Wednesday, January 7, 2015

India Trip Wrap Up

During our first few days in India, one of our tour guides described the country as being full of contrasts – that the people, culture, religion, food, and many other areas are full of diversity that come together to create one, unified India.

In a way, this is also an apt description for our trip. We combined different topics – education, sightseeing, exploration, fun, friendship, and more – into one trip that none of us will soon forget.

The trip’s business visits introduced the group to what it is like to conduct business in India from the perspectives of economists, managers, marketing experts, entrepreneurs, and accountants. Our hosts at KPMG, Shadra University, the Bombay Stock Exchange, Amity University, Ogilvy and Mather, the Western Union Call Center, and the Agrawal Group of Institutes were incredible, teaching us not only about their respective fields but also about India in general. The things we learned help illuminate Indian business, but also added to our knowledge of international business. As a group, we were blown away by both our hosts’ knowledge and their hospitality.

Our sightseeing visits provided yet another taste of the beauty of India, as we were able to take in the amazing sights while learning their history. Some highlights included the Qutb Minar, the second tallest tower in India; the Bahai (Lotus) House of Worship; the Red Fort, an emperor’s fort made entirely of red sandstone; the Presidential Palace and Parliament Building; the India Gate; the beautiful Hanging Gardens in Mumbai; the Mahatma Gandhi museum; the breathtaking Taj Mahal; and another incredible fort, Fatehpur Sikri. We also got to explore the cities of Mumbai, Goa, and New Delhi, each with its unique layout, architecture, and people. Overall, the group was stunned by the sights we were able to take in. Visiting destinations like these gave us better insight into the history of India and why so many of our hosts referred to the country as “incredible India.”

There were also some aspects of the trip that were solely for fun! Our visit to Goa was spent almost entirely on the beach, enjoying the sand, water, cold drinks, and even some parasailing. We also had a pool party in our hotel in Mumbai. On the shopping end of things, we got to visit the Crawford Market, the Janpath Market, the Khan Market, and Dilli Haat, where we were able to practice our newfound haggling skills and purchase some fun souvenirs to take home with us. We also got a taste of the amazing food India has to offer at a few restaurants across the country, including a celebration for the wedding anniversary of Professor Sirias and his wife!

Traveling through India is best described as being an adventure in itself – getting anywhere with 25+ people is always a challenge! One of our tour guides told us it takes 5 things to drive in India: a good horn, good eyes, good brakes, patience, and a lot of luck. We found this to be true as we were amazed watching how motorcycles would weave in and out of traffic and drivers in general appeared to be fearless. Getting anywhere by bus seemed to take at least an hour, but at least we got to see more of India when we were traveling that way. We had a few bumps in the road with our travel plans, including a cancelled flight that led to an 18-hour bus ride across the country, but for the most part we got to where we needed to be on time and saw all the things we had set out to see.

Overall, our trip to India was a great one. We saw amazing sights, learned a lot, ate great food, and bonded as a group. None of us will soon forget our trip to incredible India. (Rachel Stocki)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Our Last Days in India

December 22, 2014: KPMG and Shadra University

We started off the morning with a nice breakfast at a hotel this morning. Due to immense fog and zero visibility we were forced to leave earlier than presumed to make it in time for our first meeting. We arrived at KPMG around 9:30 and were received with a warm welcome. From there we went to the conference room where they proceeded with the presentation by starting off with a brief overview of India, then having each student and faculty member introduce themselves and tell what he/she has enjoyed and not enjoyed about their Indian experience so far. We then listened to a presentation discussing the audit and tax environment in India and what it takes to do business in India. Finally, we finished up the meeting with a case study and open discussion.

Our second visit of the day saw us go to Shadra University where we were welcomed by the dean of the university and listened to lectures from professors Milindo Chakrabarti and Rajesh Kumar on "Manager, entrepreneur, and leader: quest for convergence from an India perspective" and "Evidence of changing climate in Himalayas: impacts on water and livelihood", respectively.

