus on stores.
The next morning we had an early flight to Delhi where we arrived and took the bus straight to the Akshardham Temple. It is unfortunate the no cameras were allowed because this place was truly a sight to behold. I am still in awe that the structure could be completed in only 5 years. With the insanely intricate stone carving throughout it just simply seems impossible. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and taking in the beauty as well as reading the plaques with this religious story of Hinduism. However, the other activities we participated in there got a little commercial. I understand they are trying to appeal to a broad range of visitors. Still, I would have enjoyed my experience even more only taking in the impressive architecture and the new religious story.
Wednesday morning we were treated to a discussion with VK Singh, one of India’s External Affairs Ministers. It was quite incredible that such an important individual in India’s government was willing to spend time with our class. Our session with him brought up the topic of the Northeast Territories, expanding our knowledge of current issues in India. Following our visit with him, some of us elected to go on an abbreviated city tour of Delhi. Unfortunately, we only ended up having time to visit Qutub Minar. The inscription and detailing on the sandstone and marble of all these ruins was really beautiful to see. After our visit, I learned through online that there were many other ruins and heritage areas a part of or right near Qutub Minar. I wish we had more time to explore! It was still great to see and a picture of me there is the one I included with this post.
John McCarthy

August 25, 2014

Our last day in Mumbai started with a tour to see the Dabbawallas operate. This class activity gave us the chance to finally experience public transit in India. Now I thought the trains in China were packed. The masses of people I saw at Churchgate station made my experiences across China seem tame in comparison. We got off at a station that was designated a receiving/sorting center for the Dabbawallas. It was incredible to see how quickly the workers could sort the lunches simply by strategic numbers and letters written on the bag. It is still mind-boggling to me how they do all of this in a fairly traditional manner with little computer-aided logistics.

Later that afternoon we got to visit the Future Group, one of India’s prominent retailers. While they have a few different brands of retail chains, they also discussed their market research group. I found it very interesting how this team discovered that India’s younger population today is actually more traditional than the generation before them. This was an answer I did not expect. Further, I enjoyed hearing Mr. Biyani’s thoughts on e-commerce in India following a question I posed. While it is ever present in the U.S. and a credible threat to brick-and-mortar retailers, he feels that phenomenon is farther in the future for India, hence their continued focus on stores.

The next morning we had an early flight to Delhi where we arrived and took the bus straight to the Akshardham Temple. It is unfortunate the no cameras were allowed because this place was truly a sight to behold. I am still in awe that the structure could be completed in only 5 years. With the insanely intricate stone carving throughout it just simply seems impossible. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and taking in the beauty as well as reading the plaques with this religious story of Hinduism. However, the other activities we participated in there got a little commercial. I understand they are trying to appeal to a broad range of visitors. Still, I would have enjoyed my experience even more only taking in the impressive architecture and the new religious story.

Wednesday morning we were treated to a discussion with VK Singh, one of India’s External Affairs Ministers. It was quite incredible that such an important individual in India’s government was willing to spend time with our class. Our session with him brought up the topic of the Northeast Territories, expanding our knowledge of current issues in India. Following our visit with him, some of us elected to go on an abbreviated city tour of Delhi. Unfortunately, we only ended up having time to visit Qutub Minar. The inscription and detailing on the sandstone and marble of all these ruins was really beautiful to see. After our visit, I learned through online that there were many other ruins and heritage areas a part of or right near Qutub Minar. I wish we had more time to explore! It was still great to see and a picture of me there is the one I included with this post.

John McCarthy

August 23, 2014
It was our first day in Mumbai and a visit to a Bollywood studio was on the agenda. With an Aunt and Uncle who work in the Hollywood entertainment industry, seeing the sets and the actual tapings was not a new concept to me. However, the visit did remind me of the vast amount of time and resources that go into numerous sets that are only used once. Further, it was very interesting to learn how India has segmented film industries based on the language in which they are produced, which makes sense given the many languages and dialects across the country. Moreover, I did not know that Bollywood produced almost double the number of films compared to Hollywood. Nor did I realize how Bollywood is spread out versus centralized like Hollywood’s studios.
That evening we were treated to a bevy of University of Michigan alumni guest speakers. It was refreshing to hear from younger undergrad alumni closer in age to us. Their personal perspectives on different aspects of doing business in India were extremely engaging. Also, after dinner they took us out on the town. Keeping with the theme of the day, it was Bollywood night at the club.
The highlight of the next day, Sunday, was touring Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Before the tour, I was only anticipating seeing dense, impoverished living conditions. I had no idea about all of the industry activity that occurs within Dharavi. It was amazing to see such a range of economic activity. Most inspiring was seeing how hard everyone worked and the happiness maintained due to the opportunity people see from living and working in Dharavi. Indians migrate from all over the country to take advantage of those chances. Most touching was the smiling kids and their eagerness to say hi and wave when they saw us walk past. We learned that there is a proposal to replace Dharavi with developments. Without having done any research, I hope this does not happen as I cannot imagine what all of these people would do to support themselves without the industries of Dharavi. The proposal seems like it would not help improve the poverty situation in India at all.
Although the visit to Dharavi was the most eye opening and transformative experience of my time in India so far, my best pic from these days is of the Mumbai skyline at sunset as seen from Nariman Point. Tomorrow we see the Dabbawallas in action, a teaching point from TO 313!
- John McCarthy

