Monday, July 28, 2008

Why travel to India?

Originally, it was an item in an IU syllabus: “BUS X293 Honors Seminar in Business (3 cr.)”

“This course will introduce students to the general concept of emerging markets throughout the world and will focus on that of India,” reads the course description. “Students will study the economy, government, and policies of India as well as its culture and history. Students will be required to travel with the group to India August 1-10.”

This Friday, the 26 students enrolled in the course will discover how what they’ve learned in class compares with the reality.

In times past, international studies simply used to involve taking classes from international scholars on IU’s faculty. The many area studies and related language programs have brought the world to the Bloomington campus. Over the last decade, many U.S. business schools, including Kelley, have started to provide students with increased global access.

Today, more than a third of the 4,000 undergraduate students in the Kelley School will have traveled abroad by the time they complete their studies, including an increasing number to emerging economic markets such as India.

"The idea is to expose students to rapidly growing markets that are really shaping the future of global business,” Kelley Dean Dan Smith told me awhile back. “We want students to not just read about emerging market countries. We want them to go and experience them."

More companies recruiting at Kelley are saying the same thing. Employers have told faculty members that they want people with global experience who can work in operations abroad. Others simply want people who have a better understanding of the world around them.

India is expected to be one of the world's fastest growing economies in the next three decades. Its middle class is expanding rapidly and it is considered a strong “consumer market.” It also is the world's largest democracy.

Thirty-one percent of India's population is below the age of 15 and 64 percent of its population by 2020 will be in the age group of 15 to 59.

“It has been a great cultural and business experience,” says Vijay Khatri, assistant professor of information systems at Kelley. “It is interesting for students to see how the context of the business affects business performance. It also helps students appreciate what they often take for granted. Understanding another culture also -- I hope -- broadens the perspective of the students.”

M.A. Venkataramanan, chair of Kelley's undergraduate program, adds, "Students have communicated with me about the profound impact they have had from the trip. Several of them are moved by the poverty and elated by the optimism as well as kindness poor people have exhibited during the trip. They have organized fund raisers for India and developed a deeper understanding the meaning of taking care their community here. Several students have gone on international internships and are looking for entrepreneurial opportunities across the globe."

A former business dean I was fortunate to meet, the late IU president and chancellor, Herman B Wells, once said, "The campus of Indiana University is not just in Bloomington, or even the state of Indiana; it encompasses the four corners of the globe."

Truer words than ever.

Note about photo: M.A. Venkataramanan poses for a photo with students at Dakshin Chitra.

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