Report from event regarding opportunities for Norwegian companies in India (part 1)

Hi everyone

As I wrote in a previous blog post, last Thursday I was at a seminar about opportunities for Norwegian companies in India. This seminar was indeed very exciting and it is even clearer to me now than before that Norwegian companies still have a lot to do in terms of taking their opportunities in India.

The seminar was opened by Professor Torgeir Reve from Norwegian Business School. He said that India do have an important role as a change maker in the global economy. Until now China has been known for manufacturing while India has been known for its service industry. Will this change?

The next speaker, secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Jeanette Moen started by mentioning chess, and the upcoming world cup match between Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand. This she said, is one of a very few examples where India and Norway actually compete. Except from that, the relationship between the countries is more based of collaboration. The Norwegian government launched their India strategy back in 2009 and from 2002 to 2012 the trade between the two countries has quadrupled!

After this introduction by the two Norwegian speakers the scene was handed over to two Indian experts in this area. First Anthony D’Costa Professor at Copenhagen Business School talked about drivers, trends and sectors in the Indian economy. He talked about the evolution that has happened in India since its first economic reforms back in the 1970’s. Foreign investment to the country has been tripled from 2005/06 – 2009/10. He also talked about the enormous talent pool that India have and that the service sector stands for about 1/3 of the export today. But he also pointed at some challenges for India:

–          Import of oil is enormous.  In order for India to continue to be competitive they have to think about alternative energy. It is too costly to import that much

–          Most people in India is still employed in what he call the informal sector, which means that the work is not organized at all and that there is no security for the workers at all. 52 % of the workforce in India today is still at the agriculture sector

–          Purchasing power is only at a very few hands

–          India is ranked extremely low (number 134) in human development

Amit Kapoor

He was followed by Dr. Amit Kapoor from the Management Development Institute in India. This guy was an absolutely firework at the stage! He used a lot of irony in his speech which leads to some other blogger writing a quite negative story about his presentation. To me his was just brilliant! He started off by saying that only 5 million people in India work in the IT-sector and that this hardly brings anything good to the country, but only to the few people who work in this sector and get their money from there. He also said that 95% of the population doesn’t know English, so that the idea of India being a country with a lot of English speakers is, well, bluntly, bollocks! Further on he said that Indians doesn’t make any innovation, they always try to take short-cuts.

But he also had some very interesting ideas about what are the biggest opportunities for companies that want to succeed in India. The biggest opportunity he said is the healthcare. Today India has a very rapidly growing number of people in their 40’s or 50’s that have good income and then a good fortune. They will be able to and willing to pay a considerable high amount for people taking care of their health when they get older. But as he stressed, it has to happen “the Indian way”. Huge hospitals are nice and fine, but the main problem with healthcare is not the doctors at the hospitals. The problem is the infrastructure. If you get a heart attack in an Indian metro you will probably die before you get to the hospital. He suggested that instead of building only big fancy hospitals there is a need to build smaller hospitals at the streets. Hospitals that people can actually reach quickly. This was one example of how your business plan has to be adjusted to the Indian market. Another example is the cigarette industry. For the many poor people in the country, buying a pack of cigarettes is a too big investment. It is then quite common to see small cigarette shops at the streets where people sell single cigarettes! Another example of the same is Unilever, a company that understood that they had to go away from their “selling in bulk” strategy and sell their items in small quantities. This was the only way to get success at the Indian countryside.

Dr. Kapoor also stressed the importance of not looking at India as one market. Your business strategy will have to be very different if your main market is the metro of Mumbai or if it is the rural area of Bihar. But, as he said, don’t try to promote your product as cheap! Tata Nano is an example of a product that failed because it was promoted as cheap. Indians are proud. Even the strugglers in Bombay will not accept to buy anything that is cheap. But if they can buy something that give good value for money, they will surely be more interested…

The first part of the seminar was nicely wrapped up by Harald Nævdal from Innovation Norway. He asked on important question: “Can Norwegian companies actually afford not to have an India strategy?” At the same time he stressed the fact that a successful entry into the Indian market will take time. Don’t expect to get success rapidly and immediately. But you have to start your planning now!