August 23, 2014

It was our first day in Mumbai and a visit to a Bollywood studio was on the agenda. With an Aunt and Uncle who work in the Hollywood entertainment industry, seeing the sets and the actual tapings was not a new concept to me. However, the visit did remind me of the vast amount of time and resources that go into numerous sets that are only used once. Further, it was very interesting to learn how India has segmented film industries based on the language in which they are produced, which makes sense given the many languages and dialects across the country. Moreover, I did not know that Bollywood produced almost double the number of films compared to Hollywood. Nor did I realize how Bollywood is spread out versus centralized like Hollywood’s studios.

That evening we were treated to a bevy of University of Michigan alumni guest speakers. It was refreshing to hear from younger undergrad alumni closer in age to us. Their personal perspectives on different aspects of doing business in India were extremely engaging. Also, after dinner they took us out on the town. Keeping with the theme of the day, it was Bollywood night at the club.

The highlight of the next day, Sunday, was touring Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Before the tour, I was only anticipating seeing dense, impoverished living conditions. I had no idea about all of the industry activity that occurs within Dharavi. It was amazing to see such a range of economic activity. Most inspiring was seeing how hard everyone worked and the happiness maintained due to the opportunity people see from living and working in Dharavi. Indians migrate from all over the country to take advantage of those chances. Most touching was the smiling kids and their eagerness to say hi and wave when they saw us walk past. We learned that there is a proposal to replace Dharavi with developments. Without having done any research, I hope this does not happen as I cannot imagine what all of these people would do to support themselves without the industries of Dharavi. The proposal seems like it would not help improve the poverty situation in India at all.

Although the visit to Dharavi was the most eye opening and transformative experience of my time in India so far, my best pic from these days is of the Mumbai skyline at sunset as seen from Nariman Point. Tomorrow we see the Dabbawallas in action, a teaching point from TO 313!

- John McCarthy

Dharavi Slum

August 24, 2014

Dharavi slums was a part of the trip’s agenda that I was most looking forward to being exposed to, just because I have never had that sort of experience before. Overall, the tour did not disappoint, and it is still something that I think critically even after being back in the states.

Irshad was the tour guide for our group, and was incredibly knowledgable. Additionally, I was really impressed about how he lived in the slum and was still working towards his university degree. While I’m not completely aware of his circumstances, I don’t know if I would have had the motivation to work so hard coming from that sort of environment. 

Another eye opening part of the tour was when we found out that Dharavi has an informal economy of $1B. It was so interesting to see all the recycling facilities and other sorts of businesses in the area, and even how different parts of the slum represented different industries. Overall, we gained a lot from learning about the recycling portion and used it as inspiration for our final project. 

After the Dharavi, we were driven to a completely different part of Mumbai and even past the Ambani tower. In such a short time span, we were able to see the extremes of India - those making a few hundred ruppes per day, to the towers of the most wealthy. Even though we did enjoy our night in Mumbai, we didn’t forget about the other side of the spectrum that we saw earlier in the day. 

Angela Wang 

August 20, 2014: Yesterday we attended an Indian performing arts school where we were fortunate enough to witness a recital given by the students.  The dance was everything you would imagine a traditional Indian dance to be.  The dancers and the outfits they wore and the campus itself were so beautiful and serene.  It was a breath of fresh air to turn away from the businesses and corporations for a few hours and explore the cultural side of India.  It was truly an experience.

August 20, 2014: Yesterday we attended an Indian performing arts school where we were fortunate enough to witness a recital given by the students.  The dance was everything you would imagine a traditional Indian dance to be.  The dancers and the outfits they wore and the campus itself were so beautiful and serene.  It was a breath of fresh air to turn away from the businesses and corporations for a few hours and explore the cultural side of India.  It was truly an experience.

Micro finance in the real world

August 29, 2014

Today we visited Ujjivan Micro Finance Institution (MFI). The company operates as a for-profit enterprise and operates solely in India with over 400 locations.  Founded in 2005, the company’s presentation offered a rare glimpse of a MFI that has gone through multiple stages of successful growth, and a first hand account of the India Microfinance crisis in 2010.

The day started out with a “classroom” discussion with the managers of a local Ujjivan field office in Dehli, followed by actually entering the field and meeting many of the clients. The classroom discussion was fascinating with discussions ranging from the basics of a MFI and some value-added services, to the more financial focused discussions such as the allowable margins a MFI is allowed to make under new regulations in India (10% above Ujjivan’s Cost of Capital).

I have been fortunate at Michigan to take an amazing Microfinance class that has taught me the intricacies and complexities of operating a microfinance business. Before today, I only had a very academic view of the industry. After entering the field with Ujjivan, I finally learned how powerful microfinance can be for people stuck in the bottom of the ladder socio-economic status. While we were in the field, we had to opportunity to join a group lending meeting. At the meeting, the woman told us amazing stories about how the micro loan from Ujjivan had changed their life’s. The most astounding fact after listening to the stories was that the average loan was for ~200 within their lending group.

