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24 Hours of Exchange

Posted by Vipul on 05 January 2010

Disclaimer: I wrote this piece yesterday - but had trouble posting it. Here it is, untainted by my experiences of day 2.

It’s been 24 hours since I arrived at the Indian School of Business. The experience has been interesting so far – quite a contrast to London Business School. Here are some of the things that struck me.

All the support staff address me as “Sir”. This embarrasses as much as it lifts the ego. It’s like I’m a guest at a hotel. I went to boarding school in India and I have done project work with IBM in India – but never have I been called “Sir” except in hotels (and in airlines, but only when I travelled business class).

The infrastructure here is something to write home about. The campus is HUGE. I actually had to lug my suitcase for almost half a mile when the taxi driver dropped me off at the wrong “student village”. There is one excellent buffet-style all-you-can-eat for 90 Rupees (£1.20) restaurant, 2 round-the-clock cafes, and a department store on campus. I have heard wonder-filled stories about how nice the swimming pool and the gym are. In fact these stories have inspired me to set an alarm for 8 AM so I can go see the Gym. There is housing for all students (more than 600 I believe) on campus. I have a bedroom in a 4-bedroom apartment. It is air-conditioned and a maid comes every day to do the dishes. Getting my shirts ironed cost me Rs. 2.50 (yes, 2 rupees and 50 paise). I’m presently “connected” to a gigabit lan network, which unfortunately doesn’t work on my laptop any more. The bad thing is, I’m being forced to use Windows as my operating system. Overall the infrastructure appears way better than that of London Business School.

There were a few things that mildly annoyed me today, but I’m pretty sure I will adapt to those. In the lecture this morning, people would regularly interrupt others. In a networking session, people would literally shoulder me out of their way to speak to the visitor. Communicating with the support staff in English or Hindi is a slight issue – but sign language always works.

The on-campus company presentations (called “PPTs (Pun perhaps Intended) – Pre Placement Talks”) fascinated me the most. They were in sharp contrast to the presentations back at London Business School. The invitation email asked me to dress in “business casual”. This made me nervous already. I have been forcibly conditioned to wear a suit and a tie and look super sharp in all company presentations. But I felt very overdressed in a simple business shirt and trousers combination, when I saw people walking in wearing sandals, T-shirts and jeans. It turns out that due to low attendance at some of these events, these presentations have been made compulsory. Every presentation is mandatory for a particular stream of the MBA class, irrespective of whether they have any interest in the company or indeed the industry. No wonder, the enthusiasm levels were somewhat varied. Also the style of asking questions seemed a bit different. For example, the first question from the audience was “Locations?” That’s it. One word. Go figure. I don’t mean to bash ISB or its students – it is a great school with very bright students. All I am saying is that London Business School does a better job of managing crowd interest in presentations.

The people here are very friendly. Its amazing how many people I’ve exchanged phone numbers with today. One my first day at London Business School, I was definitely struggling a little more. Last night I had someone walk half-a-mile with me when she found me wandering around lost, and guided me to my student village. My neighbour showed me around the campus. Someone else kindly took me to dinner and gave me the low down on electives. Everyone is generally very keen to be helpful and friendly. I’m not saying that London Business School is not a friendly place – in fact it is a very friendly place and the people are very helpful. All I’m saying is that ISB is marginally friendlier. This is my first impression.

Now as I finish setting the alarm and plugging in the mosquito repellent, I look forward to another day of lectures, PPTs and meeting great people. Oh and checking out the fabulous pool.

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