Happiness that spreads

As someone who spent more than half of their life in Brazil, I thought I was prepared for what was to come. I was wrong. Even flying over Mexico, you can start to feel how different this country is from anywhere else in the World.

And it’s not just the view. Sure; one minute there is cactuses ‘till the horizon, the next there are colorful villages, and all of a sudden there are office blocs and huge motorways. It is all very impressive. But it’s not just that. It’s the vibe: everyone is happy, everyone is relaxed, everyone is full of spirit, independent of the situation. Even when something bad or stressful is happening, Mexicans find a way to turn it around; they stick together and they never let their spirits down.

What I found amazing is that this love and affection spreads to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you go into a shop and don’t buy anything; people will still tell you (and truly hope) that you have a great day. It doesn’t matter if it is exam season- if someone sees you are lost, they will go out of their way to show you where to go. It doesn’t matter if you speak some or no Spanish, they will find a way for the communication to work; because they want you to have a great time in their country.

However, these are all things that can you can see in pictures or be told in stories. There is one thing about Mexico that words cannot explain: how contagious all the energy is.

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Bree, Anneliese, Rebecca and I. Mexico has brought us together in a way that no one would guess we’ve only been friends for about two weeks.

It was easy during my first few days here, as I arrived before my course started and got to enjoy a bit of a holiday. I was a bit concerned it would all die down once classes started. But again, I was wrong. The whole atmosphere in the campus, the in-class discussions, the content and even the study was all more than exciting.

It’s like you get the whole benefits of being on holiday- sight seeing, meeting new people, trying new foods… but you also get to learn valuable things in a country completely different from anywhere else. Even the day of my exam, there was no stress. Why? Because learning here is fun. It is enjoyable. Everyone is helpful, and you immerse yourself in the learning- it’s not just reading and understanding, it’s feeling, it’s being and it’s loving.

I’d like to thank Education New Zealand and the PMSLA, for aiding the opportunity for me to truly get amongst Mexican culture in a way that personal travel would have never allowed me to. It is through their aid that students like me grow into the future New Zealand professionals, assisting with the ever growing interconnectedness of Kiwis and Latin Nations.  

Rebecca: The Heart of Mexico!

Built on top of an ancient lake bed, Mexico City has centuries of history beneath and among it. With precisely four days before our studies started, we set to work on getting to know the heart of Mexico!

Our first look was in the downtown Zocalo district which plays host to numerous historical sites including the magnificent Catedral Metropolitana, the ruins of Templo Mayor and the Palacio des Bellas Artes. Despite being surrounded by so many incredible sights, one of my highlights was when we discovered a clowder of cats in the government house, complete with their own cat-shaped houses and beds! Now that’s a good way to run a country!

Catedral Metropolitana
The National Palace (government house)
Palacio des Bellas Artes
Cute cats!!!
The streets of Mexico City
Cute cat houses!!!

We spent sunset up the Mirador Torre which is the CDMX equivalent of the SkyTower. With amazing 360 degree views, it really sunk in just how vast and expansive this city was. Even at 10pm on a Wednesday night, the streets were packed with people shopping, eating and dancing – it didn’t take long before we decided to join them.

Views from the Mirador Torre

Our studies started in Santa Fe where we were put up in the Novotel Hotel (!!!) which was only a two-minute ride away from the Tec de Mont campus. With plenty of classrooms, conference halls and even a NFL field, there was plenty to explore on campus alone. Our lecture content for the week was focused on globalisation and the part Mexico has played, is playing and can potentially play in it. They were all very interactive and gave us a chance to really discuss our own ideas and form our own opinions.

Technologico de Monterrey Santa Fe Campus

In between classes, we had a company visit to PepsiCo and a conference with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, both of which were full of knowledge of the cultural practices and the unique market position Mexico has from people with first-hand experience.

