Preparatory Seminar ’12

Day 1: How to ride the elephant?

A session of 5 different speeches from various guest speakers was the start of our preparatory seminar and gave the whole team a first insight of how to deal, behave, negotiate, etc. in India or as Mr. Jakob B. Heller used to say “How to ride the Indian Elephant”. Mr. Heller from OSEC Business Network Switzerland served us with very interesting facts such as that the average age in India is 26 years, 370 persons life on one squarekilometer, 42% of the population live under poverty line (less than 1 Dollar per Day) and India’s GDP Growth Rate was at 6.9% by the end of the year 2011. Fabio Speciale, Director India at BaselArea Economic Promotion informed us about the challenges of Indian Companies trying to expand into the Swiss market, especially to Basel. He pointed out that a process of transformation from low-prices to high-quality is currently taking place in India at the moment.

Urs Schöttli, Far East Correspondent and our third guest speaker asked us to open our eyes while being in India. We should get away from eurocentrism towards a more global view including the value system of each country. Furthermore he mentioned the lack of sophisticated infrastructure in India, mainly in the rural areas. This brought us to the next topic of the day which was presented by Edward Schwarz, General Manager at Holcim Foundation. He introduced us to the aims of Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. He said that it seeks to globally interlink knowledge and to promote a mindset that views sustainability not only in terms of immense technical challenges, but also incorporates architectural excellence and leads to a higher quality of life. Finally Prof. Dr. Brigitte Sprenger gave us an insight into Blogging. All in all a very interesting first day which made us keen on learning more about the fascinating country India, where regarding to all our speakers the unexpected has to be expected.

Jana Weis, Chantal Ulmer, Marcel Bachmann

Day 2: Try to work with more trust…

The speeches from the second day of the preparatory seminar were, as the first day, filled with impressive facts and stories. The guest speakers of the day were Vivek Anand, Andreas Volz and Shweta Nagori (all from Accenture), Thomas Jenni (Endress + Hauser Flowtec AG) and Corinne Räz (Integra India). Each presentation had its own focus. The experienced business people introduced us to the collaboration between Switzerland and India, details about working in a multicultural environment, global sourcing, as well as the daily life in India.

Even though the presentations were self-contained, there was a golden thread guiding through the whole day. We learned that in order to work together with Indian employees and companies, it is absolutely essential to try to understand the Indian culture. When living in India for two or three years, it is a recommended to acquaint oneself with the Indian way of thinking, behavior and lifestyle. Afterwards, when the collaboration between Indian and Swiss people starts, the cultural differences should be taken account of and addressed accordingly. With other words: “Cleaning the cross-cultural borders.” Moreover; in projects it is crucial to show trust instead of always pushing for an answer or a result. To summarize, with Indians you have to stick to the following rule: “Show trust and you will receive the information you need.”

Benjamin Gugger

Day 3: Got stuck in the snow

Due to a lot of new snow and the resulting traffic problem, we were unfortunately not able to get to Langenthal to visit Mr Ghansham Aggarwal and his shop on time. Thanks to the improvisation skills of the project team, we were able to meet all together for lunch at Sitar’s Indian restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious Indian meal and a typical Chai Tea. It made definitely appetite for more.

To get prepared for the trip to India, we need to know at least the basic rules of behavior in an Indian society and a few words of Hindi. Ms Neelam Nagar came to us to teach us word like “Namaste” which is a common greeting expression or “Dhany nad” what means: “thank you”. Also three different traditional clothing were presented. Especially the demonstration of how to bind a sari was impressive. But also other very helpful advices of how to behave to not getting in to any kind of trouble were given form Ms Neelam Nagar.

After getting faced with unexpected problems on the snowy streets we learned a lot about the everyday life in India.

Jan Preisig, Marilen Dürr

Day 4: Where contrasts get visible

Where can you find a cow in front of a Mc Donalds? Such discrepancies are often seen in India. During the morning Mr. Bansal from Zimmer Inc. introduced us in the different ways of consumer-marketing. In a very interactive conversation, we tried to understand the dual value system of Indians. Based on a research which Zimmer Inc. did, we got an impression on the medicine system of India and how people get influenced in their decision-making. It was really interesting to see how avarice and the wish for consuming as well as life style can stick together.

The afternoon brought a huge contrast to us. Away from wealth and luxury we turned our eyes to the big poverty in India. Mr. Büchlin from Coop gave us a good overview about the clothing production of the retailer. He proclaimed that fashion and fairness are no opposites and can go very well together. Treating mankind and nature with respect is the key to their economic success. In this way they take their responsibility for the farmers and their families. But what about the beggars, who live on the street, as a big part of the society in India? With a lot of impressive examples and even more with an amazing commitment Mr. Huber of the Bartimaeus-Project explained how they give hope to the poorest. Their concept of orphanages, night-schools and microenterprises gave an example of how it is possible to make a huge difference for this people and their whole environment.

The day ended up with a presentation of the political system of India. We were surprised to see how similar it seems to be to Switzerland. Mr. Prof. Dr. Bürkler of the FHNW pointed out especially the influence of the British Empire in the Indian history. In their way of life, Indians act a lot like the English people used to do it in the past. Therefore they are also sometimes called the new British.

Sophie Frei, Peter Röthlisberger

Day 5: Joint Event

On the last day of our Preparatory Seminar we had a Joint Event with the sister projects Insight China and connectUS.

Some interesting guest speakers were invited to lecture on this last day and gave an overall understanding on trade and the different cultures. Next to Mr Hans Niederhäuser, Blaser Swisslube, who gave us an insight about their work in China and India, there was also Mr Maurizio Cerratti, a representative of SECO, who talked about the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

In the afternoon, the presentation of Ms Marianne Burki, Pro Helevetia, was very insightful and put the topic “Exchange in cultural goods” in an interesting context. The Panel Discussion of Ms Marianne Burki-Pro Helvetia, Mr Fabio Menegola-Kühne + Nagel and Mr Philippe Nell-SECO would make connections to what we had learned from the seminar, and the answer-questions part was helpful to get another perceptive and improve our understanding of the challenges of international trade.

After thanking the sponsors and the organization team for their great and passionate work before and during the week, everyone was invited to a well-deserved Apéro.

Regarding to what we have learned this week, all the students feel prepared and are looking forward to an interesting two-week trip to India.

Stefanie Fehr, Lukas Wyss