Reflecting on India: Great Memories and Unforgettable Experiences


1929786_2901117841083_6513644370311218490_nOur week in Delhi went by incredibly fast, but left everyone in GIP India (Leading from the Inside Out) with new learnings, great memories, and lasting friendships. From our welcome dinner to our final goodbye at the Taj Mahal, each experience taught us a little more about ourselves as global leaders and India’s vibrant culture. I’ve picked out some highlights below:

  • Exploring New and Old Delhi: Prior to our welcome dinner, GIP India went on a tour of the city. Together, we explored Jama Masjid, Lotus Temple, and Humayun’s Tomb while learning about the landmarks along the way and India’s rich history. This was the first time I got to meet a number of my classmates, and we enjoyed bonding over our mutual respect and admiration for Delhi. We ended the day together at Bukkara over delicious Indian food to kick off our program–we were definitely spoiled on this trip!
  • Meeting our AbsolutData coachees for the first time: As mentioned in some of my previous posts, one of the things we got to do during GIP India was mentor a manager from from AbsolutData on topics including how to have difficult conversions, inspire/influence others, change others’ behaviors, etc. On our first day, we were able to go to the office to meet our coachees in person, while also shadowing them to see their management styles in action. It was a day for information gathering and conversation that would inform how we structured our feedback later that week.


  • Learning about the life of Gandhi: Prior to our trip, Gandhi had been an important figure that we discussed in class as a leader who harnessed the power of leading from the inside out. On the second official day of the program, GIP India visited the Gandhi museum and had a dialogue with the head of the museum.
  • Meeting Kiran Bedi and working with Navjyoti: Meeting the “femmspirational” Kiran Bedi and working with the women of Navjyoti was probably the highlight of my week. Dr. Bedi created Navjyoti to empower women through skills building, focusing on economic independence and education to achieve this. The women we met were truly inspirational and had overcome such adversity to gain the position they and their families have achieved today.

Now that I’m home, I can’t help but miss the time I spent in Delhi with GIP India and thank Chazen, Professor Wadhwa and our wonderful TA Sreya for such a great experience. For those of you checking out this blog to pick which program you’d like to take part in, I highly recommend Leading from the Inside Out. The skills I’ve gained from this course will follow me as I continue to develop as a leader.

Thanks for reading! Signing off.

Ting Ting Guo ’16

GIP India Spring 2016






Chazen Japan: 15 Moments That Sum Up the Trip

We’ve been back in New York after returning from Japan for a week now, and as the jet lag subsides it’s been hard to distill the whirlwind trip to Japan into a few memories. Here are 15 highlights from the trip that stand out, looking back on our week on Chazen:

1. Meeting a Maiko, a Geisha in training


Our dinner entertainment during our first night was provided by a Maiko, a Geisha in training, who danced to traditional Japanese music and answered our questions about the rigorous training that goes into becoming a Geisha. I hadn’t realized that Geishas were an official position that required training before hearing from the Maiko. She is one of just 100 Maikos apprenticing to become a Geisha. Traditionally, Maikos are between 15 and 20, and study traditional Japanese arts such as music, dance, and flower arranging.

2. Learning to Meditate from a Zen priest 


The first jam-packed day of our tour began by slowing down. We visited the Taizo-in Zen Buddhist Temple, built in the 15th century, to learn to meditate. The Zen Buddhist priest condensed a normal hour-long meditation session into just 15 minutes, because, he explained, we wouldn’t be able to last one hour during our first attempt at meditation. After the meditation session, we toured the temple and its gardens, learned about Zen Buddhism, and enjoyed a vegetarian meal.

3. Visiting our tour organizer’s employer, SCREEN


Our first company visit, and sponsor company of our trip organizer Joji, provided us with a warm welcome to Japanese corporate culture. The Kyoto-based company was the perfect introduction to Japan’s business environment, where we learned that despite its 1868 establishment, SCREEN isn’t even considered to be an old company in Japan, home to some of the world’s oldest business. SCREEN has adapted over the years from its roots as Kyoto’s first printing shop to today being a leading producer of of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, flat-panel displays, and printing hardware and software.

4. Seeing robots create cars at the Toyota manufacturing plant


After learning about Toyota’s lean manufacturing in the core, we were all very excited to see the famous supply chain in action. But I don’t think any of us expected to find the plant to be completely removed of people. The first stop on the Toyota assembly line featured robots stamping, welding, painting, assembling, and molding the cars. The supply chain was making a few different types of cars that traveled through the line in a random order, and the robots knew to adjust their process depending on the car type.


5. Singing karaoke in yukatas at the Rayokan

Our night in the traditional Japanese Rayokan stood out from the rest of the week in modern business hotels: we slept on the floor, wore yukata robes (essentially a kimono to the untrained eye), and performed karaoke in Japanese, English, and Chinese. Our Rayokan was situated in a hilltop town beside a lake and above natural hot springs. Taking a dip in the natural spa provided a restful break from a hectic week.

