Chennai, India – Day 16-21 – It’s a wrap!

The last five days of our time in Chennai was spent in the full development of our recommendation for the city.  With such diverse talent on our team we had a lot of different perspectives to weave into the recommendations that would bring richness and value to the implementation of our vision.  The recommendation came together nicely in the form of a presentation and written report. We were scheduled to present our recommendation to the Commissioner and his leadership team on Thursday (Day 20).

In preparation for our meeting with the CoC, we went through rehearsals of our presentation with each other and then by phone with our global team. It’s very helpful having some IBMers listen to our presentation who have not been as involved as we were to listen for use of acronyms, redundancy, and gaps as we were just too close to the material at that point.  Our rehearsals went well so we all felt good leaving Wednesday evening.  The morning of our presentation to the city we gathered to tighten up our report and make final preparations.  We had some fun having our pictures taken by a professional photographer.  Those of us with long hair struggled to tame the humidity frizz  but thanks to Jaya we had a flat iron and make up support.  The photographer accompanied us to the Corporation of Chennai offices to take pictures with the Commissioner and his staff.

The presentation was lively.  Magesh to the lead as the host, I followed to present the research, findings and vision and then Barbara presented recommendations surrounding policy, Mats presented process recommendations and Ravi presented systems recommendations.  The Commissioner was extremely engaged in the discussion asking for clarification on some points and validating others.  Our presentation was scheduled for one hour and we were so engaged we continued talking for another 30 minutes. Magesh wrapped up the presentation by taking the Commissioner and his team our vision for their roadmap and follow up actions. (When we receive the official photos I will post them as an update)

That evening we returned to the hotel to our ‘evening office’ to debrief and talk through what we would be doing our final day and get ready for our evening.  Magesh had invited us all to his home for dinner.  We loaded into cabs and after a two hour taxi ride to get 30 minutes away, we arrived just in time for the Germany/USA match.  We enjoyed a wonderful variety of south indian dishes prepared by Magesh wife and family.

On Friday, we spent most of the morning polishing up our report.  We decided mid-day to take a break for a nice lunch and head out for our last south indian meal together.  After lunch the team split up to take care of different actions. Barbara and I headed out to purchase a gift for our hostess, while the rest of the team headed back to the hotel.

Barbara and I headed to a state cultural crafts bizarre and were overwhelmed with the variety of local wares at the shop.  When we told one of the women what we were doing she recommended we go to the plaza next door to buy a Sari.  That shop was even more overwhelming than the first.  There was every imaginable color and print to consider.  We were given a Sari wrapping lesson – on Barbara!  After considering our options we decided we would never be able to pick something so we thanked the shop keepers and headed back in the direction of our hotel.  Yes and it was time for one last auto rickshaw ride.  Wahoo! Hold on!  We had a young driver who thought it would be fun to entertain us with his driving.  The team had earlier recommended a nice hand bag, so we headed to the leather shop and picked out a unique bag to present.

ImageThat evening we met in our ‘evening office’ to wrap up our 3 weeks and say good-bye.  It was a time of conflicting feelings – sad to be saying goodbye to the team, but thrilled to be going home to family and friends.  I personally learned a lot about the City of Chennai, South Indian Culture (mostly food), India’s government processes and tax policies, a bit about Sweden, a little about badminton and cricket, but mostly I learned to how to bend better and not just in yoga.  Thanks to the Smarter Cities Challenge team for this great opportunity to learn, to give, and to contribute what I could toward expanding on their vision to become a premier smarter city.


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