|I’m writing you today from New Delhi, India as I take a short 6-day business trip to visit factories in this part of the world. The business world is rapidly expanding the use of India as a replacement for China for their supply chains. India today has two major advantages to China that it did not have 5 years ago. First India does not have the 10% to 25% tariffs being discussed in China, and secondly, the cost of labor in India is approximately 50% less than China (about $160 a month). American businesses are scrambling to find alternative manufacturing sources and it appears India is at the top of the list.
Here are some of my observations (the good, bad, and ugly) about India this trip:
#1 – American hotels are everywhere –
India has all the American hotel brands including Westin, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, etc. This trip I am staying at the Courtyard by Marriott and it feels like I could be in Kansas City.
#2 – English is spoken everywhere –
At least at most locations serving tourists. It is easy to travel here as signs, menus, etc. are mostly in English.
#3 – Watch out for those ice cubes and lettuce salads in India –
The water in many cities in India can be problems for American travelers. You must drink bottled water if you want to avoid an India-belly or worse. Some travelers have health problems when they forget that ice cubes are often just tap water and lettuce is cleaned with tap water. It is also so easy to forget using bottled water to brush your teeth. I have often found myself by habit rinsing my toothbrush in tap water by mistake.
#4 – The national bird of India is the mosquito! –
I thought Florida was the mosquito capital of the world but they don’t hold a candle to the giant swarms of mosquitos found in India. I was afraid to get out of the car sometimes as the big birds were swarming and crashing into the car windows. Be sure to bring malaria tablets and deet lotion if you come to India.
#5 – American culture is all around you in India –
McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, Pepsi, Coke, Starbucks, and Dominos are all over India. I even saw a Krispy Kreme donut store (I was a good boy) in the Delhi airport. I must admit I usually love to try the local food but I was not brave enough to wander away from my hotel food and America fast food this trip.
#6 – Prices are amazingly low in India –
One USD is worth about 70 India rupees. This means you can find outstanding values when visiting India. We had a blast visiting the local outdoor market before heading to the airport. New shirts, watches, and pants for $2 each. A Pepsi was 85 cents at the airport. A subway sandwich was $3. Generally speaking, things are about half price here, except that if you stay in American hotels you can expect similar pricing as the U.S.
#7 – India has millions in extreme poverty –
India suffers from massive poverty. There is a lot of petty theft because of the need just to survive here. Walled fences, barbed wire, and security guards are everywhere. Despite this, I felt perfectly safe walking down the street as serious crime is much less than the U.S. Compared to the poverty in China it appears that India is 20 years behind them in building an upward middle class.
#8 – Indian people have the most beautiful smiles –
Despite the poverty, everyone seems to smile in India with a true feeling of happiness. The children playing in the streets were all laughing and smiling with no sense of despair. Perhaps the saying “money does not buy you happiness” is best illustrated in India.
#9 – Don’t even think of renting a car in India –
Driving in India is easily the worst driving in the world. They are trying to build new roads but only complete about a mile at a time and then it turns into dirt roads. Motorcycles and bicycles still outnumber cars here. Even driving on a divided highway you will find cars, motorcycles, and scooters darting at you on the right and left side. It is truly crazy. The safest way to get around is to work with your hotel to provide a van and driver. The cost is amazingly low ($37 includes van and driver for 4 hours).
#10 – Uber is everywhere –
Even in India.
#11 – Be sure to bring toilet paper when touring –
most public restrooms don’t have any.
#12 – India is 20 years behind China and 40 years behind the U.S in automation –
Low-cost labor is so bountiful and cheap that India has not been forced to automate their manufacturing processes.
#13 – India is fighting terrorism even more than the U.S. –
Entering our hotel by car and we have to open the hood for a bomb inspection. They have a bomb smelling dog walk around the car as well.
#14 – Flying within India is cheap and most of the planes are new –
India has many new low-cost airlines with brand new planes offering great prices to fly within India.
#15 – There are no rainbows in India –
The smog snuffs them out. In Delhi, there is a permanent smog smothering the city. The smell is obvious and the visibility is only a few miles. Trash is piled high everywhere. If you are environmentally sensitive it might make you cry. They simply do not have the infrastructure or money to address the impact over 1 billion people have on the environment.
“There is no place like home” –
Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” said it best. The most obvious thing an American realizes when you travel to other counties is what a great country we have to live in. Despite all our warts and wrinkles, the USA is still the best country on this planet to live. (in my humble opinion). I feel so lucky that I was born here and was given the opportunity to succeed or fail in this great land. There indeed is no place like home. I look forward to my flight home.