PepsiCo Headquarters CMDX
PepsiCo Conference

Having left New Zealand with only a (very, very) basic grasp of Spanish, the language barrier has not been as difficult as I expected. Most of this has come down to the helpfulness and loveliness of all the people we’ve come across who seemed pleased that we were making an effort and tried their best to translate for us. I feel it is so important to say that despite all the negative news, I have felt safe in Mexico. I know that we have been lucky enough to stay in wealthier areas but I still feel that the image that has been portrayed of Mexico as an unsafe travel environment is inaccurate – the helpfulness of all those I have encountered so far is a testament to that.

The Tec de Mont NZ Cohort

It’s been a great start to the trip and I’m so looking forward to seeing what the rest of it has to offer! Thank you so much to 360 International and Education NZ for this incredible PMSLA experience!

Rebecca McCulloch

Shereen: Architecture of Amer Fort

In the reflection of the lake, Amer Palace glows with an ethereal light, a place of astounding beauty and elegance. The upward incline through cobbled streets is decorated with people playing traditional instruments, offering chai, selling various knickknacks. There is a vibrant, bustling energy that surrounds Amer Fort, perhaps an echo of the once bustling city of Amer. The walls of the fort follow the grooves of the surrounding hills, creating a protective barrier between the town of Amer and the rest of the world. 

Carved in red sandstone and marble, Amer Palace is a testament to the riches of the 15th century. With four courtyards, the Palace was built for the people, an open portal to the royal family. Jalebi Chowk is the first courtyard, a place where soldiers assembled and congregated, usually heavily guarded. The Ganesh Pol entrance is decorated with a mosaic of flowers and patterns, the paints sourced from local plants and dyes. The detailed archway foreshadows the beauty that is hidden within the depths of the palace. The Diwan-i-Aam is the hall of public audience, supported by intricately carved columns that depict local symbols and patterns. 

Further within, the private quarters of the Maharaja reflect the ingenuity of Indian architecture. On one side, the Jai Mandir is embellished with glass and mirrors, specifically designed to reflect flickering candlelight. The glittering hallway was designed to stay warm during the winter months, obtaining heat from the sun. On the other side, the Sukh Niwas has magnificently carved marble columns and arches to stay cool during the summer months. This illustrates how Indian innovation can be traced in their ancient architectures! 

The fourth courtyard, the Zenana, is the isolated women’s’ chambers. With hidden passageways, it was designed to allow the Maharaja to visit his wives/concubines without being noticed. The Maharaja had the ability to overlook the women’s chambers covertly, another testament to the cleverness of the palace design! 

Amer Fort was a place of opulence, a place of extravagance, the architecture reflecting the history of the royals. The Palace itself has traces of Mughal and Rajput influence, evident with the Jali screens and symmetrical patterns that adorn the gateways. The architecture itself symbolizes the incorporation of other cultures and beliefs into Indian society, a hint of the pluralistic thread that binds India together. 

Shereen L

Shereen: The Fintech Revolution

Fintech. The word itself sounds foreign, dystopian – not a word in your everyday vocabulary. What we don’t realise is that fintech is already deeply ingrained in our current society, from digital currency, to crowd funding or even mobile payments – fintech is the backbone of the financial evolution. An amalgamation of financial and technology, fintech is revolutionizing the way we think and use money. So what is fintech? 

Fintech covers the broad scope of digital payments, digital lending, insurance technology and wealth technology. Fintech incorporates technology to improve the accessibility and efficiency of financial services. Fintech allows consumers to better manage their financial obligations and operations, disrupting traditional finance providers to create a more inclusive, accessible model. 

With 38% of Indian bank accounts inactive, there is evidence that a significant proportion of the population is not fully integrated into traditional methods of financial banking. Fintech is able to fill this gap by making financial services more accessible through the use of mobile phones. For those who don’t have access to traditional banking services or who aren’t able to obtain credit, Fintech provides an innovative solution by utilizing mobile phones as an alternative. It is estimated that over 800 million people in India have access to a mobile phone. Fintech capitalizes on widespread mobile phone usage to provide financial services, disrupting the traditional model of obtaining/storing money. 

