Cultivating a global mindset is a core part of the Broad College experience, giving both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to extend classroom learnings to an international setting.
A staple of the Executive MBA curriculum is the Global Marketplace, which usually involves an education abroad trip. This year’s event, held on March 3–5, instead blended virtual presentations from corporate leaders and in-person cultural activities, giving students a chance to experience business in India.
Speakers included professors from the college’s partner school SP Jain Institute of Management Research, located in Mumbai, as well as faculty in the Broad College and alumni who are leading global businesses. Each presentation focused on a different element of what business is like in this emerging market, including topics of supply chain management, hospitality and entertainment, finance and entrepreneurship.
India’s opportunities and challenges
“India is going to be one of two countries (along with China) leading the center of economic activity, based on economic predictions of GDP growth rates,” Milind R. Agarwal (MBA ’94), founder and CEO of Quickwork Technologies, said. “It’s going to be one of the most sought-after and quickest growing markets.”
As an entrepreneur and dedicated Spartan, Agarwal has been a leading force for alumni across the world, helping to establish the MSU Alumni Club of India in 2015 and now as a member of the Broad College’s International Advisory Board.
In his presentation, Agarwal made the case for India as a critical market, boasting one of the youngest workforces with 150–200 million people aged 20–25 with college degrees. He also identified some challenges that come with expanding into a country like India that is rich in cultural diversity.
“India is many countries in one country, with 1.3 billion people and 22 scheduled languages,” he said. “Every 50 miles the dialect changes. So, the challenge of globalization is the unintended unification of languages.”
He provided tips to EMBA students for overcoming these challenges and realizing business success, such as having sociocultural empathy, employing segmentation of target groups and working to craft lifetime relationships and friendships with business partners in India.
Supporting women-owned enterprises
Sriram Narayanan, Kesseler Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Supply Chain Management, presented on a research project with colleagues at SPJIMR regarding micro-entrepreneurism endeavors for women in India offered through an organization called Kudumbashree.
“We started the project in 2019 and have slowly taken things into a research direction,” Narayanan said. “We’re trying to see how the group can make more data-driven decisions to address long-term business and social issues.”
Essentially, Kudumbashree receives an allocated budget from India’s state government, which it then uses to provide funding to women for micro-entrepreneurism through infrastructure and administrative support. These small enterprises involve a vast array of businesses — everything from flour mills and gardening contracts to elder care and railway parking management. The problem that Narayanan and his colleagues are studying is that despite this government funding and support, some of these enterprises do not succeed.
“It’s an incremental funding structure, so it doesn’t stop over time,” Disha Bhanot, assistant professor of finance at SPJIMR, explained. “An enterprise could start with $300 of funding and grow to $2,000 over a two- or three-year time frame.”
The team is studying different factors that could cause a business to fail, including crime rates for a given geographic area, the level of economic development where the business is located, support received for working capital and training and family conflicts. Ultimately, the team is hoping to provide a framework based on data to address issues that impact longevity and sustainability of these women-owned enterprises.
“The strength of the Kudumbashree model is to have such a range of businesses that are typically male-dominated enterprises,” Narayanan said. “Breaking the barriers into these spaces [for women] is a big deal from a social structure standpoint.”
A cultural experience
Despite not being able to travel to India for an immersive learning experience, this year’s Global Marketplace featured cultural activities to keep students engaged, with 60 students participating in person and over 70 participating virtually.
Tiffin carriers — a kind of round, stacking lunchbox — were delivered to the students on-site, paired with a discussion on the importance of the dabbawalla to Indian culture. This 125-year-old industry offers a lunchbox delivery and return system bringing hot lunches to working people across India, especially in Mumbai.
In addition to getting a taste of this Indian tradition, EMBA students were able to connect with fellow graduate students from SPJIMR in casual breakout settings to share experiences and learnings.
Through the Global Marketplace experience, Broad Spartans gained a deeper understanding of international business, enriching their global mindset with diverse contexts and cultures.