Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An amazing journey to India

Dale Foreman, Vice Chairman of the Washington Apple Commission shares his observations on the opportunities and challenges of doing business in India.

An Indian import company

Gagan Khosla, the fourth largest importer of Washington apples, operates from an office above this store.

Apples from Lake Chelan, Washington to Delhi, India


Long day of hard work moving fruit

 The men work very hard carrying two or even three 48 pound boxes of apples up and down stairs all day long, loading and unloading thousands of delivery trucks.  By the end of the day they are exhausted.

Children at the Delhi market


Loading dock at Delhi market


Children at play while mom is at work in the market

How can words do justice to describe this condition?  How can anyone justify this system?

The Market in Delhi

      Our final day in India we drove north for an hour in heavy traffic, to the old wholesale market.  We began at the market stalls and visited many importers of Washington apples and pears and worked our way to the large cold storage facility on the corner.  This is a vast and extremely crowded market. It receives over 500 trucks full of apples every day from the Indian orchards in the foothills of the Himalayas.  The merchants are mostly second or third generation fruit salesmen.  They know their fruit. Some of them had come to the reception the night before.  All seemed pleased that we had come half way around the world to meet them and learn about the Indian market for fresh fruit.  Most were very pleased with our apples, some had specific requests or concerns.  All wanted more fruit and at cheaper prices.
     The Indian market only opened up to Washington apples in 2001 and only a few large importers were brave enough to start that year.  As they made good profits, others began to order one or two loads, or "cans" as they refer to the 1000 box metal crates carried across the sea on container ships. Some like Irfan Ahmad had only imported from Washington for one season.  He got a late start but is now anxious to develop relationships with shippers so he can get more fruit.  The men proudly led us down the stairs into their cold storage rooms where they try to keep the fruit fresh in the 95 degree heat.  We sat and drank tea or mango juice with each of them, taking photos and answering questions. I think I have enough antibiotics in me now to cover me a few more vists. A lot of good will was shared by all parties. 

The Sikh Temple

The Sikh Temple was filled with very friendly  people and the grounds and pool was quite beautiful.

The evil eye(e)

These folks were standing outside the Hindu temple, once I walked in there was a sign "no cameras" but I didn't know that outside on the street.  They were not happy. 

Rear ended

This lady rear ended us just outside the National Monument, she then shrugged her shoulders and drove away.

The Press Conference


Press Conference

At our press conference over 20 journalists came to learn about the connection between Washington apples and having a good healthy lifestyle.  We had a speaker who is a columnist for The Times of India and an expert on Feng Shui who was convinced that our apples will lead to a better marriage and even a better financial future.   So buy more apples and put them in the southwest corner of your kitchen.

Delhi - Temples, Feng Shui and diplomats

     On March 25, what an amazing day.  We met dozens of fruit importers as we drove around the city, visiting the national monuments and two temples, one Hindu and one Sikh.  Along the way we had our first car accident, we were rear ended while driving to the Presidents House.  Fortunately no one was hurt and since the lady who hit us was clearly at fault, she just shrugged her shoulders and drove off with her crumpled car.
     The temples were interesting but photos were not allowed inside the Hindu one. Some of the people there were really giving us the evil eye.  The Sikh's were much more open, even giving Todd  and I headscarfs to wear and allowing us to wander anywhere once we had walked through a foot bath.  By mid morning we were ready to go to work .  We held a press conference with our own Feng Shui expert who touted the virtues of having a bowl of Washington Red Delicious apples on the table.  She was quite serious and claimed that red apples, in particular long typy red apples from Washington, are very harmonious representing all four elements, earth, fire, metal and water.  She was quite convincing and the journalists took her very seriously. We have been very successful in promoting the Feng Shui connection with apples in Taiwan and in Singapore so our local advisers, The SCS Group, hoped it would be well received in India.  The speaker is a regular columnist in The Times of India and she is highly regarded. In the Q & A period following the presentation, some of them argued with her about the validity of Feng Shui, but they were respectful and interested.  I was interviewed by a reporter  named Nagmani from Cityplus .  He asked me if I believed having a bowl of red apples in the house would bring good "feng shui" to the house.  I smiled and said: "I don't really know much about feng shui, but when I walk into the kitchen and there is a bowl of apples on table, it just makes me feel better."  He wrote it all down, so we will see how the press covers the event.
     In mid afternoon we met with Holly Higgins, the Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs at the US Embassy.  It was a very positive and productive meeting.  She and her staff have done a very good job helping us convince the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that the wax coating on Washington apples is not a violation of any law or policy. (USDA GAIN Report IN8019  March 5, 2008)  It is very valuable to have people like Ms. Higgins in India and all the 50 plus countries where we sell apples, to help us with government, tax and trade issues. We know that apples are about as healthy as any food imaginable, but often local competitors try to use an issue like "wax" to prevent us from importing apples.
    All evening we held a reception for all the importers of Washington apples.  Over 20 people came and we had a very nice opportunity to thank them for buying 1.392 million boxes of apples last season.  They all loved our fruit and said they expect we can increase sales 20% per year going forward as the market for top quality apples in India continues to grow.  Finally, about midnight, we returned to the hotel, exhausted but pleased.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