Paytm is an Indian fintech company that has infiltrated the Indian economy. Payments can be made through the application, no matter how large or small the sum. Along the streets, vibrant stalls are happily accepting Paytm as a form of payment, illustrating how inclusive innovation has changed the financial landscape in India. In bustling markets, each store would have a sign supporting Paytm transactions, depicting how widespread and successful Paytm is in India. 

Fintech is an example of how technology can be used to generate solutions that would otherwise be unachievable. By adapting the way we utilize technology, we are able to improve the accessibility and inclusivity of finance in India. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital data are all changing the way we interact with and use money. 

RISE Mumbai is a startup accelerator that created a micro-ecosystem of fintech startups, providing the resources and training they need to thrive. By encouraging the expansion of fintech, RISE is able to capitalize on groundbreaking technologies in the financial industry. RISE Mumbai had the perfect atmosphere for fintech startups to explore alternative solutions, pioneering the fintech revolution. 

Fintech is not a dystopian concept. It is happening in countries like India, where they are paving the way for innovative payment and credit solutions, tailored to their country’s needs. The fintech revolution is upon us, and we need to learn how to embrace it. 

Shereen L

Jenna: Initial India Impressions

When I first told my friends and colleagues that I was coming to India, I was surprised to have a number of them say “oh that’s not on my bucket list or one of the places I would want to go, why on earth would you go there?” I was asked if I was actually excited to be going. My answer was of course yes. 

I knew that India would be so much more than what we have seen or been told through photos, news, books and movies, however I didn’t expect to fall in love with this place so quickly. India is rich in so many ways. I don’t know if it’s just me, but there is such a sense of calm that can be felt amongst the colourful chaos that envelops this most diverse country. It’s crazy to think that more than 90% of tourism in India is domestic tourists, as there is so much that our Western society can learn from India. There’s a saying here that everything you think or say about India is true, but so is the opposite.

Everywhere you look in India there are juxtapositions. An example of this that really stood out to me was when we drove from Delhi to Agra where we visited the beautiful Taj Mahal. It’s perhaps the most breathtaking sight I have seen, a perfect example of beauty on the outside. The history behind the construction is a sad love story, with Mughal emperor Shah Jahan having it built in memory of his favourite wife who died giving birth to their 14th child. 20,000 people worked on the construction of the Taj for 22 years from 1632 to create the masterpiece that so many have visited today.

Taj Mahal, December 2019
The Taj is constructed of white marble
Blown away by the beautiful architecture

                

Not more than 10 minutes from the magnificent Taj sits the Sheroes cafe in Agra. This is a story that brings up a lot of emotions. Sheroes hangout space is an initiative which was started in New Delhi in 2013, and is run by acid attack survivors. During our visit to Sheroes we learnt about these many women who were victims of acid attacks. They may be badly scarred on the outside, but they are so beautiful and courageous. We heard their stories and experiences, and saw just how much this opportunity to earn a living and learn new skills through Sheroes has given them their lives back. They shared with us what it was like to finally be happy again and to have a feeling of pride and purpose after years of pain and suffering.

Sheroes cafe, Agra
They hand-make beautiful crafts to sell
Hearing about their stories of the attack and the aftermath

   

Everyday we learn more about India and see more examples of juxtapositions. However, no matter the context or situation, community seems to be at the centre of everything. The majority of people here appear to be happy, and it is a constant reminder to be grateful for everything we have, and how it is possible to be happy even with very little. All that is needed is an open mind and a willingness to see the beauty that is all around us.

