I moved to India with my family as a young boy. My father, a career diplomat, was dispatched to New Delhi to serve as the Republic of Turkey’s ambassador to India. We lived in New Delhi for two magical years. I don’t remember anything from those days about India’s politics or economics. What I do remember are the vibrant colors of clothing and flowers and shops that lined the streets, and the natural beauty of the Indian countryside, from the mountains to the north to the plains of the Ganges basin to the south. I remember the mysterious music, the aromas of spicy curries and chutneys that friends of my parents would prepare for us. And of course I remember the people: friendly, bright-eyed, ambitious, and sometimes very poor. Everywhere, crowds of people.
India was unlike any of the other places my family had lived—Sweden, Iran, Poland, Thailand, and the United States. From the moment I arrived, India captured my imagination.
Today, as a businessman, I see global companies drawn to India in much the same way I was as a boy. They are dazzled by the promise of adventure and extraordinary opportunity. They are intoxicated, even overwhelmed.
But as I learned, even as a young a boy, in India, appearances can be deceiving. For outsiders, there is always a hint of mystery. Even if you live and work there, you can never be entirely sure you understand. It is best to assume that you do not. If you come to India with some grand, predetermined strategy or master plan, prepare to be distracted, deterred, and even demoralized.