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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!