Wednesday, February 14, 2007


London was an excellent way to decompress from the trip to India. Rather than go on and on about the many sights we saw in three days, I’ll leave you with the photos. While the weather in January is a bit cold and rainy, it was a nice respite from the dry, congestion of Bangalore and Delhi. Although I thought it would be several more weeks before craving Indian food, I found myself enjoying a Chicken Tikka Masala the first evening in London. Cheers!

Day 14: HP Services

Friday, January 12, 2007.

For our last day of company visits in Bangalore, we were fortunate enough to meet with Som Mittal, Senior Vice President for HP Services in the Asia Pacific region. I continue to be amazed at Mani’s vast and impressive network of contacts in India! The visit to HP was perhaps the most memorable visit and was definitely a great way to end the program in India.

The visit was impressive because of who we were visiting; Som’s incredible passion and energy is contagious. After talking with him and hearing more about how he builds a culture of innovation at HP in India, I was left with a passion to learn more about outsourcing and the incredible work being done in the area. Imagine how his employees must feel! After two weeks of visiting companies and learning about their processes, their extensive capabilities, their innovative ways of working with clients and their challenges retaining talent, it all came together when talking with Som at HP.

I enjoyed listening to Som Mittal discuss where HP is and where his vision for HP Services in the coming years. I honestly think if we were to visit with Som early in the trip, the impact of the visit would not have been as profound. I really needed to have a good understanding of the challenges facing these companies and the opportunities that exist. The earlier company visits provided great background to the meeting today.

We talked at length about the culture he is building in his HP facilities and I find this fascinating. Some of what he discussed is the fact that his employees need to be able to do business anywhere in the world and feel a part of the HP team. Maintaining consistent culture in a virtual team is difficult, but important. This is of great interest to me and will likely be the topic for my paper.

Our host took us on a tour of the facilities an told us how the campus really has many of the conveniences employees need – a gym, a convenience store, an outdoor theater for events where the families are welcome, and finally a great environment where they can relax and take a break. I notice that many of the most successful companies make every effort to ensure their campuses are comfortable and have opportunities for employees to relax and socialize. This is crucial since the employees are expected to work long hours often on monotonous tasks.

Before this trip to India, I wasn’t sure if I would be interested in working overseas on an ex-pat assignment. However, after visiting the many companies and talking with the people, it could be quite interesting. I would enjoy the challenge and new adventure.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Day 13: Accenture and Sapient

Thursday, January 11, 2007. It has been a long week of traveling on the bus. Yesterday we were sitting for about 5 hours on our journeys between companies. It was a long day!

Accenture – Our first stop today was at Accenture where
Lin Chase, the lab’s Director gave us a wonderful tour. I was surprised by the fact that Accenture has such an impressive technology lab in India. I assumed they were more of a BPO or KPO operation servicing clients. They do that, but the most impressive part was the technology. Accenture’s technology Research & Development team explores how our clients can leverage emerging technologies from around the world and integrate into their businesses to build and succeed in new markets. Accenture employs over 150 people in several global labs (United States, France and India). From the Accenture website, we learn that:

“Accenture Technology Labs, the technology research and development (R&D)
organization within Accenture, has been turning technology innovation into
business results for 20 years. Our R&D team explores new and emerging
technologies that are one to five years out, and uses them to create prototypes
and cutting-edge solutions that will help organizations maximize performance in
the future.”
This company visit really was exciting because we had a chance to see this work in progress. We were able to interact with the prototypes. If you are ever in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, check out the Accenture wall near the K gates. It is a great example of some of the work coming out of these labs. Gone are the days when India should be thought of as only capable of such outsourcing as call centers – the work being done here truly is making the world seem a bit smaller, making use of global talent. Check it out!

Sapient – White boards everywhere! This company has one of the most impressive cultures of the companies we visited. The culture is one of open communication and commitment to constant brainstorming and thinking. To facilitate this, all the wall space is covered with dry-erase white boards. There are schedules, thoughts, to-do lists, even smily faces, frowns and other ways to show how you feel at the end of the day. Constant
feedback is also quite important. To show how this is truly part of the culture, the managers who led our discussion began the meeting with asking us to provide our expectations – which they listed on the board. At the end of the discussions and tours, they asked us for feedback and also gave us some feedback. What a great experience.

Perhaps what I have enjoyed most about the trip to India is the ability to experience many different company cultures and gather some thoughts on what the most advanced global firms are doing to remain competitive – both in the market and as employers of choice.

After the long day of meetings and bus travel, we were all able to meet as a group for a farewell Dinner at the hotel. It was great to reminisce on the past weeks. To finish off the evening, we all met for drinks at the 13th Floor in downtown Banaglore. We had a great view of the city and were all able to relax.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Day 12: Shanti Bhavan and Mindtree Consulting

Wednesday, January 10, 2007.

