New Delhi Walkathon
[New Delhi, India]
Despite the fact that we had arrived in Delhi on Friday, May 20, our weekend trips to Jaipur and Agra kept us from exploring the city. It wasn’t until Monday, May 23rd that we finally had a full day of activities in India’s capital.
Our day started off with a country briefing by someone from the US Commercial Service. According to its website, “the U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to new global markets.”
The person from the US Commercial Service gave us an overview of the business and cultural climate in India. We learned, for instance, that India is ranked 182nd out of 183 countries in terms of enforcing contracts. Its courts have 30 years worth of backlogged cases! International companies get around this by putting in an international arbitration clause in their contracts and usually take their disputes to Singapore. We also learned about various US companies who are doing business in India and what they’ve had to do to gain a foothold in the market.
Once the presentation was over, we had the rest of the day free. About 12 of us decided to go explore the markets in Delhi. We started off by visiting Khan market not too far from our hotel. Khan market is where Delhi citizens go to buy US brands – Adidas, Reebok and the like. We took a glance and decided to keep on going. Just down the road from Khan Market was a metro station.
Delhi’s metro is a world-class transportation system that’s still in development. It is set to cover the entire Delhi Metro area by 2020. It’s new, clean and even the stations are air-conditioned unlike the metros of some major US cities, including NYC. In addition, the Delhi metro has one very important feature – women only cars. The platform has pink signs so that women can wait in the proper place to get onto these cars. Although initially we thought this was a “backwards” kind of concept, we really enjoyed the fact that the women’s car was A LOT less crowded than the other cars. In a country where crowds are everywhere, we welcomed the breathing room!
Our first stop on what turned out to be an 8-hour excursion all over Delhi was Dilli Haat. This bazaar has arts, crafts and textile merchants from all over India. From scarves to footwear to souvenirs and sarees, this was a great way to get a sense of what we’d want to buy in India.
Next, we went to Connaught Place. CP, as its widely called in Delhi, consists of an outer circle and an inner circle of shops, businesses and firms. CP is a showpiece of Lutyens’ Delhi – the part of Delhi named after architect Edwin Luytens, who was responsible for much of the architectural design of Delhi while India was still part of the British empire. CP was great to walk around in, and as any part of India, contrasts were everywhere. You could see a beggar on the street just a few feet down from a fancy Nike store.
We did a bit of shopping at CP (not at the Nike store, of course) and then stopped at a little ice cream place for refreshments. Ryno, our resident Indian who takes us around everywhere we go, even got a cake for our teammate Robbie whose birthday was on Saturday. The Happy Birthday wish on the cake played on Robbie’s propensity to use the F-word. 🙂
Afterwards, we went for kababs at Nizam’s (out of order, I know – kababs after ice cream???). This was our first of many kabab meals in India and it was YUMMY!!! I got the mutton egg kabab – lamb meat and onions wrapped in naan-like bread, then dipped in an egg mixture and fried. YUM!!!
From CP, we went down to Janpath market – another great market in Delhi. Although it was past 8 pm, all the stores looked as if it was the middle of the day.
From there, we walked down to the Imperial hotel, which we were told was a beautiful building. Having drinks at the Imperial in Delhi is the equivalent of having Singapore Slings at the Raffles – you gotta do it when you are in town!!!
By the time we were done, it was close to 10 pm. Although we were all tired, we were happy to have walked all over Delhi for 8 hours – it was good not to be on a bus or a train for 4-5 hours straight like we had been all weekend! We were getting used to the noise and traffic and horns and dust and we were actually starting to see past that. India had started growing on us ever so subtly and unexpectedly.