LINC Mumbai | Student Blog
When can we go back?

I really miss Mumbai. When I opened up my suitcase to unpack, the perfume from the hotel along with the smell of the marketplace gently wafted into my dorm. My business suit was dusty from our visit to Mukand Steel, and my shoes worn from walking around the crowded streets. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

This is definitely a trip I will never forget. The experiences we shared as a group in a strange but exciting new place were captured in thousands of photos, yet the most vivid memories will be in our memories. The visit we had that touched my heart the most was visiting Om Creations. I felt so lucky to be able to meet such hardworking women who were so proud of their artwork and cooking. It was great to know that just through this one visit, we brightened up their day, and they brightened up ours. The amount of attention and dedication that went into each scarf, bag, or piece of pottery was really impressive and inspiring. I was very touched and happy that the women who worked at Om Creations were given this chance to show off what they can do. That visit had me smiling the rest of the week.

I hope that I can go back to Mumbai sometime in the future, perhaps through USC or independently. I encourage anyone and everyone to visit this beautiful city and country.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Lina Cox

Longing for Mumbai

Hello from the comfort of my USC dorm! I am now back in good old United States of America but I cannot help but miss and wish to go back to India. Despite my week of sickness and half a week of not eating (once again, bring motion sickness medicine!), India was a place of comfort. Most of the time, when I travel, it takes me a while to adjust to the culture and to the new surroundings I am in. But in India, though adjusting to the time was quite difficult, I just got so used to being there, hearing the loud honks from the streets, watching kids perform on the sidewalks…I miss it. 

I think the one thing I will miss the most about India was how welcoming and friendly their culture was. I felt so included in everything. Especially when we went to Om Creations and to the temple, everyone pulled us in, showed us how to dance or how to make the crafts. Although our cultures were so different, everyone in India was willing to teach us just as long as we were open to learning. Even during the business visits—I will admit, I held the stereotype of uptight CEO’s in my mind—everyone was so friendly, caring, and thoughtful. I don’t want to say that it was just because we were foreigners or because we were from USC. The kindness felt genuine. Even a simple hello and smile from the hotel workers made me feel welcome. India is a place I loved and I hope that I will get the chance to visit once again. Perhaps maybe in a business suit, ready to make a deal! 

-Still in India,
 Sandy

Its been about 2 weeks since I’ve returned to the United States, but the memory of India is so vivid it still seems like yesterday. India is full of strong flavors, smells, and colors which seemed to have ingrained themselves in my mind so that I will never forget them. Besides the jetlag, the transition back to normal life was not terribly difficult. Though India has a very different and distinct culture, its British influence makes it in some ways, not too different from America.

I am extremely happy that I was able to choose Mumbai, as for me it was a completely new experience that I probably would never again have. The trip has made me start thinking about my next visit to India, and all the other places in the vast country that I have yet to see. The question has changed from if I will ever visit India in my life, to when I’ll go back, and what role I want India and its economy to play in my own life and professional career. As India continues to gain steam as an economic powerhouse, I’m almost certain my LINC experience will serve me well in the future.

Thank you LINC!

-Yusuf Aktan

Looking Back: The Top 5 Things I Learned From My LINC Mumbai Experience… -Mandie

You can never have enough Indian food. 

  1. The food you will have in India is unlike anything you can get in the United States. The depth of flavor is simply amazing and should be enjoyed with each and every bite. Even if you think your mouth is going to light on fire during your first two bites, by all means, don’t give up. My tastebuds had felt seriously neglected since I returned, and I am now on a epic quest to find the perfect cauliflower curry here in America. Dining hall food just does not compare. 

Do your research.

  1. Before our trip, our class did research on each of the companies we visited and prepared a briefing book. Then on the bus to the company, we reviewed the information to prepare for the visit. Walking into each visit with a good idea of the company’s history, philosophy, challenges, etc. made the presentations more meaningful and allowed us to ask deeper, more critically-thining questions.

Take initiative.

  1. From crossing the street without crosswalks (and in the middle of congested traffic on highways, for that matter!) to politely asking hard-hitting questions to company executives, learning to take initiative will ensure you get the most out of any experience. In India’s business culture in specific, nothing would get done without the initiative of innovators and their willingness to think creatively. Take  a page out of their book and learn to challenge conventions and take initiative on your ideas. As with the super corporations of Tata and Reliance, this hard work can really pay off! 

Start your day on a positive note. 

