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November 23, 2019

Doing Business with India Seminar at World Trade Center Utah (Nov. 2019)

While I had been preparing to attend this event since it's originally scheduled date back in July, the morning of this event was quite hectic for me as I had meetings with clients in India and also signed up to attend an online program. While the event started at 9am MST, and I had woke up at 5am, the three and half hours before I was to leave passed by like lightening. When I realized it was time to go, I barely had time to get ready. I had initially wanted to wear a sari, but did not have the time for that, so instead wore a long top that my sister in law got me from India with leggings and professional looking boots. Though it was cold out, I did not take a coat because I was gonna jump in an Uber and go. Fortunately, as we live in downtown Salt Lake City, an Uber ride would only take about 5 minutes if all the planets aligned! And, fortunately, they did. My Uber came within 2 minutes of requesting it, and the ride took about 3-4 minutes. Funny enough, the Uber driver's name was Van and he drove a Chevy Silverado. It was the first time I ever been in a truck like that. It was pretty cool...and very spacious inside. It felt just like a car. When I commented to Van about that... he said, "See with me, you get both a Van and a truck!!" Ha ha! He was an interesting and humorous guy.

Business in India Summit. Utah


When I entered the venue location at 111 South Main in Salt Lake City and asked for the way to the Tanner Room, I was sure the event had already started as I entered the building at 9am on the dot. But, fortunately, when I entered, the networking and chit chat was still going on (one thing I have noticed in Salt Lake City is that the networking portion of an event tends to happen before the event, with little opportunity to network after the event, another reason I was upset to be running 'late'). Since I was thinking the event would start soon, I thought of talking to the person closest to the door who was not in a big group (as most people were standing in groups of 5-6 people). By the luck of the draw, it turns out the first person I talked to was one of the keynote panelists- Ambassador Sanjay Panda, Consul General of India based in San Francisco and his friend who was hosting him in Salt Lake City. What a coincidence! Maybe it was good I was running late! When I was talking with Ambassador Panda, I asked him where he was from in India. He said, "The eastern part..." When I answered with, "Is that near Calcutta or the state of West Bengal..." He shockingly responded with, "You know the geography of India!? Actually, no, but a little south of there..." To that I asked, "Odisha.. Orissa?" He was impressed that I knew the places and then asked me about how I knew this.. I was able to spend a little time with him and also learn a little about him as well. We actually got to speak for about 10 minutes. As few other audience members came to speak with him, I offered my business card, to which he handed me his, saying, "I am running out... I like it when people take a photo of my card, so I can carry fewer..." I took him up on this offer as we were finishing our conversation. I had put his card on the table, and took a photo of it, handing it back to him. He seemed pretty happy about that! 


As it was about 9:15 at this time, I was thinking the event would start anytime, so I decided again to talk to someone who was standing alone. There was a man standing next to the coffee table sipping coffee. I decided to introduce myself to him. It turns out this man, Gary Wood, Director of International Solutions, had spent quite a bit of time on my website the night before. So, we spent some time talking about each other's work. We only had about three minutes before the event host announced the event was to start.


The first part of the event was a panel discussion introducing the audience to business in India with Mr. Panda and Dr. Mukesh Aghi the CEO of USISPF (US-India Strategic Partnership Forum). The conversation was kicked off by Mr. Panda as seen below in the short clip. 



During this talk, it was also mentioned how the state of Rajasthan in India has recently signed an MOU with Utah in the Energy Sector. I wasn't too surprised to hear about this in a way as there is a wind farm in Central Utah (Spanish Fork Canyon Windmill Farm) with turbines made by Suzlon (a company based in Pune, India, state of Maharashtra). We have personally been by this wind farm many times as it is on route from Salt Lake City to Moab on route 6. 


