Southern Indian Hospitality

by Elyse Kelly and Mary Styzek, Juniors in Supply Chain Management at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The following post was written by students on an ADM Institute-sponsored observation study tour through India.

Heading out on the bus the first day we quickly realized that our windows were not tinted. Our high-rise tour bus allowed us a great view of Chennai, but also put us on display for the many people in the streets. Everywhere we walked we received smiles and waves, and when we were on the bus it almost seemed like a parade with children smiling and chasing after the bus. This was our first experience with Indian hospitality—our presence sparked interest.

Students enjoyed the opportunity to interview several farmers about their lives and work Credit: ADM Institute/Kari Wozniak

Students enjoyed the opportunity to interview several farmers about their lives and work Credit: ADM Institute/Kari Wozniak

When we interviewed farmers or talked with our guides we quickly realized that people wanted to learn about us, and the United States too. However, people did not only want to just learn about us but they also wanted to make us comfortable and feel a part of their culture. Everyone spoke to us in their best English, asking if we could understand. At stores, young girls helped us try on saris and followed us from the scarf section to the shoe section four floors up, making sure we could find what we wanted. People made room in elevators and never wanted to make us take the stairs. Most importantly, they always wanted to make sure we got enough to eat, filling up our plates when we took one bite. One evening for dinner, we were graciously brought to an exclusive boat club where our host gave us many appetizers to try, so many that we barely had room for the main course.

Students observe planting in a paddy field Credit: ADM Institute/Kari Wozniak

Students observe planting in a paddy field Credit: ADM Institute/Kari Wozniak

This good nature and hospitality seems to transfer to the way agricultural processes work and businesses function. The people are incredibly hard working and proud of their work, so they had no hesitancy sharing their stories and teaching us. We were even able to stop at a field on our way to a site visit and watch rice paddies being planted up close, welcomed by the women working.

For the local people we met, it seems as if community is at the heart of their work. The government officials really seem to want to improve the village farmers’ lives. People in the village often help each other out specifically with farming and labor. The farmers take trust, hospitality, and relationships seriously when completing business transactions. This is important to the supply chain because it affects from whom one is willing to buy and sell.

In large part because of the people, we have grown to understand and appreciate the issue of postharvest loss on our trip. The farmers care so much about their work – their farms representing much of their lives. Their custom is welcoming hospitality, and even though they face problems like postharvest loss on their farms, they are still very positive. In our time here, farmers have continuously shared the pride of their farm with us, allowing us to learn more about practices and culture in Southern India.

Elyse and Mary are participants in the 2014 Supply Chain Management India study abroad trip organized by the program director in the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Professor Udatta Palekar. Throughout the 10-day trip, students observe how agricultural products in India move through supply chains from farm to consumer with a special focus on postharvest losses.

More about the trip: 

Edited by: K. Wozniak/G. Kenney

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