“Anyone can drive in Delhi. All you need is three things,” our guide, Raj, explains over the microphone on the tour bus. The raised eyebrows give away our skepticism. Outside our windows we can hear a cacophony of car horns as dozens of rickshaws, tuk-tuks, cars, buses, bikes, pedestrians, and the occasional cow, fight for limited road space.
“First, you need a good horn. Second, good brakes. And last, you need good luck.” We burst out laughing but nod in complete agreement. There is no reason to distrust Raj as we notice our own bus using the horn and brakes at about the same frequency. The first thing you are greeted with in the city is the traffic and you will be well acquainted before arriving to any destination. Luck was on our side and we were able to tour (and trip for that matter) without incident but the occasional shake of our driver’s head after an extended aggressive horn blast gave away maybe just how close we came.
Delhi, is an ancient city. Originally known as Delly, it has been part of the trading routes for millennia. Conquered by the invading Muslims in the 11th century it is a rich melting pot of many religions and cultures. To truly understand Delhi would take many days but our city tour serves as a great introduction to its history and atmosphere.
We began our tour with a visit to Qutb Complex. The Complex started construction around 1190 by Qutubuddin Aibak and was mostly completed by his son-in-law in the 12th century. The main attraction to the complex is the Qutb Minar which is a stunning 240-foot-tall minaret. Beautiful stone carvings and inscriptions covered the minaret as well as the walls and pillars of other building in the complex. Each ruin required close attention to appreciate the details and skill of the stonework. It was a great start to our tour and we quickly realized just how rich a heritage Delhi has.
After a near siesta inducing lunch, we went to Old Delhi. Old Delhi is a section of the city that is north east of the city center and is named to differentiate it from the part of the city that was built up since 1911 when the British changed the capital of India from Kolkata to Delhi. Old Delhi can also refer to a formally walled city named Shahjahanabad which dates from the 17th century when the Mughal emperor shifted the regional capital to the area under his rule. It is a vibrant, crowded area that is teeming with market vendors selling everything from food to quilted blankets. Our group paired off and climbed into a fleet of about 10 rickshaws. We took a brief ride around Gate 3 which is one of the largest entry points. Merging into traffic to reach the gate on what seemed almost a delicate vehicle was not quite terrifying but certainly adrenaline pumping.
The last stop on our tour is a visit to the Humayun’s Tomb. Completed in 1572, it was built at the request of the wife of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. Made from red stone and white marble the design is easily recognizable as the inspiration of the Taj Mahal which was completed 75 years later but on a smaller scale. It is a majestic offering to the family members entombed. The mausoleum itself is built on a flat pedestal that requires a flight of steep stairs to be climbed. Once again, we are awed by skill of the craftmanship and care from the masonry. The visit served as a great primer to our day at the Taj Mahal a few days later.
New Delhi is hard to describe. To really know the city, you have to experience it. The sites, smells and rhythm of the city are best understood in person. While we only saw the tip of a giant antic iceberg from our city tour, it helped better frame our perspective and allowed us to appreciate the city more in the days to come.
This article is part of the series describing the Marketing Centers’ International Trip to India in January 2020. The international trip is the culmination of a two-credit course with the overall learning objective of expanding student knowledge of marketing and other facets of running a multi-national brand in high interest markets beyond the U.S. While on site we visit the marketing offices of several companies and receive engaging case studies on the local consumer, company operations and the challenges of ‘local’ marketing outside the U.S. Students walk away from the trip with a different perspective that prepares them further for working in global marketing and general management.
The 2020 course and international trip focused primarily on US based multi-national companies in India.