The day came to a conclusion with the farewell dinner at Punjab Grill which also saw us celebrating the 25th wedding anniversary of Professor Sirias and his wife. It was a full day of business as usual and a fun night capped off with friends. (Zikora Okafor)

December 23, 2014: Last morning in India

Our last morning in India was spent on breakfast, packing, and checking out of the Suryaa Hotel. We were gathered on the bus to travel to Amity University at about 10am, and actually arrived on time! We were greeted on campus by a friendly welcoming committee and a personalized sign that welcomed the SVSU 'delegates' to the large campus- home to approximately 20,000 students.

During our stay, a professor discussed the business environment in India- with the biggest problem being the lack of purchasing power among the nation's many poor. We learned there should be no reason for anyone here to die of starvation, as 75% of the population works in agriculture. The inability of the working poor to buy commodity products is derived from a lack of skill and employment (only 30% of graduated students are employable, according to industry leaders).The hope is for foreign investors to bring capital into the market and eventually raise the purchasing power for consumers in India.

After the lecture, we toured the campus library and communications building. The school clearly has an excellent mass media production program, as evidenced by the state-of-the-art facilities for the campus radio, newsroom, and photography area.

After we left Amity, we started our last shopping adventure: a two part saga of haggling and fighting crowds  on a quest to acquire Christmas presents for friends and family back home. First, we went to Janpath market. It was an incredible stretch of store-lined streets, with hawkers every few feet grabbing at sleeves and ears with deals that seemed too good to be true. They chased us down with wallets, bangles, flutes, drums, and all sorts of knick knacks at prices roughly equivalent to a quarter apiece. After loading our bags and emptying our wallets, we were excited to go back to Dilli Haat for round two. We tired of Janpath after an hour and a half, and took a short bus ride back to our favorite outdoor market. Many students found their last presents there and then we all got back on the bus to head back to the hotel, cold after the sun went down and laden with scarves and trinkets. The remainder of the evening was spent eating and mentally preparing before our journey home at 3AM. (Charlotte Norfleet)

December 24, 2014: Departing India

On the morning of December 24, 2014, our group began our final bus trip to the New Delhi airport for our 3AM flight to Amsterdam.  Upon our arrival, we transported our luggage and dropped it off in the checked-baggage area.   At this point, it was about 1:30AM and the entire group was rather exhausted from spending the last two weeks traveling and exploring the incredible country of India.  After checking in our luggage, we went through security, then found our gate and waited around to board our plane at around 2:30AM. 

Within minutes of boarding our plane and settling in, a good portion of our group has already fallen asleep while we taxied around for about 45 minutes prior to take-off.  The flight was about 8 hours and 30 minutes, but because of the delay in New Delhi, we arrived to Amsterdam just in time to board our next flight to Detroit.  

We arrived to our final destination at around 12:30PM, effortlessly flew through customs and immigrations, and then proceeded to find our luggage at baggage claim. Our group was definitely eager to be home to spend Christmas with their families.  However, I think we can all agree that this unbelievable experience was life changing for all of us, and I am confident we have all made lifelong friendships and memories because of this amazing journey. (Kim Stolzman)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mumbai > Goa > Agra > Qutb Minar

December 17, 2014: Travel Woes

Today was an interesting day as the group had to deal with a lot of adversity. The original plans were to fly to Goa in the afternoon and enjoy a nice dinner and entertainment on a cruise ship. However, we ran into some troubles with the flight because our carrier, SpiceJet, was forced to cancel all of their flights due to lack of jet fuel supported by the government. To deal with this issue, we found two buses that were able to drive the whole group to Goa.

