Thursday, January 30, 2014

Global Technology Assignment 2: Post-Trip Perceptions

This post will discuss how my pre-trip perceptions have changed after my two week trip to India. 

1) Bollywood. I am glad I watched a few Bollywood films before my trip because it helped manage my expectations about what I would be dealing with while in India. Movies can be vastly different from reality but Slumdog Millionaire prepared me for driving through the slums and Outsourced gave me some perspective while visiting companies in India. The companies we visited were far more advanced than the startup in Outsourced.  Several of the companies I saw had better campuses than any company I have visited in the US. They had made significant investments in their landscape and architecture. One campus has birdhouses in every tree with signs posted for birdwatching. Another campus had a beautiful infinity pool with a swim up bar for tasty refreshments. I was surprised by how much these companies invested in their people and how many of them were making huge strides in efficiency and sustainability. It is sad to think that most companies in the US will probably never get to the level of investment in their campus and community that we saw in India due to shareholders who are more concerned with profit margins than their people. 

2) Indian Parties. I touched on different festivals in my previous blog and stated that I thought Indians knew how to throw a good party. I was right! The hotel we were staying in in Jaipur had a wedding on our first night there. The decorations were incredibly beautiful and very intricate. The bride and groom arrived on decorated elephants with camels along side of them. The party had live music with several traditional Indian dancers. There was an open bar and the food spread was endless. The father of the groom allowed us to come inside and be apart of the celebration. His son was Indian and his new daughter in law was Italian so there was a mix of people there. It was very much an Indian wedding though with the dancing and style of clothes. It was a great experience and I'm honored that I was able to be apart of it.  

3) Indian Women's Rights. I had written about several events that had happened to young girls in India over the last few years. Safety for women is not guaranteed at night and they are typically blamed for being raped. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the safety measures that several of the companies had in place to keep their female employees safe. Most of the companies had a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. Women could report incidents discretely and people were let go without reservation when found guilty.  I also had the opportunity to meet with a few female students at an Indian business school.  Some had discussed safety concerns about leaving the school at night and the safety structure of their dorms. I also learned that people are becoming more aware of the gender inequalities in India and women are working hard to be seen as equals. 

4) Technology in India. All of the companies we visited while abroad were technology based and built from the ground up. There are several reasons why India is doing so well in IT. They have a competitive advantage with the amount of skilled workers. With such a large labor force, businesses are getting thousands of applications from well qualified candidates. The IT world is very competitive in India with each company trying to be the biggest and the best at what they do. India's IT world will continue to grow as data mining and IT solutions become more needed. India has another advantage with the 11.5 hour time difference. Part of their business model is finishing up work that is left after the normal US work day. Its an inexpensive way for US companies to get caught up on paper work and data entry. 

5) India's economy. I had read several Economist articles about the destruction of the Indian economy before going on this trip. While poverty is rampant in India, it would have been difficult to know that any kind of financial crisis was happening when visiting the IT companies. One of the main founders of a company we visited said that rupee dropping in value was actually helping his business. They may have been getting less money for their services but the amount of new business at the lower rate made up for the difference threefold. Almost all of the companies we visited were doing some kind of new construction to improve their campus and as well as plans for expansion. There did not seem to be any worry about the continued growth in the IT world. One professor that I had talked to at the business school touched on the change of the government and the possible ramifications on new businesses. He also warned about the impact of the lack of infrastructure investments. Otherwise, I would have never known anything negative was happening in the economy

A few pictures from the Indian wedding: 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 Reflections while in India

1) A be Kelan, यह एक ही है, It is the Same

I arrived in Delhi and immediately missed Mali. So many things are the same; the shops, the smoky haze of outside fires, the moto taxis, the feral dogs. I breathe in the smoky air and picture my host mom fanning hot coals preparing for dinner. I see a puppy scrounging for food and slightly feel Legend's nose nudging my thigh reminding me that he is first in line for leftovers. I hear the hotel attendant say they have no change and instead of becoming frustrated, I laugh to myself, remembering my favorite merchants in the Dioro market giving me looks for trying to hand them any bill instead of coins. 

However, this trip was much different from any of my travels in Africa. I'm with a group of students and our teacher is our advocate for fair treatment and ensures our stay is as cushy as possible. We arrive at the airport and see two people standing with a Marquette sign. We are escorted to a nice bus with a flower wreath welcome, bottled water, and my new favorite Indian snack, Masala Munch. The bus is passed by several mottos weaving in and out of traffic and there are moto taxis everywhere. It's a huge change being above the chaos instead of in the middle of it. We arrive at the hotel and our room is stunning. Beautiful Indian decorations with a huge shower and a delicious meal waiting for us. 

