(Published in Economic Times – Bangalore, India, Expat Diary Column, 7 November 2010)
What is it like to live in India? This is a common question I get from my other friends around the world. Oh, I could write a whole book to describe my life and adventures in India. Living here is visually, emotionally and mentally stimulating. I have never seen such sights and colours, experienced such sounds and flavours, and learned so much from a culture so rich and a people so varied.
My first glimpse of India was in October 2006 when I landed in Mumbai. An Indian businessman friend invited me to check out his country for possible business opportunities in the anti-aging skincare industry. I visited and talked to entrepreneurs and potential clients in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. I saw a whole range of possibilities here and an opportunity to tap a big market with innovative products. I belong to Philippines, and have been to most of the developed world, but this country was just so unique and presented opportunities that other markets did not.
I said to myself, “Wow, this place is just great!” I was so excited that I took the plunge of committing to a long-term business without knowing the challenges that lay ahead of me. In April 2008, I relocated with my family to India.
I can give you a litany of the challenges of living and doing business in India but at this point, I have already learned to accept the things I can change and cannot change. I now see India from a different perspective. Its imperfections are what make it perfect for business. If you can offer solutions, then you can utilise hitherto untapped opportunities, and a whole new set of people are suddenly your clients and friends.
It has not been smooth sailing though. The challenges have got to me. There have been trying moments when I would cry and felt like packing up. I could only look up to heavens and ask, “What am I doing in this country? Why is everything such a struggle to do? Is this all worth it?” Then the next day, I would get a call from someone who tells me, “Hi Ema. My friend is raving about your skin treatments and I was wondering if you could also help me”. Ahh, that makes me feel better. If I could make a difference in this country and if Indians recognize and appreciate it, then I am re-assured that moving here is all worth it.
I have learned a lot of lessons in India that made me more patient, wiser and stronger. I spent a lot of time learning and understanding the country’s culture in order for me relate to my clients better. Living here made me discover the power I have within me to do things I never thought possible.
In conclusion, allow me to describe India in a romantic way: India is like a woman whom you may not find attractive when you first meet her. But as you get to know her better, you get drawn to her in ways you can’t understand. And before you know it… you are in love with her! (END)
It has been more than four years now since I wrote that article. It’s now June 2015, and yes, I am still in India, and by the grace of God my business is still alive and has now diversified into related businesses. Every morning, I still wake up feeling excited about the many things I want to accomplish in this country. It feels like there is never enough time to do everything! When I look ahead, I still find the road long and winding — and overwhelming. But when I look behind, I realise that I have already covered quite a distance. For that, I am truly grateful to the many people who have helped me and believed in me, and to this country for opening up endless opportunities for me and my family. I am also grateful to the many people who have mentored me in business and in life and prepared me mentally and emotionally before coming to India.
I remember what someone told me the day I was about to travel to India for the first time: “There is nothing that I can do or say that could stop you from going to India, because it is written on your palm. Go and live your dream.”