The seminar concluded with a panel discussion regarding how Norwegian companies can join the economic growth in India. Hilde M. Tønne from Telenor and Pål Helsing from Kongsberg Oil and Gas Technologies both have long experience from operating in India. I will write more about that second part in tomorrow’s blog post.

Any thought or suggestions?

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Kolkata – my first memories of India

Hi Everyone

This morning I’m on my way to Kolkata, for even another wedding.

For some reason Kolkata, or Calcutta as it used to be before, holds some of my very first memories of India. It is in some way the absolutely REAL INDIA for me. I tried to figure out why it is like this, but not really sure. One reason might be the song “Gutta fra Calcutta”, which I do think I listened to a lot as a kid. Please listen to it. It’s a nice, or rather funny, song. And the video also contains some nice pictures of snowy Norway.

One more reason why I remember Kolkata is the two books about India that I used to read as a kid; The road to Agra and off course The Jungle Book. I do still think I can remember some of the drawings in “The road to Agra” and quite surely my dad still have a LP at home with “The Jungle Book”. Today off course I know that none of these books have anything to do with Kolkata, but when I was a kid I thought it was like that.

Today Kolkata is one of the biggest cities in India, with more than 14 million people (according to Wikipedia). Kolkata is known as the cultural center of India. Or at least so I was told by one of my earlier friends in Mumbai. She’s from the area, so not sure if she’s the most trustworthy source. Some Keralans might strongly disagree with her. But there is no doubt that Kolkata have more Nobel literature prize winners than any other cities in India. The Bengali literature has a very old and proud history. During my visit here I will surely try to see some of the old cultural places.

Kolkata is also quite famous for its hand pulled rickshaws. I can easily admit that I have really mixed feelings about this mood of transportation. Off course I know that if I use it, I help a quite very poor person, but at the same time I feel it completely wring that anyone should have to pull me. I have two quite ok legs, and should be able to walk myself.

Several major streets have been closed to rickshaw traffic since 1972, and in 1982 the city seized over 12,000 rickshaws and destroyed them. In 1992, it was estimated that over 30,000 rickshaws were operating in the city, all but 6,000 of them illegally, lacking a license (no new licenses have been issued since 1945). The large majority of rickshaw pullers rent their rickshaws for a few dollars per shift. They live cheaply in hostels, trying to save money to send home.

Most Kolkata rickshaws serve people “just a notch about poor” Many middle-class families contract with rickshaw pullers to transport their children to and from school. When it floods in Kolkata, rickshaw business increases and prices rise. When it rains, even the governor takes rickshaws.

If you like to know more about the manual rickshaws in Mumbai I can absolutely remember the book City of Joy.

More about Kolkata will come when I’m done with the trip for sure.

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Kathakali

Hi Everyone

Like I said in my previous post, I have just been back to Kerala. Thanks to my Japanese travel mates we managed to see a Kathakali dance show in Kocchi on our way from Alleppey to Mumbai. I have been to Kocchi two times before, but never seen this, so it was a very interesting experience.

The show itself started one hour before the show started. Not possible you say? Well, do remember that this is India, so anything can happen. But well, here it is actually the case that this happened. An important part of the dance is the painting of the dancer. And at the show we watched the dancer actually put up his makeup on stage!  We enjoyed watching this and it gave us a nice introduction to the play.

Kathakali is said to be a combination of five elements; expressions, dance, enhancement and instruments. During the show we watched, we could see all of these elements. We were told that there are more than 500 different stories in Kathakali (even if Wikipedia lists only 101). Each of them is from the Hindu religion.

At the play we watched there were four people at the stage. It was a drummer; two dancers and a presenter, if that’s the right word for the job this person. The presenter told us the story as it unfolded in front of our eyes. This was actually quite nice, and it made it much easier for us to follow what happened at stage. The show started with one of the dancers entering the scene and he did some absolutely extremely movements with his eyes. The way he could roll them around was almost distracting. After this he went on to present some different alphabets and small scenes. He showed up different faces depending on what he was. He showed expressions like sad, happy, joyful and such. Also he showed different animals like an elephant or a snake. All of this he did to the rhythm of the drummer and very skillfully.

After this one dancer had been alone on the stage for some time, it was time for the main dancer to enter. The first dancer and the presenter let the curtain fall and there he was. He showed a dance where he played two characters at the same time. It was the classic good against bad. He played a prince and a dragon at the same time.

