Snippets from a weekend in Chongqing!

Using Prof. Matta’s Marketing 2 approach, let me give you some ‘snippets’ from our weekend adventures:


Tada! Kate Wagoner all excited to try out a fish eyeball!


Our language expert (and savior) Jeff Skiles uses his ‘expertise’ in Mandarin to order some food at a local Chinese restaurant, while Jeff Theado gives the clueless look. As I mentioned in my previous post, around 4-5 waiters gathered around our table, trying their best to overcome the language barrier and helping us decide the order.


After all the confusion around what to order, finally the food arrives – Chongqing style spicy hotpot. Our next confusion – trying to figure out what exactly we ordered! And if that alone wasn’t enough – trying to figure out how to eat all this with…err…chopsticks.

And lastly, on the snippets: we are doing much better now on the language front. Jeff Prescott has successfully learnt a whopping 7 words in Mandarin mostly through observation (and that is a very commendable feat), and also by bombarding the oh-so-patient Jeff Skiles with tons of questions. Some of these words are ‘Exit’, ‘Mountain’, ‘Chongqing’, and more :D. I have learnt ‘Is this vegetarian?’ and ‘How much does this cost :P?’ apart from the Chinese Numbers 101 that Jeff Skiles taught the entire team.

Each member of our team has also started bringing various expertise to the team.

Jeff Theado has become our direction expert in the city (and a proud owner of an authentic Chinese sword!), Jeff Prescott is  our social expert (finding surprising routes through emergency exits all the way to rooftops), Kate Wagoner and Jeff Skiles are the language experts (even if we split into subgroups, we ensure there’s one language expert per team), I am the blogging and photography expert (finding every possible opportunity to sneak out, capture some cool shots, come back to the hotel and write ridiculous posts such as this one), and Praveen Kumar brings forth his 15 years of work experience expertise to the team!

Coming up next: Encounters with ‘Asian women’, a trip to the ancient town of Ciqikou, and one of the most memorable experiences of my stay here in China: the visit to China’s biggest Cloud Computing Industrial Park. 

“Bond, James Bond”

“Bond, James Bond”………sounds like we are enjoying a Bond movie in London with MI6 in its premise. Let me tell you in complete honesty, it is not so. It is the feeling we got in the office of the client, Interxion, at the first day of our office, where everybody was looking at us with high expectations of getting them out of the pickle. First day at the client site and we were consultants from the word “go”. After preliminary niceties, we started with our question filled meetings including the ones with the HR Director and the Finance Director. Tons of data was dumped onto us. It was an enduring first half followed by a chilled second half.

We were in the fishbowl today, literally. The office of Interxion is called a fishbowl because of its shape. Unfortunately, we not allowed to take pictures within the fishbowl. I believe the Londoners have a very different understanding of the dress code “business casual”. In the morning today, when we reached our destination, we found ourselves to be overdressed with partially formal clothes whereas everybody else was in jeans, had funky hairstyles and talked in a cool British accent. It was interesting to note that professionals in London hold such key and high positions at such a younger age. It might be something that is ushering in the era of corporate coolness “mate” (with a British accent). We noticed the beautiful London skyline while walking back to our hotel.

London Skyline

It is a running joke here that standing on The Heron Towers (the cuboid building), one can pour martini over The Gherkin (the missile shaped building).

The best part of the day was the evening when John, Kyle and I hit the bars for the fourth consecutive night in a row (the bars here are too good to pass by, if you understand what I mean ;)). Reflecting back on the day, I feel it was a rewarding and a fulfilling experience. Today was a glimpse of the life of a consultant we aspire to be and the GAP support we require to have. I am relishing every moment of this experience. I feel the craziness of travelling, working and exploring are a sign of more good times to come ahead in next 18 days.

Stay tuned for those blogs!!


