SwensonA trip to India as part of your MBA experience? Yes, please! 

The Wisconsin School of Business once again brought the Center for Brand and Product Management to a new country to get a glimpse of how large companies differ in style from their other global locations. Culture, location, and lifestyles change the game for companies like Procter & Gamble and SC Johnson. And of course, we had some time for fun as well! 

The two cities we visited during our 10-day trip were Mumbai and New Dehli. It was amazing to see and hear about the differences between those two cities in terms of infrastructure and culture. Here’s a list of the companies we visited during our trip: 

  • US Consulate
  • Dolby
  • Procter & Gamble (featuring A.C. Nielsen)
  • Grey
  • Google
  • SC Johnson
  • Target

There are obviously a lot of insights that we gained through talking to all of these companies, but for the sake of space, I’ll focus on a few of my favorites: P&G, Grey, and Target. 

The P&G visit was particularly interesting because they took us on a home visit with the A.C. Nielsen researchers. My group focused on one mother’s experience with diapers and which brands she values. Her home was simple: three rooms with very few chairs and minimal decorations. The space housed her, her husband, her mother-in-law, her sister-in-law, and of course, her baby. It was a pretty small space for so many people! We found out that this was a fairly typical setup for a middle-class family and heard some of the things most important to her. While there were some surprises, what took me most by this was having the opportunity to have a very intimate experience with an Indian consumer. Not only did I appreciate the value in observing a genuine qualitative interview, but I also appreciate the unique opportunity to do this in India.

At Grey, an advertising company, we also learned more about what is important to many Indian consumers. Many consumers respond well to fairer-skinned, famous, attractive models in advertisements. While this may not seem surprising for some, it struck me because I often wonder if consumers respond more to ads in which they feel they can see themselves more easily (thus the appreciation for racially ambiguous models in American advertisements) versus a more “aspirational” image. In India, it seems that an aspirational message generally wins, though they did seek opportunities to push the envelope. One commercial that Grey produced encourage women to become fighter pilots in India. Historically, there has been a lower number of women in this space, and Grey took a bold position to promote a change.

Finally, Target was particularly interesting because we were able to see some of the factories that they use (though full disclosure – we had something like a four-hour drive each way for about 45 minutes of exploration; that’s traffic for you). It was fascinating to see the workers make fabrics for new products. Naturally, we asked about how they ensured fair labor and wages, and Target took a strong position on ensuring that employees were treated fairly by providing additional resources for the individuals to report unfair practices. Additionally, they assigned specific members to “sneak in” and evaluate the authenticity of the fair treatment.

Aside from our trips to the companies, we had a great time visiting historical sights such as the Taj Mahal (talk about gorgeous – also, check out the story behind it if you don’t know it already) and The Red Fort. Many also went exploring and visited the spice markets, which were fantastic, and a club, which was tough to find and did not have beer to match Wisconsin standards (but really, what beer outside of Wisconsin could?). As you might imagine, the food was fantastic. One of my favorite private foodie ventures was to Trishna in Mumbai per the recommendation of a friend. Should you ever find yourself that way, I would definitely recommend checking it out! And throughout the trip, we shared some great meals and laughs with exceptional company.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year!