Thoughts At The Most Peaceful Place

I had a crazy idea – to look for the most peaceful place on the earth!

In 1983, when I visited North Pole, Narvik was the northern most place, I could access. My first experience there in the midst of midnight sun left me with a great feeling.  In 2006, when I went to Antarctica in the South Pole region, the large icebergs floating in the ocean itself had an amazing and surprising soothing effect on the nerves.  On my expedition to Mt Everest, Base camp in 2008, trekking the mountain snow peaks by myself, probably calmed down my temperament by leaps.

North Pole Location

North Pole Location

In 2009 I planned my second trip to North Pole, this time to reach exact 90° N.   I did reach.   The place is aligned with the northern most tip of the earth’s axis of rotation. This place is just a large sheet of ice and has no inhabitants. I realised it was the most peaceful place I had been to till then.  I closed my eyes to experience the vibrations.  Soon enough my thoughts took me to a star shining absolutely bright, right above me.  This was of course, the Dhruv Tara, the North Pole Star, also called Polaris.

Wow! While the thought process started, I realised there were many lessons the Pole Star has, to make life meaningful, if only we could follow.

  • Pole Star is committed to stay firm for sure. Why can’t I be in my commitments?
  • A person, trillions of miles away on earth, confidently depends on the Pole Star to assess directions. Can I make myself dependable in such a way at least to those who are known and close by?
  • Pole Star acts as a guide to those who lose their path. If one gets lost on the earth’s northern hemisphere, one can make out the directions by looking at Polaris.  This guidance is unselfish, unconditional and unbiased. Can I be such a guide?

I wish we have the ability to follow what the Pole Star has been practicing flawlessly for ages –  Dependable, Unbiased, Firm and Guide to those who need!  All these, without any self-interest.

What A Change In Cultural Values!

“Today is your birthday.  Make yourself presentable to Dadi (grandmom) and other elders. Seek their blessings for your bright future,” my mother would advise me about sixty years ago, handing a set of new clothes.  Very obediently, I would go to my grand mother, uncle and all elders in the family, and bow for their blessings.

Today, the conversation with a birthday boy or girl would go  something like:

Me: “Did your grandmother and uncle call you to wish you on birthday?”

Child: “No, you know.  How bad.  How sad.  They did not call me.”

Me: “Then, did you call them up?”

Child: “If they don’t care to call me, why should I?”

Cultural values are changing fast!

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited  : Meeta Kabra

Triveni Tricks

During my articleship, I was on an audit of a Sugar factory near Lucknow.  I had heard a lot about Triveni Sangam, a point where three rivers meet in Allahabad. Rivers Ganga and Yamuna meet and the undercurrents of Saraswati river joins the flow at this junction. For Hindus, a dip at this junction, is considered very auspicious and believed to liberate one of all sins.  Since, the office I was at was very close to this place, I wanted to experience this dip.

The current is extremely strong at the point where the 3 rivers meet as it is at the center of the three rivers. A boat ride that is a few minutes long, takes you to the meeting point. A group of other boats lowers a wooden plank from their sides. These planks are supported by bamboos.

I was sharing a boat with a total of 8 passengers.  While the boat was taking us to the Sangam, a boy from one of the smaller boats approached us and offered to show us a miracle.

He said (in Hindi, of course!), “Sir, look at this current of the two rivers Ganga and Jamuna.  You throw a five or ten rupee note in the river, I will swim and bring it back.  Tip me Re 1 if you are impressed.”  This was 1967, so the purchasing power of Rs.10 was like that of today’s Rs.1,000.  And Rs.10 from each passenger would make a reasonable amount.

The river’s current was extremely strong.  To catch a paper flowing in the river and bringing it back against the current was just unbelievable.  Everyone in the boat was impressed with the offer and were willing to test this little boy.

I said, “I will tip you of Rs.5 instead of Re.1, but you will have to throw your own currency note, not mine.”  The boy completely ignored me.  The other guys from our boat threw their currency notes.  The youngster swam in such a strong current and collected the notes. It was a real feat and we appreciated it.

But he never returned!  He just disappeared!  On my return, I could see the same boy making the same proposal to another boat sailing towards the Sangam.

