Worlds apart or similar at heart? – Helping students work across cross-cultural teams

With the advent of globalization, borders across management have vanished deepening the richness of understanding about the global foundation of business. In this entirely new equation, learning from experiences is as important as learning from traditional resources. As a Business school with a mission to advance the practice of management and produce leader-managers of business and social relevance, FIIB organizes the annual acculturation program with Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, USA to enhance intercultural understanding and cross-cultural sensitivity. While interacting with to-be-managers from a different culture, students develop greater competence to work with businesses of global impact, with clearer insights into the global complexity of the managers, enterprises, and markets.

A group of 27 students of Sam M Walton college of Business visited the FIIB campus on the 19th of May 2018 for three days to work with 18 students of FIIB; to learn various facets of each other’s culture and how they affect the way people do business. Students from both institutions were preparing for months in advance to portray their culture to each other. Describing the enthusiasm of the students, Prof. Vidya Iyer, FIIB who was in charge of the program said “They are overjoyed planning the interaction with Sam Walton, these students have undergone a rigorous selection process to be the ambassadors of Indian culture and the energy radiating from them is palpable”


Day 1 – “Create your own learning day”

The day started with students of FIIB welcoming the students of Sam Walton with tika and maala reflecting how Indians receive their guests. Echoing the sounds of happiness, the campus seemed vibrant with students from both institutes meeting and mingling with each other. The students were divided into teams with a mix of FIIB and Walton students. The teams have already planned to explore Delhi from a multifaceted framework of political, socio-economic, and cultural interactions. Some of the most popular destinations picked out by them are: Sarojini Nagar & Palika Markets; Gurudwara Bangla Sahib; Jantar Mantar; National Museum; Lotus temple; Khadi India

Visiting these places provided practical insights on how culture has a direct affect on business and management. In the evening, they came back to the campus to present what they’ve learnt during the day. “This exercises did not just give us an opportunity to take our American friends around the city but also have some beautiful and interesting discussions on topics ranging from politics to food, leisure to school, transportation to family”, said Ankita Joshi, student from FIIB.


Day 2 – “The Amazing race”

The teams had to reach pre-decided places on time, finish challenges given and send a picture in the group, so that the judges can ensure the completion of the task. The team that completed the entire visit and reach the end destination first was to be declared the winner.

“I interacted a lot with my team members to find out what are the things that are similar in US and India. We exchanged our views on Religion, lifestyle, punctuality, education, eating habits, mythology, and language.Although we thought we would be completely opposite from each other, we found it isn’t so” said Camielle, student from Sam M. Walton College of business.

This race tested the interpersonal skills and the ability of students to communicate without confusion. The aim of this race was to inculcate cross cultural communication and team dynamics to achieve a common goal while working in a diverse environment. Most of all, it was about learning and enjoying together despite and differences one may find.


Day 3 – “A glimpse into the Indian way of Business” 

After a quick breakfast, the students of Sam M. Walton College of Business went to a visit to the one of the largest milk processing plants in Asia. The business graduates got to know a lot about how the plant functions from the moment of procuring milk till it reaches the outlets & retail shop for sales. The most satisfying thing about the milk which the company provides is that it is never touched with hands while processing it. The quality measures are very strong and that’s the reason it has been awarded continuously for its Excellence.

The students were shown the fully automated control room, milk processing area, storage tanks & were also briefed about the entire supply chain model of the company. After the students had a first-hand exposure of the various processes, they were served with yogurt, probiotic drink and ice-creams. Knowledge and fun were the ingredients of the day! The students were highly inquisitive during the entire visit. The quench of thirst of students were well taken care of, both for knowledge as well as milk.


Other Interactions

Among other sessions, FIIB arranged for two interesting sessions with external guests. In the first session, Guru Jyotsna Shourie along with her disciples Ms. Nandita Kalaan and Ms. Amrita Sivakumar enthralled the audience with their repertoire of various facets of Bharatanatyam. To the visiting American students from Walton college, they made Indian classical dance seem so real and effortless.They revealed that the most important lessons of business can be learned even on the dance floor; partnership, variation, clear communication, adaptability, building an audience and persistent to name a few.

The other speaker was Ms. Radhika Chopra, Founder of No. 3 Clive Road, a luxury Tea brand that disrupted the $12 billion Indian tea industry spoke at FIIB about starting up in India. With an all women team and working in an industry that employs close to 3.5 million people (mostly women), she spoke about the challenges of building a niche brand that not just helps brew tea but stories as well. No. 3 Clive road with its exquisite hand blended teas and premium letter-pressed stationery throws some light on how differentiation can bring value to a brand. When asked by the students if the colonial name has ever been misunderstood she said, “This is about an Indian company reclaiming back its history.” Her outlook on business and branding provided much needed insights to young entrepreneurs looking out to start up.

Each day was full of discoveries and new experiences to the students. Prof. Vikas Anand from Sam M Walton who has been associated with FIIB since the last 13 years said, “Despite coming from two opposite parts of the world, the students realized that they aren’t that different at all. In the end all that matters is the similarities we find while working together”

In the words of Ms. Radhika Shrivastava, FIIB’s Executive Director, “This is the 10th year anniversary of this program.  The long standing success of the program is a testament to the fruitful partnership and a flourishing friendship we have with the Walton College.”

This program broadened the horizons for FIIB students to understand the complexities of working with culturally diverse teams only for them to find out that people who seem worlds apart could be actually similar at heart.