Tuck OnSite Global Consulting - Buffalo Milk in India
January 28, 2014 -- guest post by Sarah Bell, T'14 --
Last fall, I participated in the Tuck OnSite Global Consulting, a program that pairs student teams with international clients in a consulting engagement and includes a 3-week phase in country. I worked with a company in India, and our project was to recommend a location for a buffalo milk processing plant. The final milk product was to be shelf stable, so our client felt that this project had a social mission: to provide milk and nutrition in poor areas that lacked refrigeration while procuring milk from local farmers with only a few buffalos. This project was perfect for my background: I had worked for a company making yogurt in the states, am interested in new businesses and entrepreneurship, and wanted to learn more about India. Looking back, I not only learned a lot about global business and formed new bonds with classmates, but also am proud of the value we provided our client.
Before leaving Hanover, we participated in a cultural awareness class, which exposed us to some differences between India and the U.S., but I did not understand just how different it would be. I was surprised to find I had a hard time communicating with English-speaking Indians, often asking questions that were too direct. Luckily, the Indian Tuckies on my team could rephrase my questions, giving a lot more context and color, until I finally caught on. There were other major differences as well – the value of relationships and trust over economic gain, the power dynamic within the supply chain, and the technological sophistication of the milk industry. Seeing first hand how different international business can be has been an important lesson that I will definitely remember in my future as a global business leader.
Before this project, I did not have any consulting experience, or concrete sense of how it worked. This project completely demystified the process. We carefully defined the scope and information we would need, were in constant contact with our client about our progress, and prepared weekly presentations. In country, we focused on interviewing stakeholders across the supply chain, from farmers to transportation companies to regulators. Throughout these interviews, I recalled lessons from our Managerial Economics class, which taught us about the interactions between quantity and pricing in commodities. Eventually, we combined our learnings from interviews and our independent research to create a final recommendation, which we got to present to senior leadership. While consulting is not an area of expertise for me, it was rewarding to engage in a different field and work closely with experienced colleagues.
I thought having consultants on my team might be beneficial, but I quickly realized how essential they were. My consulting classmates gave our project structure, knew when to communicate with the client, and kept us focused on the specific requirements of the project. Similarly, my Indian classmates brought indispensable cultural knowledge, helping us relax when our taxis were 30 minutes late or making sure we had gifts for interviewees. While I would have valued my classmates based on these contributions alone, we also became great friends through the project. We traveled together on weekends, exploring beaches, hiking, visiting temples and monuments, and just chatting over the delicious Indian cuisine. One of the highlights for me was meeting a classmate’s parents and grandmother at the home in which he grew up. This gave me a new understanding and appreciation for him, and has inspired me to prioritize visiting the homes of my other international classmates.
One of the most deeply educational experiences I’ve had at Tuck so far has been the Tuck OnSite Global Consulting. I learned a huge amount about so many aspects of the trip, had a lot of fun, and returned with five great friends.
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