Grayson Greer and Gopinath L. (preferred name), the CEO of United Traders, a company in Bangalore, India. Gopinath brokers trade deals between Indian companies and the West; the two discussed business opportunities in emerging economies such as India’s, as well as strategies for market entry into the U.S.

Senior honors student Grayson Greer conducted some top-level research on the Indian food market through interviews with top-level executives — he gained access to the corner offices of CEOs and managing directors simply by having the audacity to ask. His hard work paid off in more ways than one: not only has he had lunch with a vice president of Dillard’s, Inc. since returning from his trip, but also he has connected with multiple U.S. companies to discuss work opportunities in India during a gap year before heading back to the States to attend law school in 2019. Grayson’s schedule in India included co-hosting tennis clinics, meeting with executives and lots of early morning flights. Here, he discusses how this trip shaped his honors research and offers some encouraging advice to students who might worry about being too bold.

My name is Grayson Greer and I am a senior studying finance and accounting in the Sam Walton College of Business. For my senior thesis as an honors student, I chose to understand the key drivers of success when foreign companies enter the Indian food and beverage market. Thus I traveled to India with the following objectives: To identify different modes of market entry strategy in general; to understand the complexity of the food and beverage market in India; to examine the entry strategy of 5 foreign companies and conduct a comparative analysis of the cases (Pepsi-Co, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nestle, and Pizza Hut); and lastly, to provide recommendations to foreign companies entering India.

Prior to my departure, I spent numerous hours researching company information, identifying key individuals and sending cold emails to network with industry experts on the ground. The trip lasted 14 days total – the first two days, I partnered with two local organizations to host the first all-abilities wheelchair tennis clinic in Bangalore. The rest of my time I spent traveling to different companies and organizations to conduct interviews for my research. I traveled to 9 cities (Hosur, Bangalore, Chennai, New Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Agra, Chandigarh and Mumbai) and met with multiple C-level executives, some of whom included the CEO of Nestle, Managing Director of Pizza Hut, Head of Strategy at Pepsi Co, and some 14 other industry experts. All but two of my meetings came from cold emails, cold calls and LinkedIn messaging. Sometimes, I was even introduced with “a friend of a friend of a friend whom I just met is conducting research.”

An example of a cold email sent to the CEO of Pizza Hut, who responded warmly to set up a meeting.

Word of advice: what position someone holds in management or government doesn’t define their ability to assist you and guide you. Each person was once sitting in your shoes, exploring different industries and deciding what career to pursue. I have learned that executives love to share industry knowledge and insights, because it’s their passion – it’s the reason they are sitting in the top seat, and the goal they sacrificed social/family lives to pursue. All you have to do is ask.The worst thing that can happen is to not receive a response. To the 100+ emails I sent, I received merely 8 responses. More than half were the CEO’s of the companies I was researching. Don’t be afraid to learn.

After two days of meetings for business and research in Chennai, I decided to enjoy my one day of fun by learning how to surf!