Unlike other countries, where positioning of your business ought to be three times smooth, doing business in India requires patience, patience and patience. This is how Roger Mabey, Executive Director of Bovis International Ltd described his experience in a special seminar, organised by The Economist Conferences in London recently.
This seminar was attended by a number of industrialists, investors, academicians and Indophiles. Like the readership of the Economist magazine, the attendance to this seminar was very selective with a registration fee of nearly six hundred pounds sterling. No wonder, the seminar attracted high power investors such as Daimler-Benz Transportation, Ciba Chemicals, Imperial Tobacco Group plc and Royal Mail International. The speakers were selected from their experience of dealing with India.
Bovis International Ltd are one of the oldest players in India. Some of the other lessons that they have learnt over the years include employing Indian skills for Indian projects rather than imposing British expertise on the Indians. Bovis International has a policy of employing local people, wherever they operate, employees get local salaries and get trained in the Bovis way of working. Roger Mabey who is currently responsible for the globalisation strategy of the Bovis Group spoke with knowledge and passion.
"There is a great need of diplomacy when dealing with India. One can hurt feelings of Indians, which may result in a loss of face. For this, we require flexibility and able to show commitment. In India, we need to network as well. We have to be aware of the local politics. At Bovis, over the years, we have learnt how to build long term relationships in India. It is also important to have a link in the UK. During the last autumn, we had more meetings with our Indian associates in London then we had in India."
Roger Mabey had some good news about India too. "We have no debts in India, we get paid in 60 days. I cannot say that for many other countries. India is the only country where we have been making profit from the day we set our foot in it's territory. In most of other countries, it is the second year of our business when we are able to break even."
What appears to be the biggest is not always the best in India. Dominic McClafferty, a trade promoter, representing British Government's Department of Trade and Industry revealed that lots of Indian businessmen are very rich but they do not want to declare their assets to everyone. One has to win their confidence and trust. It is in fact, a learning game. India is a very much family oriented. Through networking, one can select a partner very carefully. "In India, market is price-driven which also means lots of new opportunities are available. But one has to stick to his policies. English is used by people but one has to be careful that the Indian partner understands what you mean. India has the third largest pool of labour in the world. It may not be a fast tiger but a huge elephant that is going forward. It is difficult to stop him in his stride."
For Rhinhold Heus, Managing Director, ANZ Investment Bank, India is more attractive than any other country. "Things are slower but they can change overnight. Kentucky Fried Chicken had their licence revoked but they appealed successfully against it in the Supreme Court. This is something which one cannot imagine happening in China. In India, it is not 'know how' but 'know who'. Most of the speakers agreed that India is different from China. It is a country, which is not open to foreign pressures. Unlike China, India does not depend on its exports, with it's 10% of export, India is unlikely to face the economic crisis which Far Eastern countries are going through at the moment. If rupee has been convertible, the crisis could effect India but Indians are lot more conscious and prudent in their approach.
There are lots of sectors in the Indian economy, which are crying out for foreign collaborations. Most of the speakers agreed that infrastructure is one. It needs power, ports, telephones and a very good network of highways. There are too many automobiles but not enough roads. One cannot transport perishable food from one part of the country to another.
As far as financial sector is concerned, there is a very small amount of foreign lending which India uses. Dividends are now tax-free and that is the reason why the capital market is very active in India. The convertibility of rupee will be done in three phases and the Reserve Bank of India is devolving many of its powers. One has to see the changes that have taken place from pre '91 regulation era to this new management era.
The legal system in India is going through changes, which may be interesting for foreign investors. Arun Singh, a partner in London based Mason Solicitors spelled out many of these changes. Non replying Indians (NRIs) can now have 100% equity propriety. Interest free loans and grants can be obtained for feasibility reports and set-up from Foreign Investment Promotion Board and European Union
"Recent and future changes in the legal system in India are some of the most advanced in the world. For example, dispute resolutions and injunctions are more prompt than before. It is the final trial which takes longer time in India." Arun Singh elaborated on some of the business culture practices. "India does not take any foreign product with open arms. One has to do proper market research in this area. Any transaction in foreign exchange should have approval. In fact, the situation in India is similar to what existed in mid '70s in Britain when no British citizen was allowed to take more than £50 Sterling out of the country."
"In India, there is different business environment which needs to be identified. The concepts about punctuality, hierarchies have different connotation there. One cannot afford to be arrogant there. One has to check every application for misappropriation and it is important to register a trade name."
