Kat in India

A graduate student at SMU’s Temerlin Advertising Institute, Kat is participating in SMU-in-India during summer 2010, doing in-class coursework in Ahmedabad, as well as two weeks taking field trips.

Mumbai: Day 1

We awoke not only to a knock on the door, but also to loud blaring music. The first-year graduate students at the university were having a party up on the roof. I really don’t think anyone sleeps at this college!

After leaving for the airport at 4:30 am on Monday and jumping on an hour-and-a-half flight to Mumbai, we spent two hours in the van to drive to the hotel.

When we landed at the airport, my breath was taken away as I saw the rows and rows of slum villages that lined the outskirts of the airport.

The city is so busy – though I’ve never been to New York, I imagine this to be something like it. We started our time in Mumbai with a bus tour of the city. Everything is just go, go, go here in Mumbai. Again the traffic is super busy – it took us two hours to get from place to place.

We visited the hanging garden, which was originally a lake, but at one point in time vultures would drop bones in the lake and the water became disease-ridden. Because of the immense amount of disease in the water they decided to float land over the water, and now the lake after years is used as a reservoir by people living near by.

I’m just in complete shock at how different India is from the USA. Everything is just completely different. The way the shops line the street is just so foreign to me, but there is structure in the chaos.

Mumbai, when it was first a city, was called Mumbai, but then the name was changed to Bombay when the British colonized. Sometime after gaining their independence from Britain, the Indian government decided to change the city’s name back to Mumbai.

The bay surrounding the city is beautiful. I’m really going to enjoy this city, and I cannot wait to share my adventures with you!


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Cheers to Ahmedabad

Believe it or not, we finished classes on a Sunday morning. Our class group was this morning from 8 to about 12:30, and we even were let out an hour and a half early. Though getting out early didn’t mean being done early; it meant more time to work on our final projects.

The three research groups were busy into the afternoon finishing their project, and finally there was a sigh of relief as each group electronically submitted their research report.

All afternoon was spent frantically making sure everyone could fit their belongings in the luggage they brought to India – some people even had to buy an extra suitcase to bring home gifts! After much strategery, all personal belongings and gifts were packed nicely away awaiting their return to America.

The completion of our course was celebrated with a trip to the local Pizza Hut! Though not my first choice of food while in India, it was still good to have a similar taste from home!

I’m eager to see how the next and final nine days of our time here in India will go. We have two last cities on our tour, and I am eager to see what experiences we will encounter. We have a few agency visits left – including a visit to a large film producing company!

lays-achhi-ambi_1280x1024.jpg Of course, how could we celebrate our last night in Ahmedabad successfully? Of course with a personal rendition of Circle of Life embracing our single bag of “Classic Salty” Lays!

Well, I’ll keep you posted about the next and final leg of our journey. We leave for the airport at 4:30 am – yes, that’s right in about an hour and a half. There has been some loud techno music blaring for the past three hours making it near impossible to sleep.

Until next time – cheers to Ahmedabad! Home in 9 days!

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Meeting the former ambassador

Kat-ambassador.jpg We got to meet former ambassador Swashpawan Singh while we were in Delhi. He came to SMU about a year ago and spoke as a guest lecturer for the Tate Lecture Series. It was such a wonderful experience to sit down with him at the hotel and talk to him about the culture of India.

He was really inspiring to us about making the best of all of our travel experiences. The one thing I really wanted to share with you all is what he said about our generation.

“The greatest gift ‘your’ generation has is the gift of mobility.” – Swashpawan Singh

I really wish we were to have had more time with him, but it was a lovely hour to spend with him hearing about his insights and interpretations about India. He served as the former ambassador and permanent representative of India to the United Nations, Geneva.

Well, on a side note … we have one final day of class tomorrow, so we are in the last leg of our project. Hopefully we won’t be staying up too late this evening working on the project. We’ve been invited to a dinner with the director of the university tonight, so I’ll fill you in on that later!

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Time for research!

We’re four days into our seven-day stretch of the last week of classes. It’s getting pretty busy. We’re learning a ton from qualitative to quantitative research methods. We’ve had our heads in deep learning about SPSS, factor analysis, discussion guides, sampling, validity and observational ethnography.

We’ve started a research project to understand the different perspectives American and Indian students have on the others’ culture. I’m about to walk into my first interview with a student from MICA. I’m excited to actually sit down and spend some time talking to one of the students. This is my goal for the next few days … spend as much time as I can trying to talk to other students.

