It was a highly beneficial and favourable trek for the MBA students about to pursue their journey at Cambridge Judges Business School in August 2019.

The trek was led by Sathya Kumar, founder of VILG (Vivekananada School of Leadership and Governance). The theme of the trek was to study models in business which empower women, and as well as a wider focus on social empowerment. Sathya kumar, an avid speaker, thinker, and accountant accompanied the trek and discussed various models of social entrepreneurship. He is a highly acclaimed thinker with his inputs being recognised by Niti Aayog for social and economic reformation. The students cannot thank him enough for this enlightening journey.

The trek commenced from Chennai, a city previously known as Madras. Located on the Coromandel Coast, it is the biggest cultural, economic and educational centre of South India.

The first visit was to a SEZ in Chennai where the MD of the company Sasikumar Gendham shared the varying functions of the company. Sharing news about the imminent takeover from Chinese Company Salcomp, he explained that they were a market leader in smartphone chargers and adaptors. The work environment there was very friendly and the MD was an inspiring figure. He had himself, started his own career within an operational role and then climbed the ladder to become the MD.

The company has over 8000 employees, the majority of which are women from nearby villages. The work environment is very supportive to their workers and quality control is of paramount importance. There are systems in place where attendance is auto tracked through Wi-fi. The assembly line is set according to the actual attendance, making the company more efficient. The use of ergonomic chairs especially designed for the female workforce is particularly noteworthy.

The profit of the company is dependent on the number of the chargers which comes out in perfect quality and the number which has to be discarded. The quality monitoring team ensures this happens very diligently so as to maximize the profit. It was a great learning curve for the students about how small quality monitoring changes the mathematics of revenue exponentially.

The second visit was to a company Intellect, which manufactures software’s for banking and finance. We were not fortunate to meet Arun Jain the founder of the intellect who has pioneered design thinking in business. He was the founder of the then company Polaris which was sold to Virtusa , USA and now has a small subsidiary which he runs as Intellect.  Arun jain has pioneered the school of design thinking under which he runs many programmes, one such  program called Unmukt is a platform where you can learn from Arun himself regarding the pursuit of Design Thinking & a design-driven strategy forming the DNA of Intellect Design Arena. He elaborates the transformation of Intellect into a complete Design Driven organisation.

India is a cradle of creativity where brilliant & bright ideas have taken birth. Normally, the society which is marred by constraints gives rise to many ideas. But how many of those ideas have taken a giant leap and become an Apple, Google or IBM? What pulls back the entrepreneurs from achieving a 5X or an ambitious 10X growth? School of Design Thinking enables entrepreneurs to review the blueprint of their company with a Design Outlook to prepare their company’s road map for the next decade or so. It was awe inspiring to learn about various design thinking concepts in the visit to Intellect Company.

The company has a turnover of 2Million USD annually and has clients from overseas as well as India. The whole design of the building was quite friendly for health with sunlight beaming in across all sides. There were no walls, there were glass doors instead where one can scribble if required. There were blue filter lights in the meeting rooms allowing staff to remain awake by hitting the right wave generation in the brain through the environment.

The third visit of the day was to a Ramakrishna Centre in Chennai, where over 700 young orphans are given shelter and access to higher education for free. The mission is to help anyone who has lost a parent or who cannot afford education. There are regular prayers being conducted and in the building next door, vocational training was on offer to up skill the young work force at a nominal rate. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dream to see the young force working to support the wider country’s success.

One of the highlights of the trek was a visit to Meyur village, a village which was quite badly affected by the influence of alcohol and has a high mortality rate for males associated with illegal alcohol use. For the empowerment of the women alongside rural development, the Ramakrishna Mission has established a Centre which focuses on providing sewing machines and also teaches rural women knitting to support their economic independence. Tuition is also offered to younger community members for free. There are scholarships and bursaries on offer, so that students can pursue higher education. The whole Centre is dedicated to the principles of Swami Vivekananda on the values of service in action.

The next day the trek went to the beautiful city of Coimbatore, where we visited the huge University Avinashilingam. The university hosts over 7000 young female students for various courses. Avinashilingam University is a women’s Deemed University in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. Founded in 1957 by the Avinashilingam Education Trust it later grew into the University of today. It is now the largest institution in the country for teaching home science education, split into seven Faculties.

Many unique research ideas are being cultivated by the faculties and implemented by their students . The environment of learning was collaborative with a lot of emphasis on self-thinking.

Vice Chancellor Dr.Premavathy Vijayan, MSc, MED, MPhil and PHD was an inspirational person to meet. A distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Special Education from 1999-2015. We had a highly stimulating discussion on special education needs and the gaps in India, and what improvements can be made.

The institution truly stood by its mission of empowering women through education. It was humbling to meet the team and staff at the University.

As we ourselves start our own journey to Cambridge University and the MBA, it was a humbling moment to share that experience with over 700 women seated at a gathering to meet us. The day ended with a lot of positive learning for everyone. The trek remains as a deep learning experience for the students, and we cannot thank Sathya Kumar enough for to have made this possible.