Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme
Wow. India. In-cre-di-ble.
I guess this is what captures best my 2-weeks long (or well, short) experience in India. Let me elaborate. But first I will introduce myself and my motivation to come to India.
I am reading for a MPhil in Innovation, Strategy and Organisation at the Judge Business School, Cambridge university, and did my bachelor in sociology, anthropology and economics with a development focus at University college Utrecht, the Netherlands.
I applied for the Tata ISES programme mainly because I wanted to understand a business perspective on development. I have worked for grassroots projects in Ecuador, Kenya and the Netherlands and was always disappointed that it didn’t seem to change any of the larger structures that cause inequality and poverty.
Conversely, companies like Tata that provide 1) many and fairly paid jobs and 2) cheap and high quality useful products might be more effective in increasing the standard of living. Consequently, I made a move towards business with my masters, and applied for the Tata ISES programme to explore this personal thesis.
So, an initially very academically-motivated trip. Have my experiences lived up to these expectations? They have surpassed it. I did not only get some of the insights I was looking for, but also an amazing cultural experience.
First the academic experience. I work for a cancer hospital built by Tata in which free or discounted care is provided to underprivileged patients. I work on 2 projects: a research to prevent infections by researching hand-hygiene practices, and investigating the discounting process in which it is determined which patient is rich and which is poor.
Through this internship I did not only get to see two extremely interesting projects in which my experiences are highly valued (international projects experience, masters dissertation in Cambridge hospital), but I also got to understand a different kind of doing business. One in which Corporate Social Responsibility is part of company culture rather than the marketing package. Instead of spending millions on marketing campaigns, Tata build a state-of-the-art hospital carrying their name. Tata gets brand loyalty and media coverage, and patients get high quality and, if necessary, free or discounted care. A perfect CSR deal – Milton Friedman, take that.
So far the academic experience, let’s move to the cultural part. Already in my first weekend we got to see the touristy and gorgeous side of India with our golden triangle tour including the Taj Mahal. So much energy, colour and culture everywhere: truly impressive. The second weekend got even better when we discovered local Calcutta (and local friends!) when learning Bollywood moves in the club at night and smoking hookah during the day. Cultural exchanges that, among others, showed me the beautiful side of engaged marriage and the friendliness and openness of Indian people.
Only two weeks so far, really..?
Thank you Incredible India, I cannot wait for another five weeks with you!