The Network - Getting Things Done in India: Feb. 7th
An ex-pat woman we met was reflecting today on her experience in India. She was talking about "how proud we Americans are of getting something done by ourselves". She learned very quickly that in India, however, the first thing you do is ask for help. Then the network starts up and eventually it delivers. I would amend that by saying that the network always delivers, but if you start the network in the wrong place it can take forever.
Our most difficult task, to date, has been to get Apple's Software Technology Park established. This is an incredible process, which has made our own personal customs clearance seem simple by comparison. Getting a STP is of major importance, because we end up saving hundreds of thousands on duty per year. However, to slow down the loss of foreign duty income, the Indian government makes the process as difficult and labyrinthian as possible. If you’ve been reading my journal in the past, you know that the slowest, most exasperating, civil service of India is customs. Apple’s Global Ethics Guidelines doesn’t allow us to pay more than $100 in gifts. Since there is no go-between handling our STP, and since there is a significant amount of customs work, it quickly became apparent that there was no hope in hell, or India, of getting customs to expedite our STP process. We needed "The Network".
Our initial entry-point into the network, our software consulting partner's Director of Finance, told us that it would take three months (ie. a year, in American time). For a small monthly fee, he would help us in getting the needed licenses. Recently, I ate a particularly hot chili pepper snack, and then proceeded to feel it burn my tongue while simultaneously realizing that the water at the table wasn’t safe to drink. The Finance Director’s kind offer resulted in the same sensation.
Another point in the network was needed. Our HR head, Satish, had an older brother, Mohan Das who was visiting from nearby Madras. I met him, and in my chat with him and Satish, I casually mentioned our customs woes. Mohan Das, it turns out is an ex-national basketball player for India. All the ex-sports people for Indian teams end up in the civil service. Mohan Das has a friend who is an ex-national field hockey player in customs in Madras. This friend has a field hockey friend in customs in Bangalore. This friend is taken to lunch by my team, and he introduces us to a friend in another department in customs. Another lunch is taken, and we get another introduction to a friend who has the power to grant us our customs bonding. A few more lunches go by, and we start. In a week we will be done. The customs official even volunteered to come to our office on Sunday to expedite things. Awesome network.