31 Oct—1 Nov
Settling in to the Indian Institute of Management, and a little more
On Oct 31st I packed up my bags and moved to IIMB. I had been in contact with them before I left the U.S. and they said I could live here. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, but thought it would be nice to have as an option. When I came to campus to get my letter of affiliation for registering as a foreigner (see last entry), the professor who is sort of my mentor told me they had everything ready for me and I got to see the rooms, etc. I felt like I couldn’t back out and also thought it might be a good idea to go there and then decide where I might want to live afterward so that I wouldn’t be overstaying my welcome at Sowmya’s.
IIMB is one of the best business schools in India (well, ranked number one by one of the big magazines this year). It is very competitive to get into and I imagine once you are here as well. The first year students do nothing much but study. However, the second year students’, who know really just have to go through the recruiting cycle, grades are only pass/fail. That means they are up all night playing pool, hanging out, palying their music really loud and having a great time.
The campus is really quite lovely. It was designed by a famous Indian architect (but I don’t know who) and makes excellent use of light and greenery. I am not sure if you can tell in this next photo, but there are there very high, open-roof structures through which the perpetual sunshine beams and upon which hang vines and other flora. Flowers are ubiquitous on campus, as well as people working to sweep, clean, help with moving, guarding the pool room (as in pool table) and the like. When you walk on the road from the gate to the reception the sweet scent of jasmine permeates the air and you are accompanied by trees and a stone path. There is a calmness on the grounds, which I imagine is sometimes overlooked by the business school students when they are under immense stress during exams or interviews.
Here is one of the pathways (from the reception area to the mess and the hostels (dorms).
I just moved to a new room, I was in another down a floor that was a bit damp and also didn’t allow for phone reception. Now I am in the old reception room of the Executive Block. These are the better rooms that were supposed to be for guests, but now the female foreigners and some second years live in them. I had internet connection in my room (hooray!), but now that I moved it isn’t working—hopefully that will get fixed tomorrow. That is a great benefit.
The campus is sort of an oasis of tranquility in the midst of Indian urban chaos. I think this is nice, but it is a bit isolating as well. For this reason, I will probably move to an apartment in the center of the city soon. But just to give you a bit of a contrast of what the campus is like versus what is literally right outside of the gates, here is the scene just outside:
Some more about the system here--they have an interesting recruiting system. First of all, the school works extremely (and I mean extremely) hard at placing all the students in summer internships and permanent jobs. The interviews take place only over a couple of intense days in which they continue through the night (I saw students in suits going to interviews at 1am on Saturday night. Huh??). I think they have it easy though b/c the head of the student placement office works personally to get everyone job if need be. The placement percentage is a huge measure of the school’s success. So, they only have to submit resumes and then go to the interviews. No searching for jobs on their own (boy do I wish I had had that set-up at SIPA). But, some of the students said it was very difficult b/c it is all measured on grades and how you do in one interview. A foreign exchange student told me that he heard one of the companies just takes the five people with the highest grades who submit resumes.
Also, I think that the Indian students are not really as picky about jobs as their American counterparts. They just want the highest paying job with the best company (and even better if it is a multinational). I know that in B schools in the US it probably seems that way to a certain extent, but here it is more ingrained to follow the path and get the right job. It might also be a bit b/c I think these students have less work experience in general than the ones in the US. So maybe they haven’t had the experience in the big consulting firm or bank yet so they aren’t yet looking for something different. I think there are a lot of combining forces, but that is enough for now.
My contacts, professors--I have a professor who is serving as my mentor. His name is Rajendra Bandi and his background is in Information Systems. He got his PhD at Georgia and lived in Atlanta and Florida for I think about 8 years). Although his background is somewhat technical he is working in areas that are less technical these days. Right now he is doing a project for the European Commission (how funny!!!!) that is looking at work migration to different areas (for example the outsourcing of IT functions to India). This work is specifically looking at movement from Europe to Asia and India is the main focus, with IIMB being the main coordinator for all of the work. Anyway, he is extremely nice and had been very helpful to me.
