India in 15 Days…

July 14 –

Unfortunately our journey through India has been cut short due to unrest in the city of Mumbai. Although we are leaving early, I am completely in awe of this country. There is no place like it and I have had nothing short of an unforgettable experience.

During my 15 days here, I now understand why India is a great place for global businesses. As Rama Bijapurkar notes in We Are Like That Only, India is a place which offers long-term sustainable growth for global businesses. The rapidly growing middle class of young consumers in India offers companies a great opportunity to bring their products into this growing consumer market. Bijapurker further notes that companies have stopped asking if they should be in India. “Now…India is a ‘must have’ in the portfolio of any business that considers itself global” (Bijapurker).

July 12 –

While touring Ahmedabad, our guide told us that you need 3 things when driving in the streets of India: a good horn, good breaks, and good luck. This concept became clear to me when I realized that all traffic signs and signals are just a suggestion. No one stops, yields, or even looks at the oncoming traffic. It seems to be one big chaotic scene of cars swarmed together going in every direction. Crossing the streets as a pedestrian is also another interesting concept here in Ahmedabad. These cars will never slow down – if you are in the way they will either go around you or run over you. The technique we have learned is to follow the locals as they cross the street. Local Indians have figured out the best strategy to confront the insane traffic – while terrified tourists such as myself, run directly behind them.

The concept of traffic in India is an interesting one. Santosh Desai states it the best when he writes, “For Westerners, even for Indians, traffic is not a mere occurrence but rather a test of some cosmic kind designed by powered higher than us. Several parallel universes descend on a narrow strip of road and conspire somehow not to collide” (Mother of Pious Lady). First off, the roads in India accommodate a wide diversity of vehicles: buses, trucks, cars, bicycles, motorcycles, auto rickshaws. You must also not forget the swarming crowds of people, cows, elephants, camels, dogs, and carts filled with products and food going to nearby markets. Desai further notes what seems very obvious while driving through India – “violation of the rules is an expectation rather than a surprise”. It is very strange how the roads in Ahmedabad are not filled with accidents. Somehow, everything seems to all work together.

Observing the streets and sidewalks of Ahmedabad could be a whole ethnographic study in and of itself. There is so much to look at and observe it is completely overwhelming. In Ethnography for Marketers, HY Mariampolski mentions that ethnographies are designed to address any questions that have an impact of brand and business development. To do so, ethnographers should examine how consumer practices could offer ideas for new products, how consumers use products in their own environment, the impact of consumer lifestyles are related to product needs and usage, emerging trends affect products, etc. By simply sitting in a chair on one of the streets of Ahmedabad and observing, one researcher could pick up a ton of information just from looking at all of the action around them.

July 10 –

After visiting and touring through Jaipur, I was ready to move on to our next destination. Yesterday was filled with excitement – elephant rides, jewelry making, palaces and more. By the end of the day we were all exhausted.

This morning we flew from Jaipur to Ahmedabad. Flying within India was a great experience. The Indian low cost airline Indigo, is much nicer than those I have used in the past. The plane was incredibly clean with what sounded like symphony music playing in the background. Indigo is a relatively new airline in India. According to the book Branding India, author Amitabh Kant notes that the growth of tourism in India has led to the need for more air access and infrastructure. Air access is the basic infrastructure required in order for India to grow as a tourist market and for economic growth. Therefore, it was important for India to establish infrastructure for air travel. Amitabh further notes that more recently, the newest revolution in air transportation in India is access to low cost airlines. As a result of the large population as well as the poor rail and road infrastructure, low cost carriers provide an alternate form of transportation for more people in India. Indigo airlines, for example, is a low cost carrier embarking on an opportunity to reach a larger portion of the Indian population. Indigo air is a great example of an airline that is contributing to the growth of air infrastructure in the Indian market which will help grow tourism and overall result in economic growth for the country.

July 9 –

Yesterday, the drive from Agra to Jaipur was much nicer than I had expected. We drove through wide open areas filled with farmlands – which was a nice escape compared to the congested streets of Agra. As we neared Jaipur, I noticed the changes in the landscape outside – the flat grasslands turned into beautiful mountains filled with grass and trees. Jaipur is beautiful – my favorite place on the trip so far. It is great to experience different areas of the country in order to see the differences and similarities between the cities. Jaipur is very different from both Agra and Delhi. After visiting the two previous cities, I would have never expected to Jaipur to be so drastically different.