Ah, I did not lose my money!

This small incident in life made me wonder. Others will continuously judge you according to their own perceptions but are you able to judge others appropriately when they try to take advantage of you?


Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited  : Meeta Kabra

Lessons Learnt From Those Trees

A few months ago, I was in Yosemite Valle, California, USA .   This is a huge forest with 800 miles in hiking trails. The Sequoia family of trees with their huge trunks draw special attention of the visitors.  The tallest tree is 285 feet in height.

As I looked around I felt, each of these trees have meaningful lessons to teach.

Wewona Tree

Wawona Giant Sequoia

One of the trees, Wawona giant sequoia is 210 feet tall, 92 feet in circumference with a diameter of 30 feet.   As you can see in the image, the tree fell down from its roots. This happened in 1969 and it is still lying there as the wood is resistant to decay. It is as good as dead, but so what?  While living, it succeeded in maintaining its world record.  Therefore even after death, it is a darling of everyone  who passes it by.   In fact, the authorities allow visitors to play around and hug this eternally sleeping tree.

These giant sequoia trees understand that to survive, it is very important to share and live together as a society.  They are aware that for survival, every tree needs water and nutrients which is why they grow very close to one another.   They permit the roots of one giant sequoia to fuse with the roots of another. This underground activity enables the giant trees not only to survive in close proximity to each other but live together with equal rights.

In fact there is a set of two trees called “Faithful Couple” who believe to share every thing

Faithful Couple

Faithful Couple

with the partner. They are so  close to each other that one side of their trunks is almost like a common wall of the two trunks.   They respect the presence of the neighbour. They demonstrate their ability to share the components for survival such as water, sunlight and nutrients like a true couple. They believe in togetherness in pleasure and sorrow,  “sukh-dukh mein saath saath

California Tunnel

California Tunnel

There is a tree called California Tunnel, one of the two living trees in the area.  The tree in the dense jungle does not hesitate to permit the people to pass through its tummy.  A large cavity in the huge trunk is wide enough to let a SUV pass through it. Convenience to others is more important to the tree than its own inconvenience.   Similarly there is a tree called Clothspin which has a tunnel in its body as big as 40ft in height.

At one site, there are 3 sequoia trees together named 3 Graces. Their roots are inter-mingled. Research confirms that they survive together and if they were to fall, they would fall together.  Together they live and together they would die.  “jiyenge saath saath, marenge saath saath

Writer  : Badri Baldawa

Editor  : Meeta Kabra

Be Careful Of Ravans In Ram’s Land

“Why do people carry gold jewelry when they travel?”  I remember asking my dad as a child.  Around 1960s, it was fashionable for people to wear gold ornaments while traveling, especially women.  Dad’s reply was interesting.

“It is better to have a gold ring or a small chain when you travel. For any reason, if one dies while traveling alone, he carries something which can be used to, at the very least perform the last rites. That way the body is not at the mercy of others’ charity.”

Those were the times when fast communication was almost non-existent, travel facilities were minimal, visiting cards were not prevalent and neither were ID cards.  If one died and was not identified, a group of people strangers would perform cremation formalities.

Then dad added, “But while traveling never carry jewelry more than the basic minimum.  Never carry it to show off”.

A few years later, I was at the bank of River Ganges in Benaras (Kashi/Varnasi).  I was on an audit at Fertilizer Corp of India, Sindri near Dhanbad.  This is another popular, important pious place for Hindus. For the weekend, I decided to visit Benaras and bathe in the River Ganges.

It was January and the water was extremely cold.  It was impossible for me to swim in the strong current of the River.  The alternative was to go some steps into the river and take a few quick dips. It needed courage to dip in the ice-cold water, so early in the morning.

As I approached the river, there were two guys sitting with a reasonably sized metal safe and a receipt book. They had a signboard saying:

 “Beware of Thieves.

Government appointed custodian for valuables.

Free Service.

Please collect receipt for your deposits.”

I had left my money at the hotel and carried only a few rupees with me.  However, I forgot to take my wrist watch and gold chain off.  The chain was a little long, so it was possible for it slip out when I took a dip in the water. I thought it a better idea to leave it with these official custodians.