  1. Something I noticed everywhere we visited was the contentment of the Indian people. While I believe this largely is due to the religious beliefs of Hinduism that are entertained in the Indian culture, it also seems to have a lot to do with the way people conduct their lives. Some start their days with a high-energy Krishna worship (as we were fortunate enough to take part in one morning), while others simply place themselves on the street early in the morning, not only to get ahead in their work, but also to enjoy the beauty of the day as it begins. As a requirement of the trip, we all met for a lovely breakfast each morning in the hotel. It may seem like an insignificant event, but taking just a few minutes to appreciate good food and good company prepared us for the day ahead and made even the most early of mornings more bearable. 

When a bathroom break is offered up, take it. No exceptions. 

  1. It’s hot and humid in India, so staying hydrated is particularly important. However, drinking too much water poses a problem for long bus rides in stand-still traffic and intensive tours around large manufacturing facilities. It’s a delicate balance between too much hydration and too little, but trust me, if a bathroom break is offered up, take it. You never know when (or where!) your next opportunity might be. 
Back to LA (3/24) -Ivan

After two very long flights, the LINC Mumbai crew has finally returned to LA. I am still jetlagged, but I’m also trying to wrap my head around everything that happened in the past week. I traveled to a country completely different from anywhere I’ve been before, visited some of the biggest companies in India, experienced deliciously authentic Indian food, and formed great friendships. What more could I ask for? Upon returning to the USC campus, three LINC friends and I decided it was too soon for our good times to end, so we decided to go out for a last meal together before the end of Spring Break. Since all we had eaten for the past few days was Indian food (however good it was), we decided it was time for some good ol’ American food, so we headed down to 5 Guys and had ourselves a good burger.

This trip to Mumbai was my first business trip, out of the many I hope to have in the future. I learned so much about India’s very unique culture, and also about how businesses across different industries operate in the same country. India is clearly full of business opportunities, and I hope to take advantage of them some day. I can’t imagine not having done LINC this Spring Break, and I am incredibly glad I chose Mumbai. This trip definitely made me love USC (and Marshall) even more. Looking forward to what’s next!

-Ivan

Bollywood Thursday (03/21) -Ivan

If you have not seen a Bollywood movie yet, I highly recommend it. You might have heard about Bollywood and India’s film industry, but if you haven’t experienced Indian movies, you are missing out. Prior to this trip, I watched “Three Idiots” to get a sense of Bollywood. I didn’t expect anything particularly extraordinary, but that film is definitely one of my favorites now. Today, we visited the studio where it was created, Reliance MediaWorks. Its campus is huge, and so are the facilities where the movies are filmed. By the way, if the name “Reliance” sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same company that we visited on Tuesday! Reliance is a huge company, and it is a major player in many major Indian industries such as communications and entertainment. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit both their communications and entertainment businesses.

At the film studios, we were taken to the set of a new movie which is currently under production. Of course, we were strictly prohibited from taking any pictures, for fear of any leaked images appearing on the Internet. This didn’t make the visit any less fun, fortunately. Our hosts were extremely kind, and hosted us for free lunch which consisted of delicious Indian food yet again. At the end of our visit, we were given a box full of Bollywood DVD’s! This made for a great ending to an amazing visit.

-Ivan image

Two huge companies… and it’s only Tuesday! (03/19) -Ivan

It is now the end of our second full day in Mumbai, and the company visits we have already done have blown me away. Yesterday, we went to the Times TV Network offices and learned about how India’s largest media network does business. Our hosts were very generous and enthusiastic about our visit. They answered pretty much every question our group had to ask about India, however much it pertained to the company itself. During the meeting, we were also served traditional Indian cookies and tea, which tasted great.

At night, we went to an amazing Indian restaurant; I’d been waiting to try authentic Indian food for a while. For a few years now I’ve been a big fan of Indian food, so getting to try it in India was incredibly gratifying. I have to say, though, that taking a couple Tums afterwards was imperative. Indian food is famously spicy, and it ain’t for the faint of stomach. I myself get stomach burn easily, but it’s a good thing I had my trusty Tums in my back pocket.

Today was also unbelievable. The highlight of the day was definitely our visit to Reliance Communication, India’s biggest communications company. The CEO of the company spoke to us, and answered every question we threw at him. It was inspiring to hear everything he had to say, especially because it helped us understand why India is becoming a dominant player in the world’s economy. Following his speech, a USC alum who has a position at the company spoke to us, and it turns out he had also done LINC as a freshman! Talking to him was great; he was funny and charismatic, and recommended a bunch of things for us to do in Mumbai.

