Hello, my name is Rhiannon Baker, I have just finished my second year in Marketing Management. One of the amazing opportunities that we had this year as Marketing students was to go on a field trip to Mumbai (India), experiencing university culture in India including attending marketing lectures and visiting local businesses.
The trip was for 7 days, which unexpectedly was extended for a further two days due to our flight home with Jet Airways being cancelled!
We were partnered with the WE school (a Post-Graduate business school) for the week who had co-organised our trip along with Sabine and put on the lectures and industry visits for us.
The lectures we had included; a session of an ‘Introduction to India’, ‘Design Thinking & Innovation – An Indian Perspective’, ‘Decoding India’, ‘Consumer Behaviour’, ‘How Bollywood is the largest film industry globally’, ‘Broadcast Entertainment in India’, ‘Understanding India Innovation’.
The most poignant lecture for me was the ‘Introduction to India’ which really set up our trip and put the whole week into perspective. As someone who had only really experienced western cultures it was really inspiring to learn about a culture that was in complete contrast to our own; identifying differences such as how everyone was so happy regardless of how much money they have. One of the things which I think allowed me to benefit from my experience the most was being as open-minded as possible so nothing shocked me and it allowed me to make the most of the trip by being confident enough to ask questions in the lectures and on the visits without fearing I was misinterpreting the content or didn’t have a right to because “I’m only in my second year”.
Learning about Marketing in India was also the best way to get a better understanding of the culture because especially shown in the lectures on Consumer Behaviour and Decoding India, we were discovering more intricately the different types of consumers within the country which is made even more complicated by the 22 languages and 720 dialects.
We had three industry visits which consisted of a television network (Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd), a global digital agency (Isobar) and a creative agency (Small Big Idea).
The industry visits provided real-life application for our studies especially in second year where we had done a Media Planning & Buying module. It was also a great opportunity to see how the working environment differed in India. It was also brilliant opportunity to explore working internationally and a chance to network with large companies.
These visits were of most interest to me as I have been keen on looking at international career opportunities for my placement year, so these visits made working internationally appear more accessible as someone who can’t speak another language.
I have since contacted Isobar for potential opportunities.
I must admit one of our biggest fears as a group was whether our stomachs could cope with the food. We had a dioralyte and Imodium chemist between us! Lucky enough we were fine, the biggest issue I had was bloating, after three days eating 3 meals a day that were spicy my stomach started to bloat whenever the food would touch my mouth. But the food was incredible. The difference between an Indian takeaway and Indian cuisine is Indian cuisine is light and fragrant and the level of spice is much greater than in the UK!
One of the incredible yet simplest of things we kept having whenever we were near the markets was a coconut, drinking fresh coconut water from the inside of a coconut and then eating the flesh afterwards was divine.
Another key aspect of Indian culture is the hospitability, they believe ‘Guest is God’ and therefore cannot do enough for you, to begin with it was quite off putting as your independence of just going up to get a drink at breakfast was taken away from you but by the end of the week having a driver and the driver opening the door for you as you got out? What’s not to love about that!?
An aspect of visiting India that did surprise me was the attention we attracted by the locals. We suspected it was because many of the locals may have never seen white westerners in the flesh and therefore were captivated by us. It was quite alarming and made us feel uncomfortable. However, it has made me consider what it is like to be the minority and therefore empathise with minority communities as well as in group situations, being mindful if I am in a group with someone who is international – don’t see it as a weakness but embrace their different perspective and utilise their strengths.
Another thing I will take away from my experience is to not be intimidated or in fear of going to places where the culture is so different to the UK. At the beginning of my second year, I was only interested in looking at international opportunities in the United States because of the similar culture to the UK. This experience has opened my eyes to other cultures and in fact has shown me that doing marketing in cultures that contrast with and are complex is more exciting for a marketer as the challenge is greater and there is much more learning from it.