Reflection after the Trip

Now that I am back in America I can truly see what a great trip I have had in India. Before leaving I didn’t fully know what to think about India, and I saw it as a bit of a mystery. All I really knew about it was from a few Indians I had talked to, a few prep classes, and the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” (the movie wasn’t exactly the best source). Now that I have been there, I realize that it isn’t really mysterious at all. The cultures there are more different than many countries are from each other, languages and customs change from city to city, and nobody ever seems to know exactly what they are doing, but in the end it is no more mysterious than anywhere else. India is a place with kind people, fantastic food, beautiful scenery, and rich history. I don’t think my life could have been complete without a visit to somewhere with so many different experiences to offer.

I came to India to learn about some of the unique business practices in India and some of the cultural differences I saw while I was there, and I certainly got that, so I will share a few. When we were at Tyson I was awed by their ability to make money in a place where there are so many vegetarians, food spoilage is far harder to prevent than in developed countries, and where there is a major lack of infrastructure. Traditional American business models just don’t work here, so Tyson had to increase the product line to fit Indian tastes, increase their number of hubs for distribution, and provide superior training for their employees to overcome transportation obstacles. A significant cultural difference I noticed was that Indians have a different view of time than Americans. They are typically okay with taking longer to eat, taking time out of their day to get to know someone, and they don’t really adhere to schedules very well (which really frustrated some of our group). To Americans, most of India seems chaotic, slow, and inefficient, but there is just a different way of doing things here that anyone coming here needs to know to be successful.

Overall this trip has been the greatest learning experience of my life. India has so much to see and do, and to see even a small portion of it has been spectacular both personally and academically. It has been the trip of a lifetime and I can’t think of a better way to start my summer than by studying abroad. I want to thank the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business for offering such a great program, Dr. Anand and Dr. Ellstrand for leading the trip, George and Charlene Edwards for their generous scholarship, and my friends and family for their emotional support. What a great trip!

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Day 23, Taj Hotel Presentation and Flight to US

Today began with a session on the Taj Palace Hotel and its recovery from the attack in November 2008. The hotel staff were courageous during the attacks, staying to help guests escape the hotel, and they were committed to quickly resuming normal operations after them.

These young employees exemplify “leadership from below” that the Taj Hotel has fostered among those it employs. Young leaders were essential to minimizing this tragedy and rebuilding as fast as they did, and from our experience at the hotel, this leadership still exists to serve all the Taj’s guests.

At around noon we went to a nearby mall for our last meal in India before departing for the airport. It was bittersweet since we all know we will miss India but also want to be back home. Once at the Mumbai airport we boarded a plane for a 15 hour flight back to the USA.

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Taj Hotel Presentation

Day 22, Mumbai Godrej-Tyson Visit

After a night at the historic Taj Hotel in Mumbai we headed over to Godrej-Tyson, a partnership formed between Godrej Group (an Indian conglomerate) and Tyson when Tyson entered India.

The visit focused on the challenges Tyson faced coming to a country with many vegetarians and the opportunities it has in the future. Tyson has a large line of vegetarian products here and has catered to a large segment of Indians who want to spend less time preparing food. In addition, many Indians are beginning to eat meat as cheaper meat options are becoming available.

After returning to the hotel we had a free evening to pack our things and do some last-minute souvenir shopping before leaving for the US tomorrow.

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Godrej-Tyson presentation
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Tasting new chicken products with Indian flavors
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Godrej building

Day 21, Lemeridien Hotel and flight to Mumbai

Today we visited the Lemeridien Hotel in Chennai to learn about Hotel Management and tourism in India. This was even more interesting because the manager of the hotel has a son who graduated from the Walton School of Business! Hotels here are focused on excellent service that reflects the warmth that we have seen Indians show to their guests. It is a sector that will grow tremendously as India becomes more developed and more connected globally. There is a science behind hotel management, and Lemeridien is doing things the right way as one of the premiere hotels in India

After a spectacular lunch that featured a traditional Indian dance while we ate, our group headed to the airport to catch a plane to Mumbai, our final city we will visit in India.

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Presentation on Hotel Management
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Traditional dance during our lunch

Day 20, Chennai Temples

We visited multiple temples from the 600’s AD today in Chennai, including a shore temple. Near one of the temples there is also a very unique boulder that seems to defy gravity called Krishna’s butterball. There is also a massive relief that is over 1400 years old and depicts hundreds of figures with symbolic meanings. The tours were fascinating because many of these sites and temples are totally unknown to Westerners but are very important to the Indian people.

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Shore temple
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Inland Temples
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Krishna's Butterball
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1400 year old relief

Day 19, Train to Chennai

We took a train to Chennai this morning, which is in the Tamil Nadu province of India. We are staying in a hotel right on the Bay of Bengal and had a little beach time in the afternoon. After that we had a debrief to talk about what we have learned so far on the trip and then headed off to bed.