This would cause a serious adjustment to the original plans because the flight would've only taken an hour and a half, whereas we spent almost 17 hours on the buses driving. While we waited for the buses to arrive, we were taken to a giant mall in Mumbai where we were allowed to eat, shop, and relax before our bus ride to Goa. Everybody broke off into smaller groups to go explore the mall and grab a bite to eat. The buses eventually arrived and we set off on our way to Goa around 4:00 pm. Our first pit stop along the way was a hotel restaurant where we all used the restrooms and
sat down for a nice meal. (Kyle Parks and Brad Wenzlick) 

December 18, 2014: Mumbai to Goa

After a long 17 hour bus ride from Mumbai to Goa, we finally arrived at our gorgeous hotel around 9:00 this morning. We decided to take advantage of the 85 degree weather by spending our afternoon at the beach. At the beach, a few chose to participate in parasailing, while others decided to play volleyball and enjoy their cold beverages. As some enjoyed lunch at the beach, others went back to the hotel to escape the heat.

Later on, we all dressed nicely to prepare for our dinner cruise. We were served an authentic, Indian style dinner and entertained with traditional Indian dancing. We could not have asked for a better night to enjoy the beautiful weather in Goa.

After the dinner cruise, some decided to end the night by relaxing by the pool while others headed to bed right away. (Kaylee Niemiec) 

December 19, 2014

Today we woke up to a beautiful morning in Goa. We enjoyed our breakfast by the pool and savored every last bit of warm weather and sunshine. We checked out of the hotel and were on our way to the airport by 11:00. Due to Spice Jet going on strike and canceling most domestic flights, we had to split up into two groups and take separate flights to Delhi on a different airline. The flights were only 45 minutes apart, and everyone made it safely.  We arrived in Delhi and were greeted by 50 degree weather, much colder than what we were accustomed to in Mumbai and Goa. 

Leaving the airport we had a bit of a drive and stopped at an Indian restaurant along the way for dinner. Once everyone got enough to eat, we left for Suryaa, the beautiful hotel we will be staying at for the rest of our time in India. We checked into our rooms and called it an early night because we had to be up bright and early for our day trip to Agra.
(Shannon Sebald and Tiffany Dougherty)

December 20, 2014: A Trip to Agra

We woke up bright and early at 6am to take a day trip to Agra to see what the city has to offer. Our hotel in Delhi provided us with a nice breakfast on the bus- which consisted of muffins, fruits, juice and a sandwich. Our wonderful host briefed us with an overview of India's history. Shortly before noon we arrived in Agra, one of India's previous capitals and oldest cities.

Finally, we got the opportunity to snap some photos of the local     monkeys on the tops of buildings and billboards. Cows, donkeys, camels and pigs were also in abundance throughout the city. About an hour after arriving in Agra we got out of our bus and took a brief walk to a different bus that transported us to the fort gate. While we were on the way to the second bus a child not older than 8 came up to us and asked where we were from. When someone replied America he replied, "Ohh America you mean Obama-land." The fort was a sight to see with all the beautiful designs found within. The history of Fatehpur Sikri presented by our host was fascinating.

Afterward, we made our journey towards the Taj Mahal. Upon arriving we found out that the president of Bangladesh was visiting for the day so we had to wait an extra hour and a half to get inside the Taj. Once inside we all got our first real look of the Taj Mahal, which was something words cannot even describe. It truly lives up to its title as one of the seven wonders of the world. The use of colored stone and its designs makes Taj Mahal one of a kind. After more pictures, we headed back to the hotel and all went straight to bed after a long 4 hour bus ride. (Alyssa and Andrew)

December 21, 2014: Qutb Minar

This morning we continued our adventures in New Delhi with a trip to Qutb Minar, which is the second tallest tower in India. We were able to look around the ruins of the surrounding Mosque and study the impressive architecture of the site. Soon after, we were on our way to the Bahai (Lotus) House of Worship. The temple is shaped like a lotus flower and built primarily out of pure white marble. The silence inside the temple was almost overwhelming, compared to the noisy hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. 