India remains an enigma for many European businessmen even if they have been operating in the country for a long time. Dr Albert Heijn of Inventure, a Dutch company had an office in New Delhi for several years before moving to Pune. He tries to solve this problem by associating himself with artists and craftsmen. His collection of paintings in Amsterdam includes famous names such as Bhupen Khakkar, Atul Dholia and some young emerging names.
The attitude of the Indians towards the westerners was analysed by John Bray, Principal Research consultant of Control Risks Group. He believes that Indians have enormous admiration for the westerners but some westerners may be corrupt, untrustworthy and they tend to hide the real agenda. Controversies such as that surrounding the Reliance-Enron partnership, where it is alleged Reliance paid $1.12m ( Rs 40m) to the then Petroleum and Natural Gas minister, Satish Sharma, in a bid to influence his decision regarding the award of the Panna and Mukta offshore oil exploration fields.
John Bray, furthered his argument: "India's attitude towards the West is not always balanced. There is an undeserved suspicion which may be a legacy from Lord Clive's. The word 'loot' has come into the English vocabulary, thanks to the work done by Lord Clive. On the other hand, the westerners need to learn some practical Hindi words too: 'sifarish' means relationship favours, 'hawala' means unofficial economy. This finanicial system works very fast and very efficiently. 'Chaipani' is a small payment, which is given to bureaucrats for lubrication. 'Rishwat' encompasses every social attitude towards corruption. Many Indians still have handout mentality and they are used to having subsidy. The good news about dealing with India is that inspite of cynicism, things really work they have legal system which works and foreigners do win cases. Elections are held properly and one can expect proper justice in the Indian system.
Talking about the Indian subcontinent, John Bray further stated: "India has not enjoyed the best relations with its immediate neighbours over the years, yet now there is more focus on co-operation between neighbouring states, as is illustrated by the purchase of Bhutan's India hydro-electric power. Similarly, the American company Unocal is hatching ambitious plans to build a transnational natural pipeline from Turkmenistan, to Pakistan and hopefully onto as far as Delhi, although as long as there is still dissent in Kashmir, this may prove to be impracticable."
Julian Parr, Regional Manager of The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, discussed the human side of investment and development informally over the lunch. The Forum has a mission statement: Promoting good corporate citizenship and international partnership for development. Julian is concerned about the ways multinational companies are operating in developing countries. He feels that a process of development not only requires market-oriented policies but also greater economic participation, social cohesion, human development, environmental sustainability and accountability.
Though funded by big businesses such as The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum works in a very practical 'grass roots' way to raise awareness of the value of corporate responsibility. Julian Parr said that a partnership is encouraged between business, communities and aid agencies in specific locations, as an effective means of promoting sustainable economic development. In India, the Forum has been able to organise seminars to raise awareness about good practices.
ANTIBODY: against everyone
ARTERY: the study of fine paintings
BACTERIA: back door to a cafeteria
BENIGN: what you be after you be eight
BOWEL: letters like A, E, I, O, or U
CAESAREAN SECTION: a district in Rome
CARDIOLOGY: advanced study of poker playing
CAT SCAN: searching for ones lost kitty
CAUTERIZE: made eye contact with her
COMA: a punctuation mark
CORTIZONE: the local courthouse
D & C: where Washington is
DILATE: to live longer
ENEMA: not a friend
ER: the things on your head that you hear with
FIBRILLATE: to tell lies
GENES: blue denim slacks
HEMORRHOID: a male from outer space
IMPOTENT: distinguished, well known
LABOR PAIN: hurt at work
MINOR OPERATION: somebody else's
ORGAN TRANSPLANT: what you do to your piano when you move
PARALYZE: two far-fetched stories
PATHOLOGICAL: a reasonable way to go
PHARMACIST: person who makes a living dealing in agriculture
PROTEIN: in favor of young people
RED BLOOD COUNT: Dracula
SECRETION: hiding anything
TABLET: a small table
TERMINAL ILLNESS: getting sick at the airport
TIBIA: country in North Africa
TRIPLE BYPASS: better than a quarterback sneak
TUMOR: an extra pair
URINE: opposite of "you're out"
