By the time you read this, the 940 first-year students of the Class of 2015 will have just returned from HBS FIELD 2. FIELD 2 is a program where 6 person teams of first-year students are partnered with a foreign company in a financially emerging country. Starting in October, we begin working, from the US, with our global partners on a pressing business issue. The project concludes with a 10-day trip to work in the FIELD with our partners, formally ending with a business recommendation from the HBS team.
I traveled to New Delhi to work with a start-up in the financial services technology space. This company was doing truly disruptive work to bring financial services to India’s unbanked / underbanked population (~700 million) in an effort to help lift their fellow citizens into the middle class, or at least closer to it.
The experience has been transformational. The first word that comes to mind is SCALE. Everything in India is large. Between my global partner and the other 5 partners working with other HBS groups in New Delhi, there is an immense amount of talent in this country. The country still has far to go, but with a population of 1.2 billion people it is rich in one major natural resource: human capital. I found that most Indians are incredibly entrepreneurial, much more than in the West, where a large number of people are needed to work in large corporations for other people. For comparison, India has around 40 million small businesses to 23 million in the U.S. (The U.S. has more small businesses per capita, but that metric is skewed because working age India’s population is not much larger than America’s.)
And more than 50% of 1.2 billion are below the age of 25. The potential for India is exciting as these citizens come online and begin to have an even larger voice in our global economy. One small example: with 92 million Facebook users, India is on track to become the largest Facebook user market by 2016, outgrowing the US with 152 million users.
The scale of India’s challenges is also immense (public works, transportation, education and digital infrastructure), but the opportunities presented by India’s rise cannot be ignored by any business that improves quality of life.
FIELD 2 was an amazing experience not just because of the travel, but also because of my diverse and talented team. Our team had students that worked in financial services, consulting and non-profit work in Africa. Getting to know them personally and witnessing their competency during an acute project timeline was another slice of this massive talent exchange called the HBS MBA experience.
P.S. In the five months since my first post , Miles started walking and has about five words. Bragging parent alert: he actually started walking at eight months, so we’ve been relatively busy! Devan has become so active in the Crimson Parents Club that next year, we are moving on campus to shorten HER commute, which is often 30 minutes by car. Aside: I ride my bike to school; it only takes 15 minutes and is great way to start the day!