[This is an account of my first trip to India, traveling as a guest of Tibco Software, an SVW sponsor.]
We leave for Delhi airport to travel by small chartered jet to Mumbai, also known by its Portuguese name Bombay, India's most populous city with 19m residents. The security at the Delhi airport is multi-stage and every few yards police or military personnel are rechecking our papers and screening our baggage.
India has suffered far more terrorist attacks than the US and it seems they can't bee too careful. Even though we have moved through multiple checkpoints--all in view of each other--our documents and baggage get checked again and again.
Vivek Ranadive, Tibco's CEO, notes that in the US, private jet travelers go through no security or screening at all. I'm amazed.
We drive out to the other side of the airport and board the aircraft. We're soon up in the air for the 90 minute flight to Mumbai.
I've become a big fan of the newspapers and business magazines in India and pass the time by reading. It's interesting seeing things from within India (more on this in a later post.)
As we glide into the approach for the landing I can already see that this is a much different place to stately Delhi, with its broad boulevards, and grand government buildings. Right next to the airport is a large brown-grey area of boxes and rectangles all jumbled up. I can't make out what it is but as we get lower I can see it is a sprawling shanty shack city.
As we drive from the airport we're embedded within a mass of humanity and traffic. Tiny two-stroke cars and taxis mix with Bentleys and Mercedes. Some are cutting at right angles across the traffic lanes, people are crossing against the traffic everywhere. And everywhere is a cacophony of car horns. Every time we stop, young children tap on the car windows selling roses, or newspapers, or beg one rupee (about 2 cents) for food.
Bombay is crowded because it is spread across 7 islands so everything along the road is packed in tight, the kiosk-like shops, the people, the shanty shacks, the lone cows. It's all a mashup of colorful clothes, and smells, I'm completely fascinated whichever direction I look.
Mumbai seems to be decaying with rundown Portuguese colonial era buildings, and bad housing projects, yet simultaneously rising young and new with striking looking office buildings and apartment buildings. All mashed up together, next to each other.
We head for the evening reception and dinner at a large hotel in the western part of Bombay. Vivek Ranadive and CIO magazine are hosting an event to launch the book "The Predictive Enterprise" and about 50 CIOs of India's largest companies will be there.
Sanjay Gupta, vice president, Global Alliances at Tibco is already decked out in a sharp suit and sun glasses. Vivek jokes that he looks like a Bollywood movie star. I get changed into a suit in a room in the hotel and freshen up then head off to the reception on the lower level.
The restaurant in the hotel is sharp and very urban - it could be a trendy night spot in New York or London. I chat with some of the CIOs, many have spent time in San Francisco and the Bay area in years past, some have worked at startups.
I ask about the startup culture in India. There doesn't seem to be much going on, I can't get much of an answer from the people I'm speaking with.
One of them says "We've skipped that step." I smile but say that you can't skip the startup stage, innovation happens much faster when you are not encumbered by a large organization.
After a while the room is hushed and Mr Ranadive gives an introductory welcome. He says he grew up in Mumbai, his mother and sister still live there, but he left when he was 17.
He introduces his concept about the predictive enterprise and then the CIOs line up to have him autograph copies of his book.
Before dinner begins I head back to the hotel room where I had changed into my suit, to get some stomach medicine. I feel like I am coming down with a local malady, despite only drinking bottled water.
I lay down on the bed for one moment and then am startled to wake up four hours later, having completely missed the dinner. And everybody has left for another hotel on the other side of Mumbai. Holly Burkhart, Tibco's very able and super-efficient corporate communications director and events organizer calls. I apologize for missing the dinner, she tells me not to worry and says I should stay there and make my way over to the other hotel the next morning.
My stomach is still churning so I'm thankful to rest and nurse my stomach cramps. I notice that the vitreous porcelain bathroom receptacle is marked "HindWare." How apt I think, but then again it could it also refer to "Hindi."