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”

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