While I was considering, a South Indian couple with two children, aged approximately 8-10 were with the custodians.  They probably read the board.  They deposited all their jewelry and valuables including the cash they had and collected the receipt.

One of those two guys at the locker came running to me to scare me. He told me that there were a lot of thefts at the riverbank while tourists bathed in the river. He said it was for my good that he was suggesting that I deposit all my valuables with them.  I began to wonder why a Government official would invite and insist.

I took an intuitive decision not to leave anything with them. I told them I had nothing much to deposit and carried on to the river.

Somehow, after seeing the custodian, I was suspicious about the entire place.  I suspected someone would take my clothes too, which carried some cash, watch and my gold chain.  In case it did happen, what would I have on me when I went back to the hotel?  I had to be careful.

I left my shirt and pant on one of the steps close to the bank of the river. I took only a few steps till I was about 3-4ft in the water. I could keep an eye on my clothes. I chose to take a few dips rather than a small swim. That way I could see my belongings after every dip, every few seconds.

The water was freezing cold and so was the winter weather. I took my first dip and in almost unconsciously looked at my clothes to make sure that they were still there. I did this after every one of the 7 dips I took.

Normally, when we dip in the river, we are supposed to sync our thoughts with the Almighty, the river Goddess and pray.  Unfortunately, I was just thinking about my clothes. Not good! I decided to be better prepared when I visited again in the evening.

On my way back, I saw a family of four crying and beating their chest.  I walked to them and asked them why they were upset. Did something drastic and wrong happen while they bathed? When I approached them, I recognized that this was the same family I had seen near the custodians before I left for my bath.

Holding the receipt, they, including the 2 kids, were crying and told me in Telugu (which I knew well), “Oh, we lost everything. We are doomed.  We deposited all our ornaments and cash with the depositors.  They just disappeared with their vault.  We don’t have money even to feed our children nor to buy tickets to get back home!”  A respectable family was left to beg for charity from other visitors there.  A pitiful scene.

I was happy that I did not bank my valuables with them.  Since multiple IDs are now available, I make it a point not to carry unnecessary valuables while traveling and check the genuineness of operators with the hotel authorities or local permanent shop keepers.

We have to be careful of devils who play on sentiments of innocent even in most pious places.  Let us remember, even in mythology, devils are Gods’ neighbours!  After all, Ravan co-existed with Ram and Shiva.

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

God, The Jugaad Master !

I was stuck at an altitude of about 11,000 ft above sea level with my imported Honda Civic. The car had stalled.

 It was 1988, a time when a Maruti 800 was considered a novelty on the roads. We were on a road trip from Bombay – my wife, the three kids (ages 9-14). We were headed to Badrinath Temple, abode of Lord Vishnu in the Himalayas.

The nearest city which could service imported cars, was Delhi, over 550 kms away, passing through dangerous single lane ghats full of sharp turns and twists.

The traditional route to Badrinath was via Rishikesh. I was told that drivers needed special hill-driving endorsement on their licence to drive after Rishikesh.  I did not have the endorsement and hence was not eligible to drive to that part of the Himalayas. But I still wanted to pursue my crazy idea of driving from sea level all the way to the top of Badrinath and to the base of Kedarnath at 12,000 ft above sea level.

If I drove through the traditional route, I had to pass through many check posts. Without a hill-driving endorsement I would have been forced to engage a professional certified driver.  But, I wanted to experience the thrill of making those sharp and dangerous turns myself.

I changed the route.  Instead of going through the traditional route via Rishikesh, I deviated from Gwalior to drive through Nainital and Almora and joined the traditional route at Karna Prayag.

There were no check posts on this road. Understandable because there were not many vehicles who’d dare to use this route. Over a length of 300 kms after Nainital, the alternative route was steep, full of sharp turns, single, 4ft wide and had a deep valley on one side. A stretch of about 200 kms to Karna Prayag, was completely isolated.  I saw only 3-4 trucks in a drive of about 8 hours.

I did not know that roads could be so dangerous!  We prayed for our lives. We made a promise to God that once we reached Badrinath we’d visit the temple in the evening and again the next day morning, irrespective of how crowded it would be.

