MBA@UNC Immersion: Mumbai, India- Day Three

Through MBA@UNC Global Immersions, students join classmates, faculty and industry leaders in in top cities around the world for a unique, high-impact educational experience. On day three of the Mumbai immersion, students wrapped up the weekend by hearing from UNC Kenan-Flagler faculty on topics ranging from innovation in developing markets to the dynamics of family businesses in India.

Innovating and Managing in Developing Markets

Sridhar Balasubramanian, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

About our speaker: Sridhar Balasubramanian (also known as Dr. B) is associate dean of both the residential full-time MBA program and MBA@UNC and is a professor of marketing. His teaching and research interests are in marketing and technology strategy, customer-focus, innovation and growth strategy, services design and marketing. Dr. Balasubramanian has been recognized for his pioneering research on how the Internet and mobile channels are reshaping the worlds of business and marketing.

Dynamics and Impact of Family Business in India

Ashraf Jaffer, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

About our speaker: Ashraf Jaffer is an award-winning professor who joined UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2006. Dr. Jaffer has taught financial, managerial accounting and financial statement analysis for 10 years. She has taught internationally at INSEAD Business School in France and the Goethe Business School at the University of Frankfurt. Dr. Jaffer moved from North Carolina to her home of Mumbai, where she currently resides and teaches in the MBA@UNC program. She is also involved in her family business and consults local Indian companies on business strategy and cost analysis.

Student Views

Ann Lee, Class of 2014

After Istanbul, Singapore, and Chapel Hill, this past weekend counted as my fourth and final immersion. As most immersions go, this was both short-lived, yet jam-packed— we got a first-hand view of the business environment, economic challenges, and cultural practices of this tumultuous, financial capital, Mumbai. The small size of Mumbai’s Immersion (37 fellow MBA@UNC students) also allowed us to really turn the virtual world we’ve been breathing in for quarters, into a fantastic time of interaction.

India was the perfect setting for my final immersion — upon arrival, I’m always blown away by the powerful dichotomies in the sights, smells, and colors. I’ve travelled to over 35 countries and I don’t think in any other country do I experience such a spectrum of emotions ranging from utter frustration to the utterly divine.

One of the reoccurring themes throughout the weekend was innovation that arises out of constriction or sparsity. Clear affinities arose with the Lean Startup methodology we learned about in our Entrepreneurship class with Professor Atul Nerkar — building on the fly with scarce resources, constant iteration, and reliance on customer feedback. But however Lean has been trending in Silicon Valley, in India, this concept is hardly new.

From listening to Sanjay Anandaram’s talk on the “Evolution of the Indian Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”, to visiting Asia’s biggest slum Dhavari (made famous by Slumdog Millionaire), to Dr. B’s discussion of a Tata Nano launch in India — we saw countless examples of companies and individuals who build, and who hustle, despite a highly chaotic landscape. Sunday’s seminar with Dr. B themed, “Constrained Innovation: Key Principles for `Thinking Inside the Box´” gave us a powerful toolbox of five approaches to systematically innovating “inside the box”, and a way of thinking of how to adapt a developed market or product to a developing market. Sunday also gave us fellow students an opportunity to meet for a fruitful first MBA@UNC Entrepreneurial Ventures club meet-up.

Going through my last Immersion was surreal. When I survey the stages from even considering returning back to school, to studying for the GMAT, to finally getting in — and now being finished — I can truly say it’s been one of my proudest accomplishments. Never would I have thought ten years ago, coming from a very non-traditional business background (former lit major, musician and chef) I’d be taking my first Operations or Strategy class and absolutely loving it.

I feel like I have left this program from just being the “creative one” to translating my ideas into a more structured, calculable way. I feel more than equipped to work in teams with people I had not before, and that I’m leaving with a palatable sense of direction. Learning from the professionalism and day-to-day experiences of my working peers also challenged me in many ways beyond the traditional MBA model. Most of us grads revel in the free time we now have, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m consumed in another class, working on my app, or hopefully— catching up with MBA@UNC alum over drinks, writing new business ideas on the back of a napkin.

Zane Underwood, Class of 2016

Attending my first immersion has been an incredible experience. I knew that the weekend would provide a great opportunity for networking, but I was blown away by the impressive and diverse backgrounds of my fellow students. I was able to spend time chatting with someone who will take over their family business, someone who built and sold their own business, multiple individuals on long- and short-term assignments throughout the world, a leader at a pharmaceutical company helping to bring a new drug to market ... the list goes on.

I already feel that these connections could be integral to my success not only in the program but in my future career endeavors as well.

On Sunday, the group first spent some time learning about the Tata Nano and the marketing challenges that it is working to overcome in the Indian market due to its initial positioning. Dr. B was able to surprise us with an actual Nano in front of the hotel to give us a bit of firsthand experience with the vehicle in order to enhance the group's discussion.

Dr. Jaffer's presentation on family businesses in India and elsewhere was particularly interesting and relevant to much of what we have experienced in Mumbai. Roughly 85 percent of businesses in India are family owned, and it was interesting to learn about some of the cultural trends in India that drive the way these businesses are passed down to successive generations.

Finally, Dr. Nerkar facilitated a perfect final session that allowed each of us to reflect and discuss what it is that we have learned in India that we can take back to our current employers. Much of the discussion revolved around the entrepreneurial spirit that we witnessed during Saturday's tour through Dharavi and the idea that, often times, much more than we realize can be achieved with the limited resources that we have in our current jobs.

Lauren Abraham, Class of 2014

As I prepared to go to India, I found myself feeling a bit conflicted. While I’m super excited to bring this chapter to a close, I found myself coming to the immersion feeling a bit anxious and unsure if I really was ready to be done with the program. (But, I am definitely ready to be done.)

Nonetheless, this weekend in Mumbai was a perfect end to my two years in MBA@UNC. It was an intimate group with many great people to connect with—both familiar faces and new faces. It was a bit surreal as I faced the inevitable questions of “What will you do with your time now?” or “How does it feel to be done?” It feels both exciting and a bit nostalgic.

It was a different dynamic to previous immersions as this time I was the “senior.” While some students were looking on with envy that I was graduating, I found myself a bit envious that I couldn’t attend any more immersions!

Dr. B’s session on Sunday was really inspiring. It was a great follow up to our Dharavi tour the previous day. His lesson on thinking “inside the box” and innovating with constrained resources was perfectly relevant to what we saw in Dharavi, with people making a living with very little resources and being happy with what they have. These people showed me a spirit and work ethic like none I’d seen before, as well as teamwork and collaboration.

While they showed what can be done with very little, Dr. B’s session gave us an effective framework to take back to our own workplaces and apply it right away. Both the trip to Dharavi and Dr. B’s session gave me an entirely different thought process and approach to resources. I’ll think twice before I allow myself to feel frustrated at work about a lack of resources and instead think of how I can make the most of what I have and innovate. Now that I’m done with the program, I feel equipped with much more general business knowledge as well as an expanded network of some really awesome people. The immersions have been an integral part of my education by providing practical hands-on discussions and experiences. I’m very grateful for these opportunities. MBA@UNC has become a part of my identity in the past two years, and I find myself feeling a little emotional to say goodbye. Now, I can officially sign off and spread my wings to fly. Go Tar Heels!

Read about day one and day two in Mumbai.