Travel ReportIndia

18th January 2019

Silas Koch is studying industrial engineering in his 2nd academic year

I took part in a trip to Mumbai from 6 to 17 January through the DHBW and sponsored by Rutronik. It was a fantastic experience.

Upon landing at the airport, I found myself preparing for the imminent cultural shock and the otherness of the country. A thick green cloud of smog can be seen from the aircraft window. Following our arrival at the airport, four of us headed to the hotel in a taxi that was far too small with half our luggage (the other half had been left behind in Istanbul) thrown on top of the roof rack and attached with some thin rope.

The streets are crowded and full of people honking their horns.  At best cars might slow down for pedestrians crossing the road! Our tour guide would say, "Crossing the road is safe,  the worst-case scenario is you die. But that’s OK as then you are born again."  In fact, you quickly get used to waiting for a gap in traffic, sticking out your hand and crossing the road without further ado. No-one in our group ended up being born again.

Our ten-day program began with a welcome at the Indo-German Training Center (IGTC) and a tour through Mumbai. Sights included the main train station, the university, the Gandhi Museum, Mumbai Port Trust, Elephanta Caves, a temple, the Crawford Market and Asia's biggest slum.

The business part of the trip included visits to the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, Siemens, BASF, Tech Mahindra (an Indian call center), Häfele and DHL, as well as a meeting with a German consul and former manager of the TATA group at the IGTC.

Through different lectures given by Indians we were able to  learn more about India’s economy, including in fields such as logistics, marketing, culture and politics. By observing the Dabbawalla system, we were able to gain an insight into one of Mumbai’s oldest professions. The Dabbawallas collect home-cooked food every day, carry it through Mumbai, sort it and deliver it to the workplace. The error rate is surprisingly low despite the lack of management.

Indians love to talk about how rich their cuisine is. Its richness is beyond question when you consider the abundance of recipes and ingredients, choice of delicious vegetarian fare, assortment of fried foods, baked goods, soups, roasted dishes, sauces and deserts. Unfortunately, most of the food is very hot and spicy by German standards, and there are only a few differences between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Initially, your stomach needs time to adjust, however, the strong mixture of turmeric, masala and other spices means that after a while everything tastes the same and you stop noticing the difference.

The Indian mentality was what astonished me the most, as apart from in traffic, the people are unfailingly hospitable, courteous, helpful and considerate of the well-being of others. We could learn a lot from the Indians about how to behave more graciously towards each other.

All in all, I gained a lot of new experiences, got to learn about a different culture and experience a very interesting and fast-growing market. I had a wonderful time in Mumbai and would like to thank Rutronik for their support.