I had some knowledge about this kind of dance from before. But seeing it was really nice. If you ever are in Kocchi I can absolutely advice you to drop by. The place we visited had <a hreshows every day. It was supposed to start with the make-up at 6 pm, but unlike most other things in India it actually started earlier! We watched some of the make-up session before we went for a walk, and then came back for the start of the show. That was good enough for us. Having seen this one, actually quite small show, just makes me want to go back to Kerala to see even more when they have some bigger festivals with many more dancers.

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Reaching target of sponsoring 20 Nanhi Kali’s

Hi Everyone

When I reached 10.000 hits on my blog, I promised to sponsor 1 Nanhi Kali with education for each 1000 hits up to 20.000. Late April, hit number 20.000 came up on the blog, so I have now increased the number of Nanhi Kalis I’m sponsoring to 20! Sponsoring a girl with education for one year is surely a nice thing to do. But to really help her out of poverty, and to be able to get a proper job, she has to be followed up for the whole duration of her education. So I have decided that I will do this, and sponsor these girls for up to 10 years! So for every 1000 click on the blog you will from now and onwards not sponsor one more girl but you will help to make sure that they will be able to continue their education. Thanks a lot to all of you for helping in this.

You might ask about what kind of girls it is that get this opportunity from Nanhi Kali and wonder a bit about their background and such. As a sponsor to Nanhi Kali, I do get regularly updates about the progress of the girls. But Nanhi Kali also has quite strict rules about what can be published and what cannot be published. So I do have to be careful about what I can say and not. The information has to be anonymized. Let me here try to tell you the story about two of the girls, in an anonymized way. I do like to give the girls some names, not just girl A and girl B. So maybe we should call them Katrina or Kareena. Or no, I will call them Priyanka and Deepika. And for those of you who follow Bollywood, you surely know from where I have got those names. So here we go.

Priyanka is nine years old. Her mother is 25 and an agriculture labor and her father is 28 and a farmer. Priyanka have 1 brother and one sister. The family’s yearly income is less than INR 7500, – per annum. Priyanka is a friendly and cheerful girl. She likes reading and singing. She attends school regularly and enjoys learning new things. Her favorite subject is Telugu. She wants to be a nurse when she grows up. Priyanka helps her mother in household chores. She usually keeps good health. As her family can’t provide her with enough food she has the midday meal at school regularly. This ensures a daily quota of basic nutrients. Priyanka have been provided with an educational support kit comprising two sets of uniforms, two sets of clothing a pair of shoes, five notebooks and stationary. This sponsorship has motivated her to continue with her studies.

Deepika will turn 9 years old this summer. She is the only child and both her parents are skilled workers. Her mother is 32 and her father is 36. Even this family has a yearly income of less than INR 7500, – per annum. Deepika has scored good marks and is working towards improving her performance. Her inclination towards studies is clearly evident by her academic performance. The Nanhi Kali sponsorship is an added incentive for her to continue schooling. She loves to paint and to play with bright colors. She has enthusiastically participated in several sports and academic competitions organized in her school. Deepika’s family live in a small house with no access to basic common facilities like toilets etc. They live in a rented house which consists of only one room where the entire family sustains.

So this is the story of two of the 20 girls that currently are getting the education paid for by you my readers! Most of the girls that I sponsor have a similar kind of background and a very similar story.

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Greeting from Norway

Hi everyone

During the Easter holiday I had a friend from Norway visiting me. Here is his report from India:

Greetings everybody

This Easter I travelled to India and visited Karsten. I was invited as a guest blog to write about our trip inIndia. First of all you have to excuse my writings in English, my job and life does not involve a lot of English speaking or writing at a normal day, so I am a bit rusty.

I was in India for almost two weeks. When I told friends and colleagues that I was going to India there were two kind of response. One was a positive response. The other was “do you really want get sick during your vacation?”. Many of Norwegians have this impression about India. When you travel to India you get sick. And the statistics says that 40 % of all people who travel are getting sick. I have to be honest and say that was also my biggest concern. But the key point is just to be aware of what you eat and drink. You have to drink from bottle water which you also brush your teeth in. In the shower, close your mouth. Eat at nice looking restaurants and ask that the meat/chicken is well done. In the beginning I was really careful but since it is so good food in India, at the end I really did not care what I ordered. I had a slight degree of stomach problems, but not so seriously.