-Ivanimage

Family’s play

On the last day of business trips, we arrived at a place that seemed like it scrambled up the best of Transformers, Disneyland, and Universal Studios and cooked up Tata Motors. We traveled on these cart like vehicles that took us around a behind the scenes tour of what goes on in the production phases. It reminded me of my times on the Universal Studios Movie Tour attraction, but instead of Jaws or a Desperate Housewives neighborhood, we were treated to robots attaching doors to the car body and employees making a thorough check of the final product. But what perhaps caught my attention the most was not the cool robots nor was it the plethora of colors that painted the machines, instead it was how they made sure to take care of not only customers, which is a given, but also the employees. 

This same compassionate feelings towards employees was seen in GlobalStep. At the mixer, I had the chance to talk to a few of the employees and the manager. And every time I asked them “how is the work setting like?” They would all answer the same: “It is like a family.” They would even spend Friday nights together, playing League of Legends even after a hard day at work playing games and finding bugs in them. The manager told me that they all respect each other, care for each other, they all have fun together, thus they are a family. It was a nice message to be left with after a week of business visits. Though customers should always come first in a business, it is nice to know that India also values and cherishes the relationships among workers. That’s one of the things that I admire most about India’s business culture and what I hope to have in my future job. 

Goodbye for now, 
Sandy

Time to Leave

I spent my last day in Mumbai visiting the famous Victoria station, shopping in markets and wandering through the city’s crowded streets. Over the past week I’ve grown as both a businessperson as well as citizen of the world. I’m sad that my last day in Mumbai has ended and it’s now time to prepare to leave, but I have decided that I will one day return to India to experience more of it’s rich culture and learn more about it’s diversity.

The trip has also taught me an extraordinary amount about the Indian economy in a short amount of time, and given me the confidence to perhaps one day come back to India for business. My only complaint for the trip is I wish it was longer, though I know that that isn’t possible over spring break. For the moment I’m still trying to process all that I’ve seen, heard, and learned over the past week. Maybe after my 21 hour flight back to Los Angeles I will have formed some deeper insights from LINC Mumbai, but for now it’s time to pack…

Yusuf Aktan

The Last Day

Wow, I can’t believe that it’s already our last day here. The time flew by so quickly! While I’m sad that our trip is nearing its end, we had a great last day in Mumbai. Our amazing guides Sandy and Joseph took us all around local marketplaces where we saw everything from papayas to parakeets.

First, we stopped by the train station where the “Jai Ho!” dance scene at the end of Slumdog Millionaire was shot, and witnessed firsthand the hustle and bustle of hundreds of passengers making their way around the city. There were people everywhere and long lines at the ticketbooth, and this was a slow day! Sandy and Professor Srinivasan told us that because the capacity doubles at rush hour, many passengers aren’t even inside the train when it’s moving! We also learned that tickets are checked on the bus at random, and the people checking are experts at face-reading, so they catch nine out of ten passengers who haven’t paid up.

After this, we went to the fruits and vegetables market where I saw some of the most colorful displays of melon, bananas, carrots and dried goods as well. I really liked seeing some of the products we have at home, like Toblerone bars and other candies but with Hindi written on the back. There were also many animals for sale here. The market was pretty crowded as well, with stray dogs walking through the aisles and men carrying baskets of goods on their heads.

We then ended the day with shopping. The sidewalk on the main drag was lined with vendors selling arrays of scarves, bangles, salwar kameezes, and tourist-y trinkets. Every single vendor tries to call you to his stand, so it’s easy to lose sight of what you came to buy in the first place.

I really enjoyed today’s adventures as a contrast to being in air-conditioned office buildings. Experiencing the market buying culture here was just as exciting as learning about the companies we visited. This was definitely high on the cultural immersion checklist for the trip.

I am so thankful to our wonderful tour guides and bus staff, Professor Callahan, Professor Srinivasan, Ms. Julie Labich, and Ms. Shana Schwartz for guiding us through the semester and the trip. Their never-ending efforts to keep this trip running smoothly and fun for us has been fantastic. We all really appreciate the time they have taken to look after us and offer us this invaluable experience. This trip wouldn’t be possible without them!

These blogs can’t even begin to describe how spectacular this trip has been. While we took tons of photos over the week, these can’t capture Mumbai the way it should be experienced. I would encourage anyone and everyone to visit at least once. As I finish packing my suitcase, I am very sad to leave, but have high hopes of returning in the future!

Sincerely,

Jennifer Lina Cox