Juan Zarruk is a full-time MBA student working on a Spring 2014 International Business Development project in Chennai, India. His team is assessing the attractiveness of the U.S. IT services market and developing an entry strategy for their client.
Consulting for an IT Company in India
Part 1: The Chennai Express (San Francisco to Chennai)
Earlier in the semester, our client told us that the San Francisco-Chennai flight duration was the same regardless of whether we traveled eastbound or westbound. We decided to test this hypothesis by having the members of our team each fly in different directions, through different countries. The results:
-Shortest flight: Juan flying through Germany: 21h 10m
-Longest flight: Amar flying through Korea and Singapore: 30h 40m
In fact, Juan and Greg left San Francisco at the same time, flew in opposite directions around the world, and met in the Chennai baggage claim about 21.5 hours later. Should you ever travel to India from San Francisco, the the best options have one layover and will take you to Chennai in 21.5 hrs +/- 25 mins, regardless of whether you fly east or west.
First day at work
Wait…what?…did you say work?
After two semesters of business school, we had to readjust to corporate clothes and the hotel-office routine: wake up > get ready > hotel breakfast > office > hotel; needless to say the jet-lag didn’t help!
Fortunately, our client had prepared us a very warm welcome to their offices in Chennai, followed by meetings with C-suite executives that spent all day walking us through the company’s different businesses units.
Toward the end of the day, we worked with the client to finalize our schedule for the next three weeks. The itinerary included visits to the company’s installations in four different cities. For the next three weeks, our schedule was packed with internal and external meetings with their key personnel, customers, and competitors throughout India.
Bangalore & Mysore
By the middle of our first week, we traveled to Bangalore, home of India’s “Silicon Valley.” There, we met with officials from Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), a government agency created in the early 90s to promote Indian development and export of software and hardware. Next, we had a series of meetings at the main corporate campus of Infosys, an impressive complex that hosts more than 30,000 employees. In a golf cart, our host toured us around the huge campus that has its own shops, canteens, coffee shops, gym, swimming pools, among other amenities.
We spent our first weekend sightseeing in Bangalore and Mysore. On Saturday we wandered around the city, visiting its main sights and (of course) riding traditional auto rickshaws (you bet you can fit four Haasies in a rickshaw).
The next day we woke up early for a three-hour drive to Mysore, where we visited the beautiful Mysore Palace, as well as some other temples and churches. By the end of the afternoon, we returned to Bangalore to pack and get ready for our Monday morning flight to Mumbai.
Monday morning of our second week started with a 4am pick-up from our Bangalore hotel to catch a 6am flight to Mumbai. After arriving, we went to our hotel to drop off our luggage and freshen up before heading to the company’s Mumbai office to conduct interviews with the regional sales team and prepare for a presentation we were to give the following day to fifty of their customers. The presentation — part of a day-long customer event hosted at one of the company’s new data centers — was a success!
Thankfully, our client rewarded us by arranging for us to spend Wednesday exploring Mumbai. Accompanied by one of their employees, we visited some of Mumbai’s main sights: Hanging Gardens, Gateway of India, Leopold Café, Gandhi’s house, and Bandra, to name a few. Later that night, we met with some of our local friends for food and drinks.
Delhi & Agra
The next day, we were back on a 6am flight, this time to New Delhi, our last stop before returning to Chennai. By this point, we had grown quite familiar with inter-city Indian business air travel, particularly in the very early morning! And though we were just halfway through our in-country part of the project — and had a ton of work ahead of us — we were sadly beginning to feel that the trip was coming to an end.
Thursday in Delhi was filled with meetings with the company’s north-region sales team, and on Friday we assisted with the company’s sales conference, where we once again presented to the company and its customers on the latest IT Trends in the U.S. market.
It was a great opportunity to meet more of the company’s customers and a number of leading CIOs from North India.
Weekend time again!
We decided to make the most of our last weekend in India by starting the day with a 5am drive from Delhi to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Needless to say, seeing the breathtaking Taj Mahal was definitely worth the few hours of sleep we got the night before and the four-hour drive in each direction.
We knew before coming to India that some of our classmates were also in India working on IBD projects. What we didn’t know is that in Delhi, a city of ten million people, our classmates would be staying at the hotel next door to us! On Sunday, we met with our friends from two other IBD teams and set out to explore the chaotic beauty of Old Delhi, visiting Humayun’s Tomb and walking around downtown before heading to the world-famous Karim’s restaurant.
On Sunday night we flew back to Chennai, where we spent Monday through Wednesday consolidating our insights and finalizing our conclusions in advance of Thursday’s final presentation to the client. These final days were filled with in-office meals and more coffee than our previous weeks in India put together.
Thursday finally came. After working hard during the spring semester, and even harder during our in-country part of the project, our project culminated in a final presentation to the company’s Chairman, CEO, and main executives, with audiences joining in person and via videoconference from India, Singapore, San Jose, and Dallas.
We just spent our final hours at the client’s office in Chennai, socializing our findings and conclusions with mid-level executives and making final edits to our presentation before circulating it one last time to the company’s executives.
As we prepare to leave for the airport, we can only thank the IBD faculty and our client for making possible this incredible business and cultural experience. The client’s warmth, hospitality, and commitment enabled us to have not only an incredible work experience, but also a deep and eye-opening journey that covered 2,894 miles of India by air and land.