Preparing for Chazen India

I’m Krista Sande-Kerback ’14, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to blog for this year’s Chazen Global Immersion class to India!  I arrived in Mumbai late last night after close to 24 hours of travel, and after months of anticipating this trip, I am grateful to be here.

Columbia’s business school curriculum offers a significant number of case studies on companies’ strategies in India, and I’ve personally done some business with Indian companies and volunteer organizations over the years (consulting for outsourcing/offshoring projects and running the regional chapters for a global professional women’s network).  This is my first time visiting the country itself, however, as is the case for most of the students in the group.  I know that we are all looking forward to taking everything in, from sightseeing and experiencing the local culture in Mumbai and Bangalore, to participating in a dozen company visits, to sampling the cuisine, and more.

Our 30-person class has done extensive preparation in advance of our trip: applying for visas, obtaining shots and malaria pills, and participating in classes and group research leading up to our week-long in-country immersion.  We’ve been on semester break for the last month and some students arrived in India early to travel to other regions, so it will be great to exchange stories tonight over dinner.  The topic guiding the course itself is “reverse innovation.” The concept is that innovations can and may increasingly be adopted first in a cash-constrained, entrepreneurial environment in the developing world and then migrate to wealthier countries, as opposed to the “traditional” trajectory which works the other way around.   In our first three sessions, we heard from practitioners implementing these solutions in industries such as healthcare, and participated in a design simulation.  A major takeaway was that although it’s often believed that free, open, unconstrained solutions produce the most creativity, research shows that sometimes constraints lead to the most creative and success results.

Through group research projects, we’re exploring successful Indian innovations that could be adapted for the US market.  Our work expands on what we learned in the Marketing core curriculum, in that we need to dig deep to understand what drives success in the Indian market, determine what segment(s) of the US could be profitably targeted, and then figure out how to market to these consumers.

Our first group activity, a tour of the massive Dharavi slum (which features prominently in a number of films such as “Slumdog Millionaire”), will start in about an hour.  I’ve just spent the past week on campus immersed in another block week course on the “marketing of luxury products,” which featured meetings with executives from some of the most exclusive global brands.  I’m sure that experience will provide a fascinating juxtaposition to what we’re about to encounter in this country known for its huge contrasts.

More to come very soon!

Krista Sande-Kerback ‘14

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