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Breakfast in Bangalore

July 10, 2009

It’s already quite hot at 7 am. I have arrived the night before from Boston and still feel a little tired from the jet lag. I am sitting outside, watching the campus of Infosys Technologies wake up. I’ve gotten to know the waiters at the Infosys Executive Center quite well, so they now routinely bring me a Western omelet to complement the traditional breakfast ofidli and dosa.

Watching employees arrive on campus with the first buses is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a veritable human tide. They’re all so young. The women wear colorful saris or Western clothes. They walk briskly, eager to get to work. The guys are already discussing business. The excitement is palpable. Why can’t we feel this in the West anymore?

A bit later, Manjunatha arrives. He is our partner on campus. You can see in Manjunatha’s eyes how enthusiastic he is about life. And why wouldn’t he? He’s part of a firm that is growing at extraordinary speed and provides him with an economic opportunity his parents never had. He just got married. When he gets excited – which is most of the time – he speaks so fast I routinely have to slow him down to keep up. Of course, he spends four hours in the horrendous traffic of Bangalore every day, but even that does not seem to faze him. A whole continent has awakened, and he gets to be part of it.

My partner Venkat Ramaswamy and I are teaching a class on campus that day. We were hoping that by arriving in the classroom early, we’d get some private time to catch up with each other, but the participants in our workshop are already there, ready to go. They’ve read all the recommended papers, plus others they have discovered to determine how co-creation is different from open innovation, from crowd sourcing, or from viral marketing? Their questions are probing, helping them better understand the content rather than challenge it (the way a typical American or European audience would). Their excitement becomes ours, and we feed off the steady hum, encouraging enthusiasm, and sheer delight in sharing ideas.

Suddenly, we’re at the end of day. The afternoon flew by as the co-creation message took hold, but our Infosys students want to keep going. They propose to work on the case in the evening, to maximize classroom time with us. We don’t get out of the class room until midnight, jet lag notwithstanding. We’ve simply forgotten how exhausted we are.

What an amazing place this is.
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