Sloan’s Sixty Five

My friend Sloan recently spent some time in India. He’s American, and made some observations from his trip, and shared them with people in our company.  I think he did a great job, and he agreed that I could share his observations here.


Though many of you have been to India, this was my first trip. I was able to visit Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore and attend two HR conferences. I found it to be an amazing experience that excited, bewildered, and fascinated. I also felt the need to capture some of my observations (OK, 65) and share with you this interesting place.

  1. They have watermelon juice. Why don’t we have watermelon juice?
  2. By 2020, 60% of the Indian population will be available to be part of the workforce. To educate those people by that time, need to set up new 50,000 colleges. Just as a reference, there are about 4,000 colleges and universities in the US.
  3. One of the problems is that of the 130 million who enter the Indian educational system only about 1.2 million go to college. For Indian males ages 18-24, only 12% go to college. 35-40% of India’s population is considered “rural poor.”
  4. I saw a man on a sidewalk with just a weight scale. A person came up, got on the scale and was given his weight. He got off the scale and paid a couple rupees. The scale owner quickly wiped the scale clean, ready for the next customer.
  5. There was an ox pulling a cart full of small refrigerator size pieces of ice, blocking the way of a guy in a Jaguar.
  6. In India, the average person stays in a job 3 years. The guy sitting next to me at a conference told me how that compares to Japan where a friend of his was lamenting the downfall there. People were starting to leave their jobs more frequently after only 20 years.
  7. I saw four women dressed in saris……..laying sod.
  8. Saw a dry cleaner, dying, and darning store. Did you get that last part? Darning.
  9. The guy sitting in the liquor store seemed to be drinking a gin and tonic.
  10. Nikhil and I are talking to his (—–) client. In the middle of the discussion, his blackberry alarm goes off. He excuses himself, walks over to a railing, and starts praying.
  11. Hey did I just see a little kid smoking?
  12. One vendor was selling just packs of cigarettes and mints, individually wrapped.
  13. There were lots of people just standing at the beach, so I stood there too.
  14. Apparently Bollywood creates 1,000 movies a year. I am ashamed that I can’t name one.
  15. You see dogs just wandering around. At one conference I saw two on a second floor veranda. I spent some unproductive time trying to figure out how the h*ll did they get on the second floor
  16. When we went to corporate offices, there were always people in uniforms to open the doors. In meetings, someone in white gloves would come in and serve us drinks and cookies on a plate
  17. Some of the street vendors had glasses, plastic plates and metal forks. You drank your drink and gave the glass back to them.
  18. I saw coke in returnable bottles
  19. I was told there are distinct masculine and feminine roles in India. You would not see women taxi drivers or working at gas stations. Speaking of gas stations, there are men in uniforms who pump your gas.
  20. Every hotel I stayed in had the WWE Professional wrestling station. Is that what they think of westerners? I mean it’s true, but……
  21. There was a day where I didn’t see any westerners. Then there was the day in the elevator where I saw a pale skinny white guy straight out of the 60’s show, Mad Men, complete with a tie clip. I sometimes wonder where in the world I am, is this an alternative universe?
  22. India is experiencing growth in the textile and railroad industry. What?? In fact, you can get an MBA in Textile Mgt or Rail Mgt.
  23. The home loan mortgage rate is about 10% here, about twice the US
  24. IGNO University has 3.9 million people enrolled in 3,500 courses. That’s is like the whole state of Connecticut going to one school
  25. I was patted down every time I went into a hotel by a security guard
  26. India has the largest illiterate population of any nation on earth
  27. There are street vendors who advertise the facebook pages and encourage you to follow them on twitter
  28. I see a lot people just sitting, standing around, or squatting. I saw a fairly well dressed man sleeping on the sidewalk.
  29. I also see a lot of bare feet and sandals. Am I the only one who wears sneakers in Mumbai?
  30. Many people call Mumbai Bombay. Old habits are hard to break.
  31. Several days ago, I visit a store that has a bunch of antiques. The owner shows me a small collapsible, leather bound telescope made in England in the 1940s. I leave Mumbai tomorrow and am still thinking about that @#$@ telescope and wonder if I can really live without it.
  32. Did I mention this, when I arrived in Delhi, the hotel picked me up in a nice Camry. As we were driving down what appeared to be a highway, a dog chased us. Again, what is going on here????
