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Business Without Borders

By Jamie Lippman, BBA '08

After nearly quitting business school because she wasn’t interested in corporate profits, alumna Jamie Lippman went to work for an NGO and now sees economic lessons take on new life as she passes them on to poverty-stricken women in India.

Jamie Lippman in India

“The 4 P’s,” the trainer explains, “stand for product, price, place and promotion. They are the key tools to marketing.” The sari-clad women nod attentively to the Marathi translation, and my mouth falls to the ground. Having heard this lesson repeatedly during my days at the McCombs School of Business, it startles me to hear it in the middle of a rural village where children play with tires and cow poop is collected for fuel.

It’s the context contrast. I see the women around me, and I feel the hard ground that I’m sitting on, but my mind flies back to a cushiony chair at McCombs.

I am comfortably seated in the laptop-and-polo-shirt-saturated classroom, listening to a marketing lecture on the 4 P’s. I’m only half listening, too busy asking myself what on earth I’m doing in business school if I want to protect the environment and help reduce poverty.

The professor, failing to read my mind, carries on about how to use these marketing tools to increase profits for corporate shareholders. I writhe under the school’s definition of success as profits. A definition, in my mind, that is frustratingly flawed. I’m ready to leave the business world.

“Leave your tiffins over there, and divide into groups based on your village,” the business trainer instructs. He is having the village women form their own companies for the day to prepare and sell Indian snacks in their local market. They will have to source raw materials, produce the food, price the items, choose a location to sell and keep records of profit and loss. This activity is part of a rural business training curriculum. It is designed to teach basic business skills to village women with low literacy rates and education levels.

The women, despite the heat of the day, are motivated to start their businesses. I am wondering how they manage the sweltering temperatures as the sweat slowly drips down my back and my eyelids droop in the oppressive heat.

The air conditioning blows in the McCombs classroom, and I shudder in the manufactured wintriness of August. It’s been one year since the 4 P’s lecture, and again, I’m not really listening. But my thoughts are of a different nature. This is because I made peace with the business school when I stopped asking, “What I am I doing here?” and started asking, “What can I do here?”

I raise my hand to ask the professor about social marketing, a way to use business for good. I feel charged about all the potential, alternative applications of business. I’m convinced that business can be used to make the world a better place for those that ought to have a better life.

“Now, how can you use the 4 P’s to increase your monthly income?” the trainer asks the group of women. It’s been five days of this rural business training, and the women are quick to answer with their newfound business knowledge. I stop thinking about McCombs right then. I am inspired by the women’s eagerness.

They don’t just want improved lives; they’re willing to work for it. They’re willing to convince their husbands to allow them to leave the house for this training; they’re willing to go against a male-dominated culture to start women-owned businesses; they’re willing to face the risks and challenges of entrepreneurship so that their families and communities can get out of poverty.

I stop thinking about McCombs and multinational corporations and air-conditioning because this right here is the business world I want to be in.

***

Jamie Lippman graduated in 2008 with degrees in Marketing and Plan II Honors. After graduation she joined the American Jewish World Service World Partners Fellowship, which placed her with an NGO in Gujarat, India. She now works for Swayam Shikshan Prayog, a Mumbai-based organization that develops economic and opportunities for women. She is helping to launch a rural business school to teach women and youth how to grow socially-minded micro-businesses in their villages. This article was adapted from a post on Lippman’s blog, “Outside the Bubble.”

Comments

#1 I found this somewhat

I found this somewhat amusing. Business principles and guidelines are always looked upon as methods of greedy and evil corporations. Business is a fundamental societal interaction that is not evil and actually brings good to humanity. What you do with this knowledge is what defines whether it is good and evil. This article is one example of how modern business know-how can help raise the standard of living. You can cheat on taxes, steal shareholder money, hurt consumers, or you can practice ethical business and help society in the process. I applaud Lippman's efforts but argue that you don't have to go to India to make a real difference.

#2 Very inspiring lifestyle,

Very inspiring lifestyle, Jamie. Read about what you are doing in the McCombs "spotlight". You help me realize that there is more to life than just the mundane pursuit of profit in my typical American life that I find myself in today. (I love the way you write ps.) Henry David Thoreau: I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

#3 You should be applauded for

You should be applauded for your selfishness. However, remember two ideas: 1) your pay comes directly or indirectly from taxes paid by workers producing goods and services for profit and 2) governments produce nothing.

#4 Your's is an inspiring story.

Your's is an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing your UT education to help make this a better world. Howard Hammerbeck, BBA, 1973

#5 We're glad this story was

We're glad this story was such an inspiration to you all! Melanie and Elaine - be sure to talk to your advisors and students in the years ahead of you about opportunities to get involved in causes you're passionate about. There is a lot of exciting stuff going on here. Tracy Mueller, Managing Editor

#6 This reinforces my hope that

This reinforces my hope that a degree in business can be used to help the poverty-stricken parts of the world rather than simply exploiting them or promoting profit for people who are already rich. I'm going to be starting at McCombs next fall.. I hope there is a class where we can learn how to get started in these rural parts of the world. Maybe also meet people or go on trips awesome story

#7 Very heart warming. I'm

Very heart warming. I'm about to enter business school in the fall. I hope to remain even an ounce as true to myself as this beautiful person. Thanks for this story.

#8 Someone must submit her name

Someone must submit her name to CNN heroes... This is an inspiring story..

#9 This girl should be a

This girl should be a candidate on Donald Trump's show, or at least a teacher of his. Jamie, this is wonderfully written. I look forward to checking out your blog.

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