From darkness to light

India is the incredible land of contrasts.  You walk from the filth, poverty  and despair outside into the light of the Taj Mahal glowing in the sun. 


The most beautiful building in the world. 

Inside the mausoleum

It was so hot outside it felt cool to sit inside the mausoleum and rest before going back out into the sun.

The snake charmer

The Taj Mahal road is full of street vendors and entertainers like this young snake charmer.

The snake charmer's assistant

This boy had two cobras.  While he played his flute and made the big one dance, his new assistant got to hold the second snake.  It reminds me of 1969 in Haiti when Jim Porter and I were collecting snakes for the Museum of Anthropology at Harvard.  But those snakes were not cobras.

The Taj Mahal

      The journey begins at 7am on Easter Sunday morning.  We are driving 200 kilometers south to Agra, the famous city where the mogul built the mausoleum in honor of his beloved wife, who died after giving birth to their 13th child.  It is a bright and sunny day here and the roads around the hotel are fairly clear.  But as we navigate the city of Delhi the press of cars and motorcycles, taxis, buses and trucks begin to smother us.  Soon we are engulfed in a smog, a thick viscous air pollution that blots out the sun and in a haze we speed past honking horns and screeching brakes.  It is going to be a long day.  The driver, who is bold and talented, promises he will get us there in 4 hours.  He came pretty close.  Along the way we saw spectacular old Muslim mosques and Hindu temples,  shining new shopping malls and fields of rice and wheat. There are oxen and cattle everywhere, at least partially as they are sacred to the Hindus.  Yet they are chained up to trees or posts so they can collect their dung and dry it in the sun.  They fuel their cooking stoves and their factories with dried dung.  The entire country smells like an open sewer.
     At each road crossing the throngs approach the cars, banging hard on the windows, trying to sell a carved elephant, or a necklace, or a silver bracelet.  Beggars whine and mothers cry out or stare with empty, hopeless eyes as they clutch their infants.  Most do not speak English but bleat a cry in a universial language: despair.
     We are on the road to visit one of the wonders of the world.  And it is.
     The Taj Mahal is majestic, breathtaking, splendid, awesome, magnificent, inspiring, precise, geometrical poetry.  It is the closest thing  to perfection I have ever seen.  The men who labored for 22 years to build this were craftsmen supreme.  The men who designed it and oversaw the 20,000 workmen, were building a monument to love.  They have created a vision of perfection. 
     Located  high on a bank, looking down on a bending river towards the ancient brown walls of Agra, the Taj Mahal is perfect from every angle.  Inside the delicate carvings around the tomb are intricate, the paint still red and black now nearly 400 years after it was painted.  Throngs of visitors, mostly Indian families, are strolling the grounds in awe.  We all take off our shoes, walking barefoot in the 96 degree heat, the pavement stones burning our feet.  In somber reflection on love and beauty and permanence we wait patiently and parade through the inner sanctum.  It is too hot.  We need water. None allowed inside.  We exit and walk in twenty steps from the gates of Paradise to Hell.