It’s difficult to do so when our schedules are so packed with classes, but I want to at least try to sit with some students over meals. I’ll keep you posted. I’m not good at meeting new people because I tend to be shy – believe it or not!

Off to my interview, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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One of the Seven Wonders

k1-Taj.jpg I’m sorry that it’s been so long since my last post. This past week has been a whirlwind of events!

After leaving Jaipur last week we went to Agra (to see the beautiful Taj Mahal) and then to Delhi.

The Taj Mahal was absolutely stunning. We awoke at 4:30 am to depart for the Taj at 5 am. We were not a wide-eyed group until we walked into the gate and saw the beautiful creation that stood before us.

Visiting the Taj at sunrise was an awe-inspiring experience. We all stood there in awe of the structure before us as the jewels sparkled with the reflection of the sunlight.

We did a bit more touring around Agra and then made our way to the station for my first experience on a train! We took the train for a two-hour ride to Delhi.

Again my heart was broken as we walked to our train platform as I saw so much poverty and hurt in the eyes of the people at the station.

k22.jpg Delhi is the capital of India, so we were able to walk around and view the government buildings, which were originally built when India was under rule by Britain.

We got the opportunity to visit the Wieden + Kennedy Office and Ogilvy + Mather. We had such a great time at each agency learning about the way they handle their client list and the type of projects they are working on. It was such a unique experience to sit in with both agencies and learn about how they do advertising and how important it is to really understand their consumers with consumer insight.

I was developing a pretty intense cold while we were in Delhi and it really hit me on Friday morning before we left for our second tour for industry visits. I had a fever, bad body aches and a cold. The director and myself decided it would be best for me to stay at the hotel and rest for the day. I was pretty bummed about missing two industry visits, but I’m definitely glad I was able to use the day to rest and begin to feel better.

We arrived to the domestic airport two days later to fly back to campus, but our flight was delayed for over four hours. We ended up hanging out in the airport lobby for about 7 hours! We didn’t arrive back to campus until 4 am!

We’ve been back to campus for a few days now and are busy at work on our summer project. We have class for the next seven days before we depart for our next journey.

Now daily routine consists of class for five hours, P90x workout with some of the girls, and working on our summer project!

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Jaipur, City of Jewels

K3.jpg When we got to the hotel in Jaipur I was completely amazed. We stayed in a beautiful five-star hotel – Jai Mahal Palace. It was incredible. They had an enlarged set of chess out on the courtyard – too bad I didn’t have time to play!

Jaipur is known for their jewels, and so of course the first stop we made was to a local jewelery shop. Everything in the store is handmade, and we were able to walk down into their workshop where all the jewelery pieces are made. It was so neat to see the methods used to make the most exquisite pieces of jewels!

K4.jpg In the photo (right) is the Laxmi Narayan Temple, which is devoted to followers of the Hinduism faith, but all other faiths are represented on the outside of the temple. The entire temple is constructed out of white marble and the detailing is incredible. The temple was finished in 1985, but there is always ongoing maintenance construction. It was a beautiful temple!

K5.jpg The next day was a busy one. We started off with a tour around the Old City part of Jaipur – Pink City. Jaipur was the first city actually planned before it was built. The buildings in Old City were originally a yellow color, but when the Duke of Wales was scheduled for a visit the King commanded all the shop owners in Old City to paint their buildings pink – a sign of hospitality. The king liked it so much he set a decree for the walls to stay pink.

K6.jpg There is a section of Pink City where the festival dances took place in the street, and the King had built a special section in the building where each of his wives could sit in a room on their own floor to enjoy the festivals. He separated them as much as he could to avoid any bickering among his five wives.

The palaces are an incredible site! I cannot believe how intricate each detail is on the buildings in the cities here in India. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the detail and work that go into building these monuments is incredible!

K8.jpg Then we venutred on toward Amber Fort. We got to ride up to the entrance of the fort on an elephant. It was so much fun! Our elephant’s name was Kareena Kapoor – which is the name of a famous actress here in India.

K9.jpg This picture (right) is at the top of the fort before going inside.

We also toured the Jantar Mantar Observatory, City Palace in Jaipur. It was so neat to see all the different structures built to tell time, season and so much more. The structure (below left) is a sundial that is accurate down to 20 seconds!

k-sun.jpg There was even a section of the observatory where you can see the astrological sign structures aligned next to other signs. In the Indian culture they use the astrological signs as part of placing for arranged marriages. They say that your marriage will be successful if your sign is close to the other person’s sign.

