Looking back at India


Having had some time to reflect on our busy week full of guest speakers, coaching, immersion into Indian culture and sightseeing I think I speak for all of us when I say how grateful we are to have been given this extremely unique opportunity. Our week abroad triggered introspection for each of us to think about our purpose, what leadership means to us and how our current life and routines may not be fulfilling our purpose. A few broad takeaways I was left with and will continue to focus on when thinking about my purpose or going about my normal days are the following:

“Detachment from Outcomes” – So often in life we are so focused on the end goal and a successful outcome that we lose sight of how important the journey and quality of work to get there is.

“Time is the most valuable resource” – As Kiran Bedi said when asked about her plans for the future – TIME is our most valuable resource and how we choose to spend our time is extremely important so living in the moment and serving your daily purpose rather then dwelling on the future or past is extremely important.

“Open Source thinking” – As Rajeev explained as we move into changing times of proliferation of communication we need to start changing the way we think about setting goals, reviewing performance and setting organizational direction. We should always be thinking about the 80/20 rule and that not everyone is meant to be the 20% of top performers so we should stop setting trying to get them to be.

“Life is 10% what you are dealt and 90% how you deal with it” – After hearing from Navin Gulia this point resonated with all of us. After becoming paralyzed in an accident, he used this experience to as the starting point for what he would do with the rest of his life and how he would use this experience to change his purpose and the world. We can use Navin as a role model when we face adversity or different outcomes then we have expected in life.

“Importance of being centered and present” – After hearing from the monk and Kiran Bedi the importance of being centered and in the moment, was a key takeaway. While we can spend all of our time planning out our days and what we hope the outcomes will be there is nothing more important that being centered and in touch with one’s self.

“We don’t make tradeoffs we make choices” – When we asked Kirin about tradeoffs she had made between her career and her family life. She responded by telling us rather than making tradeoffs we make choices that are best for that time and that is all we can do and what we should be committed to.

The best part about GIP India is rather than just learning leadership concepts to apply in our lives going forward in a classroom these concepts became extremely tangible and real by meeting with great leaders and immersing ourselves in India’s rich history of leadership.

The trip would not have been possible without all of Professor Wadhwa and our TA Prateek Jain’s hard work in planning and executing on every aspect of the trip. Between navigating Delhi traffic, keeping us safe and mindful, inviting us to hear close connections speak and always having the ability to roll with the punches we were extremely thankful for all the hard work that went into this week.

India was eye opening, extremely welcoming and hospitable and I would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for self-reflection, new perspectives on leadership and those looking to feel connected with an amazing part of the world.

-Sarah Spear ’18


CBS vs. Bollywood


Our last two days in Delhi were action packed from Bollywood dance lessons, coaching our AbsoluteData counterparts, hearing from Dr. Debroy a key advisor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at NITI Aayog and visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra.

On our final class day we spent the morning meeting with our AbsoluteData Coachees first in groups and then one on one to provide them with the feedback we had put together through combining what they felt they needed advice on with things we had observed in our observation sessions. We had spent the evening before compiling feedback and ensuring we could give our coaches concrete examples of concepts, develop deliverables and were confidence enough to talk through each of the concepts we would provide them with to use going forward. At the end of the coaching session each of the AbsoluteData participants had the opportunity to stand in front of the room and tell everyone what their key takeaway from the program was and what actions they were going to take going forward followed by each CBS student having the opportunity to share what we had taken away from the experience. The experience was extremely rewarding, especially to see how much an outside perspective had helped our AbsoluteData counterparts by us being a sounding board for advice.

I think I speak for all the CBS students when I say we had felt we took as much away from the experience as our coachees did and were happy to see that even though we live in very different countries the challenges in the workplace were very similar and that we could all use the techniques going forward. This opportunity to coach others was extremely rewarding and I know many of us will keep in touch with our coaches and check in to see how they are doing.

After our coaching sessions we headed to NITI Aayog (The National Institute for Transforming India) which was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet in 2015. NITI Aayog is the premier policy “think tank” of the Government of India providing both directional and policy inputs. Our meeting had been arranged by our wonderful TA Prateek Jain and we heard from Dr. Debroy who is a senior advisor to the India Government. This meeting gave us insight into the history of politics In India, the current political climate, how change is implemented in India and how we should think about the priorities and struggles for the economy going forward.