We reached Badrinath late in the afternoon, checked-in to whatever accommodation we got, dipped in the holy hot water spring and paid our respects to the Lord. We then decided that we could move on to the next destination immediately, instead of staying till the next morning, which would save us a day.

We checked out of the rooms, packed our baggage back into the car and settled in the car to leave.  When I tried to ignite the engine, the car refused to start!  It was in perfect working condition when I had switched it off last.  Try as I might, the engine cranked but refused to start.

Of course, there was no garage around and the one for this type of a car was far away in Delhi.  The other option was to tow the car.  But towing through a ghat stretch of sharp turns was not safe at all.  We were stuck.

The car was in an open parking ground.  There were quite a few cars and trucks around.  I checked under the hood and apparently nothing was wrong.  The battery was going weak due to repeated attempts to start the car.

A truck driver was watching me struggle. He said, screwdriver in hand, that he knew the mechanism of the car and could help.  Another guy got interested too.  As I was talking to him, the driver with the screwdriver suddenly unscrewed the screw of the carburetor top, breaking the original seal exposing the inside throttle valve.  This valve is a vital part controlling the fuel and air supply to the engine and needs absolute accurate adjustment to run the car.

He proudly claimed that he broke open the seal. He did not realise the complication he had created! He tried to adjust the valve and screw it back but just couldn’t do it. The engine was now completely dead, no more cranking sounds either.

It was a much bigger problem now! The options we had were either to call a known mechanic from Bombay, a distance of 2000 km or an unknown mechanic from Delhi.  This also meant we were stuck in Badrinath, at sub-zero temperature for a few days.  Else we could tow the car through the sharp ghat curves at very high risk.

We were completely upset and worried. We just looked at each other and had no clue what to do. This is when we realised that we were in trouble because we tried to cheat the Almighty – you can call it belief or call it what you like.

Earlier while driving through the dangerous ghats, we prayed to stay at Badrinath atleast for a night and be in his audience the next day before we left.  Now just because we were in a hurry to reach the next destination, we conveniently forgot our promise to stay overnight.  We of course, decided to stay overnight.

We tried to forget the problem at hand and left it to the Lord to solve the problem.  Even so, it was an uncomfortable night.

Next morning, we offered our prayers to Lord Badrinath, apologized for our attempt to leave earlier than promised and slipped in a special request to solve our car problem.

I went to the car, right from the temple.  Yeah!  It cranked, at the very least.  The fuel though, was over-flowing heavily from the carburetor.  The leakage was heavy enough to empty a full tank in 5kms. Only a trained mechanic with garage facilities could fix it.

We gave up all hopes. I considered staying back with the car and send my wife and kids to Delhi in a cab.  I was leaning towards calling my trusted mechanic from Bombay. Heavy expenses aside, our vacation more or less ruined.

Just then, a guy approached me. He looked like he was about 30-35 years old.

He: I drive a private taxi for tourists. I think I can fix your car.

Me: Are you qualified and trained to repair imported cars?

He: No.  I am not a qualified mechanic. I am uneducated. But I worked at Gwalior palace for a couple of years, where the king of Gwalior owned a few imported cars.

Me: Look, yesterday, one guy with great confidence damaged the seal of the carburetor and created more problems. I don’t want another problem.

He: You have no options, Sir. In any case, you will have to leave the car here and go.  So there’s really no harm if I try, right?  Believe in Lord Badrinath.  Nothing worse can happen.

Me: Well. Ok, what will you do?

He: I will set the carburetor suspension mechanism right and start the car. I just need quick-stick-fast paste. I am here only for a couple more hours.

There were hardly any shops there, let alone one where I could get the required paste.  I started asking the drivers and travellers around.  One of the car drivers had one.  The Gwalior guy adjusted the valve, sealed it with the paste.  After 5 minutes, the engine cranked and started, but the fuel was overflowing, though in a manageable quantity. Some hopes from this Gwalior Prince!  He wanted another attempt and I agreed immediately.

He: I want a 25p coin!

Just 25p?  I managed to find one though 25p coins were rare during that time.  He adjusted the float once again, sealed the screw and fixed the coin on top of it with the glue.  After 10 minutes of waiting for the paste to dry, we tried the engine again.

