A sultry air is beating at me as I leave the air-conditioned halls of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad and follow our driver to the parking lot. Although it is four o'clock in the morning, there is a lot of hustle and bustle - honking auto-rickshaws, stray dogs and various traders block the road. I wipe the sweat off my forehead and inhale this new fragrance. It smells of petrol, fried food and incense sticks. Still somewhat sleep-drunk I notice all this and let it work on me.
Welcome to India! I am taking you on a journey where I will spend three months at MICA in Ahmedabad, a partner university of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.
MICA – THE SCHOOL OF IDEAS
MICA - also known as ‘The School of Ideas’ - is a business management school in Ahmedabad that specializes in strategic communication and marketing. MICA sees marketing as a way of life which is reflected in the wide variety of subjects like Strategic Communication, Consumer Insights Mining or Online User Behaviour, along with subjects such as Imagining India, Cultural Context of Communication or Luxury Branding.
The selection process for the b-school, MICA, is very strict - out of around 10,000 applicants, almost 200 students are selected from a mix of online examinations and oral interviews. It is, therefore, no wonder that it is considered a privilege to study here at MICA. Knowing this, we also feel privileged, even if it is only for one trimester to be allowed to study here.
The campus is made up of various hostels in which the students share a room with each other for the next two years. Each hostel becomes a second home; this is shown by the fact that walls are artfully painted, fans bought and musical instruments dragged along - this is the first time for most people that they move away from home. The most special place is the Chota Canteen - the charming 24/7 open-air kiosk. This place has already conquered our hearts after the first week because of the delicious fruit salad offered there - rice and spicy lentil dal are not necessarily the dishes which our western stomachs are used to early in the morning.
The most exotic building here is the Auditorium, which is known beyond national borders for its uniqueness. The students don't sit on uncomfortable chairs but rather on comfortably arranged, coloured cushions (aka Macaroons), on which one sometimes runs the risk of losing oneself in daydreams instead of following the lessons. It goes without saying that the shoes are taken off before entering the auditorium - which in turn gives the barefoot lecturers a certain lightness, but does not make them appear any less serious.
WHAT MAKES A MICAN
The biggest culture shock, if one can even speak of, is not the tropical temperatures or the spicy food, but simply the people of the country itself. Rarely have I met people with such a great zest for life, such an enviable enthusiasm for the small and big things in life and above all with such a great willingness to help. Of course, as Swiss women, we benefit from the "Foreigner Bonus" and are therefore cared for in a special way, as a Hindi proverb says that guests should be treated like gods - and that's how we feel here, too. The students, lecturers and employees of the campus really do everything they can to make our stay as pleasant as possible.
Since very few students have left the country so far, we are perceived as representatives for the whole of Europe, which is reflected in their tireless questions about culture, country and people, as well as in the typical Swiss stereotypes they know best - scenes from the nationally-known Bollywood movie DDLJ are set in the Jungfrau region. Not to forget the hotly coveted Swiss sports idols Roger Federer and Xherdan Shaqiri, who are on everyone's lips here to our astonishment.
Just as interested as they are in our culture, they are relentless in introducing us to theirs and familiarizing us with their rich history, customs and social manners. Once again, we become aware of our "garden fence thinking", which often prevents us from getting out of ourselves and leaving our comfort zone. The MICANs, on the other hand, hardly know anything like a comfort zone. As soon as the opportunity arises to communicate in some form - be it in class, as a dancer or singer on stage or simply by cheering on a cricket game or a Bollywood movie they are all in.
MICANS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD
Their strong personality also makes our Indian fellow students good employees who can hold their own in the business world. Their strong need for communication and willingness to stand out from the crowd and change the world for the better is probably due to the fact that they feel privileged to be responsible for tackling the acute social problems in their own country and creating solutions. This makes me think of our very privileged circumstances back home, which allow us to take a lot for granted and often leave us stuck in the comfort zone.
In order to give space to this urge for self-realization, MICA invited alumni and partner Manan Vora from TING, a digital and creative agency. Vora told his story of how he went from MICAn to entrepreneur and what makes good entrepreneurship today.
In his opinion, the most important cornerstones of good entrepreneurship are the passion for one's own idea, hard work, trust in the universe, which provides you with everything you wish for, your own conviction, a positive mindset and last but not least, good friends who help you to build up your business. He reminds us how important it is to be authentic and to build up a USP and to stand up for yourself and your business with full conviction. But it is also not wrong to have other people or even idols as a source of inspiration, to learn from them and to let them guide you until you find your very own version of the thing that fulfils you and to which you want to devote yourself in the form of your own company.
About the Author - Jasmin Zihlmann
Incoming from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and currently pursuing an MBA in Organizational Communication, the author spent one term at MICA - The school of ideas as an exchange student. Being a passionate traveller, yogini and writer, Jasmin loves to share her experiences while travelling the world. In her series #theindianwayofmarketing she features her perspective of Marketing and Communications in India.