Experiential learning at ISB: Student’s account of a 5-company trek

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Updated on Sep 7, 2014 19:11 IST

ISB industry trek


Recently a group of 22 students from the Indian School of Business (ISB) went on an industry trek all the way from Hyderabad to Bangalore, hopping from one industry to another, experiencing what it takes to run a business. The group visited five firms – Boeing, ABB, Coca-Cola, Amazon and ITC – to experience situations first-hand.

We decided to speak to one of the participants of the trek – Ankur Anand. Ankur also heads the Manufacturing & Operations Club at ISB, one of the professional clubs which caters to those interested in operations-related domains. Below is his exclusive account of the industry trek:

 

It had just been about a week into the college life, a much needed break from our jobs, when we had begun to settle and at the same time, get accustomed to the pace of life at ISB. The ISB model is all about empowering students. Here students decide what they want and how they want to get to it while the school acts as a facilitator in the process.

You come down to the campus at any point during the day or late till night, you will find the campus abuzz with activities. One set of students will be engaged in an intense discussion about business cases while another bunch would be working on cracking a competition whereas some other students would be discussing a particular issue of interest over a cup of coffee.

On the career front, students engage with the corporate speakers and alumni to learn from their thoughts. We decided to take it a little further by visiting the companies and experiencing their processes, right at their doorstep. The whole ideology behind planning the trek was to draw parallels between the academic and experiential learning at campus, and the practices followed in the actual business scenario. With this thought, we decided to head to Bangalore and visit a diversified set of companies starting from Boeing, ABB, Coca-Cola and Amazon, to ITC.

For someone like me, who has spent over four years working the country’s leading carmaker (Maruti Suzuki), it is easy to assume that whatever best that could be done, has been done. Having experienced the highly optimised and productive setup of my previous organisation, I had my own set of notions about the manufacturing industry. Now that I have expanded the boundaries of the world around me, I can say that I was living in a fool’s paradise.

What would come to your mind when I ask you about Amazon? Shopping or E-Commerce if you prefer being snazzy! For the uninitiated like me, Amazon has operations at its heart. Did you ever try to demystify the process that goes into getting that much awaited gizmo that you ordered over your phone, delivered right at your doorstep, packed as a gift in a neat gift wrap with a gift card on it? If Amazon allows you to sneak into one of their centres, you would realise the scale of operations and work that goes into delivering that one product!

This is what MBA does to you – takes away your child-like innocence and forces you to think in terms of cashflows, profits, productivity, inventory management, operations management and lot many buzzwords! I had an amazing time visiting one of the centres of Amazon wherein I could actually experience all the concepts taught in cosy classrooms, being deployed into productive work. This whole experience supplemented by the knowledge gained at ISB, changed my way of looking things at E-Commerce. It will no longer be a mere app on my Smartphone anymore, but rather a collection of highly complex, critical and some of the path-breaking processes that give them an edge over the others, which is what we refer to as competitive strategy at business school terminology.

‘If opinions carried a price tag, we would have been millionaires! The government has been stressing upon its stand of giving a push to the manufacturing landscape in the country. There have been several policies that have been introduced to this effect but did we ever analyze them in context of business?’ This was the learning during our visit to Boeing’s Technology & Research Centre at Bangalore, where we interacted with Dr Bala Bharadvaj, Managing Director of the Boeing Technology & Research Centre. One would jump at his feet at the announcement of the pro-manufacturing policies, but do we ever try to pull out all strands of information and analyse it piece by piece, only to realise the challenges and allied costs that it entails. This is another disadvantage of taking up management education – you can’t be aloof anymore to the intricacies of taking far-reaching business decisions. All our accounting, finance and business strategy courses seemed to make much more sense after the invigorating discussion that we had in the conference room of Boeing.

These are the experiences that help us build the foundations of our career and expand the horizon our learning. Management education is neither about making jingles in marketing nor about using buzzwords while dressed up in a business suit. It’s more about developing an innate quality to think critically, analytically and holistically.

Another obvious question that I would like to answer is that what is in it for the companies? Why should they support industry treks?

I would say that first it helps in bridging relations between the institute and the organisation as such an activity portends the interest of the student community in a particular organisation. Second, organisations are always on the lookout for hiring the brightest minds. At times when they do hire from any college, the students face a cultural shock as they had not anticipated about the work environment, nature of job etc. When students have experienced what it is to work at an organisation, they make a more informed choice, align their goals with that of the organisation, develop the necessary skills required to perform in the job and avoid the trap of falling into any cultural shock, thereby, being more productive at work! As a HR manager, that is precisely what you would want of a campus recruit.

Ankur Anand

Ankur Anand pursued Bachelor's of Engineering in Manufacturing Processes and Automation Engineering from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT) Delhi. After graduation, he worked with Maruti Suzuki’s R&D Division (Product Development role) for four and a half years. Thereafter, he joined ISB in 2014 (Class of 2015).

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