Bombay's newest mega store

The tagline for Hypercity is very appropriate – “There’s more to discover.” I had a chance to visit Bombay’s answer to the “big box” format (ala Costco and Carrefour) and it is spread over 100,000 square feet. If you were blindfolded and taken to the center of the store you would have no idea you were in India, the K. Raheja Group has definitely done it’s homework in launching Hypercity. Of all the talk and rumors of new malls and stores coming to India, most will fail but Hypercity will survive. What’s the secret, the K. Raheja Group is one of the largest family owned builders in Bombay, however the were smart enough to hire people with prior experience to operate and expand the Hypercity concept. They offer the expected brands you might find at a Big Bazaar and also their own private label brands such as Tosco and Lauren Christopher. The store reminds me of a Target Greatlands in that is very contemporary looking and the quality of merchandise seemed pretty good. Hypercity is located in Malad (West) next to the equally massive Inorbit Mall. Due to it’s location most people from South Bombay will visit this store about as often as Santa Claus visits. Hypercity website Pics of Hypercity

Shiro, the new "it" club in Bombay

Shiro is the newest hot spot in Bombay and it’s impressive. It’s located in the Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound in Worli next to the Hard Rock Cafe. And, when i say next too I mean they share a common wall. Shiro is massive on the inside and has a very Buddhist/zen look similar to Tao New York or Tao Vegas. You enter the place and immediately you are looking at a 50ft statue, to the left is a small lounge and to the right is a large area to mingle and drink. They have two VIP areas on top, but if you are up there you’ll end up missing all the eye candy on the ground floor. I also got a chance to visit the Hard Rock Cafe and it’s just as large on the inside. I have never visited a Hard Rock Cafe except the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas, they have done a great job with the place, food is good and the music is actually great b/c they don’t play bollywood songs. If you are planning to hit up both these places, I recommend getting some food at Hard Rock Cafe then get into Shiro before 10:30p after that it will be impossible to get in, unless on a guest list.

Hard Rock Cafe – Bombay info
Pics of Shiro

Staying in India longer than 180 days?

If you are on an Indian visitors visa, then you know that any single trip cannot be more than 180 days at a time. You can either ignore that and take your chances or you can visit the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FFRO) and register with them. Since, I’m based in Bombay I had the great pleasure of visiting their Bombay location. The whole process only took 2 hours but that could have been cut down to 30 minutes had they supplied more information on their website. However, as you can see, the website has very little information. So, I thought I would write-up the basics and save you some time.

1. Download this form and fill it out, make a total of 3 copies of this completed form
2. Get the “undertaking form” from the office, but you can fill it on the spot by the person sponsoring you, but you will need to have a total of 3 copies of this completed form as well
3. 4 passport photos of you
4. 3 copies of your passport main page
5. 3 copies of the Indian visa
6. 3 copies of the arrival date stamp in the passport
7. 3 copies of the sponsoring person’s passport, main page
8. 3 copies of the sponsoring person’s passport, address page
9. 3 copies of the sponsoring person’s address proof, i.e. phone bill
10. Bring Rs. 150 for the various fees Have all the information filled out and then bring it to the office.

First you’ll goto the cashier and get a folder for Rs. 50. Then you will be called by the passport officer who will check all your documents and charge a Rs. 100 fee, once that is paid, you will sit again in the waiting room. Finally, they will call you again to say everything is cool!

Friday the 13th, not so bad

The dreaded Friday the 13th has come and gone. It seems the equity markets in the US and India have benefited from it. On Friday, both benchmarks Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the BSE’s Sensex hit all time highs, the DJIA hit 11,960.51 while the Sensex hit 12,719.53. But, there is still no joy in mudville, although these indexes have scaled all time highs people are still not celebrating. In the US, I assume it’s because the Nasdaq is still around 2350, no where near its all time high of 5500. In India, most people I talk to are still reeling from the crash of May/June. When the Sensex crossed 12,000 all the business news networks were celebrating, I’m fairly sure that won’t happen for 13,000. In addition, some of the biggest falls have happened in October. On Oct 19, 1987 the DJIA fell 22.6% in a day. Last October the Sensex fell 1200 points during Diwali, which is generally the festive season. Clearly, not very festive for some investors.