Today was a nice change from the company visits. Our professor has arranged for a visit to the The George Foundation’s Shanti Bhavan School in a local village. After a week and a half in India, it was great to visit a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that focuses on educating children and providing them with access to a better life. The school accepts 24 children (12 boys and 12 girls) into the program every year. They come from the poorest situations and mush show potential of continuing through the program and then off to college. The program has a great story and made our group happy to hear that things are being done to improve the human condition here in India.

The Shanti Bhavan program seemed quite comprehensive and are clearly succeeding in their mission. We attended their daily assembly where the children in all grades came together to present and listen to the daily news, meet any visitors and sing or present some type of basic program. While watching the children and the program, we could not help but get drawn into the program and be impressed – after all, these children were coming from nothing to a beautiful place.

After we left the school and had a chance to let everything sink in, there were more unanswered questions than answers. The school is controversial among the locals because they are helping such a select number at a great cost. Questions such as whether or not the opulence is necessary, is an annual three-week visit with your family really healthy, and they are quite Western and Christian-focused in their approach. I’m not saying that a Christian approach to the school is bad, but the school claims to be non-denominational. However, they are trying to do good things, which is great!

After lunch at Shanti Bhavan, we again boarded the bus for a visit to Mindtree Consulting. Mindtree is impressive because of its innovative environment. Our visit to Mindtree stands out for two reasons – the physical environment and the corporate logo. The building itself is designed in such a way that employees are encouraged to engage with each other in informal meetings and conversations. The hallways of the main building circle a meeting space and depict the values of the company. One of the most interesting employee communications campaigns I saw was here at Mindtree. In India, family is important and employees rarely select a job without consulting their family. Yet Mindtree was relatively unknown to many people due to its small size. The campaign they developed was to engage the parents and tell the story of the parents. The other side of the program was to send parents information about Mindtree and encourage them to get to know the company and even visit. As retention becomes such a major issue and job-hopping increases, I wonder if this will be one of the lesser important cultural artifacts.

In addition to the physical office spaces, I was quite impressed with the logo. The Mindtree logo was created by a physically-challenged student who depicted what he saw as the company’s values: Imagination, Action, and Joy. The red background depicts the action, the blue tree reaching to the sky depicts imagination, and the yellow dots depict bursts of joy. There is a living logo in the front of the building where a tree with yellow blooms grows against a red structure. At the base on the tree is dirt from every country that the company has a client partnership. Some of what Mindtree is doing truly reflects their intent to create an innovative environment.

Day 11: John Crane and Wipro Headquarters

Tuesday, January 9, 2007. 10:45 PM IST (Indian Standard Time).

John Crane Sealing Systems – This was our first and only visit to a manufacturing facility in India. Ashok was the director and general manager for India who took us on a tour and provided an overview on their firm.

It is interesting to hear about the growth in India and as another example of that, the John Crane Sealing Systems business here has gone from 3 to 200 in a brief time period. John Crane is part of the Smiths Group which has four lines of business, including: Aerospace, Medical, Detection, and Specialty Engineering. The John Crane business is part of the Specialty Engineering division and manufactures mechanical seals and related components. The business in India began as a manufacturing site in Chennai opened a second in Banaglore and later added drafting capabilities. With the drawing office, John Crane’s off-shore operations here truly became a knowledge office.

John Crane faces the same retention challenges that the other firms here face; it is interesting to see the unique retention efforts that firms are engineering to improve retention. John Crane focuses on encouraging every employee to offer suggestions for improvements. This is a great way to engage employees and allow them to directly improve operations at a larger scope than they may be accustomed.

Wipro Headquarters and Electronic City Campus Visit – At Wipro, we were able to meet with the Chief Strategy Officer to discuss the vision and strategies of the company. As one of the powerful forces in India, it was great to get insight into what makes a giant such as Wipro operate. After our visit with the executives at Wipro, we made our way to their Electronic City campus to see the strategies and learning in action.

Several parts of the presentation at Wipro were intriguing, especially the discussion on sustainable growth, the significant challenges they anticipate, and how they differentiate themselves in this increasingly competitive environment. The growth at Wipro has been outstanding and primarily by finding new business with current clients. Their list of clients was quite impressive and lengthy. While growth numbers have been extremely high at Wipro, they remain aware that the current rates are not sustainable long term. For this reason, they are focusing on ways to find new markets. The challenges they anticipate being significant are: 1) continuing to find ways to innovate, 2) move more into the consulting space, and 3) develop capabilities in supply chain strategies. Becoming an innovative company when you are Wipro’s size is not easy, and as such they are very selective in their hiring process. They receive 120+ applications a day and have an application to offer ratio of less than 1% - selective! Wipro differentiates their work by going Deeper, Farther, Sharper, and Wider into the client’s business.