Jenna Aalbers

Alistair McLeay: The Value of Reimagining India

Reflecting on the intensive month-long programme “Reimagining India” with IndoGenius, I am overwhelmed by how much I have learnt. From corporates to startups, historical sites to places of worship, slums to beaches, high commissions to universities, and planes to buses – I feel like I’ve seen it all in India. The thing is though, I haven’t – and that may be the biggest lesson I have taken away from India – that it is such an incredibly varied and diverse country, with a cultural depth that would take several lifetimes to understand. There is a saying that everything in India is true, and so is the opposite.

The last month has been the most immersive learning experience of my life, and the most valuable 4 weeks of my education to date (a big call I know). Nick and Meetu and the rest of the incredible team at IndoGenius have developed a truly incredible program to expose students to all India has to offer. I think it would probably take 10 years in India on my own before I gained the level of understanding of India that IndoGenius has given me in a month.

Not only is IndoGenius incredible, but so too is The Prime Minister’s Office and Education New Zealand for funding the experience. The New Zealand Government has recognised the importance of India to the world and Aotearoa moving forward. They have recognised this to the extent of funding 15 Kiwi students to go through the Reimagining India Programme, and I have no doubt their decision will pay huge dividends to New Zealand in the future. The Prime Minister’s Scholarships we received gives me a lot of hope for the future of our country – I believe it shows the government is making the right priorities in this area.

My experience has not only taught me all about India, but also about myself and how I fit into the world as a global citizen. It has shown me how New Zealand fits into the world. I now have an array of extra tools for navigating complex issues back in New Zealand, and have a totally new perspective of how our tiny island nation fits into the rapidly developing world in the East. New Zealand has a huge amount to offer the world – but without our young leaders understanding how we fit into the rest of the world – we risk getting left behind. I’d argue India will be the most important nation of the next two decades, and the New Zealand government has recognised this.

I am forever grateful for the experience I have been given, and have no doubt that I will go on to engage with India professionally throughout the coming decades.

Thank you India.

Alistair McLeay: The Opportunity for Kiwi Entrepreneurs in India

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India has the fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world, with the total valuation of its startups forecast to be $500B within 5 years. Over the last few weeks I have visited a wide range of startups and technology companies including FlipKart, Zoomcar, MuSigma, Google, and Infosys. These visits have given me a unique insight into the startup ecosystem and the broader tech sector here. It is an exciting time – there has been huge progress over the last 5 years, with India’s startup ecosystem transforming into a major global player.

India presents a unique opportunity right now because of a number of factors. The country is growing incredibly fast; India will be the most populous country in the world in 2022, and the rate of development that is occurring is massive. India is rapidly transforming into a modern superpower, as hundreds of millions of people are lifted out of poverty and the country becomes wealthier.

The timing is right in 2020 because of two main factors. There is huge momentum that has been created by the government over the last 5 years, but there are still countless problems the nation needs to solve. These problems are not only countless, but they are HUGE. As a Kiwi the scale of India is almost incomprehensible – roughly 300X the population of New Zealand. Indias democratic government, its economic momentum, its thriving startup ecosystem, its giant scale, and its countless problems yet-to-be-solved combine to create a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.

The opportunity here is huge, but it doesn’t come easily. There is a saying that India favours the patient – and I have already found this to be very true. India is chaotic, not only in the streets but also in the way business is done. There are major cultural differences that a Kiwi entrepreneur needs to learn and adapt to, including not least the mind-blowing 27 official national languages. English is fairly abundant, but fluent English isn’t, and this presents a very real challenge for operating here. Religion is embedded in everything, politics is complicated, and there are many subtleties one must learn to be effective in India.

A western entrepreneur has these challenges coming to India to start a company, but they also have an advantage. They bring a unique perspective – a western understanding of business – something that can be highly valuable here. This is why I believe the most pioneering entrepreneurs from New Zealand should come to India to start-up. India is where you can make massive-scale impact, where you can serve the biggest democratically ruled market in the world, and where there is rapid growth everywhere you look.

Only the most pioneering Kiwi entrepreneurs will come over here, and of those not all of them will make it work – but those who do will be rewarded both with huge wealth and huge social impact.