Global Immersion Experience 2015: India

Our trip started on a Friday at YVR Airport. It felt weird that we would be spending 3 weeks far far away with these people I had met less than 7 months ago.

To get to Bangalore (south of India), the four of us on my flight had to stop in China and Delhi. We had decided to stay in a hotel close to the airport in Delhi just to have a rejuvenating sleep, a quick shower and some breakfast. We didn’t have any of those; our hotel selection was, to say it nicely, quite poor. Communications were far from easy.

The initial cultural shock passed and we managed to get on our flight the next morning. After a few hours we met the rest of our group (~35 people) in our hotel in Bangalore. I just couldn’t believe that I was meeting those thirty-something people I saw everyday in Vancouver, but now on the opposite side of the world, literally. We were in India!

We kicked off the Global Immersion Experience with a visit to the International Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B), a local business school. There we had a conference about India’s current economic challenges and advantages with one former Secretary of State. Afterwards, we started working on a case competition in teams of Sauder and IIM-B students. It is fun (and tiring) to try to come up with your best ideas to eradicate childhood malnutrition after 23 hours of flight and killer jet lag.

Before we left for India we were divided into 7 teams that would work on specific projects with 4 different companies and organizations in India. The next 2 days each team visited the company they were assigned to.  

Mehndi tattoos we received at one of our visits to Vidya

Mehndi tattoos we received at one of our visits to Vidya

I had the fortune of working with Vidya, an organization that helps underprivileged children, young students and women to develop and increase their chances of a better life. In the children’s school, where Vidya teaches English and computer skills, we heard some success stories and had the opportunity to meet and play with the children. I was amazed to hear that most of them had a job in the mornings before coming to school and another job in the evenings to support their families. At Vidya’s women’s center we had the chance to meet the wonderful women that were part of the program. All of them had gone through very tough life experiences. But on the other hand, all of them were growing stronger, becoming more skilled and getting ready to tackle the difficulties they faced and pursuing their life projects. We had an incredibly touching experience that day.

Abhishek and 2 of his friends in VIdya's childrens program

Abhishek and 2 of his friends in VIdya's childrens program

In the days that followed we had several interesting visits: 

  • The state of the art campus at Infosys that receives more than 26,000 employees everyday;
  • Tech Mahindra, a global player in the technology and business support industry; and
  • Ogilvy India, where the marketing communications giant customizes its global campaigns to every market their clients reach.

Our group at Infosys

Our group at Infosys

One particularly interesting organization we visited was Akshaya Patra. This foundation was established 15 years ago and fed 1,500 children every day. Today, it provides full meals, every weekday, to more than 1.4 million children (4% of Canada’s population… daily!). Their industrial kitchen in Bangalore, next to the Sri Radha Krishna Temple, ships more than 150,000 full meals tp underprivileged children daily.

Patients waiting at the Aravind Eye Clinic

Patients waiting at the Aravind Eye Clinic

In the middle of our trip we traveled 450km to the south of India to a city called Madurai. There we had the opportunity to witness firsthand what we had read in one of the first case studies we completed at UBC: the amazing work of the Aravind Eye Care Sytstem. Aravind was founded in 1976 by Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy (known as Dr. V) starting with only 11 beds and 3 doctors. Today, Aravind runs paid and free service hospitals in 6 different cities of India, handles nearly 3 million patients and performs more than 350,000 surgeries each year. The spirit and vision of Dr. V is present in every room and hallway at Aravind. Doctors, sisters (nurses) and volunteers work hard everyday, with the best imaginable attitude, to reach Dr. V’s dream of eradicating needless blindness.

Ceiling of the Great Temple of Madurai

Ceiling of the Great Temple of Madurai

By Eduardo Ponce