The discussion was enlightening and afterwards, we boarded the bus again for a tour of their Electronic City campus just south of Bangalore. The campus is absolutely beautiful and has everything employees need to be productive at work. Since employees will work 10-12 hours a day, it is important that they can easily build relationships with their co-workers and also accomplish things like going to the pharmacy, grocery store or working out (all of which are on the campus).

The other piece that is really interesting in the learning and education emphasis at all the companies we’ve visited. Wipro has a rich learning resource center which feels more like a college campus than a business. Not only do they have a strong educational program in house, they have also partnered with several institutions to offer employees access to graduate degrees (e.g., MBA).

Wow – as the days in India focus on company visits, I feel like the content posted here gets drier. We had great discussions at the companies and recapping them in a few paragraphs is getting difficult. I'll leave you with a photo of the traffic we sat in daily - this way you'll believe me when I say two company visits daily is a full day!

Day 10: Wipro, Target & Dell

Monday, January 8, 2007. 11:00 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). The flight and travels to Bangalore went uneventfully. We were able to get from Agra to Delhi aboard a bus for 5 hours, then boarded a Kingfisher flight from Delhi to Bangalore. After arriving in Bangalore, we all were quite exhausted and retired to our rooms for the evening. Today we began our visits to local companies. We were fortunate to visit some large and well-respected firms: Wipro, Target, and Dell.

Our first stop was to Wipro Healthcare. We met with executives at the Global Radiation Services division. Wipro is the third largest of the big three Indian outsourcing firms – TCS, Infosys, and Wipro. Our professor has many connections in general, but especially with Wipro since he used to work there. This division provides radiation imagery support services. It is a small but growing part of the business and is likely just a partnership away from something quite large and amazing. Wipro Radiation Services was formed with a joint venture between Wipro and GE Medical Systems just a few years ago. The company’s initial strategy is to provide initial readings of MRI, CT, and other imagery. The team receives the images, cleans them and makes them more accessible by the medical staff at the patient’s hospital. The core value in the service offering occurs through the JV with GE Medical. The firm takes the layered scans and converts them to 3D imagery.

Wipro Radiation Services has some opportunity to develop a sales force in the US and begin making its services more well-known. Currently they are working with a handful of large hospitals. An intriguing business is to consider how these large hospitals in the US can then re-organize their radiation teams to offer services to third parties. There are several revenue models that could allow the healthcare industry to make money in new and innovative ways. Of course the biggest obstacles remain – concern about job loss and concern for patient confidentiality.

Am I in Minneapolis or Bangalore? Our visit to Target Services India (TSI) made me feel as though I was walking through the doors of Target Plaza in Minneapolis. For a minute I missed the comfort and culture that I knew with Target and as a non-Targeteer I felt like an outsider. Then the purpose of our visit came back to be and I was yet again impressed with what Target is able to accomplish.

While there is much that I could write about for TSI, I think the most interesting thing is the fact that the culture felt consistent with the culture in Minneapolis. This is amazing if you think about it. Target has been able to organize and operate a business on the other side of the world and develop a place that is more than just a Target facility – it is an extension of its culture, people, and innovation that occurs in Minneapolis. There are many things that make Target unique from the other companies that we are visiting and this contrast is so interesting that my project for the course will likely tackle the challenge of how companies ensure consistent culture in an office on the other side of the world.

It was wonderful seeing my previous manager Tracy again and I’ll hopefully meet up with her and Tom for dinner this week. Taking an international assignment would be something that I’d love to do and can’t wait to hear more about their experiences here. More to come.

As I was standing outside the bus, we were being beckoned to get on and head to Dell. We were running late for our meeting with the Managing Director of Dell India. Dell is another company doing much of their business in India. Dr. Vivek Marsingh was an amazing speaker and it was clear how his leadership inspired Dell’s growth in India. When attrition is a huge problem there has to be something that keeps employees at a company, One of the largest struggles for these companies is the fact that any of their employees could leave for a job paying 15-20% more (a number we’ve heard at most visits). How do you keep someone who can leave for more money? Dr. Marsingh’s response is that leadership takes over where logic stops. The leadership he is speaking about inspires employees to contribute to innovation and change in the organization. One great example of the innovation at Dell is every Friday afternoon from 4-6, the managing dorector has office hours where anyone can stop by and discuss anything. Promoting discussion and questions as well as interaction with leaders fosters an innovative environment.

Innovation is a term that we have heard at many of our visits. I was honestly not expecting to hear so much emphasis on innovation. I anticipated more emphasis on following procedures and quality control. Just to be clear, we have heard much about quality and process, but the firms recognize that in order to compete globally in the future, innovation and creativity are esstential corporate values.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day 9: Agra to Delhi to Bangalore (long day!)