6. Riding the bullet train and seeing Mt. Fuji


It’s hard to say what was more exciting: waiting for the bullet train to arrive at the station as we watched other “express trains” skip our stop and whiz by in a matter of seconds, or squeezing by the windows to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji emerge through the clouds as we road the bullet train south of the storied mountain. Definitely will take any remaining ounce of thrill out of riding the Amtrak in the states.

7. Asking our most pressing questions from Nobuhide Minorikawa


Four days into our trip our group had come up with a decent list of difficult questions about Japanese culture, business, and politics. Visiting Nobuhide Minorikawa, a member of the House of Representitives and Columbia SIPA alum, provided us with a perfect outlet to ask some of our most difficult questions about Japan’s limited recognition of its wartime atrocities committed against the Chinese during World War II and why we’d met so few female business leaders.

8. Learning about robotic exo-skeletons from the CEO of Cyberdyne

At an alumni event hosted by the Columbia Business School Alumni Club of Japan we heard from Yoshiyuki Sankai, a University of Tsukuba professor who’s also the CEO of robotics company Cyberdyne. Cyberdyne’s main product is a robotic exo-skeleton that uses brain signals to control the movement of people with impaired movement. Watching videos of the product in action truly felt like a scene from a futuristic movie.

9. Walking up close to the planes on the ANA maintenance floor


On Thursday morning we visited ANA, one of Japan’s two premiere airlines, at Haneda Airport. After putting on hard hats, we toured the maintenance floor and were all impressed by how large commercial airplanes seem while standing next to them. Following the floor, we spoke with company reps about the airlines future plans, including its goal to be the main connector between the U.S. and destinations further into East and Southeast Asia.

10. Eating Standing Sushi … and lots of other sushi


From ramen to sushi to tempura, sampling Japanese cuisine was one of the most anticipated parts of the trip. For me, eating at Tokyo’s Standing Sushi was the highlight of the week’s food. At the chain of sushi bars located around Tokyo, you order each piece of fish one by one and watch as the chefs prepare it in front of the standing counter. There was certainly other sushi consumed this week – including for breakfast after the early morning tuna auction and at upscale restaurants – but for me, the casual standing bars were the highlight.

11. Learning about Englishnization at Rakuten

Our final company visit of the trip was to Japan’s largest e-commerce platform, Rakuten. After a week of meetings in business formal environments, Rakuten stood out for its Silicon Valley startup-esque vibe. We met with Kyle Lee, the head of human resources, who discussed the company’s Englishnization program, began four years ago, which mandated all employees achieve fluency in English and that all business is conducted in English.

12. Enjoying the view from the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar from Lost in Translation


As a New Yorker, I don’t often get excited about visiting locations featured in movies. For that reason, I was skeptical of the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar, featured in the movie Lost in Translation. But boy was I wrong about this place. Located on the 52nd floor of a hotel on a hill, New York Bar at night provided an almost other-worldly view of Tokyo’s urban sprawl from above. Though the Tokyo Tower that we visited the following morning has a higher observatory, it really couldn’t compete with New York Bar’s floor to ceiling views of the city lit up at night.

13. Exploring the narrow allies of Golden Gai

Tokyo’s Golden Gai neighborhood boasts then highest density of bars in the world. In the space of a few city block are narrow pedestrian allies packed with closet-sized bars. Each of the tiny drinking spots is distinctly decorated, each with just a half-dozen seats. During our visit to Golden Gai, our group pushed the seating limits at one of the small spots, where we sat in a bar under a stairwell, resembling the fictional bedroom of Harry Potter.

14. Taking in a bizarre show at the Robot Restaurant


Tokyo is renowned around the globe for its wacky-weird entertainment sensibility. Experiencing one of the city’s themed restaurants and cafes makes anyone’s list of must-do activities when visiting. For much of our group, the Robot Restaurant was the café of choice. I’d been looking forward to the café for years, after Anthony Bourdain visited on Parts Unknown, yet I couldn’t have anticipated just how unusual the two-hour variety show filled with unrelated characters and neon lights truly was.

15. Singing karaoke on a dinner cruise in the Tokyo Bay


The trip officially concluded with a dinner boat cruise in the Tokyo Bay. We ate tempura and  sashimi, sang karaoke, and enjoyed views of the city’s illuminated skyline from the water. We toasted our organizers, the group of students that the Chazen study tour lottery brought together, and the country we’ve enjoyed getting to know over the past week.

-Zoe Fox

Japan, Spring 2016

Trabi Safari and Final Thoughts

The final day in Berlin began with a late start in the afternoon. Having completed our company visits, we dedicated our remaining days to exploring the city.  A number of us went to watch a local soccer match and others went on their own to explore various museums and historical sights such as Checkpoint Charlie.

