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SOM class going to India

By : Eric Coker

A School of Management class will get a close-up look at Indian business and culture when it travels to the country next month.

The tour is a required component of the four-credit course “Doing Business In Emerging Markets: India.” Twenty-seven students and two faculty members will leave for India on Jan. 6 and return Jan. 18.

“Schools across the U.S. talk about how we need to prepare students to compete in the global world,” said Vishal Gupta, assistant professor of strategy in the School of Management and course instructor. “The problem is that most schools pay lip service to it. It’s hard to bring a different country into the classroom just by talking about it. By actually taking our students (to India), it’s a sustained, involved interaction.”

Gupta brought up the course concept last spring to School of Management Dean Upinder Dhillon, got in touch with various Indian companies and traveled to the country over the summer. Student interest was immediate, Gupta said.

“It got to the point where we had to shut down enrollment,” he said.
The course’s academic component includes videos, lectures, Power Point presentations and movie screenings. Students also will write case studies on various organizations.

The School of Management has involved India’s largest private university, Lovely Professional University (LPU), for the tour. The 27 Binghamton students have been paired with an “e-buddy” from LPU during the semester. The pairs are able to learn about culture and business practices via e-mail and social networking sites. The “e-buddies” will take part in tourist trips with the students and serve as hosts during the visit to LPU in the Indian state of Punjab.

“When our students visit, they won’t be going to a faceless school,” said Gupta, who is from India. “They will be going to a school where they already have a friend, so to speak. There will be a personal connection so students are not just passive recipients of me lecturing or any other professor in India lecturing.”

Besides trips to academic institutions such as LPU and tourist spots such as the Taj Mahal, the group will visit and learn about leading Indian businesses. Most of the tour will be spent in Delhi, said Gupta, who will be joined by SOM Assistant Professor Danielle Dunne.

“I’ve told students to be prepared to wake up early and go to sleep late because we only have 11 days and it will be a hectic time,” he said.

The cost of the course is about $2,500. That includes hotel, airfare, food and tuition.

“We priced it cheap,” Gupta said. “We told (students) they wouldn’t be staying at the Marriott or a five-star and they’ll be traveling 16 hours economy-class.”

For students Allie DeMartino and Koichi Tanaka, the trip was the drawing point of the course.

“We learn about globalization in all of our classes, but what’s distinctive about this (class) is we are going out and experiencing it,” said DeMartino, a second-year MBA student from Syracuse. “I’m looking forward to the experience of seeing this new culture. I’ve met a lot of Indian students, so I’m familiar with the people aspect.
“But there are nuances to cultures that are interesting to learn about when you go to different places.”

Tanaka, a second-year MBA student from New York City, said it has been helpful getting to know his “e-buddy.”

“I was lucky to be paired with someone with the same interests as me,” said Tanaka, who enjoys Indian music, cooking, food and architecture. “My e-buddy is trained in Indian classical music and plays guitar.”

The students have even become friends on Facebook, Tanaka said.

“The person seems a little more real to you,” he said.

The class, a mix of graduate and undergraduate students, will be documenting the trip in many ways, including individual and group written submissions and a blog. The students also will split into groups and create videos based on themes, such as outsourcing, economics, food and music.

“I’m a firm believer that you don’t just learn from experience, you learn by reflecting on your experience,” Gupta said. “Blogging about the trip and making a video about it will provide students an opportunity to reflect on their experience both individually and with their group.”

Gupta believes the trip is important to show that internationalization should be accomplished at a level greater than just in the classroom.

“You hear a lot about how India and China are knocking at our doors and President Obama says we need our students to be more like Indian and Chinese students,” Gupta said. “All of that is good, but how are our students going to be like that? The only way is to see those countries, cultures and people up close.

“If we are able to do this well and within our budget, I think that we will be a model for others: You can become more globalized without breaking the bank and being too expensive. If we can do it, so can everyone else.”

Gupta said he hopes the India course can take place again and that Doing Business in Emerging Markets can be expanded to Brazil, China and Russia in the future.

“Many of the things we are doing in this course have never been attempted, so we’ll see how it works out and learn our lessons from it,” he said.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08