Sunday, January 7, 2007. 8:10 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). I am tired of riding on a bus! We spent approximately 5 hours on the bus today transiting from Agra to Delhi so that we could catch a flight from Delhi to Banaglore. Why we couldn’t just fly from Agra to Bangalore? I have no idea – but my guess is it would have been the easy thing to do. Oh well…more scenery of India. Seeing the country has been an eye-opening experience for me. As I mentioned earlier, the country is one of extremes. The extreme that has begun to hit me is the poverty. If you are upset by what is occurring in India and don’t wish to read about the poverty, you may want to check back again tomorrow.

There are children and disabled people begging just about everywhere you walk. Obviously there are exceptions and we have been visiting more touristy places; but still, I’ve never been faced with such a human condition. For India to become a developed country there will need to be something done to support the 25% of the population living below the poverty line. Oh, and just in case you were not aware, that 25% is approximately equal to the population of the United States. Yes, the population of India is 1.3 billion – a number that means very little until and unless you see it in person.

There are children on the streets forced by their parents to ask for money. After all, pity and guilt are emotions more easily conjured than when an adult begs from you, right? What about the games? The begging if often not because the family is homeless or starving, but rather a way to make a living. You could give the child on the corner a 100 rupee bill ($2.25USD) and it’d be like giving the begger in the US a $20 bill. I’ve seen many different schemes – it is touch because I feel sorry for those in real need, but skepticism has set in. For example, I saw a boy of about 8 on the street last night. Here I am sitting in the comfortable bus and there he is standing outside with a bandage on his limp hand with a bloody spot on the bandage. Poor child. He seemed all along, but then his brother and sister joined him at the encouragement of their mother in the distance. Wait… what is on their hands? They all have the same limp hand bandaged with a bloody spot in the same place. Or the big sister sitting out of site with her laser pointer, targeting her young sister’s next victim. “Please sir, sir, sir.” She says as she moves her cupped hand from her mouth to her stomach. Games! Then there is the man who has to hobble around without legs and is tapping at my foot and pulling on my pants for a bit of spare change. It is a pity that giving money would only incite a riot and the masses would descent on me or whoever gives even a rupee. Remember – 25% of 1.3 billion – they are everywhere. By 2020, this number will need to reduce as part of the president’s plan to see India become a developed nation.

It’s true, it is sad. But we will be doing something productive for the poor. In Bangalore, we will be going out to a village where we'll visit Shanti Bhavan which is a school organized and run by the George Foundation. The school has invited us to attend an assembly and lunch. I’ll share more about the visit to Shanti Bhavan and the George Foundation next week.

Day 8: The Taj Mahal & Agra Fort

Saturday, January 6, 2007. 7:00 AM IST (Indian Standard Time). We have another big day today as we’ll be visiting the Taj Mahal and the Fatehpur Sikri (or Abandoned City). If you have never read much about the Taj, it is an amazing place with a wonderful story.

Our first stop of the day was to the Taj Mahal. The Taj was built by the emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her 14th child in 1631. Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal were rarely seen apart and in fact, their love was so strong that Shah Jahan wanted to build a lasting memoir to his beloved wife. And that is exactly what he has accomplished. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631 and was completed in 1653. Over 20,000 people from all over India and Asia were brought in to construct the building, which is an amazing feat. The marble work and inlaid gem stones are awe inspiring – considering that this was in the 1600s, well before large cranes and construction equipment. There are few words to describe the grounds and buildings so I will just leave you with the photos.

The second stop of the day was at the Fatehpur Sikri. This is a great ghost town which was the capital city of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585, during the reign of Akbar. Akbar was an interesting ruler in the empire, where he put himself in a position of God. Initially Akbar’s intention was to bring together the best elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity; however the result was a religion that put himself at the center and acting as God. The city began to fall apart after Akbar’s death due to lack of water and the fact that the city was elaborately constructed to proclaim and celebrate Akbar’s new religion – a religion few wanted to remain aligned with post-Akbar.

We walked through the city’s abandoned lower levels which are the palaces and offices, but did not visit the highest level which is the mosque and religious section. With the recent hanging of Saddam, it is best that we avoid areas which may draw unnecessary attention and concern. The sites we did see were amazing – just walking through these abandoned areas makes one think and imagine. What would it have been like to experience the colors of flying silks, the carpets laid out on the ground, the music playing, and the markets alive with people.