Although the three cities are all very different, the level of poverty remains the same. Jaipur has beautiful mountains and unique architecture yet amongst all of the beauty was poverty. It’s interesting to learn that more companies are trying to target the poor in India, basically due to vast number of them.  In The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K. Prahalad makes an interesting point when he talks about developing products and services for those at the bottom of the pyramid – the poor. He notes that western businesses need to change their thinking philosophy. In the west, a level of infrastructure is simply assumed – people have refrigerators, means of transportation, credit, etc. In BOP markets such as India, infrastructure can greatly vary – which inevitably affects the development of products and services. Businesses have to consider that these markets may not have electricity, running water, internet access, transportation, etc. By knowing this information, companies must then alter their products accordingly in order to successfully reach a BOP market.

July 7 –

We woke up at 5am – which on any other day would be annoying and exhausting but today we went to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. There are actually no words that I can use to describe exactly what I saw today. Seeing the Taj Mahal in person is a whole different experience than seeing it in photos. As first glance, when we walked through the entrance, the marble structure looked like a painting – it did not seem real. As I walked closer, I could see the elaborate detail in the marble and the symmetry of the entire building.

As the sun began to rise, the light reflected off the Taj and created the most breathtaking sight. Of all the 200 pictures that I took today, none of them depict what it felt like to actually be up close to the Taj Mahal and walking around and through it. Today was truly a surreal experience.

July 6 –

The 5 hour drive from Delhi to Agra was nothing short of interesting. If seemed as if the crowded city of Delhi extended past its borders. The streets were filled with people, honking horns, and traffic jams – there was something happening in every direction. For a short time during the drive, we drove through farmland areas which were filled with acres of grass and trees. It was interesting to see the contrast between the crowded populated areas with the sprawling farmland. Some of the sights while driving between cities included: food vendors, cows in the road, monkeys, camels, men shaving their faces in the street, cars way too close together, traffic, people riding on bikes and motorcycles, garbage everywhere, and people of all ages walking along the streets. I did not expect so much activity to be going on in the areas between the two cities – it seemed as if we had never left.

In the book, Mother of Pious Lady – Making Sense of Everyday India, author Santosh Desai describes the outskirts of Delhi as the “suburban escape”. It was interesting to see the descriptions from this book compare to the outskirts that I saw during our drive. Desai notes that across the country as a whole, the suburbs of cities are growing into cities themselves. Dasai further discusses the increase in infrastructure and the growth in population of communities outside of the major cities such as Delhi. In doing so, these suburbs have become new places bringing people together to form new communities. During the drive through the outskirts of the city, I could see how these areas have become built up over time. It seemed as if they were little cities of their own.

Overall, driving from city to city was a unique experience where I saw the growth of communities on the outskirts of Agra and Delhi and was able to see how people live in areas outside of major cities.

July 5 –

Today we all went shopping in Delhi. This shopping trip however, is nothing like ones I go on at home. As I entered through the gates to the market, I immediately became both overwhelmed and excited. In every direction there are beautiful fabrics covering the walls, embroidered bags hanging from the ceilings, bangles on display, handmade wood carvings covering tables, brightly colored pillow cases, sheets, blankets, and so much more that words cannot even begin to describe. Everything is rich with color and sparkling in the light – from the deep magenta silk scarves to the creamy white sheets to the sparkling handmade shoes, everything was bold with color. The Indian men and women selling the items were extremely eager for anyone to buy their crafts. The idea of bargaining was foreign to me until this day. Everyone was debating back and forth in order to get the best price. Although at first I was a little nervous, by the end of the day I was a pro. I will definitely be going back to this market before I leave India.

As we were walking through the street of India and driving to and from our hotel, it is hard not to notice the level of poverty in the country. Out of the bus window I could see people literally living in garbage and filth. It is heartbreaking to see that so many people in India live like this. I couldn’t find a direction to look in without seeing the poverty. I could see children, babies, and families emaciated and rummaging through garbage to find food. People had so many deformities and were crawling through the streets unable to walk. Prior to coming to India, I knew that the country’s poverty levels were high however seeing this in person is an eye opening experience.

In the book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K. Prahalad describes how we need a better approach to help the poor. Typically, the image on TV shows images of poor people throughout the world and then asks the viewer for donations – this technique will only go so far to help the worlds 4 billion poor. Instead, Prahalad suggests an approach where we engage the poor and have companies provide products and services to them and in doing so make a profit. By doing so, large companies can create the largest, fastest growing markets in the world. One thing I noticed as I was looking at the poverty in the streets was that everybody has a cell phone! They may not have a house or clothes, but they all have cell phones.  This offers great insight for companies entering these markets. If they can find a product that everyone wants, and make it affordable to the poor, they will be incredibly successful.

Driving to Agra tomorrow to see the Taj Mahal!

July 4 –

Today was my first visit to an Indian advertising agency – Wieden and Kennedy. The Delhi office is one of their 8 office locations around the globe. Coming from the US, I was interested to see what different advertising practices are used in India in comparison to the US. Despite being in India only 3 days, it became clear to me that the India has an extremely rich and diverse in culture. After observing this first hand, I was intrigued to learn how Wieden and Kennedy incorporates culture into advertising.

