For those startups contemplating a move to India to buff up their 
development teams, or just extend their global customer base coverage, 
you'd be in for a shock. Startup India touts itselft as being the forefront 
of fostering entrepreurship and dynamic new businesses of this century .... 
true .... if you are INDIAN. If you're a Kiwi from down-under and trying to 
get a subsidiary going, there are some serious "gotchas" that I'll ramble 
on about.

Landed!Mumbai, Lunch%London, Luggage ... lost @NY

Maybe it was just karma in leaving in Wintertime but by the time they 
finished deicing the plane, the pilots shift (or some workhour regulations 
thingy) was over and they had to fly in a new crew .... 9 hours after 
initial scheduled takeoff. So as you imagine, after hopping through a 
bumped hub, I landed in NY with 30 minutes to catch the last evening 
connection to London. Fortunately I made it but the baggage suffered a 
serious case of amnesia. The good news was that the London-Mumbai flight 
was early so I landed well ahead of schedule ... only to be stuck in 
immigration processing for THREE hours. Of course, after exiting, the first 
thing I do is look for a local SIM card which obviously tourists and weary 
travellers would want to avoid those international roaming charges ... 
beautiful airport, scenic murals, clean expansive foyer ... expansive ... 
and EMPTY ?!? Well there's a sign pointing to traveller services in 
basement but those were left-luggage and car rentals. OK, they might do 
this to keep the riff-raff outside so I went out to have a look .... just 
car parkway ... but the @#$^ security guard wouldn't let back in !! (even 
though I had evidence I'd just landed earlier. So no money exchanger 
outside ... not to worry, the internet keeps on harping about this Indian 
rupee Travel Card. Only to discover 4 banks later not to trust information 
from India banking websites who don't delete obsolete products

Capital Controls and Capitalism
People think that because it is a democracy, India is easier to deal with 
than China. But the indian govt has passed laws forbidding the export of 
rupee notes outside the country so you cannot even pick up spending cash 
before you arrive. The 2nd annoying discovery was find that my 
international credit card doesn't believe the Indian govt ... many travel 
and booking websites came with message that only domestic cards are 
accepted. And worst of all, even wallet services use standard OTP assume 
that only indian numbers would ever want to buy stuff so if you've an 
roaming phone, you are totally %^%&$%. So the order of the day was to get 
myself a local SIM card ... can't order directly online since hotel is not 
permanent residence, but the concierege told be just pop around the corner 
to pick up AirTel. 10 sweaty minutes later ... I see a frontage ... 
(closed) ... further down hopeful initial signs of an open-counter .... 
with a foot on it as the vendor was sleeping behind the desk (and here I 
thought Siestas was only Mexico/Spain cultural trait). Finally ... a store 
plastered with posters and plans .... that were asking Rs 1000 for a 30 day 
plan. What the #$%%^%&. Anyway, not having much in the way of consumer 
choice, I plonked down the rupees .... to be asked for my SIM !?! It turns 
out that many stores only sell recharge cards and accessories, you cannot 
get the real-deal SIM card except at a few stores actually owned by AirTel 
and not their distributors. The saga continues another day.

After recovering from asthma attack ... I finally got to the real-deal and 
had my photo of password and e-Visa ... nope, they wanted the actual 
passport pages ... one hotel return trip (at least there zillions of 
copyshops along the road) I found out they needed a passport photo. Arrgghh 
... after making the pedicab drivers day, I got given the form ... name, 
address, OK. Local  hotel and permanent residence (proof thereof) ... yadda 
yadd, Father/Mother name ... (now it is starting to get tedious). Emergency 
contact and local person to vouch for you ... WTF?!? I just landed and I 
can't even get a SIM card without a security check and recognition by 
someone who already knows me? Fortunately I can call in some favors but 
most normal tourists would be totally stuck at tihs point. Went back in 
line to wait for processing .... and waited .... and waited more. The 
bulblight monent was when I realised that after leaving the queue, nobody 
bothered to reissue me a ticket so I was not even on their radars. Talk 
about customer service ... and then I had to jump up and down just to get 
the Rs 500 receipt (sheesh, even the bus issue them for Rs10 so why not an 
internet savvy firm). Then they told me I had to wait up to 48 hours for it 
to be activated whilst the Men-in-Black ran background checks. Well, Kiwi 
stoaicism works in this case but the Yankee gal from Georgia was getting 
hysterical as she had to board a flight to Greece in 5 hours with no way to 
contact her friends. 

The moral of the message is that financially India is its own separate 
orbit. China might be notorious for capital control (hah! doesn't beat the 
paronoic Russians) but at least with HK, it is an international currency 
and you and usually get things done ... if only by hiring bodyguards and 
suitcases full of Maos. India is a whole new story ... when we initially 
subscribed the equity portion, it was overpaid and the paperwork to return 
the excess pretty much exhausted the refund, the majority being some sort 
of regulatory tax/fee. Lending money is another level of nightmare with 
their External Commercial Borrowings regime. After fighting through the red 
tape (partly caused by the correspondant bank refusing to issue a inward 
remittance certificate which they claimed the intermediatory bank didn;t) 
we had to reclass them as convertible debentures to slip in under already 
approved equity. The bottom line is that whilst the Indian Govt may be 
saying they want FDI wth open arms, the middle-level bureacrats are asleep 
at the desk and making it really difficult to do business. So for gung-ho 
entrepreneurs wanting to buy-sell within India, you have to finangle your 
way (without the now outawed cryptocurrencies) using the so called wallets 
and linked bank accounts. 

[image: Image result for mumbai bus crowded]

Musings on Mumbai
I think the people are cool and friendly, several people I met in the 
co-working space, offered to help with advice or even food when loose 
change was temporarily short, but the system is kaos. I can handle the 
red-tape, I've seen worst in places around the world but what really 
irritates me is that bit rot between what is gloriously described in the 
papers and internet sites ... and the reality. Example is the promised 30 
day tourist SIM card sponsored by Ministry of Tourism ... which seems to 
have fallen into the cracks. Things can get done ... I've met some of the 
most friendly and intelligent hackers in the co-working spaec with many a 
night conversation on accelerator models, India schooling, and general 
geekfest ... in one bitcoin meeting, if you threw a rock every 2nd soul 
would be either DevOps or finNerd unlike Singapore where there are more 
MBAs and UX/UI designers around. Some serious hardcore talent, I met a NFC 
team who want to revolutionise the Mumbai transport system. When I asked 
how could they expect to deploy when the two smart-card readers (cf HK 
Octopus, SG EZcard, London TOP) would cost more than the scrap value of the 
bus, they showed me a plam-sized device. Much potential for emerging tech 
to made a big change, much like how China leapfrogged landlines with mobile 
but the decision-making pace can be frustraing (doesn't help with visa is 
only 2 months). But all the entrepeneurs I've met are passionate and 
optimistic about their future. Because the living costs tend to be low, the 
burn rate is not bad (but still doesn't beat those bottom-feeding Chinese) 
so they can take more care in engineering the MVP. These guys are 
sophsticated, they have ex-investment bankers, overseas returnees and local 
free-lancers in a very creative soup. I expect the teams that make it to be 
truly exciting plays.


PS ... now that I've wriggled my way into the local payments space, anyone 
SBeacher who wants sales/purchase inside Mumbai contact me for reference to 
ease the red-tape. 

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