The evening was marked with a visit to Pizza Hut – a veg pizza never tasted so good! And we were treated to a line dancing production put on by 5 of the waiters. The video will likely be on YouTube sometime soon (part of the whole flattening of the word)…

Day 7: Delhi to Agra

Friday, January 5, 2007. 11:00 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). Internet access has been a challenge the last week, but here are the delayed postings... Today was a full day of travel on the Taj Express train from Delhi to Agra. After that we visited the Agra Fort, located near the Taj Mahal in Agra. The weekend was an optional trip for us and most attended. It definitely was quite amazing and worth visiting. Tomorrow I will share the details of the Taj, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! Today, however you get to hear about the adventure on the train and a bit of the trip to the fort.

We have been traveling around in a bus to accommodate the group of 25 and the trip to Agra is about 3 hours by train and 5 hours by bus. One great part of the adventure so far is the variety of transportation we have been taking. So far, I have been able to experience a taxi, bicycle rickshaw, auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk), horse-drawn rickshaw/carriage, and now the wonderful train. Now I can handle a lot, but my experience in India has been one eye-opening experience. The dirt and grime that covers everything is definitely something you have not seen before. No, not even in New York. We boarded the train at approximately 6:00 AM for the journey. Did you every watch the Amazing Race? Do you recall some scenes aboard a train with open windows and people crowded in the cars? This is that type of train. Fortunately we were in a nicer Air Conditioned car which was perhaps the cleanest of the cars. Yet even this car was not quite up to par on cleanliness with the NYC Subway. I did get to jump on the train while it was still moving – FUN! But I digress. The train’s windows had enough grime built up such that as we looked out at the countryside, it appeared to be a Nuclear Winter – the dull orange glow cast an eerie and ominous light on everything.

After getting off the train in Agra, we were yet again met by the beggers and street vendors. It amazes me how many people beg on the streets. But that is also a story for another day – perhaps Sunday which is a full day of travel from Agra to Delhi to Bangalore.

We checked into our hotel, the Jaypee Palace in Agra. It was a beautiful place and definitely nice to relax a bit after the morning of travel. Several of us dropped our bags and walked down to the phone booth, or STD for short. You can imaging that as we get slap-happy on long days of travel, the jokes are endless on how easy it is to find an STD in India.

The afternoon was spent at the Agra Fort which is one of the well-known (and touristy) sites in Agra. The fort was built to house several palaces and buildings for the 16th century Moghul empire in Agra. In fact, Agra was the capital of India at one point. The fort was later controlled by the British and over time it has lost some of its luster as gems and precious stones have been stolen.

In the evening, we had dinner with Amit Agarwal, a writer who began a blog on new technology. Not that I plan to make a living from writing, but Amit has become a full-time blogger after and is well-respected for his views around the world. If you are at all interested in emerging technologies, you should read his blog. The discussion was interesting as Amit told us more about where he gains his inspiration, how he handles spam-bloggers and even maintaining his integrity when it could be easy to get paid by companies to write reviews of their products – a practice he avoids.

Sadly, the hotel discotheque closed at 11:00 PM so not a late night for JT. My new friend Razju, the tuk-tuk driver offered to drive me to the liquor store tomorrow, though. Perhaps we will need to do that. Kingfisher Lager is a big hit among the group!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Day 6: Genpact and Convergys

Thursday, January 4, 2007. 9:30 AM IST (Indian Standard Time). Today was another full day of company meetings. We first visited the powerhouse of Genpact. Genpact is perhaps the largest BPO firm in India. Headquartered in Gurgaon, India, Genpact’s 26,000 employees under the leadership of Mr. Pramod Bhasin helped achieve nearly $500 million in revenue in 2005. Genpact delivers its services in 19 languages from 16 centers in 6 countries. They are well on track to meet or beat their 2008 revenue goal of $1 billion.

Before preparing for this trip and reading more about trends in outsourcing, I have to admit my knowledge was fairly limited. However meeting with these companies has increased my knowledge and opened my eyes tremendously. Initially I thought of large call centers which perform a simple function and are not closely tied with the core strategies of a business. While such non-critical support functions are being outsourced in large numbers, there are also emerging trends to leverage Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) firms and others to be more strategic partners. A good example is some of the work that Genpact is beginning to address. They will work with a company is a consulting capacity to review the current situation of the firm and make recommendations for which functions might make sense to outsource and which should be kept in-house at the firm. Consistent with this new trend is the firm’s approach to client relationships. Genpact prefers to work with fewer clients in a more intimate capacity. They would generally not service a project that will require less than 30-40 FTE. Working with fewer clients whose business is scalable provides Genpact the opportunity to strengthen their consulting skills, which is a smart way to plan for future growth.

