May 07, 2024

Danke Schon, and Tschuss, ESB Business School, Reutlingen University

Akshay Dakshin Ramesh, PGPM Co’23  

The best things happen when you least expect them to, and for me it was the acceptance into the international student exchange programme at ESB Business School, Reutlingen University, Germany. Ranked among the top 10 recipients, I felt a rush similar to when I received an offer from SPJIMR a year ago. However, this time, I knew I was up for something big, but how big was left for time to tell.

The first leg of our international immersion happened at INSEAD Fontainebleau campus in France for two weeks, where I had already experienced global student life. But I was more excited for the second leg in Germany, starting from January 29, 2024, and Reutlingen becoming home for the next two months. We got our schedule in advance and it helped us to plan and get our bookings done early. I paired with Ayush Uniyal to book an Airbnb at Pfullingen, a peaceful, cute little town. Not only did we have an amazing host, but we also had the pleasure of petting a Labrador and a cat.

Our induction was handled smoothly by Heike Trost, Prof. Hermann Laßleben and Emma Heath. They were always available for any support and played a pivotal role in organising the industrial visits for us. We all chose the International Strategy and Corporate Development elective module over International Marketing and Sales as it aligned better with our interests. We had our classes in building number 17 at Reutlingen University and it offered a lovely refreshing view overlooking the lawn. By now, I was acclimatised with the weather and food, and my daily commute to the college became an opportunity to interact with people and learn more about German culture. This was when I flexed my German language skills, well, not more than Entschuldigen Sie, Guten Morgen, Danke Schon, and Tschuss!

We had 3 subjects as part of our elective and it happened in block mode. It wasn’t quite exhaustive, as we got sufficient time to absorb what was being taught. Strategy Execution was taken by Prof. Dr. Philipp Wunderlich, where we learned about translating strategies into daily actions. We picked up the skills needed to effectively apply strategy execution tools and frameworks, understand change dynamics and resistance while planning and supporting change programmes in diverse settings, and enhance our change agent skills and communication proficiency. Cases from a spectrum of industries were discussed, focussing on how strategy was executed and what approaches were taken. The final project presentation gave us the opportunity to research and analyse the e-health strategies of various countries. In addition to the curriculum, we also had the opportunity to work on Personal Branding through a series of activities and reflections to build our persona and leadership skills.

International Corporate Development was taken by Dr. Cornelius Maas (SHS Capital, Partner). Here, we understood the significance of internal and external innovation for competitive advantage and future growth, financing innovation VC/PE, and navigating challenges in integration, M&A and implementation across diverse organisational contexts. He brought in many of his corporate experience and startup examples throughout the sessions. We learned about intrapreneurship, corporate innovation, entrepreneurship, and startup innovation strategies.

Our dialectical thinking when it comes to innovation via corporate M&A revolves around this statement: “Don’t try it, just buy it”. We also had guest lectures from Prof. Tobias Gutmann on the basics of corporate venturing and from Hannes Kempter, who did a deep dive into the M&A process. Our final project was a Pitch Presentation, where we had to develop a business model for innovative technology and pitch it in front of an Investor Board for funding.

Management Consulting subject was taken by Prof. Nnamdi Oguji (SRH Berlin University of Applied Science), where we learned to apply management consulting tools and frameworks, including strategy formulation and process modelling, to tailor solutions for client specific business challenges and deliver executive-level presentations. The professor shared his experience and strategies he used while working on consulting assignments. A lot of cases got discussed and debated during the lectures. What impressed me was the opportunity to work on a live consulting case from Emotionalsmarts and present our recommendations to their leadership team.

Along with the lectures, ESB had organised three company visits for us at Zoi Tech, Karl Storz, and ElringKlinger, which was an incredibly insightful and enriching experience, offering us a glimpse into the digital transformation, cutting-edge technologies and management practices in the software, medical devices and automotive industries respectively. Moreover, these excursions allowed us to bond well with our fellow participants and share stories and experiences.

Weekends were mostly free, and Sundays were considered a quiet time for Germans. I utilised all my weekends to explore Germany and nearby countries, taking some solo trips, amazing treks, and journeys with Ayush and others. Storming out after each Friday’s class to catch the X3 bus from Reutlingen to Stuttgart Airport had a sense of anticipation, not knowing what awaited and how a new place would unfold, making it a thrilling experience—perks of having a Schengen visa. I connected with many fellow travellers from all over the world, and staying at hostels opened the doors to such communities. Now, getting an awesome itinerary for any international destination is just one ping away. I travelled to 15 different countries on this trip; not that this count matters, but it was enough for my storage to run out and flood Instagram with reels, almost pushing me to become a travel vlogger. Each place had a story to tell, and seeing the Swiss Alps, in fact, feeling snow for the first time, made me realise that I wasn’t a beach person anymore.

Nearby our college in Reutlingen, there are numerous exciting activities to engage in leisure time, including hikes, star gazing, and visits to the picturesque Liechtenstein Castle and the Schönberg Tower in Pfullingen. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy soccer fields and running tracks. For nature lovers, the Black Forest is just a four-hour drive away. In Reutlingen, exploring Spreuerhofstraße, the Guinness World Record holder for the world’s narrowest street, is a must. Nearby towns like Metzingen offer great shopping experiences, while Tubingen charms with its beauty. Stuttgart beckons with its renowned Mercedes Benz Museum and Porsche Museum. Don’t miss out on trying local delicacies like Brezel, Schnitzel, Turkish Doner kebabs, and Falafel. While some of us were craving for Daal Khichdi back home, I wished to extend my stay to explore more. For groceries, Aldi and Penny stores provide affordable options. For travel within Germany, I used the 49 Euro monthly pass that covers buses and regional trains. For inter-country travel, I opted for FlixBus or flights with Ryanair and Vueling.

Well, as they say, the MBA journey in itself is nothing but a roller coaster ride of many emotions and learnings. I’m happy to have experienced it in three different colleges, crossing borders and with great exposure ranging from international business to rural internship, that made friends and memories for a lifetime! Lastly, I would like to thank the relentless efforts of Prof. Debraj Sir and the International Relations Team for making this IntEx programme a huge success.

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