When people in Western countries think of India and Calcutta in particular – the site of Mother Teresa’s charity – first things that come to mind are probably the poor living and working conditions. Perceived as a country with a huge, but poor population, how can business thrive there?
The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Calcutta is part of the IIM network of excellent business schools. During the last week of April, a group of Global Executive and part-time MBA students travelled to Calcutta to learn about the Indian market. As one of the professors pointed out, India is rather focused on the domestic market than being an export-driven economy. So above all else understanding the Indian consumer is key.
Precisely because many Indians do not have so much money to spend, they are very smart and cost-conscious consumers, explains Mr Thulsiraj, Executive Director of Aravind Eye Care. His company is by now one of the largest providers of eye care in the world. Though it was a long way to get there, his company shows that business can be done with the poor, even with 45% of patients not paying anything for the medical services. According to Mr Thulsiraj, it is essential to show respect to the poor and to preserve their dignity. Dr. Oksana Prajzel, one of our part-time MBA students, was quite impressed by his presentation: “As a health care MBA student and because of professional interest for pharmaceutical business, the meeting with Mr. RD Thulsiraj was a very good opportunity for me to learn about alternatives in the healthcare business in different environments.”
Another example is the sachet revolution, meaning that many items, e.g. for everyday hygiene, are available in single sachets for one-time use. This can be seen as one example of the concept of Jugaad that Marketing Professor Krishanu Rakshit introduced. Jugaad refers to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, when only few resources are at hand. It is nowadays considered an important concept for frugal innovation to help developing economies in particular.
Of course, India showcases big companies like Indian Railways, the state-owned company that serves one of the world’s most extensive rail networks. Other companies serve foreign customers as our students experienced during a visit at a plywood manufacturer and a presentation from an Asian Paints representative.
All in all, India presents itself as a huge and diverse market, especially in social and regional terms.
“This unforgettable experience has greatly enhanced my MBA learnings, expanded the vision through new perspectives and changed my view of how things are happening”, concludes Oksana.