After our action-packed day we headed to a local Bollywood dance class where for two hours we learned three traditional Bollywood routines. Scroll down for some of the pictures of our sheer Bollywood talent. Despite having a 7 am departure for the Taj Mahal the next morning, a few of us took the opportunity to check out Delhi’s night life as we met up with a few of the Women’s entrepreneur panelists from our session yesterday to show us around Delhi.

On our final day we embarked on the 4-hour bus ride to see the Taj and got to see some of the rural India countryside on the way. We had an amazing guide that gave us the entire history of the structure before arriving so when we got to the Taj we knew the full history of the building, structure and meaning behind it.

One word to describe the Taj –- BREATHTAKING —see pictures attached!!

-Sarah Spear ‘18










Life & Leadership in India


Today we started off our day with an hour yoga session by the pool at the Taj followed by our first speaker Ashish Gupta. Ashish is the founder of a prestigious university in Delhi called Ashoka University that gives local students the opportunity to attend university no matter what their socioeconomic status providing 70% of student’s scholarships. He talked about his key learnings on his leadership journey that he hoped would help us on our own journeys. His six key learnings were:

  1. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur – be true to yourself and do things for the right reasons. He explained most of the people who he had met in Delhi who wanted to start companies wanted to either to get rich or started their companies because other people were doing it, not because they wanted to change the world or were extremely passionate about the cause. Wanting to be an entrepreneur for the right reason is a key building block for success.
  2. Timing is critical – he explained how mindful one should be about timing and not being impatient when starting something new.
  3. Detachment to outcomes  – This was a common theme we heard from multiple speakers throughout the week. He talked about how most successful leaders are detached from outcomes and are relentlessly focused on the input or work, not the result.
  4. The only resource we have is time – life is a marathon and not a sprint, so it is extremely important to use your time wisely
  5. Profitability before scalability – Ashish talked about how he sees most startups make the mistake of trying to scale before they are profitable and the important of being profitable first.
  6. Having a collaborative mindset vs. controlling – He explained how failure often makes one humble and how there is a place for both mindsets in your leadership journey.

After hearing from Ashish, we headed to the IPL (Institute of Personal Leadership) office where Professor Wadhwa hosted us for an amazing local lunch before heading to meet out coaches at AbsoluteData. The AbsoluteData coaching program is a partnership that pairs each CBS student with a coachee from the company to give CBS students an opportunity to provide one-on-one coaching to our partners. Most of us have received quite a bit of feedback over the course of our careers or time at CBS but have had very limited opportunities to provide feedback and coach others. The program included first having an initial call with our coaches to hear more about their careers and goals, then spending a half day observing our coaches in action and interacting in the workplace, and on Friday we will provide our coachee with feedback that we had taken time to put together today. Feedback includes topics such as the science of motivation, strategic influencing, giving effective feedback, coaching and finally mastering difficult conversations. Today we went to the AbsoluteData offices and observed our coaches interact with clients and with each other to better evaluate areas we could help them with. In the evening we went to Ciber City a beautiful outdoor mall to enjoy dinner and drinks on an outdoor patio.

Looking forward to sharing more of our coaching journey tomorrow,

-Sarah Spear ’18



Our amazing TA Prateek Jain at the AbsoluteData Offices



Learning local Dance moves in class
Orissi Dance Performance


AbsoluteData Office for our day of field work



Challo Challo! Let’s Go!


Today our saying of the day in India was challo challo which is an extremely fitting phrase to describe Delhi and the busyness of the city. The phrase means “lets go!” and go we have gone. Our first few days have been action packed – we learned quickly that getting around Delhi can take hours given the city congestion so we have been lucky enough to have quite a few of our guest speakers come to the lovely Taj hotel we are staying at. This morning we heard from Kiran Bedi, one of the boldest women I have ever heard speak. Kiran was the first women to join the police force in India because she cared so deeply about standing up for justice and because she wanted to prove that women can do anything men can do.

Her commitment to justice was so strong that it prevailed even if it meant going against the usual Indian way of allowing government officials and important people to rise above the law. She was famous for giving the prime minister’s car a ticket and was subsequently outlawed to the worst postings in her job (a jail) which she was able to turn into positives. Her self-confidence, relentless commitment to justice, and bravery in the police force have made her a famous leader in India and advocate for woman’s equality. In today’s session we got to hear stories about her life told by her and ask her questions about her leadership journey that will help us guide our own journeys. We found her confidence entertaining, inspiring and most of all it left us with a lot to think about with respect to how to be a leader.