K10.jpg Our last stop was to the Monkey Temple. This is a beautiful temple where there are thousands of monkeys. We walked around the temple and fed the monkeys peanuts.

Tomorrow’s a busy day. We arrived in Agra this evening and will be departing the hotel at 5 am to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It’s going to be a beautiful, but exhausting day! I’m hoping to upload pictures as soon as we get to Delhi tomorrow evening.

Looking forward to continuing to share my journey with you!

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Newest loyal Wagh Bakri tea drinker

Kat1.jpg Yesterday was quite the experience! We went to visit the first corporate office on our tour around India – Wagh Bakri.

This is a brand that’s been around for over 100 years, and they actually started in South Africa but made the move back to India in the early 1900s.

We were greeted with a wonderful welcome, and our visit shifted from the factory to the corporate office throughout the day. I was in for a surprise to see how much detail goes into creating one of their tea blend packets, which are available in the US!! One tea we saw on the blend line had 31 different tea types blended together for the taste of Wagh Bakri perfection!

Kat2.jpg One thing I learned – Americans are incorrect when they talk about Chai tea. Chai=tea – therefore it makes no sense to say can I have a tea tea latte when going to Starbucks or any other coffee/tea shop. From now on anytime I want Masala Chai I’m going to ask for it like it is, so as to defend the identity of the Masala Chai.

By the way, Masala Chai is a type of spiced tea, which I drink fairly regularly in the States.

We learned so much about how advertising to the different states’ cultures is so crucial for brand growth for companies, and I truly believe that Wagh Bakri has done a great job to grow from a small state brand to the third largest brand in the nation! Their advertising messages are evident of the diversity they embrace.

The name Wagh Bakri stands for “tiger goat,” which basically means that those who drink Wagh Bakri tea can co-exist and become friends. Or as their Facebook page says, “We believe all differences can be dissolved over a cup of Tea!”

Not only were we greeted by a group of wonderful staff members at the factory, but we were greeted at the corporate office with single-stem roses for each person in our group. We were even sent off with our own box of Wagh Bakri Masala Chai to bring back to the US, pens inscribed with our names on it and tons of other goodies. The chairman of the company even came and sat in on lunch with us! What incredible treatment we were given!

We’re off on our first tour around India tomorrow morning. Hoping to get a full night’s rest before the flight. I look forward to updating you all soon!

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Research India style

I wanted to give a quick update on how our class is going here at MICA. We’re taking a research methodology class with a professor at the Institution.

The professor has some great experience, so we are definitely learning from his real-life case studies. He keeps the class interesting and he has a great sense of humor. I think we are going to learn a lot from his professional experience.

It’s amazing how much diversity exists in this nation. There are well over 300+ languages spoken in the 29 states of India and the culture is so vastly different from state to state. It makes advertising research methodology so important when putting together even just a national campaign.

Most national brands have to put out localized ads for several states in their target demographic in order to appeal to the citizens of that state. For example, the state of Gujarat (where we’re staying) is a lot more traditional in clothing style, whereas the Southwestern states are more Western in their clothing choice – so in order to appeal to both regions the advertisers have to utilize the consumer insights to create effective advertising messages and utilize appropriate advertising appeals.

We’re about to take a week off from class to travel around the country and visit different corporate offices. Excited to see where this journey takes us!

Tomorrow we have our first corporate visit with Wagh Bakri – the number one tea brand in the state of Gujarat and the third largest tea brand in India. Will keep you posted!

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Exploring Ahmedabad

Wow – time has gone by so quickly it feels like. It’s already Wednesday morning here in Ahmedebad; I cannot believe the week is already halfway over.

On Saturday of last week we had a free day to finish getting settled into the campus and get acclimated to jetlag. We spent the afternoon watching 3 Idiots – a Bollywood film about these three Indian students in a prestigious engineering college that struggle a lot with the cultural importance of being an engineer. 100_0651.jpgThe movie was really funny, but definitely hit an important factor that students here struggle with. Most families decide as a whole what it is the students will study and it ends up being engineering, science, or accounting – regardless of what the student is passionate about. But the movie depicts the hardships the students face while at the engineering institute and the struggles they have with their families and their future career. It was such a great movie – and I’m hoping to get a copy before I leave for the States!

