Oxford Executive MBA Women’s Scholarship winners’ Q&A: module in India

Recently returned from Oxford’s Global Rules of the Game module in India, Pamela and Elena reflect on their experiences and new-found lens on emerging markets:

Pamela: Exploring emerging markets in situ was an eye-opening experience; where better to interrogate and debate global rules of the game than in India. What was your take on this?

Elena: Seeing and living the real India, through company visits and local tours, was incredible. As I work in Brazil from time to time, this experience in India made me realise how each emerging market is different and how the ‘rules of the game’ are different. From a business perspective, it enabled me to understand how even little nuances in politics and resources can be used in different ways to leverage the potential of these countries, while still contributing to the local communities (through corporate social responsibility, for example). From a personal perspective, it was a memorable opportunity to appreciate the Indian culture with our EMBA Cohort.

I found that being amongst peers in Mumbai was a wonderful experience in itself. What was most inspiring for you about being altogether as a cohort in India?

P: Clearly, learning about emerging markets first hand was truly unique. To share this with 60 other brilliant colleagues from around the world, and a wide range of sectors, only deepened the experience. The format of theweek meant that we participated in morning ‘classroom’ sessions followed by company visits in the afternoon. It was the questioning, discussions, and debates with my peers that I found most stimulating. This high level of engagement was what challenged the status quo perceptions of business in emerging markets, corporate social responsibility, and non-market tango.

Attending talks by senior leaders in global industry, with a focus on India and emerging markets, was particularly fascinating for me and undoubtedly broadened my perspective on Indian business strategy, leveraging ‘global rules of the game’. From your perspective, what specific example of business in India did you find especially insightful?

E: The visit we did to one of India’s fastest growing conglomerates, whose core industries are steel, energy, and textiles, was particularly insightful for me. What struck me was the incredible level of innovation in this company, across all of their core industries. I was also pleased with the openness of the Executive Leadership team, that was keen to share ideas with us through a very interactive session, which included also some live demos.

I have spent a lot of time since our trip thinking about translating this new found knowledge to my day job – developing entry strategies for energy multinationals that are keen to leverage the potential of India. What do you think you can apply from this experience to your day-to-day back in the UK?

P: Emerging markets are critical to the growth and longevity of the pharmaceutical sector. Although I have extensive previous experience with many of these countries from a global strategic perspective, this was my first deep dive into the Indian pharmaceutical sector. The company visits in this space were fascinating and the market opportunities discussed candid, providing me with a clear perspective on how market strategy in this sector in India is dramatically different from developed markets (and other emerging markets e.g., Brazil and China). Oftentimes, we bucket these markets together, but they have such unique challenges; local nuances mustn’t be ignored.

Overall, this experience for me has been both meaningful and game changing. If you could pick one thing that was the single most impactful learning you will take back with you, what would it be?

E: The Indian culture. This experience made me realise more than ever before how strongly the culture of a country drives the country’s economic and political personality, including formal and informal rules of the game. I believe this is true everywhere, however, in India, I could feel and see non-market dynamics are stronger than in other countries I have worked. Translating this back into my day job, means considering this important, yet sometimes underestimated, factor as key when shaping business strategies to ensure their successful implementation.

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