Monkey shines


Monkeys on parade

There is competition among  street entertainers, these two monkey vendors caused quite a row arguing with us over how much to pay to take this photo.  They wanted $5, or about a days wages, and when we finally relented and paid the exhorbitant price one grabbed the money and ran off.  Then the second boy demanded his $5, angrily claiming he was separate and his monkey needed to be paid too.  

Guards (but no changing)

All the hotels have guards in quite impressive uniforms.  We have noticed there is no "changing" of the guards, as the same men stand on duty from early morning until well after midnight.  I think a 16 hour work day is not unusual for the fortunate few who get these positions and the tourist tips they provide.

Keith Sunderlal and family

Keith Sunderlal and his wife Saphia welcomed us to their home for a homestyle Indian meal.

The Taj Palace Hotel in Delhi

Overlooking the gardens of the beautiful Taj Palace Hotel in Delhi.

Travel to Delhi

     It is March 22 and the antibiotics have kicked in, everything is on hold while the infection is cured and so I went for a walk around the hotel  grounds in Mumbai.   At noon we drove to the airport and boarded a Kingfisher Air flight  to the capital, New Delhi, which people refer to simply as Delhi.  The airlines are a great example of the changes brought to India by competition.  Years ago the major carrier, Air India, had a poor reputation for service, and I recall at least one catastrophic air disaster.  The government has opened the skies to competitors and now we have flown on three fantastic new airlines:  Paramount, Jet Air and Kingfisher.  Each of them flew new A 321 Airbus planes that had comfortable leather seats, individual entertainment systems and many excellent food choices.  Interestingly all air travel in India is alcohol and smoke free.  The flight attendants were beautiful and the service prompt and with a smile.  The airport lounges are still not up to standards and the bathrooms were quite awful, but once on the airplanes it was the finest travel I have had.  My favorite of the three great  new airlines was Kingfisher.  It never fails to amaze me how competition brings out the best in a business sense.  Yet as we travel through this diverse land, I wonder what mistakes were made in government policy that created this immoral debasing poverty?  What decisions were made by the British during the colonial days that established the civil service that held so much power?  What choices during the past sixty years of Indian democracy has lead to this situation?  The dead hand of bureaucracy has made it difficult for real competition to occur here.  The promise of socialism is so far from reality. The present conditions define chaos:  rapid growth, gross air and water pollution, horrible infrastructure of roads, sewers (or lack of sewers) and a public health and education crisis.  I have spent much time in Haiti, often referred to as the poorest place in the Western Hemisphere.  Haiti is paradise compared to India. Here the very smells, the air, define corruption, decay, rot.
    We arrived at Delhi and checked in to the Taj Palace.  This is a magnificent hotel as befits a national capital.  The roads are not nearly as crowded as Mumbai and the  central part of the city looks much more prosperous.  We did pass slums but there are also many modern buildings and clean residential areas.  It reminded me of the fact that all central governments tend to become a parasite and force outlying cities and people to pay the extra cost of  developing and beautifying the capital.
     After checking in and exploring the hotel we went to the home of Keith Sunderlal, the head of the public relations company that represents Washington Apples and Pear Bureau Northwest in India.  He and his wife Saphia had a lovely home cooked Indian meal prepared for us. We sat on their rooftop patio looking over the vast city until about 10:30.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped and dropped Todd off at the main Christian church so he could attend  Easter midnight Mass with thousands of Indian Christians.  He said it was a great two hour service held outside in the grounds surrounding the church.  I was still recovering from the infection and so went back to the hotel. The streets were filled with revelers celebrating the Holi festival long after Todd returned at 2am.  People, cars and even buildings were covered with splashes of paint that will take weeks to scrub off.  In general it was a good day of learning about the Indian economy from Keith and recuperating.  Tomorrow it is off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Warmly received

Rebecca Baerveldt and I were greeted warmly and generously by shopkeepers, importers and grocery store managers. They gave us flowers and offered us cold drinks, cookies, crackers and almonds everywhere we went.  As we were representing the Washington Apple Commission, it would have been rude to refuse their gifts.

Your faithful correspondant

This is what it is like to be 36 hours into an intestinal infection.

