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.