Do Indian businesses really support sport?

I’m a big fan of all things related to sports, so it comes as no surprise when I say that the UK India Business Council put together a fantastic line-up of sports personalities at their gala dinner last week, which took place at the Royal Courts of Justice and should be congratulated. In attendance were Dame Kelly Holmes, Monty Panesar, Kapil Dev, and the guy who brought the IPL to the world – Lalit Modi.

Earlier in the day, I’d had the privilege to attend the baton relay that had been organised by Buckingham Palace to mark the start of the journey for the Commonwealth Baton, which will end up in Delhi next year. So, with athletics and sport running through my head that day, the cynic in me wondered whether Indian business actually supports sport – beyond Cricket.

We know of examples like Lakshmi Mittal supporting tennis stars, Vijay Mallya, TCS and ICICI being involved in Formula 1, but does support for athletics and other lesser publicised sports really run through the veins of India’s business leaders? In the UK, we have clear examples of corporate money from Aviva supporting athletics, is there an equivalent in India? Will the Commonwealth Games change this?

It was Dame Kelly who made the point most eloquently to me when she said that the benefits of supporting kids from the grassroots are huge. Without this investment, as a society we’re poorer for the simple reason that sports personalities have long been considered the best role models for future generations to emulate.

It’d be great to learn as to whether Indian businesses are opening up to supporting grass-roots sports. If you have a view, let me know.

Musings about the President’s visit

Attended a dinner event organised by the Indian High Commission in which the President was unveiled to an audience largely comprising leading members of the Indian diaspora.

Having watched the politicking from afar when she was nominated by Sonia Gandhi for this post, I arrived at the venue as a cynic of the Indian system, but quite uncharacteristcally left impressed, and almost inspired.

Impressed  – for the simple reason that she kept her speech to the point and brief. More importantly she demonstrated her intelligence by avoiding a trap that was set for her – with all the bigwigs at this bash, she chose her words carefully and decided not to single out a leading Peer of the Lords, which is par for the course –  not even Lord Paul (a die-hard Congress supporter) – or even any of the MPs who attended, but she focused on the man of the moment – Professor Venkatraman Ramakrishnan – the genius who was awarded the Nobel in Chemistry this year.

Inspired – because I think the President understood that her’s was a ceremonial role. Yes, we know that she can impose President’s rule, but she came across as a genteel and warm lady. Whether India deserves such a figure or someone like APJ Abdul Kalam is a matter for them, but from the dragoness I was expecting as a result of adverse media coverage, I have to say, she carried herself well.

Anyway, enough of my musings. Heavy day tomorrow (Thursday) – the Commonwealth Games handover at Buckingham Palace, followed by the UKIBC Summit and then the dinner. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that its as good as last years. Shall report back tomorrow 🙂

India season cometh (again)

Its been a few years, but I can, for the first time in ages, say that I may actually enjoy August!

Traditionally, August and December were two points at which we could do all the things that needed doing at work, but in the last few years this distinction blurred as there was so much going on. It seems to be much quieter this time around, perhaps they’re too busy organising themselves for the autumnal months ahead of us – which looks busy.

I thought I’d write a post as to what’s going on in London viz. India in September & October, as this’ll probably save some time in conversation. Please feel free to add to this list:

Lord Davies, International Trade Minister, leads a business delegation to India this September. He’ll visit Delhi, Mumbai, and Nagpur from 14th – 18th September.

Officials from The Indian Ministry of Finance & SEBI visit London on a study tour of regulatory and monetary policy.

The Corporation of London hosts its India Advisory Council meeting on 1st October, which Naina Kidwai and other leading CEOs from Mumbai visit. There’s an event with CNBC also.

The Lord Mayor of London leads a City delegation to India from 19th – 24th October. The Lord Mayor represents the interests of the financial services sector of the UK.

The Indian President visits the UK on her first state visit here. You can be assured of several events around this. I believe that her visit will also be used to mark the countdown to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The UK India Business Council will organise their annual conference and dinner on 29th October. Was a blockbuster last year, you’d better buy tickets early if you want to secure a seat.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for UK – India Trade & Investment Relations will host a dinner symposium on how British companies can participate in building India’s roads, ports and other infrastructure. I’m lead to believe that an Indian Minister will deliver the keynote address. Event takes place in conjunction with the Commonwealth Business Council on 2nd November.

Just as well I’ve been down to the gym building up my stamina. At least, I’ll be able to enjoy the merriment around Diwali this time. Can’t wait to attend all those charity fund-raisers in town 😉

Tips on Doing Business in India

I attended the UK – India Business Council Inaugural Summit in London last week and need to record my praise for their team, and in particular for Sharon Bamford and Karan Bilimoria, CEO and Chairman, respectively, for pulling off an event with such style. Whilst I could not attend the star spangled dinner that evening, I am informed that, once again, they pulled out all the stops for their guests. To mark the international expansion of Kingfisher Airlines, Vijay Mallya trumped his competition by giving each guest a free (economy) round trip ticket to India! I can’t really complain, I won the Jet raffle prize of two free tickets to India earlier that day 🙂

 

The audience at the conference seemed genuinely interested in India and what surprised me was that the vast majority of those I spoke with already had made inroads into the sub-continent. It didn’t matter if you were a one man band, a SME or a large multinational. They were all at it.

However, the one thing, I did pick up was that India was not a simple place to do business. In response to this, I offer the following five tips to make your lives easier:

1. Treat India like you treat Europe. It’s just as big in size, and has more people. If you treat India in regions, it may make your lives easier.

2. Take some intercultural training before you go. Indian’s may be familiar with English, but the softer aspects of doing business in India are often the most crucial. You need to know what signs to look out for. There’s some great books and some equally good training programmes out there.

3. Appreciate that India is not a command economy / dictatorship. By this I mean, please don’t compare India to China. Both have their advantages and weaknesses. In India, democracy runs deep. Naturally, this extends to every aspect of life and can slow decision making. But be assured, once a decision is made, it’ll probably stand the test of time.

4. India isn’t cheap. Your notions of picking up bargains (business or pleasure) belong to an era long forgotten. From the simple things such as hotel rates, internal flights, even entertainment, be prepared to pay – sure not London or New York rates, but nevertheless rates that aren’t what you may have been lead to believe.

5. Finally, in my view, India is THE land of contradictions. So much wealth, yet, so much poverty. So many educated people… so few quality educational institutions etc etc. Bear this in mind when visiting India.

The UKIBC summit reminded me of the reasons why we formed our business – India is the place to be, it still makes my pulse race faster. Well done, UKIBC.