Friday, March 16, 2012

Mumbai - Wednesday, March 15

It’s day five (or four for some) in India. At the moment, we are in transit from Mumbai to Delhi on what could be one of the last KingFisher flights. Keep your boarding pass as a souvenir of the declining business. It only proves beer and flying don’t mix.

For ease-of-blog, I’ve decided to keep it simple and outline my top-ten of the trip so far, with comments of course. 

Number 10:  Stark contrast is everywhere.  You’ll hear EMBAs tell you this when they arrive home. When you see this, it is unimaginable.  High-rise buildings over-looking slums brings such a sharp contrast. The fast pace of Mumbai’s growth mixing juxtaposed to shanty slums depicts wide economic divide. Interestingly, when you discuss this with locals, you will learn that many of those living in slums remain busy in their occupations.

Number 9: Space is a premium: Mumbai has over 20 million inhabitants crammed into every conceivable spot. Why is this important to point out? As we speak with businesses, a major issue we find is their obtaining space. We met with one cold storage business today that has struggled for nearly a year to secure an area large enough for a warehouse. Or, Habib Hospital, where the owner of their building waited patiently for enough funds to be gathered to get lending; without this, getting space would have been difficult and perhaps their important services may have not been launched.

Number 8: An un-documented statistic: We have heard many times, that the people of India, particularly those of more poor sections, will prioritize their earnings as: food first, then education for their children. When you see some areas, we can assume there is little left afterwards; however, the desire of caring parents to give the gift of education to their children is a model for all to admire.

Number 7:  Don’t drink the water: You hear everyone say this and it’s true. It’s no worry though, beer coffee and bottled water are fine substitutes. Make your coffee with bottled water in the morning and you’re ready to roll for the day.

Number 6:  Large buses:  While a typical large tour bus helps keep us all together, the logistics of negotiating streets and roads is beyond description. The upside is the comedic value it brings to nearly all of us. In here lies one of our great event tales that as a friend, I have decided not to blog about. That said, I’m sure all of you will hear the tale of the dead end road and what 3 hours on a bus with no rest room can bring about for adventure and likely EMBA folk lore.

Number 5:  The food:  We’ve scored great on every restaurant so far. Khyber and Indigo were great. Rumor is these are two of  Professor Melvin Menezes’s favorites, and now ours too. The food throughout the trip, so far, has been spectacular. This is no small task when you consider how quickly we are moving about in mass form.  That said, depending upon your tolerance for risk, you generally approach each meal with a level of caution, carefully thinking: is this water based? Is this a raw vegetable? If the answer is yes, my recommendation is to pass.

Number 4:  Business meetings: There's enough for a blog in itself to describe the generosity of those we have met with to date. Not simply generous in their time, but it is also their willingness to share quality information. We have meet with people from other universities, cold storage companies, importers, venture capitalists and others. All have offered great information that will, we hope, lead to a solid Capstone ending. More of this to come in Delhi…

Number 3: New friends and roof tops: At the BU Alumni reception we met two new friends -- a father and son team who were interested in our projects. They were kind enough to invite us the next evening to their beautiful home for drinks, appetizers and great discussion. For over two hours we enjoyed their company and amazing roof-top patio overlooking the Arabian Sea. We look forward to reciprocating someday in Boston

Number 2:  Infrastructure Team. Sure, there are good teams, and then there is the Infrastructure team. Dan, Dan (sorry I called you Chris again), Prakash (good thing he can speak Hindi), Russ and Chris. We are all learning at a fast pace and each day we have been lucky to be having such a good time doing it together.

Number 1: My EMBA friends: I know it sounds like cliché but I can’t think of a time in my life when a large group of people can come together with such great attitudes and general pleasure for each other. It is this close group of colleagues that make the trip a life-changing event.

 - Jim Parker

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