Sunday, January 31, 2010

Final Thoughts

This course has been one of the biggest highlights of my graduate education. It was a great experience made better by traveling with a great group of people and having a professor who put together an incredible cultural and educational program. India as a country has problems just like any other country in the world, but I'm confident India will continue to grow as the IT hub of the world and at the same time, will step outside of IT to become an overall world leading economy. As was mentioned in some of our class discussions, India seems to be growing with a poorly developed infrastructure and a high degree of poverty, if India can work to improve these situations, I believe the possibilities for the country are very great. I really enjoyed my time in India and hope I have the chance to make it back some day.


Management Development Institute (MDI) is a business school in Gurgaon, near New Delhi. MDI is ranked as one of the top 10 business schools in India. We had the good fortune to meet up with a number of MBA students and spend an afternoon with them talking about everything from business and politics to hobbies and sports. After arriving on campus we met the MDI students in a lecture hall where we went through introductions to get a better feel for what type of background everyone was coming from. One major difference between the MDI students and the Marquette MBA students that I noticed right away is that the MDI students typically had little to no work experience before starting the MBA program, whereas the Marquette students are actually required to have at least 2 years of work experience, and a large majority of the Marquette students work full time and go to school part time, MDI did have part time students, but they were in more of an Executive MBA type program.

After the introductions the MDI students put on a skit to demonstrate some of the challenges that occur in a BPO/IT outsourcing situation between India and the U.S. They identified three common misconceptions they believe people in the U.S. have in regard to outsourcing with India. The three misconceptions they identified were exactly what I initially thought they'd be. They brought up the point that our business managers have concerns that they will not get top quality people working on their projects in India. I believe this concern comes from the fact that most people in the U.S. don't understand how competitive the Indian education system is, especially in terms of IT, Indian students are on par with the skill level of students in the U.S. Another important concern is the fact that outsourcing to India is taking away American jobs. The truth of the matter is that if this work was forced to be done in the U.S. it would be so expensive a lot of firms just wouldn't do as much of it, that inhibits growth. By outsourcing, U.S. firms can take advantages of cost savings and use that freed up capital to re-invest in the company and grow, that will create more jobs in the U.S. The third concern is security. Managers in the U.S. are sometimes concerned about handing over large amounts of sensitive data to outsourcing firms, they are also concerned the BPO firms may divulge information regarding what they are working on to competitors. Security is a big priority to Indian BPO firms, without it, they would lose credibility would not be able to succeed as a business, because of this, security is just as important to the vendor as it is to the client.

After the skit, we had the opportunity to discuss these issues along with other issues including political pressure from U.S. politicians to pass legislation limiting the amount of work that can be sent overseas. This is a tactic politicians use as short term campaign promises to get votes without educating people about the long term benefits of taking on a BPO partner. Overall I felt the MDI students had a very good understanding of both Indian and American economics. The MDI students even had a good debate amongst themselves as to what the role of the U.S. government should be in the time of a recession. I was extremely impressed by how well they were able to see the situation from both sides of the fence, it was a very interesting and informative conversation and I left the lecture hall with a high degree of respect for these students.

After the lecture we spent some time with the students, they took us to a little coffee shop they had on campus, we were able to see some of the campus, which was very similar to what you'd expect to find at a small university in the U.S. I was able to talk with one of the students as we walked and drank our coffee. He actually had an undergraduate background in finance, so we had that in common. We discussed the economic future of both of our countries, but we also talked about our hobbies, sports we enjoy watching and playing, and other everyday things. This was a very enjoyable experience, I wish we could have spent more time with the students, but we had a plane to catch that night.


Our final corporate visit was to Zensar, they reminded me of a smaller Infosys. They had a very nice campus, the employees who spoke to us had the same message to tell us about looking to the future and exploring new markets to take advantage of growth outside the U.S. One big difference between Infosys and Zensar is that Zensar is actually part of a bigger firm called RPG Enterprises that comprises of many other companies in different industries.

