Thursday, January 12, 2012

Final days in India

by Joyce Claterbos

We've made the local papers three times so far about various events we've attended. ASB, the school here, is using our visit to generate a lot of PR for their MBA program because it's so new. Having a relationship with a US school is a real coup for Indian schools. 

The group at the Hill Palace, one of the residencies of the royal family of Kerala.
Front to back: Mahesh, Erica, Joe, Alisha; Joyce KB Aaron, Natalie, Liz, Gordon, Case, Helen, Apryl; Wes, Jordan, Anobio, Wes, Gordon, Boone, Nick.
Friday we were in Cochin and saw the Hill Palace, one of the residencies of the Kerala royal family. It was donated to the state and is now a museum. Regrettably, we could only take pictures outside so there are no shots of the beautiful gold crown and the formal reception rooms. In the evening we saw a presentation of traditional dances and costumes. It was pretty spectacular. We met a person who graduated from KU in 2008! 

We got to ride on a houseboat on Lake Vambanad Monday. It was a lot of fun. We had lunch cooked on the boat and most of us went swimming. We were tied up to the bank next to some rice fields and the student found a coconut tree that hung out over the lake. Several climbed the tree, picked a coconut, and then jumped into the lake. Lots of fun until the owner of the tree came up in his boat and asked us to quit! We left his coconuts in a small pile on the bank for him.

Tuesday we visited a cashew factory and had a boat ride and dinner at Sundara Theeram, a local lake. We walked down a dirt track to the lake to a covered set of tables. It started raining after the dinner so KB hired a jeep to carry up back up the track to the bus which was parked on the paved road. I think the students had the most fun on the ride back up the track. It was muddy and bumpy and was a lot like the safari ride at Animal Kingdom at DisneyWorld! Some students were invited into a local woman's home to meet her mother and children. 
Erik, Case, and Jordan meet school children at Hill Palace. We saw three different groups of children visiting the Palace that day.

We will have our final dinner at a restaurant called Island Shack tonight. It's on the beach in Kovalum and it is pretty primitive, but the seafood comes directly to the beach and goes straight to the kitchen. We'll have Tandoori fish, lobster, and shrimp with lime sodas. We will sit on plastic chairs on the sand at the beach with candles on the table. You eat with your right hand in India and use the local bread to scoop up the juices so it can get a little messy. You get a bowl of warm water with a lemon slice at the end to clean your hands. The bathroom was also primitive, but it flushed! Still a step above camping. Dinner is usually at 9 pm so that's been a challenge to get used to.

I think we're all ready to come home. It has been intense, but we all agree, worth the effort. See you next week in class. Make sure you ask us about our trip and to see our pictures. 

Joyce Claterbos is a marketing lecturer at the University of Kansas School of Business.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Letters From Trivandrum

by Joyce Claterbos
At Lake Vembanad we had the opportunity to buy fish for our morning snack. Erik, Aaron, and Gordon opted for local tiger shrimp. The cook on our houseboat cooked them for us.

Today we had our first company visit! After our morning classes, we went to Technopark to visit US Technologies Global. Technopark is in Trivandrum and was the first high technology industrial park in India. UST Global is a privately held provider of IT services with facilities in five countries. Mr. Praveen Kumar, Offshore Head of Global Sourcing, described to us their strategy for building organizational vision and supporting innovation efforts of their employees. UST Global has set up three integrated systems focused on supporting innovation. We were able to visit The Apple Tree Lab, “an innovation gym where professionals are invited to experiment without fear of mistakes.” The company also has 'Eureka!',  UST's Idea Management System and 'Open Minds', a collaboration space on the Web.
A few of us had an opportunity to captain our houseboat. Kissan Joseph had his turn at the wheel.
We then visited Veli Tourist Village, a park on a lake. Children often come up and ask us where we are from and want to shake our hands. We had just enough time to make a quick trip to Shanghumughom Beach on the Arabian Ocean to watch the sunset.  ( No swimming suits for the Indians here! Women in their shalwar kameez and men in lungis (traditional dress) watched their children play at the edge of the waves. The beach is orange sand and the waves were red as they come up on shore. Beautiful! 
Nick was the first to climb this convenient coconut tree and pick a coconut. He then dropped into the lake after we checked the water depth to ensure it was deep enough.