Dr. Shetty's Rx

Dr. Ashok Kumar Shetty visited me in the hotel and gave me more pills than I have ever taken before.  His bedside manner was excellent.  I trust the medications will work soon.

A scene just a few blocks from our hotel

In a land of great contrasts, just a few blocks from the beautiful hotel, on the way to the wholesale market, squatters live in tents

The lobby at the Leela Kempinski in Mumbai

The lobby of this beautiful hotel, the Leela Kempinski in Mumbai.  The staff is excellent and even in difficult circumstances they do all they can to make your visit a pleasant one.  The hotel doctor is very good.

Sick as a dog

     About 36 hours ago we were walking through the wholesale market, visiting customers and learning about India.  People here are generous and at each stall they offered us something to drink, a cookie, or almonds, or fruit.  It would have been rude to reject the food but I felt nervous each time I took a drink from a glass or plastic cup, or bit into some fruit, where did the water come from that washed them?
By the evening I decided not to have dinner with the others in the delegation and went back to my room, falling asleep at 8pm.  By midnight I was very sick.  All night long I had intestinal and stomach problems and my self medication of Imodium did not solve the problem. 
      We were scheduled to meet at 7am for another 12 hours day of visiting markets and a major cooking demonstration by Sanjay Kapoor, the most famous television cook in India, who was going to make apple crisp in a demonstration kitchen at one of the most upscale shopping malls in the country. I really wanted to go, but when I tried to get out of bed I collapsed.  I called Todd and explained and of course he offered to help.  I said "thanks but I just want to stay in bed today."  He wished me well and said he would check in with me later in the day.  At noon he called and I was getting worse so Sumit Saran, our man in India, called the hotel and had them send up a doctor.
     Dr. Ashok Kumar Shetty was promptly at my door.  He had a great bedside manner, said it is obvious I had food poisoning and he prescribed six different medications. Within 30 minutes the meds were delivered and I began taking them.  It is now 14 hours later and I have stopped all the violent behavior, but am weak and exhausted.  Sadly we are checking out in 10 hours to catch a plane to New Delhi.  I hope the medications keep me stable during the flight.  Dr. Shetty said it would take a day or two for the antibiotics to work, depending on the severity of the infection. 
     All this happened on a memorable holy day in India.  There are four major religions here and today, March 21, being the spring equinox, was the Hindu holiday Holi, which is celebrated by everyone tossing colored paint on each other to announce the beginning of Spring.  It also is Good Friday and there are many Christians here.  It was also Navroz, whicih is the New Years day for the Parsis religion.  Finally, it is Id, the birthday of "the Prophet" Mohammad.  Everyone in Mumbai is celebrating something.  I am celebrating that I am still alive and am starting to feel a bit better.  I wish you a Happy Easter.  And thank the Lord for antibiotics.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Washington fruit moving the hard way

These apples from Oroville and Yakima have moved half way round the world by ship.  Now the last part of the journey, from wholesale to retail, goes by hand and by head.

A brother and sister collecting scraps of fruit and vegetables

These two young children scampered through the produce market in Mumbai, dragging old pillow cases full of whatever they could scavange from the trash tossed away by the merchants.  It was a scene out of Oliver Twist.  Is this India's past and its future?

A lady picking through the garbage

Many people spend the entire day picking through garbage, looking for something to sell or salvage or eat.

Slums surrounding apartments

The poor live in tents and tin shacks that extend for many miles, and surround the apartment buildings and condos of the middle class.  There are even slums in the shadows of the modern corporate office buildings.

The Mall in Mumbai

This city has beautiful new shopping malls that are surrounded by vast slums.

The future? Is it Chinese Fuji's or American apples?

This young man looks at a box of beautiful Chinese Fuji's that only cost $12.  We cannot grow and ship apples all the way to India for that low price.

Tarun Chand Arora shares his dreams

Tarun Chand Arora lived in Wenatchee for two months in the summer of 2007.  He has big dreams for a nationwide cold chain bringing crispy apples to millions of Indians.  The reality is he will be selling Chinese Fuji's, Washington Reds and Grannys and the local Indian apples.