One thing that stood out to me during our tour of the campus was walking into one of the buildings that was a dedicated office for a specific client located in the U.S. and seeing Christmas decorations everywhere. As it turned out they had a Christmas decoration contest and they still had the decorations up. This surprised me because I know Christianity is the third most populous religion in the country, but walking into that room, it seemed as if they celebrated Christmas more than we did in my office, where although there are a lot of Christians, it is not politically correct to acknowledge the holiday as being religiously significant in a work setting anymore. I later found out that this was nothing abnormal and Christmas has been celebrated for a long time in India, although it's not necessarily celebrated as a religious holiday for most. This is also another way for the employees to be more in touch with counterparts in the U.S. as well.

Spyder Logic

Spyder Logic is actually part of Wisconsin based consulting firm Wipfli. This visit was much different than all of our other visits. Spyder Logic is very small compared to the rest of the firms we visited with only around 30 some employees at the location we visited. They tend to recruit more experienced employees rather than looking for talent coming right out of school. The employees mentioned that they preferred this because it creates more of a family like environment, and because of this, the employee retention rate is much higher than at the bigger firms. Another benefit to being a smaller firm is that they weren't hurt as bad by the economic downturn, although they did see a drop in business, it didn't seem to be as extreme as the larger firms. Spyder Logic uses their small size to distinguish themselves from the big firms, because they are smaller and more specific in what they do, they are able to provide more customization in the software design solutions they provide to their clients. In addition having a more senior staff also sets the them apart.

We had a little time to wander around the office and talk to some of the Spyder Logic employees after the formal presentation was complete, this was really fun, I was able to talk to an individual who was really interested to hear all about how cold it was back in Milwaukee. It was in the mid 80's in Mumbai and he said that's about as cool as it gets. Considering the people in Delhi were having a hard time with weather in the 30's, I think it would be a shock to experience the extreme cold we were getting at that time, makes me wonder why we put up with it. As it turns out the employee I was chatting with had never been to the U.S. but he worked with people in the U.S. almost daily and looks forward to visiting some time. I wonder if his culture shock would be as intense as mine.


Infosys was by far the most impressive corporate campus we visited, and this campus was not even the corporate headquarters. This campus could have easily been found in silicon valley and would not seem out of place at all. The people at Infosys were very professional and the visit as a whole was very productive. Infosys addressed the same topics as many of the other corporate visits, however it is all a little different coming from different sources. It was interesting to hear about the four forces they believe are causing a flattening effect on the IT industry in India, those being emerging markets, demographic shifts, technology ubiquity, and increased regulations. Infosys has been extremely successful over its short life and has seen very rapid growth, I believe they really have a good understanding of the industry and seem to be shifting their business model to keep up with the changing environment. One good example of this is seen in how they are starting to pay more attention to markets outside of the U.S. They see that growth in the U.S. is not as robust as it used to be, but in other areas such as Europe and South America, more opportunities are starting to present themselves, in order to achieve growth it will be important for Infosys to identify the up and coming markets and make sure they have a strong presence in the market. One big change they need to deal with now that maybe wasn't as big of a problem in the early days is the competitive environment, as the IT industry continues to grow in importance, there seems to be a lot more competition not only in India, but worldwide.

Another interesting aspect to this visit was being able to listen to Greg Gulick and Dr. Kaiser give their presentations to some of the Infosys managers. They both did a very good job giving their presentations and they both had good question and answer sessions with the Infosys managers, I thought it was really interesting to listen to the type of questions the management asked considering the questions were coming from the perspective of individuals working in India with the U.S.

Although all the corporate visits were interesting, this was one of the better ones. It was very interesting to hear the story of how this company achieved such rapid growth and how they plan on continuing growth in a tough economic climate.


Deloitte is one of the worlds largest consulting organizations in the world providing services in auditing, consulting, financial advising, and tax advising, it is known as one of the "Big Four" consulting firms. We were able to visit one of the Deloitte India locations. This was especially interesting because we were able to have a panel discussion with a Deloitte employee of Indian descent in Milwaukee before we went to India, we were able get her perspective on what it was like to work with Deloitte India from the U.S. Deloitte talked to us about some of the specific services they supply, a little bit about their IT off shoring model, and a bit about the client experience they hope their clients receive.

