By Clare Premo ’16
Greetings from India! We are here in Mumbai and have been having a great set of company visits and city excursions. Most people arrived on Monday, when we checked into our lovely hotel situated on the city’s famous harbor, the “queen’s necklace.” We dove right into Indian cuisine with a small welcome dinner at a local seafood joint, and rested up in preparation for the official kick off the next day.
Marine Drive and the Bombay Harbor
The morning commenced with a walk to the Gateway to India and the famous Taj Mahal Hotel, two Mumbai landmarks. Our first company visit was to Reliance Brands, a subset of one of India’s largest conglomerates. We learned about the retail sector and the new Indian consumer, as well as why it often makes sense for foreign brands to work with a local partner when expanding into this market. Next up was HDFC, India’s largest housing lending group. Our speaker provided a macro view on the Indian economy and dove into the particulars of the housing market here. We had a welcome dinner feast, and I was lucky enough to receive a surprise chocolate cake in honor of my birthday 🙂
To better learn about the city’s geography and history, we were treated to a guided city tour, leading us through the Fort neighborhood which is the center of Mumbai commerce. We saw amazing British and Art Deco architecture and learned about the time periods of imperial rule and post independence. From there, we lunched at Moshe’s, a popular cafe, where Moshe himself explained about restaurants and food culture in this city. Our next visit led us to Unilazer: we met Ronnie Screwvala who established and divested India’s largest media conglomerate, and who has since shifted attention to founding a non-profit, creating a VC fund, and investing in soccer, among other things. His crisp articulation of the opportunities and challenges across many sectors of Indian business was astounding and prompted a robust Q&A session. We finished the day at Bombay Cuisine, a trendy fusion restaurant.
Our final full day in Mumbai started with a meeting about the dabbawalas. These amazing messengers pick up 200,000 home cooked meals from houses on the outer reaches of the city, carry them 70 km, and deliver them to individual offices. They do these utilizing a complex system of codes and carry these lunches via bike, rail, and on foot. They are so amazing that they have been six sigma certified, all without the use of any technology. The afternoon featured small group visits to Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. We walked through the commercial and residential areas and although the poverty was sobering, the energy and industriousness was incredible.
Now that everyone is mostly over the jet lag, we are ready to do New Year’s Eve up big! Cheers to 2016, and to the next leg of our journey!