Past, Present, Future

     India is a land of incredible contrasts.  It is terribly old and yet the population is very young.  The average person earns very little and dies young, but some people are wealthy as the maharajah's of the past (4 of the worlds 10 richest men are Indians) and others live to be ancient.  Today we visited the main market in Mumbai, an incredible mix of old and young India.  Let me introduce you to some people and ideas, scenes full of sorrows, and smiles and even joy.
     In the past there were beggars and amputees everywhere.  We saw some today.  The most poignant were two children, about the ages of 3 and 5, scampering through the market each with a pillow case, picking up fruits and vegetables being thrown away.  They looked very serious as they went about their work and ran away when I took their picture.  Later in the day I found an old woman, bent over a pile of garbage, looking for something to salvage.  The two young children were of India's past and do not have much of a future.
     Today, the present is much better for millions of Indians.  We visited 15 different merchants today, including some high end shopping malls operated by Reliance and Hyper.  Some of these men are very successful and wealthy, selling thousands of boxes of fruit each day.  We had a great talk with Sunil Sachdev who sells fruit from Chelan Fresh, Dovex and Stemilt.  He will sell 200,000 boxes of Washington apples this year and plans to increase his purchases next year as the consumers prefer our fruit.  Then we met with Javed Memon of Kismat Fruit.  He sells Goldigger and Chelan Fresh and pears from Domex and Blue Bird.  He is very optimistic as his sales are up 50% this year.
      We walked through a state of the art cold storage named Foodland used by McDonalds and Papa Johns and Dominoes for all their operations in the entire country.  The management, Rajesh Sinha, is first class and the operation clean and secure.  For people with education and money, the present is pretty good.  The hard part is ignoring the plight of the millions of rag pickers who surround them.  The slums are vast and depressing.  Yet for some there is a dream of a bright future.
     Tarun Chand Arora is such a hopeful young man.  He spent two months last summer in Wenatchee, working for Oneonta Trading.  His father sent him up to learn from Dalton Thomas and to bring back his lessons in storage and cold chain supply management.  Tarun speaks perfect English, is hard working and has vision.  He not only imported 120,000 boxes of apples and pears from Oneonta, CMI and Chelan Fresh, he sells over 1 million boxes of local Indian apples grown in the Himalayan mountains and recently he established a relationship with farmers in China and is importing Chinese Fuji's.  The fuji's were frightening as they are beautiful and he can bring them in for only $12 per box compared to Washington apples at $21-25.  He walked us through his new cold storage, introduced us to his father and showed us plans for two additional storage facilities in other parts of India.  He intends to be the most modern and vertically integrated fruit wholesaler in the country. 
     In spite of the heat and the crowds, the dust and the decay, there is hope for some of these people. Sadly it will not be a bright future for all, the system is not likely to help those who cannot help themselves.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A typical roadside fruit stand

In this climate, with extreme heat and bad roads, many apples are in poor condition when they arrive.  Wholesale distributors have to carefully repack the entire boxes so only the good apples are sold at top prices to the street vendors. The Washington apples looked great at the outdoor markets.

A man in a Washington Apple tee shirt

The streets are full of strange sights.  It seems a bit odd to see a man in a skirt and a Washington Apple tee shirt walking past a woman in  a sari.

The "untouchable" woman at the dumpster

This poor woman was as filthy as any human can be, covered in rags and digging in a dumpster for bits of rotten fruit.

Trademark issues

The Chinese fuji's clearly infringe on the Washington Apple logo which is registered and protected by trademark laws.  We continue to do all we can to protect our logo, but it has such value that growers from other countries try to confuse the customers.

85 years in the fruit business

This father and son team still run the family wholesale fruit business their grandfather began 85 year ago.