Click started the car, but the fuel was still leaking.  Still, not good enough to drive in the steep valley.  Then our potential savior asked for a 10p coin and a metal wire.

Sure, why not?  He opened the carburetor screw, adjusted the floating valve once again, fixed the screw, fixed the 25p coin, then stuck the wider 10p coin over the 25p coin and tied the coins tightly over the top of the carburetor with the metal wire.  He ensured that the coins did not slip.

He confidently said,  “Relax, pack your bags in the car and be ready to leave in half an hour.  I will also be driving down the hill by that time and will follow your car, just in case there is more trouble.”  We went to the Temple once again, loaded our baggage in the car and were ready to leave.  We were not sure if it was just a dream!

Those 30 minutes were like 30 hours.  We started the car after 30-40 minutes.  The car at once started and no leakage!

There was nothing wrong with the car.  The misfunctioning carburetor was created by our screwdriver friend.  Why the car did not start on the previous day? God knows!

The Gwalior prince did not take a single paisa and said “Lord Badrinath who inspired me to help out.  Thank Him for that.  I assure you, you will have no problem till you reach a reliable garage in Delhi.  You can then, remove all my decorations to your carburetor and get it tuned.”  He was following us till we were through the most dangerous bits of our drive and then disappeared. His decorations of  25p, 10p and the wire remained on the carburetor for years and I had no ignition problems till I sold the car about 4-5 years after this  incident.

For us this gentleman from Gwalior was no less than a God-sent emissary.

What does it prove? Honour your commitment, even if it is to the unseen Almighty?  Or is it a marvel of the Indian Jugaad ?   🙂

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

Himalayan Positive Attitude

I was on my Mansarovar-Kailash yatra for the second time. I had arranged to take a group of about 100 persons for pilgrimage.   On 21 July 2010, we started driving from an altitude of 4,300 ft in Nepal to Nyalam located at 12,400 ft in Tibet, China. It was too big a climb for one day.   To ensure that everyone is healthy and fit to travel to higher altitudes in next few days, we had to take a day’s rest for acclimatisation at a village called Nyalam.

During acclimatisation, rest is defined as climbing a couple of mountains and return to the base!  In the evening, when the sun was about to set off, I noticed that a little far away, in one of the mountain kasba, about 30-35 persons were sitting together, in a big circle. Though it was far off, I could here them talking loud and laughing and enjoying their time.   It was like a celebration.

One of the Nepalese Sherpa was with me. I checked with him was it a special occasion or festival that people are enjoying so merrily, as if it was some sort of celebration.   The reply was very interesting.

He said: “This particular tribe in Tibet have their dinner early, at sunset and enjoy talking and laughing all the time during dinner. However, they have another very special tradition. During the time of dinner, even if oneperson speak negative about any one in the village or criticise, they just stop eating and quietly disperse away on that day! Probably that tradition keep them laughing all the time. Everyone in their tribe have developed the sanskar (habit) of talking positive about every other person all the time.“

What a rich tradition! We wish we all could do the same!!

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

Trust or Written Agreements ?

There were many suppliers of stainless steel glasses from India. In my first deal, since I had taken the samples from Mr. Vishnu Goyal, it was ethical on my part, to buy the products from him.

After executing  my first order of $84,000, I felt that I had scope to expand in this business of stainless steel housewares and was worth a try in this range of product whole-heartedly.   If I made sure of maintaining quality and price, it wouldn’t be difficult to take a lead in the Middle East in this trade.

In my initial deals, I found Vishnuji very trust worthy, honest and sweetly cooperative. When I brought up the idea of making stainless steel housewares products as a regular export range, he consented to be associated with me.

Normally the next step would be to sign a partnership agreement defining the business relationship between us.  But I wanted to try non-conventional method.   In many cases, misunderstandings come up because of interpretation of what was written in documents. These disputes start, extends to legal battles and aggravate to a level where the business cripples down to closure.  But if nothing is written, both the parties had to be reasonable and not greedy. Knowing that nothing has been written down, they figure out a practical solution together.

Yes, doing business without written agreements is dangerous.  The written agreements could be restricted to where there is slightest doubt on trust or if the Law  needs it.

