Before the start of MBA program in 2019, a group of Indian MBA candidates decided to organise a pre-MBA India trek across different industries to gain insights on the business trends and challenges in both the domestic and global market. What started as an idea to interact with future classmates over informative talks, transformed into a massive planning of official meetings and networking events scheduled in 3 major cities (New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai) over a period of 11 days.

Eighteen incoming candidates participated in at least one event during the entire trek which introduced us to more than 35 business experts and leaders across India.

Starting in New Delhi in July the KPMG Partner Sushant Rabra introduced us to the world of consulting and gave us insights to digital transformation within the industry and the need to constantly evolve within a consulting firm. Yogja Singh, Associate Director Human Resources, also helped us understand the kind of skill set that companies like KPMG look for, while recruiting candidates.

Our next stop was Coca Cola India, where we met Chandramohan Gupta, Director of Corporate Affairs. He discussed with us industry challenges and the kind of food and beverage innovations that the company is adopting to overcome those challenges. We also heard about the sustainability initiatives across the sector and how Coca Cola is contributing to it.

We followed this with a visit to PWC, meeting the Directors, Prashant Nagwanshi and Lokesh Gulati. Both of them introduced us to areas of risk management, legal and regulatory compliance and what it takes to build a successful career at PWC. They also explored why PWC’s Annual global CEO survey has become a great tool to understand the mindset and expectations of the CEOs around the globe.

Our last day in Delhi was dedicated to a comprehensive visit to the Office of British High Commissioner to India. At the office, we were scheduled to meet several experts who enlightened us on topics ranging from improvements in the visa regulations to economic corridors between UK and India and how entrepreneurs can leverage the UK government initiatives to build businesses in the UK.

Our next stop was Bangalore with a visit to Metro Cash and Carry India head office, where we met its leadership team. They gave us an insight on the developments in the wholesale business and the company’s various digital transformation initiatives that aim to impact the lives of small shop owners in India. They also explained about the need to digitise its stores and their Direct Farm sourcing business model. The discussion was followed by a tour of the facility in which we were introduced to the company’s innovative product placement strategy.

The next day in Bangalore started with an early morning visit to the Mercedes Benz R&D Head office in India where we met Manu Saale, the company’s CEO and MD. We were fortunate to have a one and a half hour candid talk with one of the most successful CEOs in India. Apart from giving us an insight to the global automotive industry, Manu also talked to us about the essential leadership qualities and how we can leverage our MBA programme to work on the skill set required to lead global businesses.

Our next stop was the India head office of the UK based retail giant, Tesco. At Tesco, Mary McSparron, Head of Market Services introduced us to the vast business services of Tesco. We also met the leaders of different departments who helped us understand what it takes to manage the massive business group. Tesco then hosted us for a luxurious lunch at their facility. Next stop was Yunus Social Business, an impact investment company, where we met an alumna, Priya Shah.

Priya introduced us to the growing career opportunities in the field of impact investment and the social impact of such organisations. She also gave us insights to the various Global Consulting Project opportunities on the Cambridge MBA.

After the visit at Yunus, we were all staring at a much needed break over the weekend and planned a two days trip to Hampi, a UNESCO world heritage site. The surreal landscape of the ruins took us back in time of a Majestic kingdom of South India. With half a day left in Bangalore we visited logistical startup, Blowhorn, founded by CJBS alumnus Mithun Srivatsa, alongside alumnus Manasij Kar, who leads the Product Marketing for a digital startup in Bangalore.

The last leg of the trek was in Mumbai. Our first stop was a talk with Anil Nair, MD and CEO of L&K Saatchi and Saatchi, the leading advertising company in India. Anil introduced us to this glamorous industry sector and the challenges it faces. He also helped us understand how business graduates can contribute to digital integration of the industry and solve those challenges. This was followed by the Welspun Group, one of the biggest Indian conglomerates in the manufacturing industry. Hosted by the Welspun leadership team we were enlightened about the diversity of businesses at Welspun and their initiatives to empower more women in the workforce. We were introduced to the company’s Group Leadership Programme and further collaborative opportunities with leading global business schools. The Marketing class by Anuj helped us understand the complexities of the Indian market and the perspective of the leadership in dealing with it. Welspun were a generous and hospitable host.

The next day started with a discussion with Annaswamy Vaidheesh, MD of the pharmaceutical giant, GSK India. Vaidheesh talked about the importance of diving deep to understand a problem from the leadership perspective. He also briefed us about the massive vision of GSK and how business graduates can contribute to its growth. After GSK, we proceeded to meet Smita Jacob, a social impact consultant who works at Sattva Consulting, one of the biggest India based social impact organisation. Over lunch, she talked about the industry and its future growth trajectory.

We then head to Oriano Clean Energy, a renewable energy startup founded by our alumnus Sachin Jain. Sachin talked to us about his inspiring story of taking the organisation from 0 to over $40 million within four years. Alongside insights into the renewable energy space, he also advised us on how to effectively manage our time at CJBS.

Our next stop in Mumbai was meeting with Nikhil Taneja, CEO and Cofounder of Yuvaa, a social impact entertainment company. Nikhil talked to us about his inspiring journey in the field of media and entertainment and his various film making projects. He also helped us understand business development and strategic roles in this industry. Our last stop was the Indian Agritech giant, Jain Irrigation, a $2 billion conglomerate that has grown its both business and social impact arms, exponentially over the last decade.

We were hosted at the Jain facility for a full day at their luxurious guest accommodation. Dr Subramaniam, Sr Manager R&D accompanied us for the tour of the massive 1000 acre R&D farm lands and technology centres of the company. We visited many food processing units of the company to understand the large scale operations of its state-of-art manufacturing units. At the end of the day we met a visionary leader, Dr. Dilip Kulkarni, President of the company. Dr. Kulkarni talked to us about the importance of passion, humility and empathy as leadership qualities to lead large businesses. He told us about the collaboration of Jain Irrigation with Harvard Business School and a case study on the Jain Irrigation business model.

The trek finally came to an end after a long list of meetings and evening networking events with the CJBS Alumni. Each participant of the trek gained some perspective that would be helpful even beyond our MBA programme.