Engineering, Business Program Immerses Students in India’s Growing Economy

Issue Date: 
April 27, 2008

As India’s rapid economic growth propels its companies, products, and employees into the global market, the University of Pittsburgh’s business and engineering schools have developed a strategy to prepare their students for the subcontinent’s competitive presence—take them there.

For the inaugural trip of Pitt’s newly established Engineering and Business Collaborations in India program, nine students from the Swanson School of Engineering and Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business will travel to the Indian economic hub of Bangalore from May 4 to 17 to get acquainted with their Indian colleagues—and competitors.

Led by Pitt’s Bopaya Bidanda, department chair and Ernest E. Roth Professor of Industrial Engineering in the Swanson School, and G.G. Hegde, a business administration professor in the Katz School, the course shifts the business and engineering curriculum to India at a time when many institutions focus on China. Students will explore the industries and the schools fueling India’s expanding economy, a market that American students will inevitably work with or compete against upon entering the job market. The course is organized in collaboration with the R.V. College of Engineering in Bangalore with support from Pitt’s International Business Center in the Katz School.

Pitt students will delve into the daily operations of companies from a software developer to an aircraft manufacturing plant to a coffee plantation. The group will visit Indian-owned businesses—such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Asia’s largest aerospace company—and such American-owned operations in Bangalore as those of Pittsburgh-area companies Kennametal, a metalworking corporation, and technology firm iGATE Corporation.

“We want the students to observe how the American and Indian economies are intertwined, to trace how a coffee bean goes from a plantation in Kodagu, India, to a cup of Starbucks coffee bought in Pittsburgh,” Bidanda said. “I want them to see the strong, positive energy in such cities as Bangalore. Every day, Indian newspapers are full of stories about companies adding 500 jobs here and 200 jobs there that is such a stark contrast to many cities in the United States, including Pittsburgh. We want Pitt students to bring their knowledge of India back home and use it to attract and work with Indian companies.”

The Pitt group also will meet students and attend classes at R.V. College to gain a sense of the Indian educational system as well as an understanding of the aspirations and backgrounds of Indian students, Hegde added.

“In business, we say ‘know your customer’ and ‘know your partner,’” he said. “The United States and India will be doing a lot of business, and if our students study and learn firsthand the principles and techniques Indian businesses employ, their education will be even more complete.”

Pittsburgh is a natural economic partner for India, Bidanda said. The city’s transition from a 20th-century center of manufacturing and heavy industry to a modern hub for health care, higher education, technology, and research has attracted a large Indian community to its many universities, hospitals, and hi-tech firms.

“Indians have deep roots in Pittsburgh,” Bidanda said. “When these growing companies in India look to invest, expand, relocate, and recruit, they hopefully will look first at Pittsburgh.”

India is among many nations in which the Swanson and Katz schools maintain business and engineering programs designed to bolster students’ technical education with cross-cultural savvy. Last year, Pitt’s industrial engineering department was among the first such departments in the nation to require that students travel internationally, Bidanda said. The global market gives students with cross-cultural experience some advantage.

The Katz School was among the first American business schools to host international programs in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s and, later, in Brazil, Hegde said. India is now ripe for such programs, given its burgeoning economy and a much-improved transportation infrastructure long plagued by congestion and age, Hegde added.