By Dean Whittaker

This is the first of a three-part narrative of my experience of going to India to attend the Global CoreNet function to he held in Mumbai, India March 22-24.

So, why would I travel half-way around the world to India to hear a keynote speaker from Ann Arbor, Michigan, talk about China? Curiosity and a desire to learn is my short answer. I am curious to see first hand what is happening in India relative to the much-talked-about outsourcing of jobs and I hope to learn about another part of the world – I’m thinking globally. 

In West Michigan, we have had a 20% decline in manufacturing employment in the past three years while at the same time experiencing a 60% increase in productivity. During a tour of a local auto-parts plant recently I was amazed at their “lights-out” goal of operating a portion their manufacturing facility unattended. Eighty-five percent of this facility’s employees are degreed engineers specializing in automation. I suspect that our decline in manufacturing employment is a combination of out-sourcing and the dramatic increases in productivity as pointed out in the cover story of the March 22, 2004 issue of Business Week, “Where are the Jobs?”

By checking the weather in Mumbai on the Internet, I’ve learned that the forecast during my stay is 99 degrees during the day and 71 degrees in the evening for the next ten days! My search for summer-weight all-cotton clothing has begun in earnest (no small task in the late winter season here). 

The soreness in my arms from the inoculations for typhoid, polio, tetanus, hepatitis A&B and the medication for malaria has made me realize what an amazing country we live in. There are places in the world that have not benefited from the advances in medicine and health care as much as we have. Our public health has been something I’ve always taken for granted.

In preparation for my journey I read guide books on India to get a glimpse of their culture and customs. While having lunch at a local restaurant recently, I noticed a group of eleven young men I presumed to be Indians or perhaps Pakistani.  I asked them where they were from. It turned out that they were, in fact, from India. They are engineers working at a local auto-parts company. After a brief conversation on travel tips I went on my way to continue my packing. 

To be continued…