VARICOSE: very close
1. IN A LAUNDROMAT: Automatic washing machines. Please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.
3. IN A LONDON DEPARTMENT STORE: Bargain Basement Upstairs
4. IN AN OFFICE: Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken.
5. IN ANOTHER OFFICE: After the tea break staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.
6. OUTSIDE A FARM: Horse manure -50 pence per pre-packed bag; 20 pence do-it-yourself.
7. ON A CHURCH DOOR:: This is the gate of Heaven. Enter ye all by this door. (This door is kept locked because of the draft. Please use side entrance)
8. ENGLISH SIGN IN A GERMAN CAFE: Mothers, Please Wash Your Hans Before Eating.
9. OUTSIDE A SECOND HAND SHOP: We exchange anything - bicycles, washing machines etc. Why not bring your wife along and get a wonderful bargain.
10. OUTSIDE A NEW TOWN HALL WHICH WAS TO BE OPENED BY THE PRINCE OF WALES: The Town Hall is closed until opening. It will remain closed after being opened. Open tomorrow.
11. OUTSIDE A PHOTOGRAPHER'S STUDIO: Out to lunch. If not back by five, out for dinner also.
12. SEEN AT THE SIDE OF A SUSSEX ROAD: Slow cattle crossing. No overtaking for the next 100 yrs.
13. OUTSIDE A DISCO: Smarts is the most exclusive disco in town. Everyone welcome.
14. QUICKSAND WARNING: Quicksand. Any person passing this point will be drowned. By order of the District Council.
15. NOTICE SENT TO RESIDENTS OF A WILTSHIRE PARISH: Due to increasing problems with litter louts and vandals we must ask anyone with relatives buried in the graveyard to do their best to keep them in order.
16. NOTICE IN A DRY CLEANER'S WINDOW: Anyone leaving their garments here for more than 30 days will be disposed of.
17. ON A MOTORWAY GARAGE: Please do not smoke near our petrol pumps. Your life may not be worth much but our petrol is.
18. IN A HEALTH FOOD SHOP WINDOW: Closed due to illness.
19. SPOTTED IN A SAFARI PARK: Elephants Please Stay In Your Car
20. SEEN DURING A CONFERENCE: For anyone who has children and doesn't know it, there is a day care on the first floor.
21. NOTICE IN A FIELD: The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.
22. MESSAGE ON A LEAFLET: If you cannot read, this leaflet will tell you how to get lessons.
23. ON A REPAIR SHOP DOOR: We can repair anything (Please knock hard on the door - the bell doesn't work)
24. SIGN AT A NORFOLK FARM GATE: Beware! I shoot every tenth trespasser and the ninth one has just left!
25. SPOTTED IN A TOILET IN A LONDON OFFICE BLOCK: Toilet out of order. Please use floor below.
For more than forty years, Prince Sabruddin Aga Khan has been collecting Indian and Islamic miniature paintings which range from 14th century Iran to 20th century India. Through these paintings, one can learn a great deal about the royalty, their life-style as well as how common people lived, loved and enjoyed themselves. The range of colours, forms, images, portraiture and designs is simply breathtaking.
Over 140 paintings and drawings of exceptional quality in Persian, Turkish, Mogul and Deccan styles are on display at the British Museum, London until 13th April 1998. Then the exhibition will travel to a gallery near Harvard University in the United States as Aga Khan developed his interest in collecting these invaluable works of art while he was studying at the Harvard during fifties. Later a host of cities will display this collection before it finally arrives in Zurich in 1998.
During a preview of the exhibition, I asked Sadruddin Aga Khan if he would like to take these paintings to the coutries where they originated. "I have not received any indication. I can see no reason why they should not be seen in the countries of their origin, especially in Iran."
Aga Khan's grandmother belonged to the Persian Royal family and she had a great influence on Sadruddin's formative period of art appreciation. On asked about the critirea of buying Indian Rajput paintings, Sadruddin said: "colours, beauty of nature, plants and their relationship with people, rajas, lovescenes and ballroom scenes, they relate to their own times and tell stories. My own religious background also influences a great deal."
This exhibition is curated by Dr Sheila Canby who also wrote comprehensive captions about each picture on display.This exhibition is curated by Dr Sheila Canby who also wrote comprehensive captions about each picture on display. One of the Deccani paintings that I admired was of the 16th century: "Ladies on a terrace". It seems that it was a diwali celebration. Sheil Canby writes: From this idyll of two fashionable ladies, holding sparklers over a small pool while fireworks splutter in the background." I was also intrigued by some of the Ragamala series of paintings. Sheila discribed these paintings as encapsulating the loving relationship of Krishna and Radha, which is the embodiment of the God's love for the soul. "Ragamala paintings are the pictorial equivalent of musical modes, organised in several systems and grouped in families consisting of the male raga at the head with several raginis, or wives, some sons called ragaputras, and occasional daughters - ragaputris," Sheila Canby describes them.