Day 3: Gettin’ Digi wit it

Our team continued our learnings at Western Digital with a visit from one of their main suppliers. Traveling from Thailand and Japan to speak with us, we had the opportunity to learn how a WD supplier utilizes risk management practices effectively. It was extremely helpful for our project, as the company came prepared with close to 70 powerpoint slides all related to our project and answering questions that Dan had sent them earlier in the week. Very impressive!

When the company’s presentation was over, we shared a box of OSU Buckeyes with them and they were excited to give them a try (note the man in the middle holding the box of buckeyes front and center in the picture below)! O-H-I-O!

OSU with Supplier 1

After heading back to the hotel and jumping in the pool for a bit to cool off, our team then ventured to Sunway Pyramid – one of the 66 malls found throughout Kuala Lumpur! This mall had pretty much everything – 30 restaurants, a plethora of American fast food, hundreds of stores, a bowling alley, ice skating rink, movie theater, archery area, laser tag adventure, and more! We’ll definitely be going back to try a variety of Malaysian foods and test our (shopping and sports) skills.

Sunway Pyramid

Next up – traveling a couple hours to meet with another Western Digital supplier and see the factory where some hard disc drive components are made. Stay tuned!


Our second day in Belgium was once again quite productive in and out of the office.  Our team continues to be impressed with how welcoming and accommodating everyone at Volcano has been to us.  We (especially Cal) are building some great relationships with the team at Volcano!  Additionally, we were pleasantly surprised to have an unexpected member present in our afternoon discussion today.

LENOVO-PC - WIN_20140506_093912

As Olamide works through his Visa issues he remains a diligent and productive member of our team.

LENOVO-PC - WIN_20140506_093920

Despite working remotely, for the time being, he adds great insight to our discussions.

LENOVO-PC - WIN_20140506_093928

We all are optimistic that Olamide will join us in person soon, but Khoa has been taking it especially hard.

All levity aside, Olamide remains a valuable member of our team after 7 plus weeks of hard work.  We are all grateful for his diligence, continued contribution and commitment despite his current geographic setback.

“John of Gondar”

Day 4: Gondar City-

May 5th (Monday) is an official holiday in Ethiopia and all government offices are closed. However, a subteam of our Gondar hosts had promised to make time to meet us at 1.30p. We decided to go to explore the city and check out the local market before our meeting. What an adventure it turned out to be!

First, we went to a souvenir shop which was filled with great local craft pieces – including wall hangings, dolls, decoration pieces, clothes, shawls, musical instruments and many other interesting pieces. Even though we promised ourselves that we will window shop, seek comparisons, not fall victim to impulse decisions and try our bargaining skills, the moment of truth was interesting. The pieces were so beautiful that it was hard to resist the urge, especially since we would automatically make mental calculations of how low the dollar-converted costs would be!


Our first real adventure of the day was right outside the souvenir shop where a group of 2 young boys approached us and tried to “exchange” a 20 dollar bill for an interesting story. Their concern was that they had an “old” 20-dollar bill from 1981 which the local merchants would not accept. They wanted the nice Americans to help them by exchanging it for a newer bill since we could easily pass it on when we got back home. We had an interesting dialogue about the authenticity of the bill and in the end decided to agree to disagree.


From there we got in the van and were taken to the local market which was bustling with activity of every sort – from fresh vegetables to chickens to clothes, utensils and hardware. Almost everyone we met was extremely friendly with smiles all around. We all noticed that many of the shopkeepers spoke very good English and didn’t try aggressive approaches to sell to the visiting “freinji” (local word for light skinned foreigner). We also noticed that there were quite a few women entrepreneurs who confidently ran their shops.

During this visit to the market we happened to stumble upon John, a 10th grade student who made our day! There was something about his demeanor that put our whole group at ease with him. We struck up a conversation with him to find out about how he loved fashion forward shoes which he then converted to soccer shoes when his 5 brother team rule over other kids in the neighborhood. He told us about his dreams of becoming a doctor one day and serving his nation. We not only got great advice from him about which fabric to buy or how to avoid fast colors but also got a pleasant surprise – an offer to show us where the beautiful fabric was weaved by the locals.