Secrets of the Indian fruit market

     The wholesale fruit market in Coimbatore is a warren of tiny offices and warehouse rooms full of all kinds of fruit, sweaty workers, tiny desks and ancient telephones. This city of 3 million is in the extreme south of India, very close to the tip of the sub continent.  The city is small for India, but seems very densely populated and tropical, it rained off and on all day but the heat was so extreme that the wet roads quickly dried when the sun came out.  We had neither coats nor umbrellas, as the heat dried us off as we walked from shop to shop. We trudged in mud and garbage, passing goats, cows and beggars. These people stare at us, rare to see a white face in this place.  I watched an "untouchable" woman digging into a dumpster to try to salvage some rotten fruit.  Her face shows the saddest most hopeless expression I have ever seen. I felt guilty taking her photo.
      We met many fascinating people and  saw very few calculators and fewer computers.  One old father and son team proudly explained they have continued the fruit business established by the now deceased grandfather, over 85 years ago.  They sell over 500 boxes of Washington apples a day and earn about $1.50 per box in profit.  They take no risks, they are commission merchants, just a middle man between the big importers in Chennai and the local street cart vendors in Coimbatore.  They have several nearly naked young men, sitting on the filthy cement floor, repacking the apples and tossing into a juice bin the ones that have gone bad. The place is buzzing with motion,  hand carts moving apples from China (fujis that look very nice and sell for 60-80 Rupees per kilogram) and Red Delicious  (from Evans Fruit and First Fruits (Broetje) that look good and sell for 95 Rupees per K) but the Indian apples all looked very poor.  These were picked last fall and are now tired, many of them with rotten spots, bruises so large people sort through the entire box, repacking apples from the Himalayan foothills that have been trucked over 1000 kilometers of potholed and winding roads leading south. 
     We are delighted to listen to the old man tell us about the business. There is no bank credit.  He knows all his customers and they have to pay cash on delivery, or if they have been his customers for 30 or 40 years he may give them a few days credit, but he had no written accounts.  He keeps all the knowlege in his head.  There is no legal process to collect bills from bad customers who don't pay him so the system is very basic.  If you want fruit, bring cash, buy from the middleman for $26 per box and sell on the streets hoping to gain a 10% profit. Chilean fruit costs $21 and Chinese only $12.  He could rattle off his statistics and he was very sharp, asking us why we could not drop our prices just a bit.  Last year he paid $21 per box for Washington apples and he said he is barely making a profit at this years $26 price.  Of course our Washington growers do not make those prices, as the government of India charges a 50% tariff and when the shipping cost is figured in, it means we only get about $14 a box for Washington premium #2 apples.
     All day long we went from office to office, sitting on plastic chairs, talking and learning about their apple business.  Many of them had their workers wearing  Apple Commission tee shirts and hats.  All had their walls covered with our beautiful apple posters.  They were gracious, offering us Pepsi, or fresh watermelon juice and cookies or Ritz crackers.  They all wanted more fruit as our is the best in the market, but they are pleading for "a little bit lower prices next year."  Late in the afternoon, we drove back to the airport , passing through a few modern buildings but even those look bedragled with chipped paint and cracked windows.  Poor people are everywhere.  It is sensory overload, the smells are overpowering.  We arrived at the airport and cleared security, they hand frisk every passenger as they are worried about terrorists as in some parts of India religious zealots have been tossing bombs. 
      Our flight was delayed 45 minutes, but we finally  flew on to Mumbai, the city of 15 million people on the Western coastline.  Flying in low, over the Indian Ocean, we saw the vast tin shanty slums that surround the modern airport.  The streets are so crowded with cars, mopeds, people and beggers, it took us an hour to drive 3 kilometers to the hotel.  Now I sit at The Leela Kempinski Hotel, a five star marble and gold palace. It is the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen, a garden oasis surrounded by high walls.  The staff all wear uniforms and they outnumber the guests. The guards and security make us feel very safe.  I have high speed internet.  We ate at a lovely Chinese-Indian restaurant and the entire bill for 6 people was $150.  And yet, as I am writing this tears are welling up in my eyes and all I can think of is the woman I watched this morning digging in the dumpster for rotten bits of fruit. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Journey to India