After hearing from Kiran, we headed to the American school in Delhi that Professor Wadhwa’s daughter attends to participate in the MAD (Make a Difference) program that was established to help the nearby slums gain access to education. The MAD program was founded on the principle that there are three ways people escape poverty: 1.) Access to clean water 2.) Learn English 3.) Access to sanitation. The slums near the school originally developed because the families had been brought in to build the school and once the project was completed they formed slums next to the school. The slums have no access to running water and sanitation, so the school developed an educational program with 8 levels that allows the kids to learn English by attending the school one day and have the American School kids come to their homes on the other day. When we got to the slums we each brought a book for the kids and we spent the hour reading to them, playing games and seeing how they live. The American School MAD program was eye opening and an incredibly rewarding opportunity. I think I speak for all CBS students when I say this was the highlight of our trip so far!

Our schedule has been action packed with full days and evening trips to the local markets. Waking up early tomorrow for some morning Yoga…

Namaste from India!





After a quick two days in the classroom with Professor Wadhwa getting us ready for the journey to India I think I speak for all of us when I say WE CAN’T WAIT! This week 36 of us will meet in Delhi and get ready to fully embrace Indian culture, history, commerce, food and our personal leadership journey. This is my second opportunity to blog for one of the GIP trips and although this will be my third GIP trip we have been reassured India will be like no other trip. First off let’s talk about how Delhi is like no other city we have ever visited! Delhi is a symbol of India’s opulent past and thriving present, in the city of New Delhi both the ancient and modern city seamlessly blend together. A few fun facts:

  1. Delhi vs. New Delhi – There is actually a difference between the two places – New Delhi, which is India’s capital, is a territory in Delhi. New Delhi is the seat of the Government of India.
  2. Population & Pollution – Delhi has been credited as the sixth most populated metropolis in the world. In May 2014, New Delhi was announced as the most polluted city in the world by the World Health Organization.
  3. Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor – 24 smart cities, 2 power plants, 6 airports, 23 industrial hubs, 2 ports and a six -lane expressway stretching 15,00 kilometers. After its completion, it will be the world’s largest infrastructural project. Starting from New Delhi and ending in Maharashtra, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor has been inspired by Japan’s Tokyo-Osaka industrial corridor.
  4. Second best metro in the world – In a survey conducted The Delhi Metro has emerged as the second most popular network in the world.

Before we arrive in Delhi a few of us lucky CBS students have decided to take the week before to explore other regions on India – Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaipur. We caught the end of the Holi celebrations and I have attached a few pictures from our pre-trip. This week we are looking forward to sightseeing in Delhi, a TATA Communications company visit, participating in American Embassy School Program, working with our paired coachee’s from AbsoluteData, visiting the Gandhi Museum and meeting NITI Aayog. The trip will be a perfect mix of learning hands on leadership techniques and getting our hands dirty (literally!) in Delhi. Looking Very forward to telling you about our adventures that lie ahead.

-Sarah Spear ‘18


Reflections on our trip

James Williams ’17

Our last few days in India went by in a blink.

Here’s a group photo of us in the lobby of the ITC in New Delhi:


I think our trip to India gave us a much better sense of what operating in an emerging market might be like.  From the largest of conglomerates to the smallest of start ups, the businesswomen and men that we met were uniformly confronted with the necessity of making mission critical strategic decisions without troves of data.

One of my favorite insights from the trip related to how one could best capitalize on India’s favorable secular tailwinds.  This person had concluded that since at many times market multiples account for (or more than account for) the underlying growth rates, that one might do best by building their own business.

For many reasons this was an incredibly rewarding trip.  Spending time with executives from a wide array of businesses was immensely educational…maybe I should do that on ALL of my trips abroad…

Thanks for reading my blog!

We Love India

James Williams ’17


Before I forget – most of the photos in this post were taken by Isabel Lacambra ’18 who as you will see has great taste and takes wonderful photos.

We left Mumbai on the 1st for Jaipur.  Our hilarious tour guide Adil explained that Indian towns founded by Hindus end in pur while those founded by Muslims end in abad.

I’ve had a fantastic time so far and am grateful not only for the opportunity to visit this beautiful country in a way I certainly could not on my own but for all of my wonderful classmates whom I would not have met otherwise.