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The Trabant was once the most common car in East Germany

A small group decided to rent several east-German made communist era Trabant Cars for a tour around the city. With an ignition system resembling a motorcycle’s and an unconventional manual transmission, the Trabi was not only a vehicle of questionable safety but a moving piece of history.  While driving through the city we were educated on German history through walkie talkies provided to each car.

In the evening, to cap off our trip we all met for dinner at Spindler Klate- a waterside restaurant that turned into a night club.  After a series of toasts we had our final celebration before leaving for New York the next day.

As we boarded our respective flights back to New York, we began to reflect on the week long trip.   We were able to see German production excellence and innovation applied in different settings, we became familiar with several institutions (UnternehmerTUM) that were resulted in these products, and we learned how this commitment to excellence and process was applied to the world of startups.  Moreover, we learned how the German companies communicated their history and how they looked to the future.  Finally we were able to engage in open dialogue with very business leaders on issues ranging from corporote strategy to career paths.  While we all had different takeaways, it was clear that we all had learned a tremendous amount.

Starting in the industrial heartland of Bavaria and ending in the entrepreneurship capital in Berlin, we had lot of ground in a very short time (14 companies in 5 days).  I cant help but feel that my curiosity regarding this amazing country has only increased.  I leave Germany with memories to last a lifetime but armed with some new theories and techniques to apply to my own career.  Truly an unforgettable trip.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016


UAE Wrap Up

After 10 company talks, 4 major sightseeing activities, and numerous unforgettable deep talks with fellow classmates on this fascinating country that hosted us for 10 days, we got an unique look into a very complex country. This is what I have gathered so far: I thought UAE is a dichotomy of century old religion and practicalities of capitalism. In short, UAE felt like a religious Vegas and the oxymoronic title that’s associated.

The country tries very hard to hang on to its identity drawn from its relative recent desert heritage but look around, past the myriad of skyscrapers and one will see a transformed country. One will see Islamic law rooted into how business is done (ie. Out right debt is not allowed so there needs to be some creative financial engineering to take on leverage) yet one also sees multinational corporations from the likes of Google and bulge bracket banks choosing Dubai as their gulf region home base. It’s astounding to see what the country is now; it seems to have risen from the sand, literally.

One part I loved about this trip was the access we got to companies and key individuals who are close to the pulse of the country. Through them and our very own talks amongst the class, we got to develop a more in-depth, inner working viewpoint. I also thoroughly enjoyed our talk about whether there is a bubble or in fact, UAE has done it right and is a real oasis in the desert. What will be interesting to see for the future is how the next generation of rulers in the UAE will continue the current trajectory and how the introductory of a tax system will affect what citizens expect from their government. All in all, this trip was extremely insightful and we got a wonderful chance to not just learn about the UAE but really get to experience the ins and outs of an ever thrilling country.


Signing out,

Corey Lian ’16

FinTech, Internet Audio, and Food startups

Our last day of company visits started off with a visit to Deutsche Bank’s Innovation Lab in Berlin.  One of three existing labs (a fourth is soon to open in New York), the lab exists to help the bank adopt vital new technologies to help modernize its tech infrastructure, hopes to screen some 500 fintech start-ups per year to develop security, payments, efficiency, organization or process applications. At the Lab we were met by Dr. Luc Meriochaud (Director of Innovation at Deutsche Bank) and Christian Borngraeber who walked us through how the lab helps startups and fosters innovation.  The lab views success as the adoption and application of technologies to Deutsche Bank’s business.  Unlike other incubators or accelerators the lab does not have a structured path toward this goal but facilitates innovation through hosting workshops, providing connections to strategic partners, and access to resources.

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Dr. Luc Meriochaud using the Smart Whiteboard at one of DB Innovation Lab’s meeting rooms.

After lunch we then made our way to the offices of SoundCloud.  Originally founded in Sweden the company has set up camp in Berlin since 2007 and is a publishing tool/community for audio creators and listeners.  The company has raised over $100M in financing from firms such as Union Square Ventures and KPCB.   At the offices we were treated to a four person panel that included David Noel (Head of Communications), Nadines Gaulich (Head of Audience Research), Cole Mercer (Product Manager- Streaming), and Ele Diakomichalis (Head of Data Insights).   The conversation revolved around everything from the future of audio media on the internet to the startup working culture of Berlin.

Students participate in Q&A and a product Demo by  Alex Weber, Manager of Strategic Projects at Number 26

Following our stop at SoundCloud we moved on to the FinTech Startup Number 26.  The young startup aims to revolutionize the traditional banking industry and how people spend, save and send money.  Founded in 2013, the company has experienced tremendous growth and raised money from well-known investors such as Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures. Upon arrival we were given a tour of the startup’s three-floor office.  We met with development teams, customer support heads, and finally with Alex Weber (Manager of Strategic Projects).  Alex gave us a live product demo and proceeded to answer all our questions over an hour of open Q&A.

