Trade delegation India chapter three

18 March 2013

My alarm goes off at 5.15am. Shave with hand soap, a horrible experience. (Having had my shaving foam confiscated at Heathrow!)

Bus at 6.00am for the airport. In our briefing notes it says ‘breakfast on the plane’. I have all my luggage with me. Because I wasn’t on the bus from the reception last night I missed an announcement that all ‘hold’ luggage needed to be left outside our room before we went to bed last night – oops! At the airport we go in a small side entrance to have our hand baggage x-rayed. I had put my knitting bag in the ‘hold’ case which had now become by very large hand baggage! The x ray machine picks up two pairs of scissors and metal knitting needles. So in front of Tim Luke, the PM’s Business Advisor and the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, everything in my knitting bag gets thoroughly inspected and pulled about by the security people!

I have to climb up the steps to the front of the plane twice as I had so much baggage. I am then confronted by having to walk through Club before getting to economy. As I scan Club I was faced with a number of CEO’s sipping coffee already happily ensconced in their very luxurious seats. So, I set off with my large hold case trying not to knock over their coffees (which are on little tables right beside the aisle). As I walk along saying ‘Sorry, trying to avoid your coffees. Missed the announcement about baggage!’ I spot David Nish the CEO of Standard Life. “Hello David,” I say, “You know Matthew de Lange don’t you?” David looks at me and says, “You must be Robbie” Bingo! My first CEO encounter! Well done Matthew! (Steps’ Non-Exec Chairman)…

Having had such a success going down one Club aisle I decided to go along the other Club aisle with my other suitcase. I had been trying to say ‘Hello’ to John Rishton the CEO of Rolls Royce, as we are currently delivering diversity sessions in their Derby factory. Half way along the Club aisle I spot what looks like John Rishton. “Hello” I say, “Are you John?” “Yes” he says. “Rolls Royce?” I say. “No the FSA” the wrong John replies. “Oh sorry, I thought you were another John, but it’s very nice to meet you!” John FSA turns to the bloke next to him and asks him if he’s seen John of Rolls Royce. I take the opportunity to introduce myself. It’s Dick Olver, Chairman of BAe Systems. John and Dick say that John Rishton is not on the plane they think he went onto Delhi ahead of us.

I retire to economy. As I pass the galley I see lovely hot bacon rolls being prepared. When I finally get my breakfast in economy I get a cold croissant. “I thought we were getting hot bacon rolls” I lament to the steward. “That’s only in Club” comes the reply. Oh to be a CEO or Chairman this morning!!

Flight to Delhi. Two hours. In buses (They haven’t cleared the roads like Mumbai) to Taj Palace Hotel, Delhi….

We go into sector groups. I decide to go to Financial and Professional Services: A Perspective on Reforms in the Indian Financial Sector. There are about 30 – 40 attendees. It is chaired by Lord Dolar Popat, Government Whip in the House of Lords. (I had previously met Dolar in a lift in Mumbai. We introduced ourselves. He said “Dolar, like the American dollar”) I asked him how it was going. “I’m stressed” he said. It was comforting for me to know that even the ‘Grand Fromages’ get stressed!

Following a busy morning of speeches, we are treated to a buffet lunch outside. I decided to sit at a table of Indians, as I only seem to have chatted to Brits so far. I randomly selected a table but it turns out to be a success. I sit next to Supriya Banaji, who is the Deputy Director of the Confederation of Indian Industry. I tell her about Steps. She says I have to meet Dilip Chenoy the Managing Director of the National Skill Development Council and calls him over immediately. She introduces us and says that Steps should be working with Young Parliamentarians in India. Wow, that sounds fun! (And as I write this we are still in discussion about this potential piece of work!)

Final chapter coming next week!