iPod arbitrage

A couple weeks ago I blogged about a new Apple store that opened up in Bombay, a couple of my friends and relatives visited and their first response was “Apple is pricing their products too high in India.” I recently had a chat with someone from Apple India and he went through the pricing structure for an iPod and showed it was really all the taxes you pay that inflate the price. In the US a 80GB 5.5gen iPod goes for USD 349.00, in India the same iPod is INR 23,600 (which works out to USD 517 at the current exchange rate of Rs. 45.60). Initially it looks like Apple is charging an extra USD 168 to buy the same product in India. But in reality Apple charges the same price, it’s all the additional taxes, a total of 45.5%:
27.5% import duty on MP3 players
12.5% value added tax
5.5% octroi – local municipal tax
Apple Store – USA
Apple Store – India

Do YouTube?

Most of you probably heard that YouTube was bought by Google for an astounding USD 1.65 billion. The numbers floating on the web say each of the 3 co-founders – Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim might take home USD 100-200 million and the VC firm – Sequoia Capital which invested USD 11.5 million is now worth up to USD 660 million — in less than a year, that is a return of 5600%. All 3 co-founders were early employees at PayPal which is now owned by eBay. For nostaglia sake here is the first video ever upload to YouTube.

8,760 hours in India

On October 1, 2005 I landed into India and the last 12 months have been a blur, I figure this is a good time to reflect on my experiences in India. When I first landed I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I told myself I would spend the next 12 months in India no matter what the situation. It didn’t take very long to encounter my first test, on October 17, 2005 the company we partnered with, Refco, filed for bankruptcy. They were the largest commodity brokers in the world, it would be the equivalent of General Motors filing for Chapter 11 (oh wait, that actually could happen). I’m glad I stuck to my guns and saw through it, because two major things happened. First i met my fiancee, Neesha, in Bombay and second we are currently running the first commodity fund in India for Indian investors. Personally, it has been a great experience staying in Bombay but I never thought I would be living in Bombay long-term, which now seems to be the case. One of my biggest fears in living in India long-term was losing touch with the “Americana pop culture.” And, I don’t mean Britany Spears and/or Hollywood movies. It was more along the lines of stupid things like the lonelygirl15 episode, basically what Jay Leno and David Letterman talk about in their monologue’s. Thanks to the internet getting information is as easy as sitting in Manhattan Beach as in Mahalaxmi. Podcasts via iTunes is another avenue I have used to keep up-to-date, some of the better podcasts I listen to frequently are:
– NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams
– MacCast
– This Week in Tech
– Harvard Business Review IdeaCast
– Knowledge@Wharton Audio

Lastly, the biggest saviour has been the BitTorrent network, because of it I have been able to download shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 60 Minutes, Entourge, etc…Thanks to Bram Cohen for coming up with the BitTorrent protocol. On the business angle, if I had a nickel for every person that said they wanted to start something in India, I’d be rich. I used to talk to people about starting a business in India, but now I tell people to get on a plane and spend a month in Bombay and check it out. I’ve always said there is a disconnect between the marketing of the “New India” and the reality of India, but you gotta be on the ground to understand it. Let me shatter the myth that India is cheap, first the ticket to India is around USD 2000 for coach, hotels in Bombay go for around USD 250 a night, a Hertz rental car is around USD 1000 a month. So when building out your business plan for India, use Manhattan as a cost basis and not Memphis, Tennessee. Overall India has been great, I do run into minor annoyances on daily basis, but have learned to cope with them. But, the two things that still annoy me to no end: – the pervasive attitude of “This is India.” If something is not done correctly instead of trying to fix it, most people just throw their hands up and say “boss, this is India, things are different” – seeking validation by outsiders, mainly white skinned people. “I heard the Academy Awards is seeking to nominate Rang De Basanti for an Oscar” or “I heard XYZ Hollywood actor/actress is visiting India”. The constant need for validation is just hard to justify since they always tell me “boss, this is India, things are different”