Continuing on the tour, we visited the Red Fort, which housed the Mughal emperor of India until 1857. We had time to explore the grounds and learned that the structures were built to house the emperors and their families, as well as host political events. Before heading back to the hotel for the night, we visited an informal market, where we were able to practice our negotiation skills. We all walked away with some awesome souvenirs to take back home. (Eric Madill and Siobion Richards)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our Last Day in Mumbai

December 16, 2014

Our last day in Mumbai, this city continues to amaze me with its contrast and it's crazy that we are already on our last day here before continuing the journey to Goa.

Our first presentation of the morning was canceled, meaning we got to sleep in a little longer which no body had an objection to! 

After breakfast we made our way through the busy Tuesday morning traffic to Ogilvy and Mather pvt. Ltd. to learn about current consumer trends and marketing strategies used in the vast Indian market. With 24 languages and 1652 dialects there are many barriers when creating advertisements that bring meaning to all. With Indian advertising there are three main components that are used: story telling, music, and emotion. They then showed us multiple ads that portrayed these components. A four minute Goolge ad brought a few of us to tears, even without knowing the full background of the Partition. Our Q & A session had to be cut short due to time, but everyone wanted to spend more time learning about the marketing trends of India. Before we left we we were able to get a photo with our presenters.

After that we headed to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Our presenter was Rakesh Nair and he was full of knowledge about the history of the economy of India and the expected growth to come. The BSE is the oldest exchange in Asia opening in 1875. Today it is the eighth largest market with $1.5 trillion USD.  The stock exchange market has changed a bit from the days of yelling and pushing people to get the stock you wanted (as seen in The Wolf of Wall Street), now the hall has been reduced in size and the transactions are all electronic. Being able to learn about the BSE while in the financial capital of India was a great experience, and they were so glad to have us there. We were fortunate enough to be allowed to take photos. Below is a group shot with Rakesh in front of the bull.

Once we returned to the hotel full of knowledge we let loose a little and had a pool party hosted by the hotel in the gorgeous  82 degree weather, followed by a buffet dinner.

We rounded the night off having a drink with Bollywood actor Neil Nitin Mukesh. Neil was very friendly and willing to answer our questions. We learned about his background and how he was able to make a name for himself as an actor.

After a long day we returned to the hotel for our last sleep in Mumbai falling asleep to the sounds of city that never sleeps. (Lizzi Hubble-Radosa)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The First Full Day

December 15, 2014

This morning began quite early with breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and departure from the hotel at 7. After about an hour and half drive we arrived at the Agrawal Group of Institutes to hear a presentation from Dr. Pawan Agrawal on the supply chain management of dabbawala in Mumbai. The dabbawala is a system in which primarily uneducated/illiterate men are paid approximately $10 each month per customer to collect lunch boxes from residences, where the woman of the house has prepared and packed a meal, and deliver it to the man's place of work. This system involves no computer systems, the delivery of over 200,000 lunches a day in Mumbai, and over 99.99 percent accuracy! Our presenter was very lively, all university members were welcoming, and there was an exchanged of gifts between the two universities.

Next, we stopped at a shopping center that was a combination of an indoor mall and strip mall. Here we had several options on choice of restaurants for lunch. We split off into three group in which many of the students were able to have a meal that reminded them of home. After lunch was our visit to a call center. The call center was for Western Union and assists customers from all over India whose main problem is lack of internet connection. From there we freshened up back at the hotel and headed for dinner. We tried more authentic Indian cuisine and end the night at the hotel tavern with a drink and friendly conversation. (Danielle Wood).

Our first full day in India, our location is Mumbai. The itinerary for the day was enticing. Packing full of sight seeing, exploration, and shopping. We finished the day off with a late night dinner at Shiro.

The day started off meeting our wonderful guide Roshani. Then the exploration began. Our view was somewhat skewed by the glass our face was pressed against trying to get the best view jumping from one side of the bus to the other making sure we weren't missing any of the architectural genius combined with the superb masonry of the historical buildings Roshani pointed out. Our breath was taken away, but we were anxious to free ourselves from the bus and rid the glass from our view so we could use all of our senses to experience this great city.