While at Wieden and Kennedy, the Account Planner who spoke to us noted that a good ad evokes emotion while a great ad makes you actually feel something. This concept is clearly depicted in one of the agency’s most influential campaigns: “Incredible India”. This campaign markets India as a brand and promotes the country as a great tourist location to explore many elements of the culture. In the text, “Branding India” author Amitabh Kant describes the Incredible India campaign as a “brand building process which comprised personal relationships with international tour operators,” promotions, media strategies, etc. Similarly, the Wieden and Kennedy speaker emphasized how this particular campaign looks from a cultural perspective and provokes the feeling of actually being in India.

The advertisements used for this campaign were described as bold and complex, and portrayed a breakthrough connection with Indian culture. The creative ideas used for this campaign clearly demonstrate how this Delhi office strives to go beyond simple advertising and implement creative, breakthrough campaigns. A print ad that stood out to me is one depicting the experiences of people who came to India as tourists and then made India their home. I think that this is an extremely unique and effective way of portraying the love that many people have for this country.

Generally, people do not typically think of India as a tourist attraction. When thinking of India, images and thoughts that typically come to mind do not include beautiful landscape, relaxation, and adventurous activities. However, the Incredible India campaign describes India in a completely different context which truly emphasizes the beauty and uniqueness of the country.

After visiting Wieden and Kennedy, I think that it would be impossible for a foreign company to advertise in India without coming and studying the culture first.  In the book, Ethnography for Marketers, HY Mariampolski discusses the importance of studying culture through ethnography. Ethnography includes both observational and interviewing techniques to understand cultural behaviors. To truly gain an understanding of the culture, ethnographers take on the daily like of who they are researching and engage with the people to learn about daily product usage and everyday life. I feel that this research technique can be extremely insightful for companies trying to enter the Indian market. From what I have seen so far, there is no place that can even compare to India, and in order to sell products and services effectively, marketers must gain a full understanding of the culture before entering the India.

July 3 –

Today we toured the incredible city of Delhi, India.  When I first stepped off the bus, I was a little frightened by the many Indian children who swarmed around us and stared with awe. I was both overwhelming and extremely exciting to be surrounded by the intense sights of the crowded streets, sounds and smells of India for the first time. As we traveled through the streets, I found that it was challenging to absorb everything at once. I have seen pictures of what this looks like, but traveling through the streets of Delhi in person is truly an indescribable experience.

Off of the main road where we were traveling, were narrow streets filled with tiny shops, markets, etc. Some of the incredible sights included – families eating street food, sleeping dogs, spice shops, fabric markets, begging children, hanging clothes, and a variety of food in every direction. Above these narrow streets is what looked like a ceiling of electrical wires bridging the buildings together. The smell of the food and spices, the sounds of the local people, and car horns all together made for an incredible experience to observe the true culture of Delhi.

The afternoon consisted of viewing beautiful monuments, mosques, and tombs in Delhi. All of which were amazing to see.  Although I took an average of 200 photos my first day, I know that they cannot even begin to capture the full experience of seeing these places in person. The one thing that may have drifted my attention away from these beautiful sights was the heat! It was incredibly hot outside – heat I have never experienced before. Yet, despite being extremely sweaty and constantly trying to stay hydrated, the experience of touring Delhi is unforgettable. Overall – amazing day in Delhi, India.

July 2 –

I arrived in India yesterday. When I walked out of the Delhi airport, I was surrounded by completely new sights and sounds. After breathing in the damp, humid air I was shocked so see a group of stray dogs running around and following us to the bus. I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of the many sights that will surprise me. After settling on the bus with my classmates, we began our journey in Delhi, India. The 30 minute bus ride to the hotel was filled with images which will forever consume my memory. Some of which include: a cow in the middle of the road, hundreds of cars swarmed together completely disregarding the lanes, people on bikes and motorcycles, a man reading his newspaper while driving, a woman buying food from a stand, children running through the street, clothes hanging from lines outside of houses, and so much more that words cannot even begin to describe.

We are here to study and see first-hand consumer India. India has a booming economy and is rapidly growing into a huge consumer market. According to Rama Bijapurkar in the book We Are Like That Only, India currently has over 1 billion people and is growing about 1.6% each year. As a result of this fast growing population, it would be impossible for global marketers to ignore India because of the vast number of consumers. Rama Bijapurkar further notes that although India is mostly poor, it is getting wealthier each year due to economic growth. We are now here to explore this culture and see where global marketing is headed.

Now, I am settled in a beautiful hotel. After sleeping and trying to adjust to the time difference, I am now ready to being this journey.