Saturday, February 15, 2014

Taj Mahal 
The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage. It’s regarded as the finest representation of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural stylees. 

Seeing the Taj for the first time was amazing. There is a long walkway from the entrance to the actual structure. Halfway between the walkway and the actual Taj is a step/stage type structure with benches on it. It's the perfect picture setting, because when you sit on the bench, the Taj is behind you as the background. When you approach the Taj (at the end of the walkway), you have to take off your shoes and turn them in for safekeeping. Shoes are not allowed on the marble. 
The Taj itself was magnificent. The outside of the building has beautiful marble carvings all along the walls. There are steps and walkways made of marble all around the building, and you can walk all the way around it. The building and towers are perfectly symmetrical. 
Inside, you can view the marble tombs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan. These are fake tombs, and the real ones are underneath. There are stairs leading down to the actual tombs, but those have been cordoned off. Natural lighting lights the inside of the Taj, so it is a bit dark. The walls inside are also beautifully carved, with wonderful inlay work and intricate detail. 

Habitat for Humanity

On Tuesday, January 7, 2014 we visited a not-for-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is known all over the world for its use of volunteers in building low cost houses. Its powerful vision is of a world where everyone has a decent and safe place to live! We got on the bus around 8:30am and arrived at the Habitat facilities at 9am. The morning was cold and foggy. The Hindustani Times said that it hadn’t been this foggy in quite some time. As a result 137 flights were canceled affecting many businessmen and citizens who were traveling. Coming from a very cold state during January like New York, I found the fact that 45F- 50F is considered cold enough to close schools for some time in New Delhi interesting.

Housing is an arduous problem across the world, especially in developing countries like India. Apart from being one of the three basic necessities of life, adequate housing helps to prevent diseases, injury and death, provides security, and increases household and national income. At the meeting with Habitat of Humanity officers, we learned that there is a huge housing need in India and it is a massive challenge to meet it. The country faced a housing shortage of over 18 million housing units by the end of 2011. Building a habitat house is a real life event with genuine meaning and significance. Teams and beneficiaries recognize this and are bonded by a common sense of purpose and the achievement of producing something positive and concrete.
HFH has a history of loyal volunteers that helps manage the risk that core volunteers will go volunteering with a different organization. One of its main strengths is its highly recognizable and respectable brand image, as well as high employee retention.  On the other hand there’s the risk on tenants who may default on their Habitat payments. I was particularly happy to hear mentioned during the presentation that individuals who cannot pay back a loan are not completely disqualified but end up getting a free house in exchange for work on other Habitat projects. The organization doesn’t always get back 100% of the money it invests. It’s usually just 70% and they make up for the difference by getting additional donations. Families that have to pay back loans work with self help groups that educate them on home economics, budgeting, cost efficiency and saving money in order to pay back their loans. After the presentation about Habitat’s work in India we had the chance to buy paintings drawn by children whose life changed thanks to the organization. I chose to purchase one named “Right to Shelter” by a 14 year old girl, Vanshika Babbar.

The ride to the Habitat for Humanity worksite was about an hour and a half. The commute consisted of dust roads, fog, humidity and plenty of traffic.Upon arrival we were greeted with a welcoming ceremony where about 20 women were seated in front of us to talk about their role in the Habitat community. They decide which family needs money to built a house the most, select families for Habitat houses and get groups of women together to introduce to them loans. The Habitat model is based on the philosophy that it is not a charity organization. It provides interest free loans to the poor, who cannot get financing from banks.  Funds come from individuals or corporate donors and are then channeled to the deserving recipients through local NGOs. At this location we witnessed the conditions the lowest class of the Indian society lives in. At one point during our tour of the site we all helped put down the foundations of building a new house for a Habitat beneficiary. couldn’t help but notice that even though those children were living in the slums they seemed to be very happy. 

In order to improve operations Dr. Predmore and I suggested accessing new donor segments to find new allies who are capable and ready to contribute their ideas and resources habitat. 80% of the funds are raised within India from companies, individuals, and well wishers. There is some effort made in reaching out to Indian born people who have relocated around the world and expatriates in the diaspora but not enough. A list of people who have renounced their Indian citizenship can be obtained from embassies around the world. Habitat personnel should reach out and make them aware of the mission, efforts and needs of Habitat in building a slum free India. Fundraising efforts should target wealthy Indian expatriates, as their donations are able to reach more people in need. Getting a low dollar donation takes as much time and effort as getting a high dollar donation, thus higher dollar donations provide a greater return for the time and hard work you invest in getting them.