Here’s a picture that I love of the group.


After an exciting evening and beautiful afternoon in Jaipur we took a 5 hour bus ride to Delhi.   I mention the length of the ride because while it was an exhausting trip we have had a great time on many of our bus rides.  The aisle has served as a dance hall and karaoke stage and I’ve gotten to bond with many fellow CBS’ers by sitting beside them between one place and another.

Here’s another photo of the group.  Notice Orgil Sedvanchig ’17 in the back row being non-compliant :).


I am sure that I am not alone in the difficulty I experience trying to describe this place to family and friends who inquire.  On my first day all I could say was that it was “intense.”  I’ve gotten a bit better at articulating how India makes me feel but it is still a work in progress.

  1. India is a place of beautiful colors.  chokni-dhaniumbrellaschokni-dhani-2
  2. India makes me really happy and sometimes really sad.  .   street-scene street-scene-2

At the risk of ending this post on a low note, a lot of India reminds me of how fortunate I have been.  Unequal access to resources breaks my heart.

At any rate, this trip has been immensely educational and broaden my horizons.







Making Memories in Mumbai

James Williams ’17

I think I speak for everyone when I say that one of the most fun parts of this trip has been getting to know classmates whom we would have otherwise not met.

Well, we had another great day today.

After a quick lunch:lunch

we it made to Tata’s corporate headquarters where we met with the company’s chief ethics officer.  Tata was founded in the late 19th century and has been a leading Indian conglomerate for sometime.  The business does about $100 B USD in sales every year with 70% of sales coming from overseas.  Our conversation ranged broadly from the challenges of executing in foreign environments to compensation philosophy but focused mainly developing a sustainable culture across Tata’s many different business units.


We spent sometime walking around Colaba Causeway after our meeting before heading to the ocean to check out marine drive.

Here’s a photo of the Queen’s Necklace:


Here’s one of Anindya Dutta explaining how business customs differ in India:


Well – it is almost midnight and I have to be up at 7 for another exciting day.

Tata for now.

Amazing Mumbai

James Williams ’17

The gang is all here!


We had a wonderful first night in Mumbai.  This is a photo of about half of us on the roof top of the Four Seasons – a truly beautiful downtown Mumbai property.  The large building in the background is the St. Regis, where we are staying.

Here’s another silly photo of us in an elevator!


We had dinner at a fantastic – some might call it devastatingly delicious – Chinese restaurant before calling it a night.

This morning we were fortunate to have a meeting with Ronnie Screwvala.  For our vast stateside readership, Mr. Screwvala is an Indian media mogul.  He founded his own broadcast channel called UTV during the earliest days of Indian TV privatization.  Since selling his business to Disney in 2012, Mr. Screwvala has allocated the majority of his time to scalable philanthropy and PE style investments.

Mr. Screwvala was very generous with his thoughts on what makes a good mentor (someone who can ask you 10 interesting questions every time you meet them), the direction of Indian media (print still has room to go, VOD is a challenged space) and how we might better ourselves in general.

We went for a nice drive along the ocean (see below)


before meeting with Reliance’s retail group.

Here’s the team, “looking fly” as the youngsters might say:


This was also an incredibly educational meeting and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite meeting between the two.

Not only did we learn about Reliance’s JV structure a ton about the retail landscape in India, but we got to hear about Reliance Jio’s push into the telephony space and learn more about the Ambani family.

Well – if you can’t tell from my effusive writing, we had a great day today.  I’m almost too exhausted to go to the surely fantastic dinner we are going to have tonight.  Almost.




Good Morning Mumbai

James Williams ’17 / India

Good Morning!

I woke up in Andheri (a suburb in Northern Mumbai) at an Airbnb this morning.  At dawn (thanks to jet lag), I took an Uber to the St. Regis to meet Liz Gao ’17 who arrived at 4:00 am from China.

I was happy I got up so early today for two reasons:

  1.  I beat the traffic.
  2. I got to watch the sun rise and the city wake up:dawn-in-mumbaiAbove is a photo I snapped from the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

Dawn is an interesting time in all cities and Mumbai is no exception.  I got to watch shops open up and quite a few people jogging.

Well – we are off to the Prince of Wales museum to check out some fine art.

Our trip officially begins tonight at 8:00 pm – I can’t wait.