This was a very informative and interesting visit, one initiative they were taking that I thought was interesting was trying to do away with "talent hubs" and instead trying to develop employees that excelled in all areas of business rather than just IT for example, they want to develop business consultants, not just technology consultants. They also seem to put a big emphasis on making sure their consultants are ready to work in a global workplace, which makes sense especially considering they have offices world-wide. I see this as a good way to set themselves apart from other firms, especially in India. They seem to put a lot of emphasis on employee retention and offering employees good benefits to keep talent in house, much like HCL. Thy have gone through a transformation and started to really listen to their clients, helping to create a much better overall client experience, this has proven to be very successful.

We were able to do a quick tour of the Deloitte facilities. The work environment for the employees was very nice, much better than a lot of offices I've worked in or currently work in. Initially I thought the working conditions would be cramped, crowded, and more undesirable, but I was happy to see that they were actually very nice.


After a couple days of sightseeing and cultural activities, we had to get down to business and start our corporate visits. The first corporate visit was to HCL, because we were severely delayed due to traffic, we were a bit late and did not get to do a tour of the facility but we did have a few interesting discussions regarding HCL as a company and what HCL provides to its employees to be recognized as the number one place to work in India. HCL provides 4 general business services; custom application development, BPO, engineering and design (hardware), and IT infrastructure management. They claim to have had 31% growth in 2009, however I would like to look into that a little closer, because in light of the current economic environment, that seems to be a bit high. What was of most interest to me was to hear about the human resource policies and benefits they offer their employees to be known as the number one employer. I was interested to compare these practices to those of the company I work for. They seem to have done a lot of research in employee engagement and they based a lot their initiatives in trying to increase employee engagement. Their format for making sure they were hiring and retaining individuals with high engagement were to find the difference makers, create an inclusive, rewarding, and engaging corporate philosophy, an encourage professional growth and cultural transformation. HCL offered a number of extra benefits for their employees, the one that stood out to me in particular is what they call the Genie. This is basically a concierge service that is offered to employees to help out with everyday tasks that can easily be done but take time the employee may not have. There was a fairly large list of the things the genie would be able to do for the employee, unfortunately I was not able to write them all down. This seems like it would be a service that would be nice to have for myself, considering the time and effort we give to our companies, it would be nice to know that they recognize and appreciate the time commitment and are willing to help out. Overall, the visit seemed a little rushed because we were so late, and the presentation felt like a sales pitch, but it was interesting and a good way to start out the series of corporate visits we were to make during the trip.

Later that night we were invited to the Parashar's home for dinner. It was a very enjoyable evening, Dr. and Mrs. Parashar were great hosts, the food was the best tasting food I have had to that point in India. They had a lovely house and were very friendly, it was also good to meet Monica's uncle, sister, and brother-in-law, everyone was very friendly and it was great to talk with them, especially Monica's sister and brother-in-law who lived in the U.S. and recently moved back to Delhi. I was really hoping to have the experience spending time in a social setting with individuals who were living in India, luckily this was the first of two opportunities we had to experience this great Indian hospitality.

Cultural Sites

One of the objectives of this trip is to gain a first hand perspective of Indian culture. In order to really understand any culture, it is important to understand some of the history of the culture. We had the fortune of being able to visit a number of historic culture sites on our visit to India. Being someone who has always had a high degree of interest in history in general, I was very excited to visit these sites and learn what role these locations had in the history of India.

Our first stop was the site I was most looking forward to seeing, the Taj Mahal. A few individuals I know who had already visited the site all believed it was one of the most amazing historical sites they had ever seen, on top of that it is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. I was a little nervous when we first arrived, the fog was very thick and I wanted to be sure I was able to get a good view of this structure in all of its glory (and some good pictures to show everyone at home). Luckily the fog let up a bit while we were there, and I was not disappointed at all, it was an amazing sight to see. The story behind the Taj is almost as intriguing as the structure itself. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Emperor loved this wife more than any other wife, she unfortunately died while giving birth to their 14th child. Soon after the Taj was completed, the Emperor was thrown from power by one of his sons who had him imprisoned in Fort Agra, close enough to overlook the Taj. The circumstances regarding the building of the Taj and the eventual imprisonment of the Emperor by his son, seem to loosely reflect some cultural themes I observed while in India. Building this magnificent structure to show the love he had for his wife, and the extreme grief her passing caused him, the Emperor portrays the high importance of family that seems to be ingrained in the Indian culture. Even among non-family members such as co-workers, they seem to have a bond and closeness that is not often seen in my experience. Conversely the act of the Emperor's son executing all of the heir apparents to the thrown and imprisoning his own father to gain control exhibits a very brutal side of Indian culture, I see this in the poverty that exists all throughout India. It was especially sad to see the harsh conditions some of the Indian children were living in, especially considering all the wealth that surrounds them. In some ways these impoverished children, and all the extremely impoverished in general are like the imprisoned Emperor, who during his imprisonment, was only able to look upon the Taj as a symbol of the prosperity of his land, but he would never be able to really experience it again.

