Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 2:47 PM PDT
From August 19-24 I did a quick trip to India to visit the Xavier Labor Relations Institute (XLRI) in Jamshedpur, India. XLRI is a Jesuit university in India that offers only graduate business programs, both at the master's and doctoral levels. It has a strong reputation in the country, consistently appearing in the Top Five of business school rankings, but is less well known outside of India. The purpose of the visit was to assist them with their effort to obtain accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), an accreditation held by 750 business schools around the world, including the Albers School.
XLRI got its start in the 1940's when Tata Steel asked the Jesuits to provide training to its managers on improved labor relations. Tata was a company ahead of its time in terms of how it viewed the role of business in society and how workers should be treated as a precious resource. The early leaders of XLRI were Jesuits from the US, but over time Jesuits who are Indians have gradually taken over the reins. A few of those early Jesuits, now in their 90's, still live on the XLRI campus and I was able to meet them!
Jamshedpur is literally a Tata company town known for its steel mills. It is also a town that is hard to get to, as it does not have commercial airline service. To get there, I had to fly to Delhi and take a flight from Delhi to the city of Ranchi. Then you take a daunting car ride from Ranchi to Jamshedpur. Most of the way it is a two lane highway with your driver constantly angling to pass the next car or truck and duck in just in time before oncoming traffic. The drive is an important part of the Indian experience and hard to fully describe. It's best to sit in the back seat and stare out at the countryside and not watch the road!
Most of the distance from Ranchi to Jamshedpur shows evidence of building a four lane highway between the two towns, but it is a work in progress and no segment has actually been completed. The locals say the expanded highway has been under construction for four years and because of corruption progress has been slow. At the same time, there were a few segments of the journey when we drove on private toll roads. These roads were well maintained and not very crowded, and show that India is more than capable of taking on its infrastructure problem, but there just does not happen to be a toll road for the drive between Ranchi and Jamshedpur! :}
June 23rd was a Sunday, so I attended the 8:30 AM mass at the campus chapel. I had been told earlier that almost all the XLRI students and staff are Hindus, so the fact that there were only about 75 in attendance was not surprising. But about half way through the mass, I realized that the last time I was at a mass in India, Mother Theresa was there! This happened in 1997 when I was a faculty member at Creighton University and helping to lead a study tour to India. Back then, there were not a lot of Americans going to Calcutta, but those that did talked about attending the early morning mass at Mother Theresa's mission, and sure enough, when we did, she was there and we were fortunate enough to visit with her afterwards! Ironically, the priest saying the XLRI mass referenced Mother Theresa's early morning mass attendance, noting that when asked about it, she replied that if she did not check in with the Lord every day then her work would "just be social work."
While it was the monsoon season in India, most of the time the sun was out and they reported it had been a weak monsoon year. Naturally, it was much more hot and humid in Jamshedpur than in Seattle, but one seems to spend enough time in air conditioned buildings and cars that it does not make much difference. The only time it rained was on the drive back to Ranchi as my trip was coming to a close, and that was intermittent and caused no problems with the driving.
The flight from Ranchi to Delhi proved to be interesting. As we approached Delhi, the pilot announced the presence of thunderstorms and we would have to do 15-20 minutes of circling until the storms cleared. The air was very rough and we did a lot of bouncing around, and after an hour we were still circling, but suddenly we were making an approach and all of the sudden we had landed. Then the pilot announced that all the other planes that had been circling ran out of fuel and had to be diverted to other locations, and if we had missed our approach, we would have had to do the same. That would not have been good, because then I would have missed my flight to Frankfurt!
On the flight from Ranchi, I met Sakshi Singh Rawat, the wife of M.S. Dhoni, the iconic cricket player and current India national team captain. Prior to my trip, I did not know anything about Mr. Dhoni, but while at XLRI they proudly talked about him since he had grown up in Ranchi. According to the London School of Marketing, he is Number Nine among the world's most marketable sports stars, ahead of Ronaldo and Kobe Bryant, for example. Despite the global celebrity status, they still choose to live in Ranchi rather than Delhi or Mumbai or any other large city. (Ranchi is not a big city by India standards, with a population of less than one million). By the way, although she is a seasoned traveler, Mrs. Dhoni thought our bumpy ride was the worst she had ever experienced!
Once in Delhi, I needed to transfer from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, which is normally a ten minute taxi ride. Unfortunately, because of the huge storm and resulting flooding, traffic was a disaster, and it took over an hour to make the transfer. Luckily, there was plenty of cushion built into the schedule and I had no trouble making my 2:30 AM flight to Frankfurt and back to Seattle!