The second company we met with was
Convergys. Convergys is a slightly younger company than Genpact, however is growing at a rapid pace. Rather than focus on servicing many facets of BPO like Genpact, Convergys focuses on the service components (cell centers, etc). While at Convergys, we were able to visit one of their call center floors which was quite impressive. In my estimate, the floor housed close to 250+ employees. I noticed a section in the center of the floor which appeared to be some type of mobile phone store set exactly as it would be if located on the streets or in a mall. Apparently the company makes every effort to ensure the call center employees understand the business as much as possible – hence the mock store on the call center floor. This provides the call center employee a good idea of what they are servicing and helps the brand become a bit more real for them. If you think about it, one of the important components of a good call center is relevance. If the call center employee has no idea what the reference point is, it will be difficult for him/her to feel empathy for the caller. This is brilliant because the retail outlets are designed quite differently in India than they would be in the USA. Convergys was very gracious. Our contacts there were willing to talk about their business and many of our questions tended to focus on retention efforts, scheduling and training.

The training questions were of greatest interest to me. The first thing I asked was the cultural training that the employees receive. They go through three weeks of cultural and communications training when the employee starts or is assigned to a new team. This training includes background on the country and culture they will be servicing, the company and the product. The objective of the communication training is often misunderstood. The purpose is not to change the accents or dialect of the employee, but rather to prepare the employee to understand terms, slang and accents. We enjoyed a good laugh hearing that an employee was servicing a customer who lived in the boonies. To provide better service, the Indian employee attempted to locate Boonies on a map of the US! Another good question was why employees often assume names such as Bob or George. This practice was at the request of the companies outsourcing the work. The large Fortune 500 companies thought providing great customer service in a brand manner meant giving employees Westernized names, which the employees often enjoyed. However this practice has subsided with Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations which provide that employees servicing financial services must give their real name. We discussed much more, so if you would like to know more about training or retention programs – just ask!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Day 5: Company visits and a construction boom!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007. 11:45 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). The trip continues to be full of amazing visits with senior level government officials and companies as well. Today we made a visit to the Secretary of Commerce, Mr G.K. Pillai. We discussed much of how India plans to become a global powerhouse, not just the current low-cost solution for off-shoring and outsourcing. There continue to be challenges and struggles for the country and although I think it will be difficult to implement the changes in the timelines envisioned, the critical success factor is the presence of a shifting paradigm. India is experiencing dramatic shifts in her economy, her politics and the culture of her people. Consider the fact that the world’s largest democracy is only celebrating its 60th anniversary this month. This is a country with some of the oldest civilizations on the earth.

But we digress, India is in a position for strong growth. GDP growth has been 8.9% which is second only to China at 9.9% GDP growth. However India ranks 144th in purchasing power which is indicative of the low GNP number. When considering Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), India receives $6 Billion compared to China’s $72 Billion. There is substantial opportunity in India for FDI and to support this, ROI of companies who invest in India is often much higher than expected and higher than realized from investing in China. To spur FDI and other investment in commerce, manufacturing needs to develop and strengthen in India. Currently 54% of India’s GNP is from the Services sector. The challenge is that jobs in the outsourcing and off-shoring businesses require advanced degrees. Therefore adding service jobs will not address the poverty issue. To employ people with lesser education, manufacturing jobs need to be created. To some extent, this is being done in cities such as Chennai where Nokia is a strong employer manufacturing mobile phones.

To further spur economic development, the government must reinvent itself. The Secretary admits that the government can at times become a roadblock due to the bureaucracy. The government realizes that it much become more nimble and adapt to the needs of the communities and businesses to thrive. One way to address this is by establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZ). These SEZ encourage investment by manufacturers such as Nokia. Incidentally, Japanese companies have been strong investors in Indian manufacturing.

The development of manufacturing and lower level jobs becomes increasingly important as the Secretary seeks to move 200 million people from agriculture jobs to elsewhere. The countryside have become very fragmented. Today, farms are defined by 1-2 acres at most. For this reason, it is important that rural citizens are encourages to take jobs elsewhere. Without an education, they will not be employable by the outsourcing firms. Again, manufacturing jobs will need to be created. It is quite interesting listening to the thoughts and strategies of a man who goes to bed thinking about how he plans to find jobs for 200 million people. Several hundred million square feet of new construction will be required in India in the coming years, which may lead to job creation. Every opportunity will need to be fully thought out. To put this in perspective for you, the US population just recently became 300 million. Think about it, in a country of over 1 billion people, the decisions that are made must be scalable due to the sheer volume.

After talking with the Secretary of Commerce, we visited a company by the name of Intellevate. Founded in Minneapolis, Intellevate is a company which provides outsourcing services to patent attorneys. One fascinating thing to think about is the fact that although such work is regulated and requires attorneys to hold state licensing, a large percentage can be outsourced so long as a piece of the work is completed by the licensed agent. For example, a patent attorney can outsource 95% of the work required to secure the patent so long as he completes 5% pf the work himself.

