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Emerging India - Australia's most important destination

Before my first trip to India in 2004, I scoured the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for information about culture, trade and pitfalls for a first time traveller to India.

Before my first trip to India in 2004, I scoured the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for information about culture, trade and pitfalls for a first time traveller to India.

Whilst painting an India of 1973, the information made for a softer landing.

Twelve years and 18 eye-opening trips later and my observations, and those of my friends and business partners, suggest things are very, very different.

Different for the good.

Driven by the IT and outsourcing boom, the influx of globalisation and cash continues to challenge conservative practice and values. The middle class is well educated, has more to spend and is accepting the challenge of modernisation. All 200 million of them.

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Where marrying outside of one’s caste was scandalous, we met a gay couple whose daughter was marrying an Indian boy in a combined Christian and Hindu ceremony. The combined, family, including the ex wife of the gay bloke, hung out every morning giggling and laughing over brekky. The family unit is fracturing as population booms. This is both good and bad as the family orientation is one of my favorite parts of India.

The “disorganisation” on the ground is the result the masses of people getting around ageing infrastructure. Crowded roads, the lack of lane discipline, but very few accidents or agro. They make it work, even pushing in happens less. The perception of personal space is ready for a busy world.

This highlights India’s streak of tolerance. It mostly comfortably supports a mix of major religions with minimal conflict. There is an undeniable history with Pakistan, but in most cities there is a variable mix dominated by Hindu and then Christian or Islam coexisting peacefully in parallel. Then again, when Hindu gives you a selection of hundreds of gods for all occasions, flexibility and tolerance is built in. Whilst the Indian version of the “racist redneck” is more prevalent in the North, it doesn’t seem to thrive as an attitude in the more modern south.

Corruption critics say business trust is tricky as it goes to the highest level. But the Prime Minister’s move to recently pull 86 percent of the currency to squash corruption,  tax rorting and black-market trade sends a clear message both internally and externally – India is ready for transparent and productive business. Not everyone is a fan, but Modi is a progressive thinker for the modern age.

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With the TPP now all but confirmed dead, that matters. Until we understand what we need or get over our lack of trust, we are struggling with the idea of China replacing America as our influencer and guardian. India however, with a shared history of British domination and rapid global influence in business circles feels more compatible in both structure and attitudes. The increasing sophistication in business makes it an attractive alternative.

It remains an immersive destination to visit where some parts, which simply will never be modernised, retaining the charm for ever.

Travel is safer and more reliable, the quality of hotels is outstanding, making it easier to digest India in bite-size chunks. You can smell the fish guts at the markets in the day and kickback that evening on a rooftop bar at the JW Marriott, washing down exquisite food with boutique beers to the soundtrack laid down by an international DJ.

In times of global tension and complexity, India peacefully brings all of this together in a way above and beyond what so many other nations can;

With a sincere, authentic and welcoming smile.

Have you travelled to India? What did you love about it?