Tuesday, May 27, 2008

U.S. beckons

13 days, 7 flights, Delhi-London-Chicago-Omaha-NewYork-Washington-London-Mumbai, and experience of a lifetime.

I happened to be one of those lucky few who got the opportunity to be a part of the student exchange program between my B school and University of nebraska, Omaha, United states. Enduring a 28 hour flight from Delhi to Omaha in itself was a huge thing for me. But it was not as bad as i thought it would be. The hospitality of the organisers and students of University of Nebraska amazed to me to a large extent. There were eagerly waiting to receive us in the Omaha airport and take us to the hotel. Everything from accomodation to food to small things like 'no ice in water' were taken care of.

The highlight of the trip was attending the Annual ShareHolder's Meeting of Berkshire Hathway and meeting Warren Buffet. Spending one whole afternoon, amidst 30,000 shareholders of Berkshire Hathway from all over the world and listening to Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger(vice chairman:Berkshire Hathway) answering the questions shooted by investors with innate wit was a feast in itself. We also attended the workshop series organised by University of Nebraska, which included topics like
-Western Perspective on Indian Thought by Prof.Micheal marie Desmaris, author of Changing minds(A wonderful Canadian Lady, who knew about Indian Culture, Philosophy and sanskrit, more than us).
-Virtual Marketing by Jeremy vlcan who is the director of online marketing at Netshops Inc. an online retailer which
owns and operates over 200 online specialty stores
-Creating Wealth through long term investments by the president and vice-president of Mandarin Investment Counsel.

The trip also included company visits of Gallup Organisation, Mandarin Investment Counsel, infoUSA and Union Pacific. The way we were greeted in these organisations, how they took time to explain to us the working of their organisation and the eagerness they showed to interact with us is indeed commentable. While our days were packed with workshops, seminars and company visits, the evening were fun with cosmic bowling in Thunder Alley, picnic in the picturesque landscapes of Omaha where we even taught our American friends how to play cricket, visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, visit to malls and a baseball game(I simply loved it) between Omaha Royals and some other team within Nebraska(Omaha Royals lost though, after giving a tough fight to the other team.) The organiser couldn't arrange the win for us. :)

After 8 days in Omaha, the place which i felt foreign in the initial days started feeling home. We were going to miss the warm hearted people we met, who took extra effort to make us feel at home, who showed keen interest to know about India and the culture and some who knew much more about India than us. We were sure to miss the people we interacted with and all the fun and rich experiences that we had. The last dinner brought everyone who worked for the trip together, the organisers, students, teachers and all the non teaching staff of University of Nebraska. The students of University of Nebraska picked up titles for all of us, and i was titled 'Female Warren Buffet' :). Some other interesting titles were 'Cricket Pro', given to a friend of mine, who sacrificed his wicket for an American player, 'Best lugguage Handler', to a senior whose lugguage came late in another flight, 'Unlimited Free Minutes', to a friend who was always on phone, etcetcera.

After spending so many amazing days in that picturesque, calm and serene place, it was time to move to NewYork. NewYork is a city full of life. In stark contrast to Omaha, its a city so vibrant with lights, colours and action. We visited NASDAQ, saw the closing bell ceremony being televised(wherein a famous personality ring the closing bell, when the trade closes at 4P.M.). The Times Square, Manhattan, Top of the Rocks(for the entire view of NewYork), everything was equally fascinating. The best part was the Broadway Muscial show 'Legally Blonde' which we managed to catch up on the last day. Truly an amazing experience, considering the effort and time they would have put in to produce such an awesome musical. NewYork is a city i fell in love with at the first sight, be it for its vibrancy, or their excellent subway transport. :)

NewYork trip culminated with a lunch at Ajit Jain's residence. Ajit Jain currently heads several reinsurance business for Berkshire Hathaway and has been touted as a possible successor to Warren Buffett, an alumnus of our Institute. Visiting his residence and family, having lunch with him, hearing him talk about his plans for Berkshire Hathway was an enriching experience. We were amazed beyond words when his wife came and told him 'Warren is on the phone'. Its not everyday that one get to hear this in one's life. :) A sumptous mediterenean lunch by the river side in the backyard of his house and a book containing collected writings from Charlie Munger, personally autographed by him, was the gift from Ajit Jain to each and everyone of us. His wife made a perfect hostess greeting us individually and taking time out to talk to each one of us. A man of that stature accompanying u to the bus and wavying you goodbye felt so surreal. The humility and knowledge exhibited by him, made me realise that these are the two essential factors to suceed in life.

Like all the good things, even this trip had to come to an end. All throughout the trip, one question that was consistently asked to me by Indians and Non-Indians alike was given a chance would you like to work in India or Us and I always had the same answer, India. The reason being, I dont think there is any dearth of opportunities in India at the present moment, and I have my family and majority of friends here. And I must say, they all told me that if they would have asked the same question ten years back, the answer would have been exactly opposite and they would not have left India if they had the same opportunities ten years back. So I feel I am so lucky to be a part of India's unprecedented growth process.

Summer Internships beckons and I took a flight from NewYork and landed directly in Mumbai, the abode for the next 6 months, were i will be working with a reputed investment research firm. Traffic jams, pollution, rush in local trains and high cost of living, Mumbai is characteristed by all of these, and I am liking every bit of it. Afterall not everyone gets to be a part of India Inc. growth story !!!

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