     Early on the morning of March 18, after a 30 hour trip from Mazatlan to Houston to Frankfurt to Chennai, I awoke to honking horns and high humidity.  The rain clouds flew by my 18th floor windows and below I could see men still sleeping on the rooftops of the buildings across the street.  Men who were wrapped in thin blankets, soaking from the rain, trying to huddle together to keep body heat.  As I watched one of the men got up, stretched, and walked over to a fire ring where he started a small wood fire to boil water.  I took a photo of this one of the 11 million souls who live in Chennai.  This city was called Madras for hundreds of years, but the Indians have renamed it any many other cities, like Bombay which is now Mumbai, to try to erase the colonialism of their English past.  This city is immense and crowded, it is the worst traffic I have ever seen, far worse than Mexico City or Cairo.  But our Apple Commission employees tell me it is nothing compared to Mumbai and Delhi, which we will visit in the next few days. 
     When we had breakfast at the delightful restaurant on the 18th floor, I walked across the patio and saw street cleaners, taximen, gardners, shoeshiners, beggars, businessmen, police, security guards, children, women carrying heavy baskets and burdens and the rising sun filtering through the rain clouds and the oppressive, humid day began in beauty and privilege in this hotel surrounded by squalor.
     What an adventure. 
     Our man in India is Sumit Saran.  He lives in Delhi and has been to Wenatchee at least 10 times.  He represents apples, pears, California grapes and prunes and turkish hazelnuts throughout the country of India.  He is smart, fluent in English and communications. The morning began with trips to five different grocery stores that promote apples and pears.  We interview the managers, the staff, watched them stock the shelves.  One of them, Kovai Nilayam, owns several small fruit markets and he sells over 250 boxes of Washington apples a week.  At an average price of 95 RP (Rupees) per kilogram, he is not making much profit.  The exchange rate is 40 RP equals one dollar.  So he is selling our apples for about $1.00 per pound.  He pays $20 per box plus a 50% tariff and shipping.  Thin margins.  The grocers back home make a much higher markup.  Still, he loves our quality fruit and wants more of it, more varities and he smilingly asks if we can get him a little bit better price.
     It was fun taking photos of the markets and the people surrounding them.  The drivers dodged in and out of crazy traffic and none of us was hit by oncoming cars, although I had a close call.  These drivers use the English road rules, and they trice on the wrong side of the road.  Many pretty young women walking in colorul saris.  Some muslims completely covered by black burkas.  The people speak Hindi, or some Tamil, and they cannot understand the other.  Sumit laughed and said:  "The only two things that holds India together are Cricket and Bollywood."  You probably do not know anthing about either, but since most Indians have gigantic differences in caste, class,  language, wealth, religion and education,  it is the love of the violent, sappy romance movies that are pumped out of the film studies in Mumbai that unifiy the nation.
     Later in the afternoon, Sumit and his staff assembled all the local media for a Washington Apple press conference and it was impressive.  A power point on the huge growth in sales from 2001 to 2007.  Over $17,5 million in revenue last year.  Over half of all imported apples are from Washington.  And Chinese apples are about half the price, but the market wants quality and we can provide that.  We saw Stemilt, and CMI and Chelan Fresh apples and they were beautiful.  The audience asked some good questions and some silly ones.  One man said:  Why don't you bring your trees here and grow us some good Washington apples here so you don't have to ship them?  I guess you cannot blame him since every bank, credit card company and high tech company in America is doing just that by outsourcing thousands of good jobs here.  This country has 1 billion people.  Their middle class is over 100 million.  Still there are hundreds of millions of poor people, but the economy is growing, the markets are thriving, and we should be able to do well here for many years to come.  The journalists repeated the mantra that India will be the largest economy in the world by 2050.  They do not intend just to catch us, they expect to surpass even the 1 billion Chinese next door. 
     In the evening we flew to Coimbatore and we will do it all over again tomorrow.    

An Apple a Day keeps the doctor away

This young lady was buying apples and we could not resist her glowing smile.

Washington Apple Commission Press Conference a great success

We held a press conference and over 20 reporters came to learn about our growing sales of Washington apples in India.  They asked good questions and enjoyed our power point presentation.  This market will boom along with the economy of India.

Stemilt sells Red Delicious in India

Visiting several small stores we saw very nice apples from Stemilt, CMI and Chelan Fresh.

Three women in Chennai

These three women did not want me to take their picture, but they and thousands of people like them, swarm through these streets day and night.  Dressed in brilliantly colored silk sari's, barefoot and carrying heavy loads, it is very hot and humid and smells of spices, exhaust and sweat.