My Most Rewarding Visit

Our time in India has come to a close. In some ways it feels like the past three weeks have flown by, but in other ways, it seems like it was a very long time ago that we all landed in Hubli and met our hosts in the Scholar House. We managed to fit in a lot of learning, new experiences, and sightseeing into a very short time!

Though there are many wonderful memories to reflect upon, one of my favorites was our trip to Sushanti Orphanage to present donations in person. The entire GE2 class earned more than 35,000 rupees during the two-day “500 Rupee Challenge”, and several teams decided to donate their earnings to Sushanti. A group of ten students wanted to visit the orphanage, so we gathered together after finishing our exams and made our way there via auto rickshaw.

Though Sushanti Orphanage had notice that we were coming, it was helpful that we had an official letter to present as well. Once he understood the purpose of our visit, the gentleman in charge gathered the children together so that we could meet them. The children introduced themselves to us and patiently listened as we explained what we were doing at their school. One of the KLE students realized that it might be good to give something small to the children (since they might not understand the importance of the donation), so he purchased some cookies and candy to give out. These were a big hit and helped break the ice with the children!

Children at Sushanti Orphanage introducing themselves

After a few minutes and a few songs from the iPhone, the children became less shy and started to play games with us. Hand clapping games were very popular, and the smaller children loved getting lifted into the air. It was so wonderful to see the children’s joy as we spent time with them!

Playing with the children at Sushanti Orphanage

We presented a cash donation to Sushanti Orphanage in the presence of the children. It is my hope that this presentation helps them understand that they are cared for. We learned that the donated amount was more than enough to pay for an entire month of rent for the facility; this amount will certainly make a tangible impact!

Donating to Sushanti Orphanage

After the donation presentation the girls kindly agreed to show us their living quarters. Though they didn’t have much, it was clear that the children took pride in their space. With interpretation assistance from one of the KLE students I shared with the girls that I did not grow up with siblings, and that I think they are lucky to have each other. The girls smiled at this thought and it warmed my heart to see the family these children had created for themselves. This experience was truly remarkable and I am so grateful to have had it!


Prior to arriving in Hubli, I knew that the GE2 program would include significant group work. I also knew that the program was compressed, but for some reason I did not expect to be put into groups on the first day. However, group assignments happened almost immediately and I have really enjoyed working with my small team thus far! We are comprised of 3 undergraduate engineering students (2 from India and 1 from America), 1 undergraduate finance student (from China), and myself, an American engineer pursuing my master’s degree. Though we come from different cultural and academic backgrounds, the team dynamic has been great as all members have proven to be strong contributors.

One assignment that really brought us together as a team was the “500 Rupee Challenge”, in which all teams were tasked with raising as much money as possible in 2-days by creating a venture from an initial investment of 500 INR. The proceeds from each venture would ultimately be donated to charity. Initial brainstorming almost immediately led us into the “storming” stage of team development as we discussed and challenged the feasibility of each other’s product ideas. But, we all maintained respectful communication and steadily discussed different options until we found one we could agree on.

An idea that I suggested was creating a business around the concept of charitable fundraising. I noted that I had personally experienced and observed resistance to international charitable giving because there was little visibility into how the funds would be distributed and used. To my surprise, my Indian teammates were cynical about pursuing a venture that relied upon, or even mentioned proceeds going to charity. I chose to ask more about this and was told that most Indians are skeptical about donating to charity because they do not trust that donated funds will actually be used by the charity. This is certainly a large cultural difference between Indians and Americans, who regularly donate to a variety of charities as their funds allow. Upon further reflection I remembered that my previous travels taught me that donating to charity is also uncommon in Thailand and Laos. I believe this trend likely continues to other parts of Asia, though I have not personally verified this.

As we continued discussing possible product offerings for our charitable fundraising campaign, we recognized that we had easy access to locally-made Indian handicrafts, and our team could collectively write in four different languages. When we talked about who might be interested in these things, it became obvious that other GE2 Program participants would not be our target market since they shared these traits. So, we considered members of our personal networks. We quickly concluded that our American contacts would be the best target market because they do not have easy access to Indian handicrafts, and they would be most interested in supporting a business that was raising money for charity. Furthermore, our team identified that we could offer value to these customers by facilitating a safe and trusted means of giving to an Indian charity. So, we went to work on developing a fundraising campaign that would sell Indian handicrafts and customized trinkets at an elevated rate, with proceeds going to the specified charity. In our campaign ad we noted that it was acceptable to provide a donation only, in which case our product would be the secure transfer of funds, as previously discussed.

Moving into the “norming” phase of team development, each member contributed to the effort and distributed our marketing campaign through online channels, albeit with some continued uncertainty from the Indian teammates. It was after our first sale that we moved into the “performing” phase. Our success was motivating for us, and it brought us together as a team. The experience was certainly positive from the student perspective, but it will be far more rewarding when we personally deliver the proceeds to the charity!

Learning About International Business in India

A Coca-Cola product for India

I have always loved traveling and learning about places that are unfamiliar to me. International travel has provided me with opportunities to see and experience cultural variety that just cannot be learned otherwise. Prior to this trip to India for the GE2 program, I worked with several Indian colleagues who I was privileged to call friends. But aside from talking with them about India – and enjoying Indian cuisine, of course – I did not know too much about the country. Obviously it is not possible to learn everything there is to know by simply visiting a place, but I truly feel that observing people in their daily lives is much more informative than reading a book or watching a documentary about historical events or current landmark activities. Therefore, I very much look forward to learning more about Indian culture and business methods during the next few weeks while I am immersed in the coursework.

In addition to experiencing Indian culture, I look forward to learning from fellow students in the course. In the brief time I have spent with some of the students thus far, I have noticed that we all have different academic and professional experience and interests. I am optimistic that students will share their knowledge both among our project teams and in the larger classroom discussions. While I probably learn best from doing activities myself, learning from others’ personal experiences usually runs a close second. When a peer can show me the relevance of a concept by sharing their experience, it helps me to see how the concept may also apply to my future activities.

One thing that continues to fascinate me during international travel is the way businesses are adapted for each region they serve. Business adaptability first struck me when I saw a KFC in Shanghai selling a chicken drumstick-shaped fried rice dumpling. Though I do not frequent KFC in the USA, I know that they do not sell this product there. However, YUM! Brands has adapted the Chinese KFC menu to meet the needs of their regional customers. Similarly, here in India I received a lemon beverage that is produced by Coca-Cola specifically for their Indian customers. Again, Coca-Cola has expanded their product line to include a drink that is specific to regional tastes. Not only do region-specific products produce revenue, but they also promote brand loyalty on a global scale. This is a concept I hope to explore more in the upcoming course.