This experience sounds very normal to most but I'm used to landing in an unfamiliar place, negotiating a ride on one of those moto taxis and arriving at a hostel where the comfort level is guaranteed to be subpar. Don't mistake that for complaining. It was a very exciting way to travel and I appreciated it for all that I learned. I was still able to learn a lot while in India with Marquette, it was just very different. Everything was planned out for me but the convenience and safety of that was well worth it.

We didn't get to see much of Delhi until the last leg of our trip.  I learned a lot about the various Hindu gods at the Akshardam Temple and felt a hint of tranquility when looking from afar at the beautiful Lotus Temple.

                            The Lotus Temple~
 ~The Akshardam Temple

*These are not my pics because I couldn't get these kinds of shots and wanted to show you exactly how amazing these two are*

2) A Man's Best Friend or Competition? 

It was very hard for me to see dogs being treated badly. I had a hard time in Mali and had an even harder time in India now that I have a loving dog at home. I saw an adorable black puppy get stepped on by a local and witnessed a kid throw a stick at dog getting too close to him. It is very easy for me to cast harsh judgment. What kind of person could treat such a loving animal so terribly?! It is easy for me to condone this awful behavior because I have enough money to feed myself and my dog with no worries. I choose to let Jax sit on my lap, snuggle, and reward him treats for good behavior. He is not threatening me or the health of my family. It is not a "him or me" situation. The little boy throwing the stick was more than likely protecting his small meal or his little brothers. There is no emotional connection to the dog but an intense one to the food the boy needs to get through the day.  I'm not saying this treatment is right but forcing myself to see it through a local's perspective made witnessing it a little more bearable.

3) Jaipur

As I mentioned above, I was surprised by how many things were similar to my experience in West Africa. The Jaipur market was full of a lot of the same things in Mali. The blankets, pots, nescafe, and powdered milk were all the SAME and thats just to name a few. The style of the outdoor food markets and a lot of the food was the same. I saw several people drinking tea out of the small pots as a social activity just like in Mali. The architecture is what reminded me of where I was. Jaipur is known as the pink city because it was mostly built with pink and red sandstone. The picture below is Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds. It was designed to resemble the crown of Krishna, the Hindu God. You can see there are several windows with the lattice style. This was so the royal ladies could see the outside world while still observing the tradition of purdah, keeping their faces covered.

4) Taj Mahal-The Palace of Love

I knew what the Taj Mahal was before visiting, but had never heard the story of why it was built. Our guide for the day did a great job of romancing us with the lovely story. The Taj was built by Prince Khurram, Shah Jahan, after the death of his third wife, Arjumand Banu Begum. It was normal for men to have several wives but he was completely in love with her. It is said that he was in love at first site and referred to her as Mumtaz Mahal, the jewel of the palace. She lost her life at age 40 while delivering their fourteenth child. Shah Jahan was devastated and spent the rest of his life and a ton of cash building the Taj Mahal for Arjumand to be buried in. They are buried there together but their actual tombs cannot be seen as they are three levels directly below the one that I and the rest of the world are able to see. The Taj Mahal really was breathtaking. I got goosebumps as I touched the perfectly white marble. The stone carvings and jewels designed as flowers made the Taj Mahal the most beautiful building I have ever seen.  I've been Egypt and have seen Giza, another World Wonder, and was impressed but the Taj Mahal stole my heart truly making it the Palace of Love for me.

5) How Auspicious-The Tale of the Baby Elephant

Auspicious-showing or suggesting that success is likely. Hindi is the official language of India but over 250 million people also speak English. While traveling in India, I heard the word auspicious easily over 100 times. I had never heard the word used before but could tell what it meant in context. A lot of great stories were told about several of the Maharajas and their auspicious adventures. It was auspicious for me to see an elephant while in India. We had been told that we were going to ride an elephant while traveling and I was thrilled! I had wanted to ride an elephant while in Africa, top on my bucket list, but never got the chance.  I had been on several safaris and have been close enough to know how long their eyelashes are but never got to touch one. A visit to the Amber Fort was my chance to cross this off my list. As we were pulling up to the Fort, the bus driver stopped so we could take pictures from a distance. We got off the bus just as a baby elephant was walking by! She was adorable and about 5 years old. The gentleman walking her was more than happy to make a few rupees as we stopped and took pictures. It was amazing to pet her ears and giggle as she put her trunk on the tops of my feet. Surely they were a little smelly after a long morning of walking... Actually riding the adult elephant up to the fort paled in comparison to meeting this little calf. I learned a lot while on this trip but one of my favorites parts was meeting her.