The first stop, Crawford Market. The market produces a fowl smell none of us were use to quite yet. The exterior was unpleasant to the eye and we were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. Unsure of how to act, we quickly walked through the market without purchasing any goods. The next stop on the list was the Hanging Gardens. The sun was hot on our skin making the cool breeze off the Arabian sea satisfying. The smell was fresh and light, for the first time we enjoyed breaking in the India air. Walking on the red clay paths, our eyes were drawn to the sculpted bushes and the families enjoying lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon. The birds made beautiful songs quieting the hustle and bustle of the busy roads. The final stop of our tour was the Mahatma Gandhi museum. The museum is tucked away on a quiet side street. We were humbled to walk in the same building where Gandhi once lived among the walls. We took photographs to remember the great peacemaker.

We finished our day with dinner at Shiro. The bus ride to Shiro turned into a time of turning aquanauts into friends. The restaurant itself was a work of art. The sculptures rose above our second floor balcony that overlooked the entrance to Shiro. Three streams of water flowed out form the wall into a pool, setting the mood for our night. Drinks were served and the appetizers brought out. Everyone trie dthe food; some liking it while others were spitting it back up. The conversation continued, making the music in the background seem obsolete. The main course was served and loved by some but too spicy for others. The night wound down with some dancing and laughing. The night can be best summed up by a quote from a student: "I would come back to India just for this night." (Justin Muntz)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Traveling to India

DAY 1: From Detroit to Amsterdam to New Delhi to Mumbai

Today's the big day we've all been waiting for! We all anxiously arrived at the Detroit airport at 3 PM to get checked in for our 6:30 flight. The flight was relatively comfortable, many of us spent the seven and a half hours watching movies provided by the airline. Upon descending into the Amsterdam airport we experienced really bad turbulence which made a few of us pretty sick. During the four hour layover, we mostly tried to catch up on rest, eat food and prepare for the next eight hour flight into New Delhi! Here we are waiting to board the plane to Amsterdam. (Brielle Robinson)

We had a rough but safe landing in Amsterdam, Netherlands at 8:37 Friday, December 12, 2014. Where's Kyle became a typical game while traveling. The flight was pretty easy going until the weather in Amsterdam got windy which made it difficult to land the plane smoothly. Even thought it was a rough landing I have to give the pilots credit for having to land when there were wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. After landing in Amsterdam our next flight wasn't for a couple more hours so we got to explore the airport. It was quite a large airport, they do things very differently than any airport that I have been to in the United States. Once through security we were in another waiting area that wasn't large enough for a lot of people that were making the same trip with us to Delhi. The flight was another long seven hour trip. The majority of us slept through it. The flight itself went pretty well if you don't count the screaming baby that didn't like flying. Aside from that we made it safely and are now headed into Mumbai in a couple of hours. (Jillian McIntyre)

The plane ride from Amsterdam to India was a much better experience. The landing wasn't as rough and has less turbulence. You could feel the difference between Europe and the U.S. to India as we stepped off the plane. You could tell we weren't in Michigan anymore. Next stop was to get through passport check and prepare for our six hour layover, which surprisingly didn't take as long as we had thought to get through.

After getting through passport check it was time to play "I spy the luggage." The people at the currency exchange were nice enough to not charge us tax or commission when we all exchanged at once. Next stop customs.

Going through customs was an experience, but we managed to get through it. The security line was a frustration seeing how impatient people were. There were people trying to cut through the line. One point someone unhooked the barrier and there were people trying to get through to the front. Even at the gate to board our final plane to Mumbai there were a few individuals cutting the line.