  33. Nikhil shared a story about a friend of his who has moved back to India from all places, Cary, NC. The guy interviewed for a corporate position with a country manager. The country manager said to this guy, I could offer you a salary at a higher range. He then stopped and just smiled. The guy did not know why he was smiling, so there was awkward silence. Finally, the country manager basically informed him he could offer him a salary at a higher range, but he would expect a kick-back for doing it. There is rampant corruption in both the public and private sector.
  34. I have smelled some of the most enchanting odors in India. Have also smelled things that nearly induced vomiting.
  35. I don’t think the whole baby boomer generation really occurred in India. They seem to have gone from a generation who had deep respect for work to the millenials.
  36. Some speaker complained that even though India is the birthplace for many aspects of mathematics, in a population of 1.2 billion people there had been zero(a number invented in India) Nobel prize winners won by Indians in India.
  37. 80% of Indians have cell phones and the average Indian watches 2 hours and 45 minutes of TV every day. One guy shared with me that he watches Family Guy every day.
  38. Literally all the little girls here are cute- I allow myself one generality.
  39. I was told Hinduism is not a religion, but a way of life, so go worship when you feel like worshipping. It’s not organized Sunday stuff. There are millions of Hindu gods
  40. When I was sick with Delhi Belly, a maid named Helen(which seemed a strange name for someone from India) brought flowers and a card to my room. I think I will always remember that.
  41. Speaking of Indian names, I can’t seem to remember anyone’s name in India. They are so different from my frame of reference that I have no mental tools to relate. I smile a lot.
  42. Before the conference starts, there is a ceremony where people light a candle
  43. CK Prahalad’s daughter, Deepa, speaks at the conference about learning and innovation. She tells stories how a redesign of a salad spinner caused it to be used as a blood separator and how GE’s redesign of a baby incubator led to incubators being made from car parts which lead to an MBA student developing a cheap plastic wrap to keep babies warm. I am not sure I totally followed where she was going, but it was interesting.
  44. A woman who is an expert on happiness, shared this video:
  45. A speaker from Boeing single handedly dismantled the 70-20-10 rule for development, saying it has no basis of research. The CCL study behind it never supported that breakdown nor really implied it as an outcome, yet we accept it as fact. Many people in the audience who touted 70-20-10 were quite annoyed. The speaker made us repeat after him. Surveys are not causal!
  46. The toast in the hotels is perfectly square without any crust. I wonder where all that crust goes.
  47. Indian carriers advertise that they have 3G. Wireless pricing changes daily
  48. US inflation rate: 3.6. India: 8.6
  49. I had laundry done. When it returned, it was in a brown wicker box and all my t-shirts were wrapped around pieces of cardboard. I had to take a picture of it.
  50. You work long hours in India. First you work the India day, when it’s quitting time there, well, then the US work day starts. It’s madness I tell you!
  51. I count 9 people in one taxi. I see a whole family on a motorcycle. Handlebars-Child-Father-Child-Mother. I see men riding motorcycles with helmets on, women on the back, riding side saddle in saris and no helmet.
  52. I see more Baskin Robbins Ice Cream in India, than I have ever seen in the US
  53. I meet a very dark skinned Indian who tells me a lot about Hinduism. I ask him, is that your religion? He says, “No, he is a Roman Catholic.” My frame of reference on what a Roman Catholic “should” look like is blown away.
  54. Before a conference starts, they play the National Anthem of India
  55. I go to two conferences where there are a total of about 400 people. Of those 400 people, I count six Westerners. Of those six, three are presenters.
  56. To go into one temple, I have to remove my shoes. To go into another, I have to remove my shoes, wash my feet, and put a scarf over my head.
  57. Apple, Apple, Apple. Even in India, Apple is consistently held up as “The Company” to emulate.
  58. Bangalore is described as the “City of Ideas” and the city that turned India around. It was here that IT outsourcing started.
  59. Indian workers have grown accustomed to 14-15% salary increases every year.
  60. During both conferences, there were numerous references and stories reminding people of Indian mythical and medieval culture.
  61. At least in the hotels, TV dialogue was censored. There was one exchange I watched where the word “sex” was deleted so many times that I had no idea what they were talking about. Every once in a while a disclaimer would run across the TV saying if you are unhappy with the content of this show, please contact ….
  62. In a break out session at one of the HR management conferences, we hold hands and pray.
  63. I ride in a taxi for two hours that looks like this. The driver recently had the interior of his taxi painted. On the back wall is an American flag with an eagle. He is very proud of it.
  64. The word “cacophony” really seems to be appropriate as I walk the streets.
  65. When I leave the hotel, the staff brings me a cake that says, “Bon Voyage.”
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