While looking at Kausa Ragaputra (c1700, Punjab Hills) done in opaque watercolour, the famous painter Balraj Khanna and curator of South Bank exhibition on Krishna revealed to me how intense natural colours were achieved in those days.
"The yellow colour for instance would have been extracted by a dehydration process of cow's urine. The holy cow was deprived of any liquid in the hot sun and her urine would come in a thick creamy yellow pigment which was used with 'gond', the persian gum on paper."
Whatever the process, the pictures look as new as if they were done yesterday. There are a number of gallery talks and seminar connected with this exhibition. A very lavish catalogue is published to accompany this exhibition which can be ordered from the British Museum Press for £30 Sterling.
More information on this exhibition and other activities of the British Museum can be found on their website:
London, 20 January, 1998. Britain will see twenty four hours of entertainment programmes mostly in Hindi on cable television from March 1, 1998. Thanks to an arrangement with the Sony Pictures Europe, the Indian Sony Entertainment Television will be available to the viewers in the Midlands, Leicester, the North West and South East of the country on Telewest Communications, Diamond Cable and later on CableTel networks.
"Initially this service will be available for free and there will be a lot of interaction between the Sony and its viewers", Rajesh Pant, the Senior Vice President, who is on a spacial visit to prepare a strategically planned launch of this service told us in an exclusive interview.
In India, Sony Entertainment Television is number two in the ratings and continued audience surveys determine the future strategies of their programming.
Some very important events were created and filmed by Sony Entertainment in the past. Events such as Miss India Contest, Filmfare Awards and Lata Mangeshkar's concert in Andheri have seen unprecedented audience billings.. Lata Mangeshkar gave a concert after coming out from around eight years' semi recluse. Recording of this programme with the help of veteran stars and use of movie clips itself was a big coup.
Sony also has a vast film library which they have leased from well-known Indian collectors. On an average 17 Indian films a week are shown on this network which constitute 30% of programming. About 10% of foreign (mostly American) programmes are dubbed into Hindi language and shown on the Indian television. Sony also owns Columbia Pictures in California which has a vast collection of Hollywood old favourites.
In addition, Sony has a number of serials such as 'Aahat' which have proved to be very popular in India. "We tend to bring family-oriented subjects to our audience and we do not show sex, adultery and other controversial themes." Rajesh Pant added. "Sony is a $52 billion company and it has a vision for the future. It is moving towards the digital age and soon there will be no difference between a PC and Television." Rajesh Pant who comes from the Sales background has worked for the Lintas Advertising and Citibank before joining the Sony Entertainment. He believes in his audience and says: "The day you take the customer for granted, they throw you out. We will always be close to our customers."
Sony can be reached on the website: http://www.spe.sony.com
EU to fight against Racism and Xenophobia.
London 12 January, 1998. During the UK Presidency of the European Union for the first six months of 1998, a seminar will be organised by the Home office on Race Relations. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary told us in a meeting organised by the Foreign Press Association today.
"I see the Presidency as a valuable opportunity for following up the European Year Against Racism 1997. We want to build on progress in the EU against racism and xenophobia. Tackling organised will be at the top of agenda during our Presidency. Our main area of action will be to implement the outstanding recommendations of the High Level Group on Organised Crime, whose report and action plan were endorsed by Heads of Government at Amsterdam last year.
"In addition, we shall be taking forward a range of proposals against drugs, including launching work on a new EU drugs strategy for the millenium and improving the ability of the Member States to detect and respond to new forms of synthetic drug misuse. As Presidency, the UK will also have an important role to play in ensuring effective EU co-operation for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in June."
Jack Straw was very forthcoming about his son's involvement in the sale of soft drugs. He said that though personal experiences do not influence his political policies, he is learning all the time from real events.
"One of my broader aims is to achieve a greater degree of openness and transparency in the Justice and Home Affairs field. I hope more openness in this area will allow greater understanding of what the European Union does and can do."