Manuel Hein shows how to make a proper Espresso at Coffee Circle

For our final company visits we split up into groups for a relaxed dinner at two food startups.  Group A headed to fast-growing Rocket Internet founded Fresh Direct and the Group B to Berlin’s Coffee Circle (where group organizer Manuel Hein spent his summer working on sales infrastructure).   At Fresh Direct, participants cooked and ate their own fresh direct meal. Following a brief presentation , at Coffee circle we dined on sushi and brewed our own espressos and pour over coffees.  With our bellies full we ended our final day of company visits before enjoying a weekend of sightseeing.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016


Replicating Businesses Globally, Internet Retail, and a Creative Space for Entrepreneurs

We woke up early in the morning after our day in Stuttgart and boarded a direct flight to our final destination: Berlin.  The capital city boasts a population of over 3.5 million people with an economy that revolves around the high-tech and service sector.  Recently, the city has seen the emergence of a bustling entrepreneurial scene.  We went directly to two leaders in the startup space Rocket Internet and Zalando.

Rocket Internet was founded in 2007 and is now a public company that has based it’s operations on copying the business models of other established companies and replicating this in different geographies.  At the meeting we learned more about the process in which they hire founders to execute on a strategy in different countries.  They actively avoid countries where local incumbents are present or have a distinct advantage (China, USA, and increasingly India).  The roll-out of these strategies is very standardized despite each subsidiary company possessing very different markets or products.  The company attempts to marry local knowledge and agility of a startup with the precision of a large corporation.

Following our meeting with rocket we then made our way to one of their run-away success stories.  Zalando is also now public and got their start imitating US retailer Zappos.   Here we met with the SVP of Operations, David Schroder (who spent a semester at CBS), to learn about how the company plans to be Europe’s largest fashion retailer.  We learned about the challenges of growth and how they struggled with credibility issues before reaching scale.  The company now has a presence in many European countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and the United Kingdom.

After checking in the group went to an Alumni Mixer at Bar Le Labo – the city’s first liquid nitrogen bar – for some appetizers and drinks with Alumni, Columbia University Students, and prospective business school students.  During the night the owner Le Labo, Tobias Wittich, showed us his co-working space (Rainmaking Loft) where entrepreneurs can avail of a seat for minimal cost.  Further the loft hosts global startup programming such as Startup Bootcamp.  Current residents of the loft are involved in many different industries such as fintech, food, and transportation.

Rainmaking Loft – A Berlin co-working space and host site of Startup Bootcamp.  The mural in the back was done over 24 hours by a visiting artist

Following this tour and reception we all enjoyed a night out in Berlin before heading back to our hotel to prepare for the last day of company visits.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016

Bosch, Auto Production, and an evening with Wolfgang

We arrived safely in Stuttgart and made our way to the headquarters of multinational engineering giant and the world’s largest auto supplier – Bosch.  We learned more about Bosch’s global footprint, how they encourage innovation internally (seeding and allowing employees to pursue startup projects), and how they invest as venture capitalists.  Bosch stood out from many corporate VCs as they are a total separate entity from the company and actually measure their performance against other VC firms not just their own operations.  We also learned that Bosch is owned 92% by Robert Bosch’s own charitable foundation and the company remains private to this day.

Following lunch we headed over to a Mercedes Benz’s car plant in nearby Sindelfingen where they produce models such as the S-Class and E-Class cars.  While we were not allowed to take videos or photos of the assembly process or final finishing we were able to snag a few photos of the customer center and witness some G-Class testing

Once the plant tour began we saw the large scale automation taking place in the plant. Over 90% of the process is automated mostly from robots purchased from another German Technology Leader- Kuka Robotics.   Cars are taken from building via covered bridge and conveyer belt from the automated assembly stage to the more manual finishing stages (which include badge installation, custom interiors etc).  Even at the manual finishing stage, many of the processes were automated or ordered using systems and analysis many of us found familiar from operations management and our study of the Toyota Production System.   It was an eye opening experience to those of us who had never been to a factory floor let alone a world class automotive operation like this one.

After a quick rest stop at the hotel we then suited up and headed for the highlight of the day- an evening with Daimler Truck CEO- Wolfgang Bernhard at the executive dining facility of Mercedes Benz Headquarters.  After a short introduction to the company, a review of his current priorities, and the CBS experience – he quickly launched into open Q&A with the group.  We then sat down for dinner and the gracious CEO sat down with each individual small group table to address any questions we had.   We covered topics such as what to do post-MBA to what is the future of autonomous driving.   Truly an unforgettable experience.

With a full belly and fond memories of Stuttgart we began the process of preparing for our final stop… Berlin!

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016