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.
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.
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)
|The event was packed!
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.
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.
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