The IT Enabled Services is a strong and growing sector in India. In 2005, the industry size was $6.2 Billion and is growing at a rate of 37% CAGR. We were able to meet with a company which specializes in a very narrow outsourcing business – patents. The legal process outsourcing (LPO) industry is currently $80 Million and is expected to grow to $3-4 Billion by 2010. This particular company provides research and other legal services to clients to allow them to be more efficient in securing patents for their clients. The mission of Intellevate is threefold: (1) to reduce expenses, (2) to improve cycle time, and (3) to improve intellectual property (IP) capabilities.

It amazes me that a company with such a vision as Intellevate is able to open and find a market niche. What is even more amazing is that larger outsourcing companies are seeing to emulate some of the things that these specialized companies are doing. Visits to these outsourcing companies require top security. This is understandable since we are likely to see information about companies from around the world. Intellevate is the typical story of a successful firm in India. They were founded, succeeded, sold off to there investors, continue to flourish in small, cramped office space and finally await the completion of their new, beautiful office space close by.

Everyone has been quite hospitable and kind to us as visitors. At each company visit, we are provided tea and a biscuit. The hospitality is second to none here in India. Everyone has been welcoming to us and very open to talking freely about their business and processes.

Day 4: Meeting the President of India

Tuesday, January 2, 2007. 10:00 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). WOW! There really is no other way to describe today than in sheer amazement. It is a day that will not be forgotten. We began the day with a visit to the Secretary of Biotechnology, Dr. Bhan. I was amazed and impressed by the openness of the government officials. Their willingness to sit down with us for an hour or so and share their vision for the future of India was incredible. I had expected very nice and ornate buildings for the Cabinet-level officials, but was surprised to find the buildings to be run-down by US standards. The meetings with the government are a good reminder that powerful minds are still at work even when the buildings and facilities are not as impressive.

Following this great meeting we tried our hand at more negotiations with the vendors in India. It is amazing that bargaining has become an ingrained part of the commerce culture here in India. In fact, after some group members were surprised to learn of prices or not sure whether they wanted to purchase, the vendors would tell them, “I’ll quote you a price and then you will get a discount off of that.” They even admit that they will quote a high price expecting to negotiate. This is incredibly fun. The best part is getting back to the bus and learning that you got the best deal or that you were completely taken. I have not done too much buying yet, so luckily I have had the advantage of learning from the others! It is amazing how you tend to tune out the “noise” that occurs all around. From shop vendors calling out their wares to you, to children begging for money, the streets of Delhi are alive with so much.

After lunch and shopping, we boarded the bus to prepare for the evening activity, a meeting with the President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam! This is perhaps the most amazing and inspiring part of the trip. We were able to sit with the leader of the second largest country in the world! This is a meeting very few are able to secure – and perhaps one that many of the CEOs we will visit would love to have. And yet, we were able to sit with him and ask any questions we would like. While it took much arranging in advance, we were treated as honored guests. The reception included tea and snacks and a brief tour of the Moghul Gardens on the property – the president’s backyard. Unfortunately cameras were not allowed, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The President sat down with us and for about 20 minutes discussed his vision for India by the year 2020. It is quite exhausting and yet inspiring to listen to the plans that this man has for his amazing country. He is an energetic little guy whose words and actions have the enthusiasm and energy of a young child. I truly do believe that in just over 10 years, India will be a completely different country.

The energy and passion that this 75 year old man has for his country is so incredibly inspiring that I am honored to have been able to spend even this short period of time with him. Perhaps I should give George a call now…

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Day 3: Last of the Sightseeing

Monday, January 1, 2007. 11:00 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). Today was the first day that we met up with the entire group. Unfortunately there are still four students who are stuck in other airports due to the fog in Delhi at night. The fog has delayed flights for several days now. Apparently that is common in Delhi this time of year – good thing I fly back directly from Bangalore to London.

Monday was a great day. We began the day at approximately 9:30 AM where we met our tour bus guide and boarded the bus for a day of touring Delhi. Touring all of the sights and talking with all the local people will provide for a good frame of reference once we begin visiting companies tomorrow. The tour today was very professional and well organized. Our first stop was at the Jama Masjid. You’ll recall that we attempted to visit the mosque yesterday, but were advised against it for security reasons. The mosque is an amazing structure in the heart of Old Delhi. We all had to remove our shoes before entering and were provided little booties to wear over our socks. While I certainly enjoyed wearing the booties, I felt odd seeing all the Indians barefoot. That feeling lasted only until I stepped a few more feet and saw evidence that this open mosque is a pigeon’s playground. Booties it is!

