September Travelogue#roopakism Roopak Saluja • September 24, 2015
September is always my most hectic travel month of the year and this year was no different. In fact, it was more hectic than ever before, with me being in India for a total of six working days through the month. Ironically though, I manage to get more done when I’m away. Unless of course I’m on vacation, which, just to be clear, I’m not. I guess it’s the long flights and hotel room solitude that stimulate productivity. In fact, I’m typing this on my way to New York, precisely 38,001 feet (so the Emirates inflight infoscreen tells me) above the southern tip of Greenland.
A couple of weeks ago, I made my first trip to Jakarta, which, among other things, is the city that’s home to the maximum number of twitter users. At the same time, there’s a drastic dearth of marketing, media and advertising talent that possesses digital understanding. While Indonesia’s mobile penetration and technology adoption is higher than India’s, the e-commerce ecosystem is years behind. I take it most of you haven’t been to Jakarta so let me share some more. It has a traffic problem so bad, it makes Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore seem like they really have their shit together. The city itself seems to be a blend of Bombay and Bangkok with a bit more of the latter.
To prove the point that progress around the world is neither linear nor uniform in pattern, Indonesia is in some ways ahead ahead of India and in others far behind. In sectors that require financial capital, e.g.- infrastructure, energy, construction, etc, they seem to be leading whereas in areas that hinge on intellectual capital though- financial services, media, tech innovation, etc., we have a clear edge. When I look at Indonesia, I can kind of understand how Westerners and others feel when they look at India- a huge, chaotic market with so much potential and commercial opportunity, yet so daunting because of its complexity.
After two days of very productive meetings in Jakarta, instead of heading to Singapore for Spikes, where I would be speaking in a couple of days, I flew back to Bombay for 24 hours for our shoot with Coldplay. I read somewhere a few years ago that one of the skills you (need to) hone as a CEO is knowing when to zoom in and zoom out. I must admit that in the past four years, I haven’t spent more than an hour at a shoot. Yet, something made me travel more than five hours to be here for most of the main day of the shoot. I did that because when I had the time to think about it, it struck me how important this project was to us. It’s not like I add any functional value at the actual shoot. I stopped doing that close to six years ago. But with Chahna on vacation and Kareena and Alisha head deep in ensuring the production went smoothly and efficiently, I felt it was important to be around. Bombay has become a tricky place to shoot in vis-à-vis authorities and unions and there was no margin for error when producing a project of this stature. That, and I also wanted to develop a relationship with the band and their management so they know for sure we’re the people to turn to in India anytime and every time they return. They’re a great bunch of people and I’m glad I made the effort.
The crazy month continues. But it’s going well and I’m hopeful that later this year, I can look back on this September and conclude that all of this travel will have played an important part in moving this company a few steps ahead along its strategic agenda.