A busy day! We spent the morning in the classroom studying innovation with Proj. Rajeev Srinivasan. We learned that India was the source of many innovations over time, including mathematics and natural medicine. After lunch we visited Terumo Penpol, a medical products company ( We had to don sterile gear to tour the production line. This Indian-Japanese partnership produces 25M blood collection bags a year. Our discussion with Managing Director C. Balagopal covered the challenges facing businesses in India. Terumo Penpol has a very active corporate social responsibility agenda, supporting the causes of blood donation and primary education.

Joyce Claterbos is a marketing lecturer at the University of Kansas School of Business.

Conversations from Trivandrum and the India Business Team

by Joyce Claterbos

I’ll be sending a series of short descriptions of our experiences in Trivandrum, India, as we participate in the India Business Study Abroad Program. For most participants, this is their first experience abroad.

We all arrived safely in Trivandrum at 3:30 am local time after 16+ hours on three planes. The only casualties of the trip were two pieces of luggage, one wounded and one missing in action but due to be recovered today. Adjusting to the time change will be challenging since Trivandrum is about 11 hours ahead of Lawrence. We’re asleep while you’re awake!
Erik, Nick, and Gordon enjoy fresh coconut water at a street vendor in Cochin.

Trivandrum is at the southern tip of India, with a tropical climate so the average daytime temperature is 80-85 degrees. It’s like being on a Caribbean island, complete with palm and banana trees! The rainy season is over so we can expect at most a few short showers, but lots of humidity. The city is the capital of Kerala, one of the 28 states of India. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India for both foreigners and native Indians because of its native beauty, especially the ocean beaches.

Our host organization is the Asian School of Business. The campus is still under construction, but we can see that it will be a beautiful campus when finished. (See for pictures and information about ASB). It is a private university, supported financially by investors much like Andrew Carnegie’s foundation to build libraries in the US. Our host, Professor K. Balakrishnan (Prof KB), explained that it’s quicker and easier to start a private university than to work with the necessary governmental agencies to build a public university. Our classroom is a technology enhanced case-style classroom.

The campus is located next to a new high technology industrial park (TechnoCity). Security is tighter than what we are used to, with security personnel in all buildings and access to the technology enhanced classroom restricted to badge carriers. The hostel has a 24-hour guard who knows who comes and goes at all times so we all feel very secure.

After a short organizational meeting and a meal, we all went to our rooms for some quiet time before lunch, tea at 4 pm and a trip to a local store to pick up the inevitable few items we forgot to pack.

The campus is close to the coast so after lunch several members of the group went on a “Short” walk find the ocean. Along the way they met several of the local residents.  People are very friendly! 
One of the costumed actors at Greenix, where we saw demonstrations of traditional dances and music. These costumes are essentially the same for centuries.

They were very eager to have their picture taken and help guide us on our way.

But we eventually ran out of road before we could see the ocean so we went back to the school to rest up for our first visit to the city.

Our first trip off campus showed us a vibrant moving city. Traffic in India is chaotic, confusing, and mostly uncontrolled. We were traveling to the center of the city during rush hour. We saw no traffic signals and only a single traffic officer at one intersection. And Trivandrum has 1M residents! The roads are two lane, but often cars and busses were doubled up in a single lane. And drivers, especially cyclists, were opportunistic, using the oncoming lane to bypass vehicles when there were gaps in oncoming traffic. And everyone uses their car horn. Prof. Joseph explained that Indians use their car horn as a courtesy to say, “Hello, here I am.” The hilly terrain means that roads and alleys aren’t in any sort of a grid, making for many awkward intersections. There are many local busses and every business wants a bus stop in front so the busses often hold up traffic.
Liz has some one-on-one time with one of the actors.

We visited Big Bazaar, a six-story department/grocery store. Big Bazaar is India’s Walmart. ( We saw some familiar global brands like Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s and many local brands and types of products that we couldn’t buy in the US.

Tomorrow, classes and company visits begin. More later! 

Joyce Claterbos is a marketing lecturer at the University of Kansas School of Business.