This was one of the experiments I wanted to try in my business. We trusted each other and hence suggested Vishnuji that we would have an understanding and avoid a written agreement.  Both of us agreed willingly. We mutually understood our roles, financial arrangements and the nature of decisions each of us would take independently and those which needed joint decisions.

We were ambitious but not greedy.  Both of us believed “if I am destined to get something, it is bound to come? If it is not destined for me, how will I get at all?”.  It is now over 25 years since that arrangement. There isn’t a single word in writing till today. We have executed many multi crore value orders over the years. Touch wood, there have been no disputes. Of course, there have been differences of opinions very few and far between, for the good health of the organisation. When such differences come up, we have a lot of respect for each other’s opinion.

When friends in business ask me  what is your relation with Vishnuji in business,  I start thinking and I don’t get an answer even to myself.

We were able to maintain peaceful atmosphere between us. If Trust works, Peace prevails. And Peace brings better Prosperity.

Written Agreements can go wrong, but Trust always Cherish!

Experienced and Written: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

Difficult Challenges? Grab Them!

“Release these payments for the purchases from Australia,” said my boss, Mr. AA (renamed to hide identity) one of the three directors, who was respected in social and business circles in the Middle East.  It was a transaction of a few hundred thousand US Dollars.

I did not release the payment.  It wasn’t that the funds weren’t available. We were purchasing a quantity way out of proportion to actual requirement. I was not convinced, especially since these were food products that bore expiry dates.

I was the purchases and finance manager. We had set-up a system for placing orders.  Normally, the quantities for a re-order were based on a review of movement of product for the last four months, stock in hand, orders in transit and the seasonal demand.  That’s how a healthy inventory was maintained without a strain on cash flow.

Each of the other directors had their own individual group of companies, other than this company. I had to be loyal to the interest of the company and not to individuals. I insisted on approval of all the directors.

The above order was large and hadn’t gone through the laid down procedure. Most importantly, it was abnormally excessive.  The goods had arrived at the port and the payments had to be made immediately. Fortunately, the order was not in our company’s name.  The other directors considered all aspects and did not approve this purchase.

Mr. AA was upset and had to make alternate emergency arrangements.  On his return to the office, I was called in. I carried my resignation letter with me!  I was expecting to be relieved of my job.

He said, “Will you join me as Chief Purchase Manager and Financial Controller of my Group of companies”.  I realised discipline pays!  I said I needed a week’s time to think it over.  This was in 1981.

Within the week, I got all possible information about Mr. AA’s group.  The information I collected revealed that every day when they closed stores for the day, it wasn’t sure whether they would open the shutters of the business next day morning. Even the staff salary was in arrears for a few months. The financial position was absolutely critical.

After a week, I went to him:

Me: AA, I accept your proposal, if other partners have no objection to it.

AA: I will convince the other partners. Have you given this a good thought?

Me: Yes, I have.

AA: What would be your terms and salary expectations?

Me: It is not relevant.  If I perform, remuneration will follow by itself.

AA: Do you know the financial status of my group?

Me: Yes.  I Know.  Business may close down any day.

AA: You are in such a healthy company. Here, in my group, you are not sure if you’ll get a salary.

Me: Yes.  I considered that.  We have to create a position where everyone gets paid.

AA: I am surprised.  Why?  What makes you join my group?.

Me: Challenge!  It is the challenge which is tempting me to accept this responsibility.  The present company is healthy and wealthy and has systems which will not allow it to collapse.  This can be managed by anyone. But to revive a group like yours would be a real challenge to my abilities.

AA: You are risking your career.

Me: Yes, but I am confident of reviving the company.

I joined the group.  I had the support of a very capable CEO and jointly we resolved the problems.  After a year or so of revival, there were a few from known business circle to seek advise to revive their sick businesses!    I was with them for 5 years till the day I decided to return to India, to start my own business! I thank AA for giving me an opportunity to resolve very complicated problems and learn many lessons which otherwise, I would have missed!  It was a rewarding experience.

If you see a difficult challenge, grab it. It gives opportunities to learn.

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra


Best Marketing Guru

“Look, shops open at 9 in the morning and it’s fine if we leave for airport at 10 to catch the scheduled flight tomorrow.  We have that one hour.  Let us try to meet some buyers”. I had a quick talk with my agent in Riyadh late in the night.