After visiting the Taj, we headed over to Fort Agra and got to see first had where Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned. The fort was very large and very decorative like the Taj, however I believe the fort is much older than the Taj, although I'm sure it has gone through phases of renovation and new construction over the years. During our time exploring Fort Agra, I felt as if I was a guest in the house of the monkeys. They were everywhere, it was really fun to watch them as they jumped around and climbed anything they felt like climbing. They didn't seem to mind being around people at all, it seemed as if they were just waiting for us to either leave, so they could have full run of the fort, or drop some food, so they could come swoop it up. A few of us tried to get close enough to get a good picture with a monkey while still maintaining a safe distance, and they would let you know if you were getting a little too close. Overall the fort was another amazing place to visit, the architecture was very detailed and elaborate, I can't begin to comprehend the work that went into all of the carvings and inlays found throughout the fort. The man hours and cost to build such a grand structure indicate that this was a very important sight during the time it was used as an actual fort and dwelling of the first Sultan of Delhi who lived at the fort.

The next morning we had the pleasure of riding an elephant to visit the hilltop Amber Fort. Much like Fort Agra, Amber Fort has very detailed and brilliant architecture. The inside is very ornate with many decorative carvings and inlays, I was once again amazed at the detail and what must have been the great cost that would have been needed to create such a structure. The elephant ride and the fort offered great views of the city surrounding the fort. One of the most notable attractions apart from the elephant ride was the Hall of Mirrors, although I tried to get a good picture of the mirrors reflecting the flash from my camera, it didn't turn out, but it was pretty amazing none the less. I later read after returning home, that it is said the entire hall can be lit at night by a single candle because of all the mirrors, that's something I'm going to have to see to believe.

Back in Delhi, we were able to visit Akshardham Temple, this is a Hindu Temple that unlike all the other places we had visited, is very new. The Temple was officially opened on November 6, 2005, that is a date that was easy for me to remember as it is my birthday. This temple was simply amazing, unfortunately we were unable to take pictures while inside the complex. The entire main complex was covered with carvings in stone, my favorite carvings were the elephants that were laid out around the main temple and told a story of Hindu history, specifically how the elephants were involved in history and why they are such an important animal. The gardens, fountains, and pools were exquisite, I only wish we would have been there to witness one of the water and light shows I saw in some of the post cards I bought at the gift shop. Considering that this structure was built in recent times, the cost of creating such an elaborate temple must have been staggering, but they did a great job making this truly impressive.

We visited a number of other important and interesting sights including the house that Gandhi stayed at while he was in Mumbai, it was interesting to read some of the letters he sent to people such as FDR and Adolph Hitler. We visited a number of Hindu Temples, museums and Elephanta Island. I could go on in detail about each of these but overall, I believe that I came away from my visits to these cultural sites with a great appreciation for Indian culture in general. I've traveled to many places in the world and I must say that the things I saw in India were more impressive and also more in number than anywhere I've visited before. I can see there is a great sense of pride in India regarding their past and place in history. This is a very strong culture, I have a feeling that I have only scratched the surface of all the greatness the country has to offer, and I am very grateful I have had the opportunity to see as much as I have.

