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A Land of Contrasts
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A Land of Contrasts

Donovan Maben ’11 & Tom McKrill ’11 Experience Two Sides of India During Internship

By Christian Taske '07

When Donovan Maben ’11 and Tom McKrill ’11 graduated this past May, their educational experience at Notre Dame College wasn’t quite over yet. The two students had one adventure left. Together with Assistant Professor of International Business Steve Hotchkiss, Maben and McKrill traveled to Bangalore, India, over the summer to intern with the Sisters of Notre Dame in the business offices of their Sophia School.

To fulfill one of their degree requirements, the two students, who majored in international business at Notre Dame, spent four weeks at the school, which educates more than 3,000 children from kindergarten through high school. In addition, they traveled the country and toured the facilities of three international corporations. In the process, they learned about the accounting and finance practices of India, and experienced that the country of more than a billion people is a land of contrasts.

Tom McKrill & Donovan MabenOn their travels to Mysore, Mangalore, Jaipur, Akra and Delhi, the two students and professor Hotchkiss were confronted with constant contrasts of beauty, wealth and poverty. They visited stunning Hindu temples, relaxed in elaborate parks in major cities, and met wealthy people who live in elegant high rises or private enclaves. But they also saw the slums and encountered countless of the more than 600 million Indians living on only about $2 a day.

“Such poverty is so overwhelming that it is hard to envision a day when it will be even partially alleviated,” Hotchkiss says. “But in spite of this abysmal condition, there is a beauty of the people and a certain peacefulness that is hard to define, not to mention believe.”

Hotchkiss says the students realized that, despite this massive poverty, India is a country of sophisticated and skilled people who work for world-class corporations. The management style in these companies can be radically different from those in the U.S., the students realized as they learned to appreciate a different way of living.

Such an experience cannot be replicated in the classroom, Hotchkiss says. “There’s no substitute for it. All the books in the world only create an illusion. You need something that’s concrete, visible, tangible.”

Hotchkiss set up the internship with the help of Sr. Valerie Sweeney, SND ’75 and Sr. Marie Manning, SND ’71 of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Chardon, Ohio, who financially support the mission in India. The Sisters in Bangalore agreed to host two interns to work closely with the business manager at Sophia School.

The school is located on the grounds of the SND Provincial Center in Bangalore and serves a rather affluent clientele. It has an operating budget of close to $5 million and uses much of the funds to support poor missions in small communities throughout India. It employs 65 teachers and most of the 30 Sisters living there work in management positions at the school.

Maben, McKrill and Hotchkiss were living in the simple guest quarters at the complex. The interns worked with the school accountant to become familiar with Indian accounting practices, payroll, fees management and government regulations.

Hotchkiss, McKrill & Maben“We learned that there is no inventory for NGOs and that the depreciation rates are calculated based upon the income tax rates, for example,” McKrill says. “All tuition payments are made through the ‘Central Bank of India,’ which is housed on campus but only used by the school for tuition and fees purposes.”

Besides those hands-on experiences, McKrill and Maben were able to gain some insights into India’s booming economy as they visited three global corporations: RCI, a division of Wyndham Worldwide and one of the largest brokers of timeshare trades with 3.8 million members globally; Wipro Limited, the second largest IT services company in India with more than 120,000 employees worldwide; and the pharmaceutical company Micro Labs Limited.

The visit to Micro Labs was particularly eye-opening for the students.

“Micro Labs distributes its products worldwide but has only recently been FDA approved in the U.S.,” Maben says. “Its main goal by 2014 is to enter the U.S. market and achieve sales of $1 billion.”

Maben and McKrill met with assembly line workers, chemists and even senior-level executives at Micro Labs. What struck them the most was that, despite its ambitions, the company is run like a family business.

“It was apparent from our meetings with the operational staff and business department heads that everybody acts and is treated as family at Micro Labs,” Maben says. “This, no doubt, starts at the very top and works its way down to the lower levels of the company.”

At Micro LabsMaben and McKrill experienced this personal touch first-hand as senior executives including the sales, finance and marketing managers met with them to answer questions.

“It was extremely impressive to see how friendly and eager these executives were to answer our questions even though they were extremely busy,” Maben says. “Usually it would be next to impossible to get all the senior-level executives in one room.”

The interns were also impressed with the plant’s cleanliness, quality control and commitment to be eco-friendly. “Everything that could be recycled at the plant, such as excess water, was re-used in some other capacity,” Maben says. “At the end of the day, it was clear to us why this company is and will be very successful.”

Visiting these hi-tech companies opened the students’ eyes to the business opportunities in India as well as the companies’ strengths and what they have to offer to U.S. clients.

“These companies have in common a strong sense of a social contract – something we seem to be losing in the U.S.,” Hotchkiss says. “The motto of one company read: ‘Determined to Win, Action with Sensitivity, Unyielding Integrity.’ How can one not admire that?”

Hotchkiss, Maben and McKrill were so impressed with the experience in India that Hotchkiss plans to repeat it for other students. He is also looking into other countries where the Sisters of Notre Dame may have connections and is working on putting together a study abroad program.

“The students had a very rich, deep and broadening experience,” he says.

During the final days of that experience, Hotchkiss and the students visited the Indian Institute of Management, a prestigious graduate school that receives 20,000 applications for 500 openings each year. Its professors hold chairs endowed by Indian and world-class corporations, and its lush, self-contained campus was like an oasis. The next day, they visited Chrystal House, a K-12 school that teaches children of families living in slums on less than $2 a day.

“Such are the contrasts in India,” Hotchkiss says. “Visible affluence amidst overwhelming poverty.”

To read a blog about Tom and Donovan’s internship in India, visit www.NotreDameCollege.edu/blogs/india-2011.

Christian Taske ’07 is the editor and writer at Notre Dame College.