A Venture to India (2)

The noise is phenomenal. The traffic weaves in and out….tuks tuks barp, cars toot, trucks grumble, carts drawn by mules clop along and cyclists weave in and

The noise is phenomenal. The traffic weaves in and out . . . tuks tuks barp, cars toot, trucks grumble, carts drawn by mules clop along and cyclists weave in and out of traffic that hems them in on all sides. I see near misses and catch my breath.

Pedestrians step out from the side walk. As they do they hold their hands out from their waist trying to warn traffic to let them through by a kind of calming hand motion, the way a conductor instructs an orchestra when it comes to a quiet section of music.

No one seems to notice and the pedestrians continue to walk out into the traffic. I keep thinking of Moses parting the Red Sea and think that was by far the least demanding feat.  By some miracle the pedestrians get to the middle of the road and start the next phase of the journey – facing down traffic coming from the opposite direction.

I am amazed they survive. Perhaps they are too . . . although they seem familiar with what everyone in the car with me laughingly refers to as the ‘traffic dance.’

I give a muted squeak when a ‘traffic dancer’ brushes the side of the car and I expect them to roll away in front of oncoming cars. They don’t. My fellow passengers laugh. They have no idea that a scream is not far behind my muted squeaks.

Eventually I relax and realise that everyone appears to know what they are doing.

Delhi strikes me as being summarised by the traffic. Survival lies at the core of everything. A business person snaps up opportunities and turns them into successes. They live off their wits and are on their phones doing deals all the time . . . getting produce from one place to the next, making sure nothing happens to put it at risk.  And we talk about the loss of opportunity because of Auckland’s traffic problems but surely getting produce from one place to another is far more difficult in 24/7 crawling, backed-up traffic. I am filled with wonder at everyone’s ingenuity as I travel in the back of the car taking me to the meeting, which will result in signing an agreement that entitles PATSIndia to have exclusive distribution rights of The Story Mint into seven middle eastern countries. The agreement also has a review clause written into it.

We pull off the unmarked road and seem to weave through a crowd of people, selling food from stalls. These stalls are like nothing I have ever seen in New Zealand. There are tables set up with dust covered produce. Smoke billows around vendors selling cooked goods in open fires and carts are placed strategically to catch passers-by. These carts are laden with fruit – pomegranates, oranges, melons and bananas. I have been told to be careful about what I eat, so am not tempted. I’m also just a little bit afraid. I am a lone white woman. I am hosted by gracious young women and young men and I am pleased that I have that support. I would never have dared to travel to India alone if I didn’t know that I was being met by Mack Saros, whom I had met here in NZ and knew.

Once I got to know Shiraz, Sharif, their wives and other family members I felt at ease. I liked them very much, and in the end a business relationship cannot succeed if that essential element is not present.

I also knew in advance who I was meeting, that there was a programme in place and that we were all meeting in order to work out if we were indeed suited to doing business together. It was a big step to take and a risky one. Luckily for me it worked out well. Not only did I feel reassured that these were ethical business people, but I also sensed they were hard-working and keen to make the partnership work. Had I had any doubts about that, I would not have signed the Heads of Agreement. I’m sure that goes for them also. However, travelling to India is an expensive way to meet prospective business partners. But even in today’s world of skype, video conferencing and other electronic media, I still believe that there has to be a face to face meeting before entering into a business arrangement.

We parked at the PATSIndia office, pressed up against the curb to allow traffic to pass and went inside. The office is set in the University grounds so it feels a bit like entering a gated community when I walk through the gate and along the path, past other offices to the office PATSIndia operates out of. As we leave the car, I am aware that students are walking past – women in beautiful day wear, long tops and matching trousers for the most part. I love the elegance of their clothes but realise I do not have the panache to carry off wearing a similar costume.

The PATSIndia offices remind me that India is full of history. The beautiful black beams, polished doors and whitewashed walls recall a world that goes back centuries. We set up and sign the agreement and as I put my signature on the document I crafted, I am thankful that we now have an arrangement which is more than just a handshake. I sense that the feeling is mutual because they take me back to my hotel and embark on a flurry of activity delivering invitations to leading educationalists and business people with whom PATSIndia does business.

I am again reminded that my role is to let them get on with selling to their contacts and mine is to support their efforts.