The sights, sounds and smells of Old Delhi were striking. After visiting the Jama Masjid, we returned to the bicycle rickshaw that brought us. We began our journey through the crowded bazaars of Chandni Chowk. Think of the imagery you see in the movies of the good guy chasing the bad guy through crowded streets with merchants yelling on both sides, nothing but a web of wires and rope above and passing through the crowd nearly impossible – this is the grand bazaar. Think drive-through shopping. The smells were also amazing! The various foods cooking on the roadside vendors’ carts provide such a pungent aroma – roasting peanuts, vegetables, breads. It all truly smells delicious, yet our unprepared stomachs would not enjoy. Amazingly while on the rickshaw, no one approached me begging. The begging is truly a serious problem and perhaps one of the things I have had the most difficult time with. This could be a topic for a whole additional post.

After making our way through the bazaar, we stopped at the Red Fort prior to boarding the bus. Since the Red Fort is closed on Monday’s you can refer to yesterday’s post for the details. For lunch we went to a great Indian restaurant called Chor Bazaar or “Theif’s Bazaar”. The food was delicious – and so far so good on avoiding what not to eat.

After lunch we went shopping where several of us purchased some beautiful rugs of silk or wool from Kashmir. They were beautiful and this was a reputable good quality place. The challenge with shopping is that you never know if the item is handmade or not since everything is “only the finest quality and handmade”. In addition, the shops all anticipate you to negotiate the price down from what they initially quote. Love it! The rugs I purchased are likely on their way to the DHL office where they will be shipped back home – can’t wait to figure out where they can go!

The shopping was good, but we still had two more beautiful sites to see in Delhi before the day was over. The first was the site where Mahatma Ghandi was creamated. The Hindus believe in reincarnation and that the body is made of soil and earth elements. Therefore once your body dies, you are to be cremated and your ashes spread over flowing water. Ghandi’s ashes were spread over the River Ghanges, which is the holiest river in India. Visiting the site was quite somber. There were several floral arrangements on the marble slab and an eternal flame – all adding to the feeling that you are in a holy place.

After collecting our thoughts and re-boarding the bus, we made our way to the last stop, the Quitb Minar. The Quitb Minar is the Tower of Victory which was built by Qutbuddin Aibak in the 12th century. In the courtyard of the tower is the Iron Pillar which was constructed in the 4th century AD and is amazing in the fact that the iron pillar has never rusted!

The history and culture in India is absolutely amazing! While I have enjoyed visiting so many historic monuments, I am eagerly awaiting tomorrow. We have a meeting with the Secretary of Biotechnology (a Cabinet level position) in the morning and actually have one hour with the President of India in the evening. I can’t wait to share the details of that meeting tomorrow!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Day 2: Happy New Year's!

Sunday, December 31, 2006, 12:10 AM IST. I just returned from a wonderful New Year's Eve celebration in the hotel. The big parties here take place at the hotel and the largest (and best) parties were sold out by the time we checked in to the hotel. We celebrated by having dinner at the hotel's Italian restaurant and listening to a local singer perform his best renditions of 1980s US hits. The two key lessons of the evening: eat Indian food in India when at all possible (unfortunately for us this was not possible), and Indian music sounds much more fun than loud off-key 80s hits. All in all, it was a fun evening, made several friends and as you can see by the time, I was exhausted and went to bed shortly after wishing all a happy new year. Happy New Year to you all as well!

Earlier in the day, Nicole and I decided to venture out of the hotel area for some more sightseeing before we meet up with the remainder of the group. There is something to be said for venturing out without a group of 25 - definitely a more authentic experience. We found a taxi driver who was excellent. He was extremely proud of his city and took us past all the embassies, the presidential palace, parliament buildings and other city marks. All for the regular taxi fare of about 800 rupies or $20 for the day. Our destination plan was to visit Jama Masjid and the Red Fort - two historic areas in Old Delhi. As silly Americans we had forgotten about Saddam's recent demise and the neginning of a Muslin festival, so were well advised by the taxi driver to visit the mosqoe another day (see tomorrow's post). The Red Fort, however was amazing and the adventure to get there was as good or better. We took the taxi to a bicycle rickshaw where we made our way through the crowded Old Delhi streets - not for the weak hearted.

The Red Fort included several historical buildings for the palace of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's capital city of Jahanabad. The architecture and scenery was filled with history and amazing detail, which is inspiring. Yet it was also eye-opening to walk through the crowds in the bazaar to see armed guards in their jeeps with machine guns perched atop, aimed and ready for anything! The armed guards were everywhere.

Here are a few shots I took of the buldings inside the fort. They are all constructed of red sandstone and marble - nearly 500 years ago! We decided that it would be best to get back to the taxi before sunset, so the visit was relatively short, but worth it. Tomorrow will be the mosque and the grand bazaar with the group. If you are curious about the lack of clarity in the last photo, I was not as close and the haze/smog/pollution has been terrible the last few days.