Sitting at the airport waiting to go home. Strange feeling that this will be my last business tour of India for some time.
It has been ten years since I started this Indian development. Still remember the first trip to New Delhi. I know it was crazy at that time to even think that I can start sometime in India. No one wants to come to India. You can't do consultancy work for India. They don't pay. Those were the comments that always haunt me in the early days.
Looking back it was really funny how the India network got started. I remember the first trip. I book the hotel somewhere in South Extension. I did ask someone to recommend a hotel that is cheap and near to town. Did not know that the whole New Delhi is a 'town'.
When I check in, I do not mind the occasional cockroaches that runs along the edge of the window sill, but showering in hard water was another thing. Strange sensation on the skin after the shower. Not much effect. Room-wise was small and there was a TV that screen all India movies. Not really that bad, I mean the movies. There was room service, cannot expect much for $60 per room.
The idea of the trip is to build up a network of client which will be useful for me. Consultant needs network and India is the next growth area in the world.
Four appointments were made for the next two days with two accountants and two local consultants. Got the contacts from the library and the Indian Embassy. Internet was not much help as only the big boys are featured in the net. The rest was through cold calls from the yellow pages I found in the hotels. The lesson I learnt is Indian speaks English at a faster pace.
After three days, no one really want to see me. Firstly I got nothing they want and secondly I do not know what I can do for the Indian. The first trip was a disaster. Sigh. Down by nearly 2K (air ticket, hotel, food etc) and nothing to show except a $4 leather sandals. (I did return several times to the same road side stall to buy the sandals for my wife and children).
The Indian visa is for six months and I decided that I want to try a second time. This time I manage to fixed a few more appointments from the first trip and this time I am also going over to Mumbai just to make the visa worth it. The meeting is cordial and most are looking for funding of project. (this was to change as the years go by where it was money chasing project to invest)
This time I decided to give myself a treat. By the way, Indian do judge by where you stay. I was staying at the Taj. Got a good rate. At least there is no cockroaches. The day's appt was not fruitful. No real money making opportunity (I was to appreciate what these early contacts did for me in later years when they start inroducing new contacts to me).
That night, at the Taj lobby there was a wedding. Guest was streaming in, the music was loud and rythmic. Dancers then start dancing in front of the groom coming in a white horse. The festivities carry on in this big ballroom. Curosity kills the cat and I was curious. I walk in and started asking questions like a blurred tourist seeing a wedding for the first time. Seeing a Chinese in a Indian wedding must also be a rare occurence and started getting people staring at me.
A smile is a powerful weapon and the a sense of wanting to understand an Indian wedding helps, for next thing I know I started joining the festivities. Whoever said that India do not know how to have a good time have never attended an Indian wedding.
By the end of the night, I finished all my name cards in my wallet and have about a stack of Indian contacts. Jackpot. I just found a way to network and have contacts for India market. It is the wedding.
By the way for those who do not understand Indian weddings
1. It is over many days - 5days
2.Everyone from all over the country to attend the weddings
4.Held from Oct to March
5.It is always a big event
I got invited the next day to attend another wedding across town and another in some farm house. From then on it is network through weddings. I must confess that I sometime gatecrash weddings but selectively on a certain caste & only if they are at a major sites & have elephants :-) Wedding takes me from Kolkatta to Lucknow, from Pune to Jummu Kashmir. Must have attended many weddings and visited many parts of India.
The initial three or four years of building the network in India has given me a fantastic insight of India. The learning is great and I love India.
Now for the next phase for Christopher Benjamin Consultancy........ Project Dignity 2010