We had set a deadline for ourselves to leave the market by noon so that we could head back to the hotel, have lunch and get ready for the 1.30p client meeting. However, the offer was just too good and all of us make a group decision to flex our time in favor of this unbelievably authentic experience. John took us through the market until we reached a semi-residential area where small shacks housed families as well as a cottage industry of 1-2 person manufacturing units. John showed us where a person was hard at work at a small hand-powered loom weaving a beautiful fabric from threads of cotton. John would later also show us where the raw picked cotton was sold and along with the bobbins used to convert piles of raw cotton into thread which would then be used in the weaving process.


On our way back, we were taken thru another route in the neighborhood where we saw ladies cooking the day’s lunch. John took us to one of the ladies and we were able to see how pancake type batter was first prepared and then poured over a heated plate to make Injeria – the staple of the Ethiopian diet. As we watched this process, we were surrounded by many curious and smiling children. For some reason, they found trust and comfort in the faces of Danny and Niraj—whose hands they held and started to walk thru the alleys back to the market. Only after we reached the van did they finally say smiley goodbyes and went off their way.

3 6

As we said farewell to John, he offered to take us on more experiences like this should we choose to. Since he was off school for the summer, he was willing to take time off from soccer and show us around while someone covered his shop. A definite stop that we all agreed to put on our itinerary was the visit to the Jewish blacksmiths. Knowing of the historical struggles of the Ethiopian Jewish community, this experience was a must have.

Oh how lucky we got with finding John!


We got back to the hotel recounting our many adventures (some of which we couldn’t list here) in time for our client meeting. We ended up having a 3 hour meeting with them and then a 3 hour strategy session which shed new light into how to proceed with our mission in Ethiopia. Tomorrow is a packed day and if things go well, a packed week full of work.

We can’t wait to meet up with John again!

That Time When Five Americans and an Indian Celebrated a Mexican Holiday in Germany

While Monday was our first official on-site working day in Germany (more on that to come once we get some of the pictures), it was also Cinco de Mayo. In America, we typically use Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to drink in honor of our friends south of the border. So why should this May 5th be any different, despite adding an extra few thousand miles of separation between us and the birth site of tequila?

Apparently, a few of our German comrades had the exact same idea. Koblenz features not one, but (at least) two Mexican restaurants, including one in the same square as our apartment. By 8:00 on this beautiful spring day, the outside patio was crowded and the prospect of margaritas welcomed us with open arms.

2014-05-05 20.26.21

As we flipped through the menu, we realized Sruti was out of her element, and had never had fajitas before. So there would clearly be no better time for an Indian student studying in America to try traditional Mexican cuisine than while on a trip to Germany. The night ended with complimentary candy… baby rats? Feetless iguanas? Not really sure what these were but they were good? OK? Jury is still out. The whole experience was bizarre.

Mexican Candy

However, despite the glory of creating our own cultural melting pot over dinner, I would be doing all of our thousands of blog readers a disservice if I waited even one more second to show you the key chains the front desk gave us for our three apartments. Discuss in the comments below…

Koblenz Key Chains

Famous in Mumbai

Never have I enjoyed so much popularity as in Mumbai, just for being…. WHITE. People crowded up to take pictures with me much to Kingshuk’s despair. Now I know what the Pope and politicians feel like when they are handed babies to kiss. Creeeeeepy!!!

However, now that the two exotic beauties (blond Ashley and red-haired Amanda) have joined us, I fear my days are counted, my short career over. I guess I should stop practicing signing autographs.

Kingshuk, as a worthy MBA student has already thought of a good business model where he can charge 50Rp per picture and showcase us around India’s most crowded places. 0 Capex and fixed costs.