I have also met another professor, Vasanthi Srinivasan, who is great. She focuses on human resource management and I heard she is the highest paid consultant in that field in India (or South India, I can’t remember). She is young, energetic and has tons of ideas. She and I got to talk in an auto one day and over the course of about ½ hour we came up with about 7 different research topics. More on this later…
The students--The students at IIMB are very nice, but there are only a few Indians I have gotten to know. These are the ones who seem to know all the foreigners. However, there are about 35 exchange students from all over the world. And guess what? Guess who where the first ones I met? The Swedes! Hahaha. Now, for those of you who don’t know, when I was in Brussels I had quite a few Swedish friends. I was laughing, thinking, “I had to come all the way to India to meet Swedes.” Well, at least they weren’t Dutch (for those who don’t know, somehow I can’t seem to get away from the Dutch even more than the Swedes). I am just kidding though b/c I really like Swedes in general and these guys in particular. (Actually, the very first person I met, when I went into the cafeteria and sat at a table all by myself (reminiscent of the first scene in Welcome to the Dollhouse, except that I wasn’t really sad about it) was a French red head named Celine. The first thing she told me about was how loud the campus was b/c the students stay up all night and blare their music. I couldn’t believe it was that bad until I experienced it for myself. I now wear earplugs almost every night. By the way, it was particularly funny to hear this b/c when I received the welcome booklet it had all of these rules about the dorms—the noise, about no alcohol, about restrictions, etc. I had thought it seemed so strict and thought that American students would never put up with that. Little did I know that neither did the Indian students. They have parties every other weekend and I got to experience one my first Sunday night there. Usually they are on Sat, but the conference (mentioned below) delayed it one day. I have included photos of that too.)
Some of the international students
You can’t tell in these pictures, but there are almost NO women on campus. It is like one big mass of guys dancing and it is quite odd. Men act differently here than in the US. They will hold hands or walk with their arms over each others shoulders (whereas women and men will not walk holding hands). They will dance closely and act in a way that most Americans, particularly guys, were think was gay. I think this is so interesting because it is not that it is a liberal society at all. They just have totally different norms.
Ok, back to IIMB--The day I arrived on campus was the first day of a 3-day student run conference called Vista 2003. This conference involved business group contests and games and speakers. The keynote speaker was C.K. Prahalad, a famous management guru who coined the term “core competency” and is a professor at Michigan (he went to Harvard for his PhD). Jason Conway—how funny is this? —remember when you gave me his email address? He never did write back to me. Anyway, he is Indian and his big thing right now is what he calls “The Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP),” which refers to the 4 billion (out of 5 billion) poorest people in the world who are ignored by the markets currently in place. He thinks that they are viewed as an insurmountable problem that is either pitied and thrown money at as charity or completely ignored. He feels that this group serves as a huge business opportunity if new thinkers could figure out ways to serve them by providing products and services they need at a very low price. He had so many great examples of things going on in India now and challenges to the audience to innovate and explore—not just be middle managers. He is the type of speaker who has definitely done the circuit and therefore has it down pat. I mean this in a good way. He is dynamic and inspiring and makes you think all is possible. However, the problem I sometimes have with these people is, okay, now what? How??? I think there is a big gap there. But at least he opened a lot of people’s minds. I had read about this before, but it was last year so I had forgotten some of the details and also had never heard him in person before. His ideas are relevant to my interests, and in particular here so it was a great initiation at the school.
After the speech, I went out with some exchange students to a hip bar/dance club called Spin. To get in you have to pay. It is more expensive for guys alone and so they were really happy to have another girl. You can enter in as a couple and pay less for the both of you than if you were a guy alone. I had been told by a bunch of people in India that I shouldn’t bring anything I would wear out to a club in the US to India b/c it would be too revealing. Apparently, these folks have not been out in Bangalore. There were girls wearing bikini tops (well, not really, but hyperbole works here). I was thinking, “Hey, I have nothing to wear out now!!”
The next day, November 1st, I went out with another group of people. I have told you about Mitali, she is another Fulbrighter. She has a friend Emily who she studied with here—I mentioned her too. Well, they were going out with some of Emily’s friends from her fellowship program and some of their friends. So here comes a few of those small world things—One of Emily’s friends is this girl Monika. It just so happens that I had been given Monika’s number (and had spoken to her) the day before by Meg (in Delhi) b/c a guy she works with at the Gates Foundation works with Monika. Hahaha. So, met Monika in two ways.
We all went to this bar F-bar in Le Meridian Hotel- swanky hotel, swanky bar. Monika’s roommate, Sutchi, her friend Divya and Divya’s husband were all there too. Everyone was really nice and we headed to our next stop after eating some Japanese food. Well, our next stop was…Spin! Hahaha. Two nights out in Bangalore and two nights at Spin. I would put a photo, but none were particularly good.
We met with some other friends of theirs, hung out for a while and then headed to a third place, Zero G. That place was interesting. It is supposed to be like a cruise deck and even has a pool in the back (as well as a small gold fish indoor pond). We were meeting up with Monika’s friends. I was talking to them about what I would be doing in Bangalore and mentioned CKS (this will be in the next update), the Center for Knowledge Societies, the organization I will be working with a bit (but hadn’t even started with yet), and one of the women said—I am working there on a project now. Hahaha (small world happening number 2). There was another man there, a Swiss epidemiologist named Christian. Keep that in mind b/c he will figure into a small world happening.
Okay, I have to go now, so more in the next installation….