My shocking India business takeoff – in 1999

Teamphoto - first businesstrip to India

I started a company in Pune before ever visiting India. That for sure didn’t make my first India trip less of a shock. What an attention we got, even on TV. I have hardly ever recovered.

I came with a couple of Norwegian colleagues to be part of the inauguration of the company. “Nothing big at all, everything taken care of” the management in India informed me. Great, since I am not that much of ceremony fan. But what a lie. This was “big” according to my standards.

The main photo: if you haven’t guessed already, I am in the first row, all the way to the right side, looking shocked.
(I know it looks like “49”, not “99” – must be the photos has got rough treatment)

In the morning I was taken to the Blue Diamond hotel in Koregaon park. Knowing zero about the arrangements. Expecting coffee and cake with the team and a guest from Bombay. Knowing I had no specific role other than being present. A small welcome speech was already delegated to a Norwegian colleague.

I was directly lined up in the lobby with the local managers, to welcome the guest of honor, Mr. George Mathew, Norwegian consul in Bombay.

I sensed the others were really worked up having a VIP guest attending. The minutes before his arrival was chaotic and the seconds counted down, presidential style.

After a short meeting with Mr. Mathew we were escorted to the room of the get-together. A surprisingly large room with surprisingly many people, for such a small gathering. I suggested some free seats towards the front – but someone physically held my arm and led me towards the “stage”. My seat was obviously there, facing the wrong way. With my name on one of the tags, it was obviously not possible to refuse.

the crowd
Stage view of the cozy informal get-together.

Luckily I had a back issue at that time and carried a couple of muscle relaxing tablets in the pocket. I swallowed them both, hoping for any kind of effect, positive or negative.

I obviously knew we were in a suit and tie, but was told that was how it was in India. Slightly over formal dressing in business. I was not expecting this. Not at all. The event was as formal as it get according to my standards.

press conference
Not prepared at all for the press conference. Me, feeling far from comfortable. Where is the effect of that medicine? The national press represented.
Flower cermony
Receiving flowers. The medicine slowly starting to kick in.

After lots of speeches, oil lamp lighting, the press conference, the cake eating and the photo session – I was “delivered” back to the hotel.

Back in my hotel room, watching myself on national TV, the medicine finally kicked in.