Cox Leadership May2011

In May 2011 five groups of students traveled to Europe (Frankfurt, Bratislava and London), Asia (Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai), Southeast Asia (Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai), India (Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai) and Latin America (Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo) with the Global Leadership Program at the Cox School of Business.

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How cars are made, and the Walmart in Delhi

An update from Elizabeth, MBA and Master of Arts Management ’12, who traveled to India with the Cox Global Leadership Program:

A big day for our first full day in Delhi. Rebekah and I awoke early, super comfy in our hotel room. Apparently we’re in the renovated rooms, so our room is ultra tech-savvy: everything is push-button (lights, power, Do Not Disturb), and our favorite surprise came with the bathroom, which has walls entirely of glass! Last night I walked into the room and headed straight for the beds, and heard her say “We have a tub!” and turned around – to find myself staring through a glass wall at my roommate in the bathroom. We were quite relieved to find the automated shade that lowers to give privacy. Housekeeping insists on leaving it up every time they come in. We continue to leave it down. We’re close, but….

Again, the breakfast is a great mix of all sorts of foods, though I still miss the Taj Vivanta in Bangalore. We headed first to Maruti Suzuki, where we were able to not only hear from their management, but to take a tour of the plant. They really only played a video for us before the tour, that gave a brief history of the company and its partnership with Suzuki, and a quick overview of the steps of making a car.

We all got hard hats and goggles (and of course, no photography was permitted inside the plant), and were taken through 2 of the 3 sections of car-making (we skipped paint because of the fumes). It’s really quite impressive to see a car made from start to finish; at this plant, a car takes 12 hours to build, 6 of which are spent in paint – the long drying times between coats takes awhile. Every 16 seconds a new car rolls into the storage parking lot, and within 2-3 days, that car is on its way to a dealership.

I was also excited to see an AGV go cruising by, since that’s one of the things my dad’s company makes (though I don’t think for this plant)! Everyone loved watching it go by unaided by a driver or remote control. It’s also funny to be indoors and yet have cars (in various states of completeness) beep us out of the way. And we saw a lot of evidence of what we learned in Operations Management: posters for Kaizen, an Andon log record, and entire corkboards filled with Continuous Improvement suggestions and results of implementations.

After the tour, we went back for some Q&A, which was a bit tough – our host did not speak particularly great English, and so while we had a lot of questions, we often veered down the wrong path, or got answers a bit unrelated to the questions. We left shortly after with new Maruti Suzuki baseball caps and hopped on the bus to search out lunch.

Lunch ended up being the start to an “all-American” afternoon: we ate at the mall, then headed to Walmart. The food court at the mall had both Indian and American food (Subway), and a group of us opted for an Indian buffet/a la carte place, where I discovered Kashmiri dum Aloo, much to my delight. Then I grabbed a soft-serve cone at McDonald’s (for 25 cents) and we went to Bharti Walmart.

Walmart was, by far, the most dynamic visit we’ve had. All of the speakers were incredibly intelligent, great presenters, hilarious and interesting; we were all ready to join Team Walmart by the end! Andrew from South Africa gave us an idea of the retail industry and his opinions, Armando from Mexico (think Mexican Robert Goulet – his mustache was out of this world) spoke about logistics (Walmart organizes delivery from all sorts of vendors, and deliveries often arrive via ox-cart, scooter, Tata truck, or any variation on those themes), another gentleman (name forgotten, oops!) spoke about private labels, and Krishna (or Morley, as he called himself, despite his name badge) finished up.

On the way home from Walmart, we made a stop at the liquor store and caused a bit of stir – 16 Americans walked into a small two-story shop. Everyone bought a little tipple, including a few Kingfisher “roadies” – I even bought some wine! Sula is made here in India, and our guide has recommended it a few times. Guess whose family gets to taste-test white and red Sula?

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