1461543_10152523036699180_577725372198070572_n 1545617_10152523037169180_8481983432248392191_n 10308246_10152523036284180_1690598022489498827_n 10334401_10152523037289180_5829584473666320040_n 10344808_10152523036969180_1401854327273783209_n

Cinco de Mayo . . . Day 4

Today we mean business. . .

The RISE team spent this morning diligently working to find data outlining the US and UAE food & beverage and retail markets.  With around seven weeks of work behind us, we still have a lot to learn and more work to put into our plan. . .

Lunch time we went our separate ways . .

Joey and Gina took a few minutes to relax. . .

I went town to our courtyard to read a book and grab a snack at the grocery store. . .

Travis went to a meeting for the Rotary Club of Dubai. . .

This may seem like an interesting activity however, Matt and Gregg take the cake for interesting . . or should i say peanut butter and jelly . . . burger


Yes, that’s right . . burger

Now like many WP’s, I have grown to love my daily PB&J sandwich on my drive from work to class . . . I now fear that this concept may forever ruin my love for this evening snack

the PBJ . . direct from the site, “Grass fed beef smothered in peanut sauce and strawberry jam with balsamic strawberries, melted cheddar, natural BF aioli, salad and relish all on a wholemeal bun.” . . . aioli??

Aioli is glorified mayonnaise. Not only do I loathe mayo, but to combine mayo with my adored PB&J . . .I’m scarred

But hey . . .I certainly applaud Gregg’s willingness to try new things



It’s funny . . . we must still be adjusting as we struggle to not only remember what day of the week it is, but also what day it is. . . how could we forget. . . cinco de mayo?!  It dawned on the team about mid-day and we set out on a mission to find a place that evening to celebrate.

In the UAE there are strict restrictions against the sale and consumption of alcohol so we had yet to participate in this popular collegiate pastime, but put a bunch of determined, bright, MBA students together and they will find a way.  It really is not all too difficult, while restaurants do not serve alcohol, most hotels have a license and we found Girders down the street.




The team enjoyed happy hour and then we headed down the beach walk in search of Mexican food (Dubai may have every version of every cuisine here, however, Mexican food is not very popular). . . RISE ended the evening at El Chico’s . . . Happy 5th everyone!


Day 2: First Day of Work

Our second day in Malaysia was all about getting settled into the Western Digital: Malaysia offices and learning more about the project and community. The day began with a scenic van ride to the office (read: lost driver who drove around in circles until Sam and his newly purchased sim card guided us in the right direction). Once at the office, we got to meet with our team leader in Malaysia, CK, and gain a better understanding of the area and all that gets done in the 8 Western Digital buildings on the premises.

Western Digital specializes in data storage and hard disc drives, an industry that is profitable and stable, but shifting with the evolution of data storage (ie – hard discs vs. ‘the cloud’). The discussion of this shift led to a great quote by a WD employee…

“We cannot be passionate about what we do, but about the skill set we have.”

I think this is a great quote to keep in mind as we journey out into the real world – it’s not about the exact job we’re doing, but about the skill set we have to do that job and evolve along the way.

After speaking with WD employees, we had the opportunity to go into the factory where hard disc drives are actually produced, as a percentage of Western Digital drives are built right in Malaysia. Here, our team had to put on full body suits to ensure that there we were not bringing ANY static or dust onto the factory floor. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to take any pictures at Western Digital, but imagine the six of us in hairnets, rubber gloves, a full anti-static one-piece body suit and shoes, and face masks – definitely a sight to see (or one you would want to forget)!

Picture something like this
Picture this

Inside the factory was amazing! We definitely gained a greater respect for the production of hard disc drives – the intricacies are truly unbelievable! Every robotic machine must be precise to the micro-millimeter, every worker must ensure total quality control, and every hard disc must be (and is) made with a great deal of care.

Overall, a great first day learning about the company – next up… speaking with suppliers and learning more about risk management within the supply chain.