When I left Norway the spring just had arrived with around 10 degrees. But it was a big difference to come Mumbai at night time which had around 30 degrees. In Mumbai I used time to do some shopping. The prices at malls down there are around 1/3 of the price back home, so for me this was cheap. I have to admit I bought too much. I almost did not get the suitcase closed when I went back home and I came to Mumbai with an empty suitcase.

Before I went I bought the book Shantaram, which is obligated to read before you go to India and Mumbai according my colleagues. Because of the book, I had to see the restaurant Leopold, Gateway of India, Taj Mahal hotel, and Marine Drive. To get to these places we went by train. Karsten warned what to do and the ride met my expectations. It is strange to see people standing in the door or no door when the train goes around 100 km/h. It would never been allowed in Norway. On the way back home we went by taxi and took around two and half hour. Mumbai is BIG. After two days in Mumbai we went to Alleypey and boarded a houseboat. I have to say that was the best part of the trip. They say Kerala is God’s own country, which I believe is true. We had a big houseboat with separate bedrooms. The nature and the channels were just beautiful. The food we got served was excellent and we really had a good time onboard. The only negative was that I got cockroaches in my bedroom when I tried to sleep. There were no use to kill them because after you killed one, there came another one. Luckily we had a boat with three bedrooms so I went to sleep at the empty room. But overall, I wished we had some more time on this.

After that we had some days in Kochior Fort, in Kochi which the island is called. We got to see the Chinese fishing nets and other things. Even it was a relaxed atmosphere there, I would not recommend to stay there too many days. After this we went to Benguluru. We stayed with a colleague of Karsten who had opened the home for us which we are thankfully for. For me this was just a big city and reminded me about Mumbai.

After this we went for Goa. We stayed at Calangute/Baga Beach. I liked the cabanas on the beach with palmtrees in the background. It is good that it was not build hotels close to the beach. Then it looks more natural. The ocean was salty and going into it was almost not cooling since the temperature was high also there. We rented motorbikes one day. When we rented these bikes I said that I am not renting before I get a helmet. Yes we got a helmet, but it was no strap. So if I crashed the helmet would just have absolutely NO meaning to protect. But the renter just told us that you only need helmet when you go on the highway(?) Anyway we rented the bikes and went to see the beaches up north which was Anjuna and Vagator. If you want a postcard beach, you have to go to these places. Next time I am going to one of these beaches to stay. And it was fun to see hippies are still there.

When I was in India the cricket season begun. It is not a big sport in Norway, so I had no expectations to it. Before I have always seen this as a boring sport which take too long time to watch. But I have changed my opinion. After Karsten has told me about the rules, we tried to watch one game pr day. It is interesting to see how the different tactics is in the game.

A culture difference I noticed was concept of time. To schedule to meet a person at a certain time is no use. InNorwaywe get angry when people are too late. This is not an issue in India. There you schedule a time, but it is just for saying a time to meet, you will probably meet this person two hours after you scheduled. This is very much an example of the difference between the M-time and the P-time.

But overall, I really liked India. I liked the people, food and atmosphere. It is an exotic country and compared to other countries in Asia, like Thailand, they still have preserved their culture.

I hope to go back sometime this autumn if Karsten is still located there.

This weekend I was up in the mountains to ski on snow. It was strange feeling to ski since few days before I was swimming in the ocean of Goa.

Cheers

Frode

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Swedish cray fish party

Hi everyone

Yesterday the Swedish chamber of commerce hosted a crayfish party. This was an opportunity to meet some people from “home” or at least from my part of the world. It was all hosted at Malaxhmi race course, which I think is one of the really nicer places
in Mumbai.

Present there, I think it was about 100 people, maybe a bit less. The organizer said
that there were more Norwegians and Danish than Swedes, but well, that does not
really take the joy of the party! If you have never been to a Swedish crayfish
party anywhere in a world, you should really try to be invited into one. I must
admit that I have never been to one such before, so being in for the first time
in Mumbai might sound a bit strange. But how could I care? A really nice
evening it was.

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The invitation:

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Talk to you soon
Karsten