Although the 2011 cohort of 17 was made up only of graduate students in business, past years’ groups have included management undergraduates and students from Purdue’s College of Engineering. The program also is open to MBA students from GISMA Business School. One GISMA representative this year was Sriram Vasu, a native of India.
“We’ve been lucky to occasionally have a student from India who is not only interested in the rigors of the program, but also in serving in the role of cultural ambassador to the rest of the group,” Pilotte says. “There are things that I or a travel book may suggest they try or avoid, but that kind of advice is given more credibility when it comes from a student peer like Sriram.”
On many projects, team members’ different skills sets and educational backgrounds find unexpected synergies. In this year’s cohort, Akihiro Yamada, an engineer by trade working on his MBA, and Ben Marshall, an MSHRM student who comes from a human resources background, worked together on a TVS employee learning and development project that examined HR competencies among engineers.
“It was fascinating to watch how a classically trained engineer from Japan approached the project, how someone in human resources from the United States approached it, and their team dynamics of give and take to prepare a proposal,” Pilotte says.
Students' daily project work at TVS was balanced with opportunities to learn more about Indian history and culture, including visits to the Taj Mahal and the City Palace in Mysore.
On another project, Jennifer Tvedt and Hengqulu Ye teamed up to examine how U.S. trends in teen marketing could be adapted for the Scooty brand, a TVS two-wheeler designed specifically for women that has become the leading seller in its segment.
“I liked having the opportunity to interview females and visit dealerships around Bangalore,” says Tvedt, a second-year MBA student. “Not only was the information important for our project, it also allowed us to learn more about Indian culture and understand some of the major differences between the opportunities young women have in the U.S. and in India.”
Other projects this year included the development of a model for simulating and forecasting outbound distribution; an analysis of spare parts profitability; and a plan to leverage information technology to improve retail sales effectiveness. As in past years, TVS mentors played a key role on each team, as students wrapped up their projects with a formal presentation to executive management during the final week.
“We had more support and encouragement than we could have possibly hoped for,” says Austin Owens (MBA ‘12). “Our mentor and the TVS office staff were available on a daily basis to meet with us and guide our progress. We got firsthand exposure to a real business project and were able to make an immediate impact.”