There is no doubt that we just arrived at one of the hottest places that we’ve ever worked. By hot we do not mean trendy hot, but temperature hot. After a 10 hour flight from London we arrived in late evening on the coolest part of the day at 98 degrees. Delhi’s airport just opened a year ago in celebration of the ASEAN Games which took place in October 2011.
Hosting these games is similar to holding an Olympics. The city ends up focusing on cleaning things up, and building facilities that are more on an international standard. For example, in the past the city was populated with thousands of sacred cows that blocked the streets and stopped traffic at all times have almost all been removed. They constructed hundreds of flyways (overpasses) to increase the flow of traffic. Busses and Tuk Tuks (open taxis) were converted to CMG gas vehicles creating much better air quality, a brand new air conditioned subway system was created, and the rapid development in new buildings began. India took a part of the focus of its tremendous economic growth to invest in upgrading and beautifying the capital city for the games. One can honestly say that life in Delhi has improved tremendously for many of the locals and visitors as well.
Having said all of this, India is still a third world and very poor nation. With a population of over 1.2 billion people, poverty and hunger continue to challenge this democratic government. Each day as we travel around the region we encounter so many reminders of how poor poor is. We are reminded that we do serve an important part in helping this country and its people to step out of their poverty. By providing jobs, education and inspiration to create home, gift and fashion products we are providing new opportunities and ways for people to change their lives and make global connections.
The biggest challenge for us was seeing and trying to make sense of the dichotomy of what we see every day as we travel around. We saw things like;
- brand new roads with people sleeping in the streets
- Mercedes and fancy cars with beggars knocking on the car’s window
- world class 5 star hotels, with just outside kids walking around with no clothes.
- beautiful parks and monuments with piles of rubbish nearby with cows and homeless dogs searching for scraps for their next meal.
Then there is the clash of times. India, like many developing nations, is a country in the midst of change. They have a rich and spiritual history that is pervasive in their personalities, streets, arts and even the way they do business. Set that against a transition to becoming more modern and western and you end up with an incredible experience. India is probably the most colorful country that we visit in almost every way. When we visit India, it is always an adventure full of surprises and intrigue. There is about 9 1/2 hour time difference between New Delhi and New York. As an intrepid traveler we have learned to take the time difference in stride and not let it affect what we need to do. There is no doubt that the collection we have just worked on is the HOTTEST!! Having survived 110 degrees and even hotter days, our trip is winding up. Believe me working in India in June is only for the intrepid – intensely devoted and a little bit crazy—that’s us! We tried to limit our running around this trip and visited two offices where we met with our team of suppliers. Our 12+ hour days have been spent with a few dozen suppliers–some factories – others families of artisans. We believe that our group of suppliers are the most talented in this region and are committed to working to help our Company maintain its leadership position. We worked on a wide variety of collections from the October introduction to as far forward as Christmas 2013 for all divisions. There is always a lot of ground to cover. Luckily, Mark preceded us arriving four days earlier. He ventured out to factories and workshops helping to make our time there more efficient. During our meetings we met on a variety of issues from product designs to quality reinforcing our commitment to becoming a better company.We also took some time recognizing a few vendors awards for excellent service. Those are always special moments as our vendors truly cherish the relationship and appreciate any recognition that we do. These awards go a long way. Today I received a note from one of our award recipients. They stated, “We shared the recognition of best trading partner with our entire team, and the response we got was more than overwhelming and was highly motivating. During the tenure, our company has worked hard to understand many of your requirements, in terms of quality and design readability along with execution. And we feel glad that you and your team acknowledge the same. Thank you again for your support and confidence in us”.
Each trip we try to do something a bit different. This time we visited Haus Khas Village a small enclave in South Delhi.
This area hosts an historical building dating back from the 14th century and served as a tomb as well as a spiritual place. Just beside this park is a small community of artisans and trendy shops. The streets are quite narrow and it is far from clean but despite that and the over 100 degree weather tourists and locals come from far and wide to search out great finds from fashion to home.
We were visiting in hopes of finding some things for our own, a little personal gratification (shopping) as well as inspiration for product design. We hit gold in one of the shops called Address Home. I found this wonderful Buddha mug with the words Namo buddham sharanam gacchami. All Buddhists say this, each in his own language. Namo means “I bow”. Sharanam means “refuge,” a safe place of renewal. Gacchami means “I go.” So, “I bow to Buddha and resort to him as refuge.” Mark found a set of dinner set designed by a local designer celebrating the bright colors of India and the local dress. Bobbie found a scarf that was made from Nepalese Cashmere with a beautiful floral design. This will serve as some of the inspiration for a new couture collection of scarves with a higher quality, more expensive materials and workmanship for fall 2013.
There are many wonderful five star hotels in Delhi. We were so excited a few years back when the Aman Group opened in Delhi. The Aman hotels have over 20 unique properties around the world. They specialize in celebrating local customs and architecture and bringing that into an entire living experience. While we don’t have a lot of time to enjoy the facilities, it is always comforting to return at night to a special place. One of the positive sides of traveling to India when it’s so hot is that no one else is, and we were able to enjoy some great bargain rates at the Aman. (http://www.amanresorts.com/amannewdelhi/home.aspx)
Evenings are often spent either working, sleeping (if we are catching up on the time change), or out with one of our long term suppliers. In India we often spend time with our vendors and their families who are often an integral part of the business. Some of these we have known for over 20 years and are an important part of the Two’s Family. On this evening we enjoyed spending time with one of our oldest relationships who brought with them three generations of family members.
Some of our favorite restaurants (beyond the cuisine, these restaurants offer an inspiring aesthetic):
Restaurant 360-The Oberoi Hotel (Great International Cuisine)
HOT-This was one of the first contemporary designed restaurant in New Delhi. We loved the aesthetic and a ceiling that is filled with hanging dark wood stained dowels that absorb sound.
The Spice Route at the Imperial Hotel-Thai Cuisine
One of the most beautiful restaurants in the world. They took an old temple in Thailand and basically moved it piece by piece converting it into an oasis of Thai color and culture.
Hyatt Regency Hotel – Chinese
Designed by a Belgian architect, This may be the first time that a Chinese restaurant has been transformed into a modern open kitchen. The action in a Chinese kitchen is mesmerizing.
Well, we are just about to land at JFK. It’s been about 10 days since leaving New York. It always feels like we have been away much longer when we have traveled over 20,000 air miles. As we land we are already preparing for tomorrow. Mark is off to Atlanta and Bobbie and I are looking forward in seeing everyone in the office tomorrow. India seems far away already. While we will miss our friends there, we are looking forward to settling in with our routine at home.