            Today I learned more than I could have ever learned in a classroom. Today also proved the importance of going on academic trips to foreign countries where you can truly see the theories we learn in a classroom can be applied in the real world and create real change and affect. 

Michael Bodker 

Our last two days in Chennai started with a tour of Ford’s manufacturing facility. Similar to when we visited Sudaram Clayton the day before, after working with automotive OEM clients in my summer internship I was excited to see firsthand how an automobile is produced. Having never viewed the production of a car before, I was impressed by the vast amount of highly specific mechanization as well as by the still evident human contribution to the production.

After seeing the beach when we were at the MGM resort for lunch a few days earlier, I decided to pass on the beach the next morning in favor of catching up on sleep after our already busy few days. Our first activity of the day was a visit to Kalakshetra, an esteemed dance conservatory. While learning about the school’s history, I enjoyed how green their expansive grounds were. Our group was even lucky enough to be treated to a little performance from one of the classes (pictured above). I found it interesting how while the school offers an undergraduate degree, it is only truly after a graduate degree that the dance students are considered performance ready.

We then proceeded to visit Kapali Temple, which I thought was unique being a large structure amongst bustling streets and stores. These stores came in handy after viewing the temple to finally buy some silk gifts for my family back home. After that bit of retail therapy, we were treated to a lunch at Gayatri’s cousin’s vegetarian restaurant. Usually I am skeptical of special cuisines such as strictly vegetarian food, but this meal was the best food of the trip so far. My end of the table also had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with a friend of the co-owner’s daughter. She was a university student close in age to us, and it was neat to learn of her own intercultural interests and experiences and we could all relate and connect with her on that topic.

With it already being mid-afternoon, we had to make our way to the airport. It was a new concept to me to have our itinerary checked before being allowed into the airport, but it makes sense as a security measure. And after a short one-hour flight we arrived in Bangalore!

- John McCarthy

Our last two days in Chennai started with a tour of Ford’s manufacturing facility. Similar to when we visited Sudaram Clayton the day before, after working with automotive OEM clients in my summer internship I was excited to see firsthand how an automobile is produced. Having never viewed the production of a car before, I was impressed by the vast amount of highly specific mechanization as well as by the still evident human contribution to the production.

After seeing the beach when we were at the MGM resort for lunch a few days earlier, I decided to pass on the beach the next morning in favor of catching up on sleep after our already busy few days. Our first activity of the day was a visit to Kalakshetra, an esteemed dance conservatory. While learning about the school’s history, I enjoyed how green their expansive grounds were. Our group was even lucky enough to be treated to a little performance from one of the classes (pictured above). I found it interesting how while the school offers an undergraduate degree, it is only truly after a graduate degree that the dance students are considered performance ready.

We then proceeded to visit Kapali Temple, which I thought was unique being a large structure amongst bustling streets and stores. These stores came in handy after viewing the temple to finally buy some silk gifts for my family back home. After that bit of retail therapy, we were treated to a lunch at Gayatri’s cousin’s vegetarian restaurant. Usually I am skeptical of special cuisines such as strictly vegetarian food, but this meal was the best food of the trip so far. My end of the table also had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with a friend of the co-owner’s daughter. She was a university student close in age to us, and it was neat to learn of her own intercultural interests and experiences and we could all relate and connect with her on that topic.

With it already being mid-afternoon, we had to make our way to the airport. It was a new concept to me to have our itinerary checked before being allowed into the airport, but it makes sense as a security measure. And after a short one-hour flight we arrived in Bangalore!

- John McCarthy

Chennai (part 1)

Finally found time to blog! Now bear with me; I want to document the entire trip, so I will start from the beginning. The journey started with two roughly 9-hour flights. With the uptick in my international travel over the past year, I guess these long-haul flights did not faze me anymore.

No sleep the first night luckily did not prevent me from enjoying the culture visits. The day started with a visit to a Chetinnad heritage village. I enjoyed learning about their way of life and I guess I have a knack for their version of a piñata, smashing the pot on the first swing! Also got the chance to make a small piece of pottery, but that was with extensive help of an expert. We then continued to Mamallapuram. Incredible that those sculpture were all from the same rock!

Our second day began with a visit to Sundaram Clayton. After working with automotive clients in my internship, I looked forward to this visit to learn about the Indian auto supplier market. The presentation heavily focused on the firm’s management philosophy. Wish they had touched on their business and outlook some, but it was enjoyable to hear about their values and processes as well as to see subjects we cover in Ross core classes in action and critical to a firm’s success.

The evening featured three distinguished guest speakers: Gopal Srinivasan, Founder Chairman & MD of TVS Capital Funds Limited; Vikram Kapur, Principal Secretary & Commissioner for the Corporation of Chennai; and Murugavel Janakiraman, Founder CEO of BharatMatrimony.com. Each speaker had a distinctly different focus and my table got the pleasure of sitting with Mr. Murugavel at dinner. He indulged us with the culture and beliefs that go into Indian marriages.

Two days down and only two left in Chennai; I can already see how fast the two weeks will fly!