One of the most important aspects of my experience at UW-Madison has been the opportunity to travel abroad to see the world through the lens of a marketer. Taking the lessons of the classroom and translating them across cultures is an essential lesson in today’s world. This year the marketing trip was to India. Recently India has been in the midst of explosive economic growth and by the sheer volume of the population it is a crucial market to understand. During our time there we visited seven companies each giving us a perspective of the culture and how their business meets consumer demand. In our short time there we developed a good sense of some consumer segments, over-indulged in the cuisine and left with an appreciation of the culture that will certainly grow as we now can put faces to a place.
We began our trip in Mumbai which is on the coast of the Arabian Sea. We met with the US Consulate to get a sense of the United States’ perspective of doing business in and with India. Having that perspective was a great grounding but personally, I was also very interested in the marketing research services they had to offer. Our first company visit was to a digital marketing and branding agency, The Minimalist, where we were met its co-founder, Chirag Gander, who was a Forbes 30 under 30 in Asia’s Media, Marketing and Advertising category. This visit set a high bar for the rest of the trip. Chirag and his team explained how they initially used controversial social topics in India to generate conversation. Their work began getting noticed by companies which has snowballed into a list of corporate clients eager for content in a similar style. Understanding their methodology of campaign creation was one of the most insightful presentations we attended during the trip. We also visited P&G and LinkedIn who gave us excellent presentations on addressing growing needs of the Indian consumer and growing class of business professional. These presentations illustrated how so much of what we take for granted as normal needs to be completely reframed to fit foreign markets. Have you ever seen an advertisement painted on a cow before?
From Mumbai we traveled to New Delhi which is about 1500 miles inland to the northeast. The day we arrived in New Delhi our tour guide announced that “anybody could drive in the city but you need three things. First, a good horn. Second, good brakes. And third, you need good luck.” We nervously laughed but there was no need to doubt him as we could hear the cacophony of rickshaws, cars, trucks, and our own bus fighting for road space in dense traffic. In Delhi we visited Google, SC Johnson, a Target Sourcing Center, and helped Ipsos in an in-home consumer interview. If we weren’t getting enough food already, our host for the Ipsos interview made sure we left full of homemade pastries and snacks. As we heard multiple times “food is our way of showing love.” We definitely felt the love everywhere we went.
The highlight of the trip was certainly our day in Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky the day we went which made the structure that much more dramatic against the back-drop of a perfect day. It also made for some great Instagram flexing. We did however, need to spend about eight hours on the bus to get there and back. Did I mention the traffic?
Experiencing India through WSB was not only educational but also entertaining. We had a blast traveling together and we made some fantastic memories along the way. I’m so grateful to have been surrounded by such intelligent and enthusiastic classmates that made the trip so engaging. India made a great impression on all of us and perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to return.