In the evening we went to a government owned shopping center. On our way there our tour guide, Gotham couldn’t help but express resentment towards the neighboring country Pakistan after we told him about our day at Habitat. He claimed that out of mere jealousy Pakistan brings economical burden to Indians and that they are to blame for the lack of growth in the country. There are more mouths to feed than resources. There are about 1.3 million army members and about 40% of the country’s GDP goes to maintain one of the largest militaries in the world. Gurcharan Das, the author of "India Unbound" feels differently. He argues in an interview that pervasive corruption and threats to its secular traditions, not external forces, are the biggest challenges India faces at present. The threat to India is not from outside, is not Pakistan, is not China. The threat to India is within.  

When we got to the shopping center, the first thing I browsed for were the beautiful silky carpets from Kashmir. They were all handmade by craftsmen and artisans with silk and very fine fabrics. Next I went looking at the Ganesh, which bring good fortune and other hand carved decorative ornaments. The pashmina shawls, unique to India, were very soft, light and rich in color. Nita, the sales associate, a very charming and persistent lady helped me choose a pretty minty, silk scarf with elegant brown embroidery.  Shopping experience in India is quite different from that in the U.S.  We all had some fun bargaining prices down! J

Friday, January 10, 2014

Day 6: Manufacturing Companies & Kingdom of Dreams

On today's adventure, we went to 2 different manufacturing companies called Mahle and Gabriel India Inc. Mahle is a manufacturing company that produces oil filters, fuel filter, industrial filters, air filters etc. Gabriel is a company focused on manufacturing the shocks of different types of cars. Both companies are essentially automotive suppliers. In seeing both these companies today, I was able to notice that Mahle has more people in the plant then Gabriel. For Mahle, there seems to be more tedious work to be done (work that can't be done by a machine) than for the Gabriel company.

Below are a few pictures that I was able to take while in Mahle. We were able to see the process of how the oil filters are created.

(Start of the process, creating the container for the filter.)

(End product-this specific oil filter was created for Harley Davidson)

 (A view of the inside of the Gurgaon Plant)

(Marking process. This man's hands were moving so fast that it became impossible for me to steady the picture.)

(The blue letters was what the man in the above picture was putting on the filters)

To end the day, we were taken to a place called the Kingdom of Dreams. The place was exciting from the moment we got off the bus. A few of us were able to ride a camel and go on a bungee jump ride (which first and for most I want to tell my mom that I was the first dare devil to get on the ride. Even though she might not be too happy about that, she knows I had to do it!!! :D). After finally getting into the Kingdom of Dreams, were were able to do a bit of shopping, eat and watch a colorful, moving, fantastic Bollywood play called Zangoora (Promo of play can be seen using this link The play is about a prince who's parents are killed and he is saved by one of his father's friends. The little baby prince (Zangoora) is left with a group of gypsies. Zangoora grows up and becomes a big ladies man and a bit of a trouble maker in the way that fairy tale movies mostly portray the male character (like Aladdin and Simba-even though the Lion King was not technically a fairy tale, but the play did resemble the Lion King movie to many of us that is why I included the name). During the play, Zangoora meets a princess and he falls in love with her. By the end of the play, we all know what is bound to happen and it does. Even though the play is what we normally know to occur in these fair tale type productions, this play was phenomenal. I enjoyed all the music and dancing even though the play was in Hindi and not in English. At the end, a few of us were able to join the cast and dance through the middle aisle. 

Below are a few pictures of some of the adventures in the Kingdom of Dreams...

(Jess and I outside of the Kingdom of Dreams by the elephant fountain)

(Chris and Lauren riding the Camel)

(Bungee Jump ride- Abdulah and Allen)

(Grant and Sean riding a camel)


(Grant doing his Hindu god pose!)

(Inside the Kingdom of Dreams. The town looks immense but in reality it is all just an illusion.) 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day 5: Janta Adarsh Andh Vidyalaya (Special Residential School for blind children)

Day 5: Janta Adarsh Andh Vidyalaya (Special Residential School for blind children)

This school was established by Sh. J. S. Sharma, a visually handicapped man who was inspired to do something for those like him with the motto of “Learn and Earn”, on December 25th, 1970.  This school is a non-profit organization, which provides free education, boarding and lodging for 140 blind children from different states in India and belonging to poor families. 

This school consists of students of ages 6 to 16 and they teach grades 1 to 10.  When a student is ready to go into the 11th and 12th grade, the student goes out to an integrated school (integrated meaning a school with students who are not visually impaired) but still live at the school for the blind.  Most of these students then go off to college and have jobs, they are not good jobs but they are jobs that will sustain them enough. 

I think it is great that this school is teaching these children on how to become mobile beginning at the age of 6, so that they can go and become what they want in life.  Most of these students have the aspirations of becoming teachers; this shows the value they see in their education.  Besides mobility, these students learn braille, instruments, science, computers and home economics. 