Monday, January 25, 2010

First Impressions of India

We arrived in Delhi late at night, I'm always excited to see airports in new countries, although this may not seem very exciting to most, it's interesting to me to see how they differ from the U.S. The airport in Delhi was nothing like what I expected, it was actually much less chaotic than I pictured it would be. I realized this could have been because of how late it was, but after the long flight, I was happy to move through the check points swiftly, collect my baggage, and get to the hotel. The one observation I did make right away was that the airport was very hot and hazy, and Christmas music was playing from the speakers above the baggage conveyor, I was not expecting to hear Christmas music. After being greeted by Monica's family at the airport (which was unexpected but very nice) we found our way to the bus that we would end up spending many hours on over the next few days. Our bus drive to the YMCA Tourist Hotel gave a taste of the traffic and fog we would experience the rest of our time in Delhi. Unfortunately because of the heavy fog, it was hard to see a lot from the bus, but I did my best to take note of my surroundings and try to get a good first glimpse of the city. We ended up driving to the YWCA Tourist Hotel on accident and didn't realize this until all the bags were unloaded and everyone was in the lobby ready to check in, this prolonged our journey a bit, but we eventually made it to the right place. By the time we were all checked in, it was around 1 a.m. and considering we were scheduled to leave for Agra at around 6 a.m., I was looking forward to a couple hours of sleep and a shower before the real adventure started, luckily I was in a room that had hot water, we only had one towel, but we improvised and were ready to go bright and early the next morning.

Because of the intense fog, we had to take the bus to Agra instead of the train. It was really foggy, I don't believe I've seen fog like that more than once or twice in my life. One of the first things I noticed as we were leaving Delhi, was the makeshift shacks that were set up almost anywhere there was space to build a shelter. In addition, I noticed a large number of people just sleeping out in the open on the sidewalk. I can only imagine how many people were living inside of these small shacks, I'm sure they contained entire families. I had heard about the extreme poverty in India, so it wasn't extremely surprising, but actually seeing it was still a little shocking. Considering how bad the traffic was and how close some of these shelters were to very busy roads, I can imagine the damage a car accident may have not only on the drivers, but the people who are living so close to the roads. I tried to imagine what it would be like to raise a family living in a shack with no electricity, no water or sewage, no food readily available, and all the other challenges these people face, it's hard to comprehend a situation like this, although I know it happens in the U.S. it is definitely not as wide spread and visible as it is in India. It really makes me appreciate all that I have.

The bus ride was interesting, even though it was foggy, we could see everything going on just off the highway on the route from Delhi to Agra, it seems as if there were people and small buildings the entire way, considering how far we traveled, that was pretty amazing. The people were going about their daily routine. There seemed to be a lot of people busy doing things and a lot of people not really doing much at all. The buildings were old and not very well maintained. People were driving bikes, scooters, motorcycles, animal drawn carts, and other forms of transportation. There were a lot of animals roaming around, they seemed to coexist with the people closely, I noticed a lot of animals taking advantage of piles of trash laying around the buildings. There seemed to be a lot of little shops selling food and beverages, and probably anything else they had available to sell. The people along the road from Delhi to Agra did not appear to be very wealthy. Judging by the surroundings I would guess that if these people were involved in some type of occupation it would involve labor or agriculture. Although they did not seem wealthy, they did not seem as impoverished as some of the people who were living in makeshift shacks in Delhi.

Traffic was just as bad as I had heard it would be, drivers don't seem to follow the conventional rules of the road, but there at least seems to be some method to the madness, I'm surprised we didn't see more accidents. We stopped for a quick break about halfway through the trip and had an Indian breakfast, I'm still not sure exactly what it was, but it was my first real Indian food in India and it was good. After a longer than expected journey (which would end up being a theme for most of the trip) we finally arrived at our destination, the Taj Mahal.

Overall, my first impression of India was a lot like I was expecting it to be. I knew it would be crowded, parts would be impoverished, there would be animals roaming around, traffic would be really bad, and it would be very different then what I'm used to seeing on a day to day basis, it's one thing to have an idea of what to expect, but even if you know what to expect, it's still a bit of culture shock to actually experience it. That's how I would sum up my first day in India, nothing was extremely surprising or really took me off guard, but it was a great experience, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. One of the goals of this trip is cultural immersion, and I feel like I received a good amount of this during the first 24 hours, that's a good sign that there is much more to come.