During his talk, Mr. Panda commented that the gems of Southern Utah need more visibility to people from India or of Indian origin. Interestingly, enough the previous week, the local radio station KSL reported on "Record breaking year for Utah’s tourism industry," where it was mentioned that as far as international tourists are concerned, Utah would like to tempt more Indian tourists to come to Utah: 

The state is getting a lot of visitors from Canada, Europe and especially China.  However, Varela says there’s another market they want to tap into.  They’re trying to lure in tourists from India.  
Varela says, “They like to travel as families.  They like to have adventures.  Most importantly, they travel off-season. (source
After Mr. Panda and Mr. Aghi wrapped up the opening of the program the remainder of the panel took their seats at the table- Vishesh Puvadi (HSBC), Chris Shurain (Utah Regional Investment Fund), Anshul Jain, Dominic Thomas, and Troy (sorry, I did not get his last name, he was sitting in for Will James of BKD). 


World Trade Center, Utah
The event was packed! Standing room only!
One of the interesting excerpts of this conversation was on ways foreigners or expats coming to India can structure a business.

There are several ways to set up a business entity in India if you are entering from outside the country: 
  1. Merger and Acquisition (least control) 
  2. Joint Venture (share control) 
  3. Division of foreign company (full control, but least local knowledge, start from scratch)
Filing Types: 
  1. A separate legal entity (branch or liaison office) - May need approval from RBI  
  2. Private Limited (Authentic Journeys, the business behind this blog is registered as a Private Limited in India and an LLC in Utah.)
Listen to the clip more for more information. 


A few interesting points mentioned by Dominic Thomas of Sarva Consulting (that are not in the clip) were: 

  1. 50% of new patents inIndia come from US companies in India as their R&D sectors are based in India. Basing it in India saves on labor costs, as well as helping to improve turn around time as while the US sleeps, India works, and while India sleeps, India works.
  2. India is the home of frugal innovation. This is one of the strengths of working with India as Indian tend to work in smaller budgets with excellent results. (The Hindi term for this, which was not mentioned is jugaad.) 
After this panel discussion completed, the audience only had about 5 minutes to network because the panelists were to be whisked off to another event, to which the audience could not attend. Fortunately, I had a moment to introduce myself to Dominic. I had a feeling he may originally be from Kerala, so I jolted up to the panel to introduce myself and find out about his native place. First I had happened to ask where he was from... missing the word "native place," so he answered with Mumbai as that's where he grew up... so I realized I had to ask the question using the phrase "native place," to which he was surprised I knew this Indian English term. I noted I have lived in India for close to 10 years. After a series of what Americans would consider very intrusive questions, I found out his native place is literally in the backyard of where I lived and worked in Kerala [as an expat]! He was so shocked and happy, he reached out to hug me! It was kind of an interesting interaction because of cross-cultural code switching. I don't normally expect Indians to hug.. but of course he has been back and forth between the US and India, so maybe he's more comfortable with the US interaction. Or, maybe there are other reasons! Anyhow, it was a great experience. I hope to meet him and his colleague, Steve, again.

After speaking with Dominic, the panelists left the room very quickly to go to their next event. As there were a few more people in the room, I went to talk the few remaining individuals. I ended up speaking with ranchers from Montana, a professor at Salt Lake Community College, some Indian hoteliers from Nevada (near Las Vegas), and an Indian businessman who runs a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. There was another lady who came from Delaware for the event, as well. I was surprised that so many people attended this event from so far away! 

Soon, everyone left this room, so I did as well. I went down to the lobby thinking to go back home. Some of the hoteliers entered the lobby, so I asked one of them to take the photo of me you see in this post. I sat and spent about 20 minutes talking with them until I called an Uber. It was really an interesting event, where I got to learn some new things and meet some interesting people.


Jennifer Kumar, Authentic Journeys, Kerala & Utah


Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar is an American who has lived in India for 10 years over the last 20 years. She has earned a Master's in India and also started a business in Kochi, India. Her business, Authentic Journeys is registered in Utah and Kerala (India). She helps people like you to build context to doing business between the US and India. She has run expat preparation sessions for expats moving between both countries, business people considering opening business in both countries, those on sales teams, and those working on established virtual teams. Feel free to get in touch with us to learn more. 

Note: The mention of individual's names and company names is purely for narration purposes only. Authentic Journeys is not endorsing any entity mentioned on this page, does Authentic Journeys have any partnership with any person or brand mentioned on this page, nor is Authentic Journeys earning any ad revenue from mentioning them.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.