This school receives a grant from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which covers 30% of the school’s financial needs; the rest is met through donations by ordinary people like you and me.  If you would like to make a donation, please visit their website at or e-mail them at

Below are some images and videos taken in the school!

Widow of Sh. J. S. Sharma, Principal of Janta Adarsh Andh Vidyalaya (Special Residential School for blind children)

Some of the students from the school 

One of the older students from the group introducing himself before playing his instrument

Ashah, a 6 year old who resides at this school

Some of the students from the school, others were home due to Winter Break

Entrance of the school

Link to Video of the students singing to Manhattan College:

This blog was created with images and videos taken by Eleana and Britney.
Day 5: JWT

(Before reading, please be advised that this blog contains a few links to the commercials that were shown to us today. I have included the links because unfortunately I am unable to post the actual videos. Please watch the ads so that you can get a better sense of what we experienced; the ads are very short and won't consume too much of your time. Enjoy)

Part of our trip today consisted of meeting a marketing company called JWT.

(Some of the companies for which JWT India does marketing for. 
The group we met today handles Frito Lays)

While visiting the company, we learned how advertisement has evolved in India and we also learned that India is a very hard market to tap into (if you don't believe me just ask KFC who failed in their first attempt in getting into the Indian market; coming back four years later with an entirely new menu and taste).

JWT showed us a few of the ads that were being published throughout the times. One of my favorite ads was called The Tree which was put in place by a movement called the Lead India initiative. The message that was being taught to all of India was that as a nation, India had to stop taking a back seat to what was happening around them and instead help out,  become leaders. Another ad that I really found enjoyable (and was created by JWT itself) was a Nike ad which shows a group of men on top of cars and buses playing cricket in order to pass the time because of the traffic. In the way I have explained it, it sounds very simple but in reality it is not, it seems fun.

Among the other ads that were shown to us, there was one that was even seen negative by the marketing team because even though what was being shown in the ad was a relative ideal among the nation (or even world wide I might say), it was seen as offensive by all in the room. The ad was for a cream called Fair & Lovely (while looking in the internet, I also found the male version ad for this cream). The term fair in India means light skin. Lighter skin is seen as beautiful (an idea imposed by the British in India) and even though, the idea has tried to be pushed away by some, the desire to want fairer skin is still a wide spread belief. I can relate to this because in Dominican Republic, the lighter your skin, the better it is (it is a wide spread belief in my culture that the darker you are, the more mixed your family is with the Haitian nation and  knowing about our history can explain why this is also kind of looked down on). I myself am darker in skin color but trust me, I wouldn't change that for the world. All in all, it is interesting to see how even though the general sense of the idea of being fair is there, there are many who are trying to change that but I believe it will take longer then expected to change this cultural belief.

A few of the thumb rules that we learned when advertising in India is that (1) everything here is about the added value of the product (2) when advertising, the ad must tap into "Indianism" (in simpler terms, into the India culture (3) products will have to be tweaked (ex: McDonald's with the vegetarian section) and (4) localization is key (whether it be macro or micro localization).

With this new understanding of how advertising and marketing are managed in India, we were put to the test. Every table (made up of 4 to 5 students) was given a company; we were given the task to promote the company in some way. My group consisted of Brittany, Jessica and Prof. Shah. The company we were given was Harley Davidson which in India is considered a luxury brand and is extremely expensive (the motorcycles are imported from America and tariffs are very high for imports here). To us, Harley Davidson represented freedom so we choose to create an ad that composed the sense of freedom and mileage (which is a very big deal in India) all in one. The ad idea we came up with started off by showing the snapshots of a father's daily activities (waking up, helping with the kids, going to work, etc). As this father comes home from work, he brings home some food and helps put down the kids, as the kids are in bed the dad takes the keys for his bike and is seen driving off (showing the ability for the Harley Davidson to give him a bit of freedom after a long day). At the end of the scene (while he drives off), the words "Dads go the extra mile" will appear in the screen (showing the mileage aspect of the Harley). If I say so myself, my group did an awesome job. :)

Below are some pictures of the JWT part of the day.

(The Pepsi Ad art work-full view and partial)

(Brandon, Grant, Gabe & Allen)

 (Lauren, Patrick, Clarice & Chris)

 (Kiara & Sean)

 (Jessica & I)

(My other group member, Britney)

Session 5: JWT Marketing/Advertising Firm 
Today the class went to visit JWT's office in Delhi. Their team prepared a fantastic presentation and a warm welcome. Shout out to JWT's CEO who happens to be a Jasper! Check out some of the creative advertisments they showed us during their presentation. These ads cater to the Indian consumer, notice the difference from ads in the west.
Nike Cricket TV Comercial:
Liril Soap:
Times of India:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014