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Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011

IU's Kelley School of Business expands its successful GLOBASE program to India

March 3, 2011

Editors: Pam Roberts, director of the Kelley Full-Time M.B.A. Program, will be with students in India on March 5-17 and can be reached there by e-mail at or by phone at 001-812-272-8742.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As an M.B.A. student at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, Joni Lewis is working to use her accounting background to move into a strategy and corporate finance role. She wants to work for a company that highly values social responsibility and is dedicated to helping the communities in which it operates.

Kelley in India

George Vlahakis

In addition to working on projects for Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development, students in the Kelley School's GLOBASE program will visit important historical and cultural sites, such as the Taj Mahal.

Print-Quality Photo

Over the next two weeks, Lewis and fellow students at the highly respected business school will be working in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the village of Sidhbari, near the larger city of Dharamsala.

Lewis is one of dozens of students at the Kelley School who are traveling to key business destinations worldwide, where they hope to make an impact.

Two years ago, the Kelley School launched the Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) initiative, a social entrepreneurship consulting program that also combines international experience with leadership development. Initially, students and faculty worked on projects for small companies and a not-for-profit enterprise in Peru.

This year, the school has expanded the social entrepreneurship consulting program to include similar activities in India and Ghana.

"I am thrilled to be staying in a village and working directly with women villagers to provide them with training that will enable them to become more self-sufficient," Lewis said of her upcoming experience with the nonprofit Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD). "I truly believe that business has an integral part to play in solving the world's social problems, and in my eyes, GLOBASE is the perfect intersection of business and social concern."

While in Peru last year, Lewis helped rural flower farmers increase both their yields and prices through targeted technology and a new branding strategy. This year, she's headed to the rural mountain community of Sibhari, where her team will work with hearing-impaired women artisans who produce "Kangra" paintings that are native to the region.

Other Kelley School teams in India will be working with CORD's efforts with microfinance, assisting handicraft producers and encouraging natural, organic farming. The Kelley M.B.A. faculty and students are confident that their team can make contributions in India that will make a lasting impact even after they return to the United States.

"These are hard problems to solve," said James Wahlen, accounting professor and James R. Hodge Chair, who headed the M.B.A. program when GLOBASE was created.

"These women live on subsistence farms of an acre or two, and during harvest all their time is devoted to farming. The rest of the time they are raising their families. They might have an hour or two in the afternoon to do something entrepreneurial, but they might not have the money for raw materials," Wahlen explained. "They are looking at constraints of time, money and risk, and face all sorts of uphill battles that we hope we'll be able to help them with."

Phil Powell, chair of the Kelley M.B.A. program and a faculty leader for GLOBASE Peru, explained that the primary focus of the program is on building leadership skills in a real-world context.

"You are learning about yourself in a foreign environment," Powell said. "Somebody's depending on you to get the job done, and you're in a developing country where you can't take anything for granted. The stakes are high, and you need to deliver value."

Lewis agrees. "GLOBASE is the ultimate in leadership challenges," she said. "As business students, it's crucial that we understand what it takes to effectively run an international business. There is no better way to learn than through experience, and GLOBASE provides just that."

"This all started when a group of students came to me and asked, 'Could we initiate a program where we do international pro bono consulting in developing countries?'" recalled Wahlen, who now serves as a faculty leader for GLOBASE India. With his help, the students got the program up and running.

GLOBASE takes place over the first half of spring semester, with projects starting long-distance in advance of a two-week visit during spring break. In its first two years, GLOBASE took students to Peru, where they worked on projects like branding a jewelry business for the U.S. market, directing a furniture manufacturer toward a more stable revenue stream, and helping a paprika company cut out the middleman in its sales process.

Faculty and students alike are clearly proud of the good GLOBASE does for its partners. Ultimately, though, it's the students who are most transformed by the experience, and who return with business acumen of superlative value in today's global economy. While visiting India, they also will visit historic and cultural sites, including the Taj Mahal and Red Fort at Agra and in Delhi, as well as hike in the Himalaya mountains.

More information about GLOBASE is available at The Kelley School's Center on International Business Education and Research provided logistical and financial support for the course activities.