100_0802.jpgSunday we had a busy day ahead of us. All the graduate and undergraduate students departed from campus around 8 a.m. to visit three places around Ahmedabad. We first journeyed two hours to vist the Modhera Sun Temple. This was absolutely beautiful! The architecture of the temple was absolutely beautiful! The temple was built around 1026 A.D. for the followers of Hinduism to come worship the Sun God, Lord Surya.

Our tour guide mentioned that most of the detailing depicts a story for those to come and understand more about the culture of the area. There are different sections of the temple (on the outside) that depict different shrines, warriors, erotic art and goddesses – there was even a section in the architecture that depicts the proper way to bear a child with a midwife.

After the visit to the Sun Temple we made our way back in to Ahmedabad (another 2 hour drive) to visit the Adalaj (step-well). This well was created in 1499 A.D. by Queen Rudaba and was dedicated to her late husband and given to the community. The well goes down five stories under ground and you can feel the temperature vary up to 5 degrees different when you get to the bottom of the well.
It is no longer a live step-well, but the architecture is absolutely stunning. This is one thing that I keep noticing all around India – there is such a large presence of rich architecture! Everything has such exquisite detail – I’m just in awe every time we visit a historical monument!

And the last stop of the day on Sunday was to the Sabarmati Ashram. This was the location of the spiritual home that Gandhi lived in most of his adult life up until his assassination in 1947. 100_0857.jpg
The Ashram now has a museum dedicated to the life and mission of Gandhi – and I believe there is also a school on the grounds of the Ashram dedicated to Gandhi. While visiting the Ashram we were able look around and see where Gandhi lived, and explored the museum that depicted different stages of his life and big events during his movement in India. I was given the opportunity to spin yarn on Gandhi’s front porch while visiting the Ashram. The guide even said that I was spinning high quality yarn! It was fun to sit on Gandhi’s porch and just envision him being there. Spinning yarn was something he did on a daily basis, so to be able to do that on his porch was just an awesome experience!

There were tons of families there visiting the Ashram – as it is a high tourist attraction of India. The kids loved taking photos – here’s a picture Allison and I took with a couple of boys. Even though there was a language barrier you can still sense how sweet and pure these boys are! The picture below is 100_0848.jpgthe view from the backside of Gandhi’s house on the Ashram grounds. It just looked so beautiful!

What more would Americans want to do to finish off the 4th of July while studying in India? Fireworks and music of course! Lauren brought the music out on her iHome and we had tons of fireworks. It felt so good to have a bit of home with me.

Well – this is an update on my busy weekend. I’ll try to post again on Friday about how my class is going and how our first corporate visit goes tomorrow! I miss you all so much and I look forward to being reunited with my family and friends when I get home. As each day goes on I am continually reminded how blessed I am not only to be studying in this country, but also to be an American.


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In the midst of a busy city

100_05392.jpg I’m closing the fifth day of living in India, and it’s been such an overwhelming experience. We’ve experienced so much in such a little time, and I’m eager to see what is next.

Yesterday we ventured out to Old City Ahmedabad and took a tour. It was such an overwhelming experience. The architecture of the old city was beautiful. We were able 100_0611.jpgto walk around a Hindi Temple and walk through some of the pols, community-style living areas.

This part of the city was established in 1411, and most of the buildings are really run-down. The governing body is doing the best they can to motivate the tenants of the pols in this area to spend the money to keep preserving their homes, but that’s difficult when most of the people living in these areas aren’t making a lot of money to spend on fixing up their home. The architecture of many of these pols is beautiful, with very detailed woodwork.
Though I’ve never been to New York, I definitely think that people have no room to complain about traffic, driving or pedestrians compared to the craziness of Ahmedabad. The rickshaws compete with the motorcycles and buses for the road space, and it’s just craziness everywhere. I definitely would not want to drive if I lived in this country.

We went to this restaurant on the edge of Old City Ahmedabad called The Green House and they served one of the traditional Gujarati meals, and it was definitely a new experience! I have enjoyed trying all the new foods of the area and I am eager to continue exploring the variety of spices and flavors of food while in India.

At the end of the meal they serve these little beatle leaves, called pan, folded up with 100_0617.jpgdifferent spices and herbs inside and it is quite the explosion when you bite into it. They use the pan to cleanse the palette and it was a very neat flavor – definitely not sure how to describe it!

Well, tomorrow we are off on another excursion and I am looking forward to filling you in afterward. There will definitely be plenty of pictures posted!

I ask that you pray for our continued safety as we go out to explore tomorrow and visit busy areas of the state.

Thank you for reading my blog!

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