Stanford students take a Journey of Inquiry to learn about India’s corporate governance
Eighteen Stanford students spent their spring break on a “Journey of Inquiry” in India with SIEPR Senior Research Scholar Eva Meyersson Milgrom.
Ranging from freshmen to graduate students, the group traveled to Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Jaipur to learn first-hand about the organizational design of the corporate governance system of India and its changing environment. They met with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, government representatives, and Stanford alumni working and living in India. Despite the full schedule, Meyersson Milgrom ensured that the group also had plenty of time to take in India’s culture, including a sunrise tour of the Taj Mahal.
The Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development sponsors the Journey of Inquiry program, which gives Stanford students an intensive, in-depth opportunity for experiential learning in low- and middle-income countries.
The trip, as Meyersson Milgrom explained, was an opportunity to apply the tools learned throughout the course Global Organizations: The Matrix of Change. During their time in India, students met with an incredibly diverse group of individuals who offered different perspectives on designing effective organizations and projects within and across institutional settings. Speaking with people like the former president of India; a founder of Infosys; representatives of the Central Bank; and the Chairman of the Quality Council of India put into context the case studies, theory, and history studied in class.
For Meyersson Milgrom, leading a trip like this is a lot of work, but she says the payoff is how much she enjoys the students. For her, a main priority, and a big challenge, is ensuring the group is cohesive and integrated. “The group as a whole shares the value of everyone feeling comfortable and safe.”
Jacqueline Wibowo, who will be graduating with an undergraduate degree in Public Policy and a master’s in Management Science and Engineering in June, and sophomore Sana Gujral, who plans to major in Economics and Public Policy, were two of the students who went on this latest Journey of Inquiry. They recently shared their experiences from the trip with the Center.
How did the Journey of Inquiry trip add value to the Global Organizations class? What did the trip give you as an added benefit following the class?
Gujral: The Journey of Inquiry trip allowed us to see the concepts we had learned in class applied in the real world, in a very diverse group of settings – in government, think tanks, in VC’s, or in large family owned corporations.
Almost all the people we met were very honest with their opinions and answered any question we asked. This created a nice platform for us to learn about the “true” workings, goals, and strategies of organizations.
What was it like for you to connect with Stanford alumni during your trip?
Wibowo: I loved it – it reminded me of how global the Stanford network is and that even if I want to work abroad, there are people who are willing to help guide me. They provided great hospitality and advice, and so in the future if I am working abroad, I know I want to extend that same kindness to any Stanford student or alum.
What was the most meaningful meeting you had during your trip and why?
Gujral: The most meaningful meeting for me was with Mr. Nadir Godrej [managing director of one of India’s biggest businesses, Godrej Industries, and a Stanford alum]. His humble, joyous and confident personality is something I will never forget. Mr. Godrej had prepared a poem which took us through the journey of the Godrej Group since it was started. I felt the poem conveyed the key historical achievements of the group, and did so very effectively.
For two weeks you lived with people you did not particularly know well. What was that like? Did this experience teach you something?
Wibowo: I came into the trip with six close friends, and the rest I did not know at all. We were so busy and we were traveling on buses together the whole time, so we actually all became very close. I loved this - it reminded me to not be afraid to reach out to try to befriend someone who may not be in my traditional social circles.
What do you think is the main value gained from trips like these that Stanford offers its students?
Wibowo: The value is in the access – we got to meet people like the former President of India and CEOs of top companies like Infosys. Getting to talk to them in one on one fireside chat settings is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We heard their honest, candid opinions and expertise about everything from corporate governance to scaling a startup. We would not have gotten the same value from just watching videos of them in class.
Gujral: One of the things I really cherish about this trip is the group setting (i.e. the professor, the TAs and the students). We got to be with the group in both very informal and formal settings, and through the duration of the trip, got to know each other better. In short, along with the meetings with inspirational people, one key takeaway is the group bonding experience.
What do you think this trip will contribute to your career goals?
Wibowo: I was born in Indonesia, a similar developing country in Southeast Asia that is also developing its startup landscape. As such, I have always had an interest in the region but felt that I currently lack the cultural competency to have an impact.
This trip to India gave me confidence about the support I would have from Stanford alumni if I do decide to go back to my roots, and also educated me on the trends in innovation in the region. In the past, when I wanted to learn these things all I had to go off of was a Google search, so hearing directly from the top people in fields like finance and tech was invaluable.
Gujral: This trip gave me the unique opportunity to see first-hand how things differ in government and corporate settings. For very long, I have been torn between whether I want to start my career in a corporate setting or a government setting. This trip gave me insights into how these settings differ and how they are the same. While I realize things would be very different when it comes to the United States, these insights have definitely helped me gain perspective to form my decision.
Please note that prior to May 2019, the Stanford King Center on Global Development was known as the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development.