In 1967, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, the flutist and Shivkumar Sharma, the Santoor player created the "The Call of The Valley", the first thematic recording in Indian classical music. It remains one of the greatest hits to date. It was about a boy and a girl who belong to the Kashmir Valley - a romantic musical interlude set in the serenity and the beauty that pervaded these Himalayan valleys.
It began with the music evoking the calmness and the gentleness of the pre-dawn hours, the first rays setting the mountain peaks aglow, and the valley gradually filling with light, the heat of the noon and the cool of the evening and the waters of the Kashmiri lake dancing with stars.
Almost thirty years later, Shivkumar and Hariprasad have revisited their valley of the yester years. They recognise the change in the last thirty years that has overtaken their nostalgic vale. The innocence is lost, the peace of mind and harmony between peoples has disappeared.
Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia played together this week at the Royal Festival Hall in London which was a soldout concert. In the first half, they played Anadi, the beginning and in the second half of the concert, they played anant, the limitless imporvisation. It was an uplifting evening indeed. Recordings of these and other concerts are published by Navras on CDs which are now available in London by post.
This month saw an international conference on Jagannath culture. It is a unique religious and spiritual way of life which was developed during the last thousands of years. Jagannath, means Lord of the Universe in Sanskrit lies in a special temple in the sacred city of Puri on the Bay of Bengal in India. It is said that Jagannath is an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu and also of Buddha. He symbolises all the divine energies of the world: Universal brotherhood, friendship and compassion, religious tolerance, humanism and peace.
This month saw the rare opportunity to meet and discuss the message, meaning and relevance of Jagannath in our rapidly dividing world and our fragmented lives. Devotees and practitioners of this religous form from India, SriLanka and Britain are taking part in this rare conference. The details of the conference can be obtained from the venue: Quaker International Centre, William Penn House, 1 Byng Place, London WC1. Tel: 0171 387 5684.
During her state visit to India, The Queen Elizabeth II, the head of Commonwealth and the Duke of Edinburgh are facing an unprecedented hostile environment. The hostility is in fact, a reaction to an anachronistic British system which assumes that the Queen is entitiled to an unquestioned loyalty by it's citizens. The Queen accepted after Diana's death that Monarchy was not going to be the same. Where she failed was to change her advisors who are still living in the imperial age which seems to be older than three quarters of a century.
The Queen's speech writer gave her an outrageous speech to read in Islamabad which was seen as a direct interference between the relationship of India and Pakistan. The speech writers of the Queen never made her speak about Northern Ireland as she was commenting on the issue of Kashmir.
When the British Government has apologised for causing the potato famine in Ireland hundered years and now they are ready to apologise for the atrocities of the British soldiers during the Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland, why the Queen did not appear to be generous enough to apologise for British Army's massacre at the Jallianwalah Bagh. What we had was an insult to the injury by the Duke of Edinburgh who commented that the Indians were manipulating the figures of people martyred in the Punjab and the son of General Dyer was right who told the Duke the right figure. The British High Commission in New Delhi never get anything right. The High Commissioner, who was knighted by the Queen earlier this year has been accused in India for interfering in it's domestic affairs. He has also been responsible for mounting a major trading exhibition: 'Towards 2000' in New Delhi to co-incide with the Queen's visit. This One million pound spectacular bonanza lacks substance as well as glitter according to many discerning visitors.
While India sent best of it's artists and talents to Britain this year in order to present a showcase for the British to see, 'Towards 2000' is showing fashion show mounted by a University symbolising the British culture. Indians are also subjected to a Celtic rock band totally unknown in Britain, an exhibition of cricket photographs which reminds it's viewers of the past glories of Britain, mime artists who cannot sing songs of the Great Britishness and seminars on advanced manufacturing after two decades of the deliberate destruction of the British manufacturing by the Tory Government to defeat trade-unions. Most of the big British companies such as Prudential (after the pushy insurance salesmen scandal), Smithkline Beecham, GEC, ICI and National Grid who are taking part in the New Delhi exhibition have exhausted their markets in Europe including Britain and would like to push their incompetent products to India.
But India has seen best of the technology from Germany, Japan, US and Korea lately. Indian engineers are second to none in the world and they get generous offers from all over the world for very competent collaborations.
It seems that the British civil servants have to do a bit of more homework before they mount anything high-profile in India otherwise they will be vinidicating the Prime Minister I.K. Gujeral's comments: 'Britain is the third-rate power in the world'.