A Tri-Logue on the difficulty of doing business in Contemporary Calcutta / Bengal
An experiment of reconfiguring public domain selective user content (with credit) on a very interesting subject: Doing business in Bengal. Sujoy shared his experience through a discussion. Joined by Sonali and editor and this became a serialized burst-essays by 3 Bengalis, each one has the qualification, earned by paying the price of suffering to say what they said.
I guess even before that we need to understand Kolkata was never groomed to understand what business is? It calls for a generation of awareness, focus and finally a level of social acceptance. There is nothing wrong, it is just that the school of thought is missing. Likeminds – who got opportunities to see greater world can come together and add this, value to the current DNA of the city or rather the state geography.
I agree, that is why people do want to come back to set up something. My friends wanted to start a 200 seater KPO on accounting outsourcing, it has been 5+ years now they have running around in different government offices for office space. They started a small center in Kolkata to test whether they can survive outside sector V as they are still waiting for office space. They found out power cuts is so acute a problem they can’t do business. Also employees even though were paid above market do not turn up on time , in all a very govt employee type attitude. You work for a reputed company you may not have found it diificult and I know your type of organisation is very professional. However, as a start up company it is very difficult up there…
As a freelancer-wordsmith of Calcutta, which I call as a city of mine by adoption, my realization is this : Governement + people + employee all of these in Bengal are trying to do (or ape) what others are doing. But their heart is not in it.
The corollaries I draw and hence strategy:
a. Highly organized, professional and smooth running large scale organization will not be possible in Contemporary Calcutta. It is too late to be ambitous.
b. Even it is somewhat given birth to, it will not excel and will be somewhat also-ran.
c. Contemporary Calcutta / Bengal’s situation is more conducive for low-cost, low-density networked group of select individuals who are not Bengal/Calcutta-manduk and for some reason or the other would like to be based in Calcutta.
d. These cluster-groups would use relative lesser cost of certain aspects
e. Being small and distributed, they would not need Government and they can flourish in their niches
In Bengal / Calcutta, as soon as you do something which needs Government /large group of people’s intervention, either Government will scuttle it by mis-management or the ‘Calcutta Mob’ (no less disastrous than the Roman ones) would blow it to pieces.
I sound cynical but this is my experience and one has to be always on guard against one’s dearest illusions.
Many NRI-s (myself included) had learnt this.
Pritam it was interesting reading your corollaries and even Sujoy I hear your pain points. While you are sharing with me the outside in let me share some inside out insights.Every city has a DNA – so is ours. I would not get into good – bad justification but as entrepreneurs of tomorrow ( you guys are, but I still dream to be one:)) we need to be creative.
We should start thinking beyond Kolkata – Kalyani, Durgapur, Asansol may be some immediate ones. We have quality resources and acceptable infrastructure available to start. Also think how a pool of senior citizens can be reused for your start up. The population is no less – they might earn greater ROI. They are the best collaboration agents in the city.
Pritam I agree with you. Sonali there are some real problems in setting up in Kalyani, Asansol area. The problems for a KPO are -
1. Power cuts
2. Securing talented staff. I don’t think people from JU and Shibpur will be willing to work there. Will you leave plush Sector V for a job in Kayani/Asansol?
3. Price of office space is also high in Kalyani. We did try Kalyani. Also lot of foreign clients would have visited the office, it is hard for them to go to Kalayani/Asansol on a daily basis because of traffic.
4. After the set back we realised Kolkata is not not competitive anymore from cost of doing business point of view. To get a 3000 sq ft office space in Sector V we will need to pay Rs 1.5 to 2 crores. With that money we can now get better facility in Sydney, Melbourne , Brisbane and Perth. With half of that we can get a similar facility in Adelaide. We also realised now a days lot of foreign students are coming to Australia and they look for part time jobs. If we can use them and pay the market price we can even compete with Indian companies opearting from Australia. Not only that , there is guarantee this students will work for you for atleast the duration of their studies and a little bit after that to gain post qualification experience. Which means we can keep them for 4-5 years? I don’t think you can retain an employee in India for that long. Employee turnover is very high in India.
Dear Sujoy and Sonali,
Following this discussion has been highly educative for me – for the viewpoints and some very real life experience.
I edit a bi-lingual ezine on Greater Bengali Culture called www.pentasect.com and would like to publish this 3 person trialogue after some edit in the ezine.
It will be published with due credit and hope you accord permission.
Sonali again :
Sujoy – Running short of time but can’t help answering point 2. Don’t get guided by big names. I am from one and also proud of it but had chance to work with many beyond that and believe me some of them are even better and what pays in long run is common sense and self confidence – no college in world can endorse that! But none the less – debates aside I hope this forum makes a difference. Wondering why others are not joining?
Pritam no problem at my end.
Sonali you may be correct on this , but trust me when we were setting up I got thousands of resumes from passouts of several unknown engineering colleges. 95% of these engineers can’t talk, don’t know how to write a report, don’t know simple functions of MS office. I was amazed……
I remember in one interview a boy, BE in computer science , no work experience was expecting Rs 50,000 pm as salary. I asked why is he expecting that ?
His reply was -
Sir amar baba amai loan niye poriyeche, loan reapayment Rs 15,000
echara Baba ke Rs 5000 monthly debo. Salt Lake je barite achi setar bhara 7,000 ara baki ta amar khao daoa ar pocket money ….
What should have been your response to that ….?
I let you know what my response was after seeing yours ….
My reply would have been crsip – “Thank You”. But need to check your sample population beacuse I have exp with various colleges and also more than that 20 years in this city – know this loan, rent , sal – good , avg colleges stories – this is weird expectation. This is not how avg crowd would react. But before I go ahead with that curious, to know how do you conduct such any entry level interview?
“Please be a freelancer first with us. We will send you some projects, totaling in fee your expected salary. We will see in one month and then decide.”
I had seen that none of these Great Expectations-wallahs never replied back.
Reading Calcutta’s mainstream media like a coroner reads an autopsy report, I come to this conclusion : The majority has a psychological model like this : There is some irrevocable law which should guarantee that as I had studied for some years in this and that, once thats finished, I need to have a nice job ready for me.
The whole political debate about industrialization, IT etc in Bengal is about this : how to get a permanent bandobast in life.
Alas, Bengal does not understand that we are in a new age that has little respect for any permanent bandobost: public, private, socialist or any mixture of all these
Credit: Sujoy and Sonali for according the permission to reproduce. Thanks to Linkedin for the facility. Thanks to Gobinda Roy for founding the Group called Entrepenurship Hub: Kolkata and Eastern India in www.linkedin.com.
Sonali’s Linkedin Profile : http://in.linkedin.com/pub/sonali-bhattacharya/14/995/307
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