Once we landed in Mumbai it was time to get our bags and leave but, plot twist, two bags were misplaced and we had to wait a little longer before our trip to the hotel. The traffic in India is so much different. You hear honking every couple of seconds and driving on the opposite side of the road will take some getting used to. Also, people weaving through traffic got kind of worrisome.

We did happen to see a guy from Germany in traffic who asked us where we were from. So we tried to keep up witht hem and communicate through writing notes and putting it against the window.

Finally, after we got all checked in at the hotel, we had lunch together. After lunch everyone went to freshen up before we went out in the evening. Half of the group went out while the rest stayed at the hotel to sleep. All in all it was a fun day! (Greg Gaskin)

Monday, December 8, 2014

CBM Goes Back to India!

Pre-Trip Discussions

A Message from the Group

Greetings and Salutations from the 2015 SVSU Study Abroad India Group. Today is our 3rd class meeting, everyone is excited for our departure and we are all beginning to prepare for this life changing event.

Our class began with a wide variety of authentic Indian food brought by Dr. Kaustav Misra and the other professors. My favorite dish was a very flavorful yellow peanut rice dish known as Chittranna.  The bread known as Naan was not like the bread we eat here in the United States and had a very different texture. There were also vegetarian and chicken dishes that had some spice and heat to them. The most interesting dish was the Gulab Jamun, a desert that is best explained as donut holes soaked in syrup

Second, everyone viewed a presentation from Dr. Danilo Sirias on the informal market structure everyone will soon be experiencing while in India.  Dr. Sirias is originally from the country of Nicaragua located in Central America, and explained  how the market structure of India will be very different to the structure we are accustom to here in the United States.  The major differences have to deal with transportation and the availability of resources such as electricity and refrigeration.  In the United States it is regular for an individual to drive their car to a large grocery store and purchase large quantities they are then able to transport home and store in refrigeration and freezer units.  In India and other developing nations not everyone has access to these resources so people will buy smaller quantities more frequently from small vendors located close their homes on street corners.  Also, the price will be negotiable in this informal setting and is not set or remain constant from day to day.

Next, Professor Krupp educated the class on the current accounting principles being used in India. She compared the Indian Accounting Principles to the GAAP principles that we currently use in the United States. This is a very important aspect of business as the world is becoming a more global economy and these accounting principles are necessary for the evaluation of the profitability of a business or organization. 

Students from the 2014 Study Abroad India Program then presented and shared some of the experiences they thought would help prepare us for this year’s trip. This was a very beneficial learning experience as everyone was able to ask questions and better organize their ideas.  They shared knowledge of packing for an international trip and to prepare for hard negotiations from the local merchants. They also shared valuable information on how to safely travel with the group and how they handled currency while abroad.

The class ended with our group presentations from the assigned readings provided on V-Space.  The articles presented all dealt with conducting business in India and how marketing varied in this country. The information was very educational as it referenced business statistics such as paying taxes, employing workers and compared them to other country’s statistics.

The Provost of SVSU Dr. Deborah Huntley came to our class session and we all were able to take a photograph together.  The Provost and her husband will be accompanying our group on this trip to India.   (Roderick Innes)

12/5/15: Last Study Abroad Meeting Before India!

We had our fourth and final meeting for Study Abroad India 2015 this evening.  Everyone is extremely excited to be leaving for India in 6 days!  It took place in a Curtiss Hall classroom with twenty-two students and Professors Misra and Krupp. First on the agenda was a short presentation from the six student groups. Topics discussed included Indian religions, caste system, manners, food, and gender roles. We then practiced some Hindi language under Doctor Misra’s instruction. 

Next we went into logistics about the trip. We talked about the travel budget, packing list, and baggage limitations.  Medical insurance cards and information tags were handed out to each student. We discussed the use of phones and other electronics while being outside of the country.  Professor Krupp collected money from students to create an “eating out fund.” Some final decisions were made concerning accommodations and other plans. We ended the two and a half hour meeting with a group picture.  Now one week of final exams is all that is standing in our way! (Effie Spieth)