I was on one of my business visits to Saudi Arabia in 1988.  As usual my trip was very hectic trying to book orders for my normal product range. I was to return to India the next day morning.  At night while I packed, I realised I had samples of a new product, stainless steel glasses, which I had forgotten to explore till then on that trip.

The agent said, “Normally 9am is the time when the shop owners (importers) discuss the previous day’s progress with their salesmen and make their marketing plans for the day. It is too early in the morning for them to discuss purchases.  We could pursue that business on your next trip.”

I said, ” never mind, if we are able to meet one or two buyers, we will get an idea about that line of business.  No harm. Atleast we will get prepared better for the next trip”.   He agreed “Ok, let us take a chance”

We left in time to catch as many importers as possible.  The first one was not prepared to discuss purchases at that time, as expected.

We went to the second Saudi buyer.  He was busy cleaning and setting his table right, and on our offering the stainless steel glasses, he very casually asked,

He: What price?

Me: 72gms a piece, 7.5 cm dia, 2dz to inner and 12 inners/ctn, non-magnetic stainless steel, 90 days L/C though we may ship in 60 days, $3.75 a dozen

He was still busy cleaning his table, duster in his hand.  He said casually, not even looking at us, “$3.50”

Me: No, 3.50 is slightly below my cost.  Can’t go below $3.75.

He said firmly: $ 3.50…. pause..….. I could have started with $3.00 and you would have given at $3.50.   But I don’t waste time.  You are the first one I am seeing this morning, hence don’t want to disappoint you nor get disappointed.  If no $3.50, then no interest”

Me: Quantity?

He: One container.

I was expecting the first order to be around 5,000 dz.  One container equaled 24,000 doz.  For this quantity, I would save some freight and other expenses and my cost would be around $3.50.

Me: Fine. Accepted. We want to start business with you so that you can test our quality of product and services!

He: Proforma banao. Usme Bank details mauzood.  Bank L/C details bukra mazboothan. (Make the proforma with your bank details, I’ll arrange and advise you the Letter of Credit details by tomorrow).

I prepared a proforma invoice for US$.84,000.  He signed and said in Urdu-Arabic to mean, “Without knowing you, I have placed an order because somehow I felt you are genuine.  But make sure you surely dispatch and ship right quality.  Don’t let down my judgment”

We concluded the deal and I left for the airport.

By the time I reached Mumbai, the cost of raw material had reduced by about 2%.  By the time I exported the goods, the exchange rate went 6% in my favour.  By the time I completed the order, I had made a decent saving of about 10%.  The value per container was high and the profit margin for this product ultimately turned out to be quite satisfactory.  I was tempted to expand my product range to stainless steel housewares!

After executing the order, when I met the same customer on my next visit, I was curious to know what made him place the order with me without knowing of me.  His reasons were interesting.

He said something to the effect that, “We have 3 major problems when we place orders with exporters from India.

One, they normally give a price and sometimes show a sample.  Intentionally, they do not give full details of the products unless we specifically ask for each of the details.  They try to keep an escape route ready for them.  In case, later, if the cost goes up, they compromise on the details missed out, and give an inferior, smaller or cheaper product.

Two, when we tie them down in the L/C with all specifications, in many cases they opt not to ship at all when the cost goes up.

Three, when the price increases, they divert the order to our competitors at a higher price. They might supply to us later when they have excess stocks.   Sometimes they even fail to supply which is a double loss to us as we lose our customers to the competitor to whom they supplied products meant for us.

But in your case, while quoting the price, on your own, you gave all the details of weight, size, packing, grade, delivery and price which I needed, without my asking for it.  This built my confidence that you are honest.  So, I took a chance and placed the order with you!”

I was completely got carried away by his reasons!  It enlightened me “If I could take care of these worries of the customers, it would make a difference to my business”.  I made these as guide lines.  Never did I compromise in quality.  Never did I fail to supply.  Never did I tried to take advantage of the situation.  It worked.   It gave satisfaction to both, me and my customers.  Within 2-3 years, we had around 60% of the Saudi Arabian market in stainless steel housewares!

I thank the customer, who was my best Marketing Guru

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra