Friday, April 22, 2011

Brains, Rocks and Pandals in Kolkata.

This week I'm in Kolkata with our Mexican computer genius; Raul from our UK office.. I'm buying cotton and jute products, Raul is acquiring a different but equally prolific product of this town.. Brains.
Yes you read correctly we are buying brain. Not Hannibal Lecter style but putting those very cleaver Bengally chaps to work for AW.

In a nutshell we use a contact management and marketing software the mad Mexican Raul has been designing and refining for a few years. We thought of making it available for other companies but to recast it as generally useful, customisable and user friendly is a herculean task for one Mexican.. so we are hiring a whole team here.
kol5.JPG Sector Five - Salt Lake Kolkata.

Kolkata is chaotic and crazy at any time, but this week is the big festival called the Durga Puja where the whole city is involved in building Pandals - sort of temporary temples some of which are bigger than real temples and stunningly beautiful. There is no denying though that this is a dirty and disorganised place. But out of all the craziness, power cuts and traffic james comes a kind of energy distilled in the very studious and gentle Bengally character. This is why all the big software companies come here to a place called Sector Five in Salt Lake. It's brain factory central.
kol1.JPG Pandals at night.. kol6.JPG Building a Pandal. jodhpurpark_pandal.jpg Pandal Party.

I have to tell you a little story.. we have been staying in a (so called) boutique hotel.. called the Stadel it is claimed by the website to be 10km from the airport and a charming retreat. Both claims are 10km off mark. This hotel has been built beneath a monstrous crumbling concrete football stadium (hence the name). And like Kolkatta generally it's accident prone place. I kid you not.. while relaxing in my room late one evening. I'm reading a book on my bed when I'm shocked by a huge bang. The next thing I'm showered from above by plaster and small stones. Looking up a boulder shaped rock is protruding from the ceiling above me. I leap out of bed - get dressed and rush to reception waking Raul on the way. With in a few minutes I have the management and half the hotel staff in my room. Seems a chunk of concrete far above in the stadium has come loose and come crashing down. 
kol2.JPG kol3.JPG kol4.JPG That rock..

They were very apologetic and moved me to a new room with no charge and a bottle of good wine. This is India.. what can you do but smile?
More adventures next week.
Please visit our wholesale gift-ware pages

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Art of Energy Flow at Ancient Wisdom

In the last blog I was getting all philosophical and pondering the roll of Yin & Yang in business.

Sue sent this happy thought..

Hi David,
Yin and Yang, very deep philosophy true, but we all need balance in this life, if there were no 'Bad' in this world, how would you know what was 'Good'?  We need comparisons, balance....
Happy thought!

So having another happy thought, I was thinking how so many things in the gift trade originate from ancient traditions and hold mystical values. Since last week it was Yin & Yang - I thought this week I'd investigate Feng Shui.
Or the art of Energy Flow...

Like me you probably think it all a load of superstitious rubbish.. we'll actually that's what I used to think. But it's worth considering that just how things are arranged in our life's affects the way our life's pan out. For example I learned years ago in retailing you can ruin a shops sales by the way it is laid out. A sales counter directly facing and overbearing the entrance can cause a kind of blockage to customers.  Just they way a shop "feels" makes all the difference. Somethings you just do things because they work, but you can't explain why.. energy flows like water and like water you can cause stagnant blockages if your not careful.

Out of this comes the eastern Feng Shui traditions with experts charging for their skills, for example most building in China are built along Feng Shui lines.
The compasses, elephants, toads, turtle-dragons and Buddahs have all been absorbed into a colourful Feng Shui tradition.  They make an exotic retail display and are natural gift lines.. especially if you or your staff can explain little things about them..

Such as..
The elephant: symbol of strength, wisdom, energy and wisdom, it also helps fertility.
Three leg toad: A figure that can attract prosperity should be placed in the lobby.
Turtle dragon: symbolizes longevity. According to Chinese tradition is able to live 300 years.
The laughing Buddha is the symbol of happiness, good fortune and abundance.

Sorry for rambling on a bit.

Have a well re-arranged week. and if you feel inclined go see the wholesale Feng Shui stuff in the Collectable Dept at AW.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Duplicity at Ancient Wisdom

 What does it mean?

Thanks for the all the suggestions and interest in our forthcoming Lavender project in last weeks newsletter.
As Valentines day approaches (or as they call it in India V-Day) of course things are pretty busy at AW, but it's not too late to grab some stock and (honestly) we have some pretty good deals that will really your boost sales. See below..

Meanwhile I have been getting a little philosophical recently.
I was thinking about business and Yin & Yang. I used to think of Yin & Yang as a kind of opposites mentality.. light & dark, good & evil. But the Chinese understanding is more complex, it's actually about being two opposing things at the same time. A state of conflict and balance. It seems to me that in business you have to be often two things at once. Here are some examples:

Be very generous and jolly mean simultaneously.
You have to blindly trust yet keep a wary eye.
You must always think big but pay attention to details.
Take huge gambles and yet minimise risk.

Is it this ability to apparently do two conflicting things that is a key secret of success? After all the human brain is really two brains left and right each capable of different processes.
Left is logical, detailed reality based and cautious.  The Right side is where the imagination and mystical things reside, it also risk taking. We humans are actually constructed in a Yin & Yang way.

Well a glance at ancient wisdom (not us, the real thing) will find lots of such sage advice. For one all the Yin & Yang philosophy is built around these ideas. In the bible Paul talks about been as innocent as a dove but crafty as a snake.
In Confucianism the Earth is the ultimate yin object. Heaven is the ultimate yang object. They have to be mixed to work... all philosophy and religions have to deal with duality it's a common theme in any culture.

So all those nice arty gift items using the Yin & Yang symbol as inspiration have more to them than meets the eye.
Is it any wonder that the Yin & Yang makes such a popular gift theme.. and like the idea for a Lavender themed shop or department in a shop maybe it would also work for Yin & Yang..

So that's my rambling for today..

Hope you have chance to use both your brains..


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Post CNY

Hello.. I'm writing this early in the morning with fireworks rattling the windows of my hotel. I'm in Thailand and today is CNY.. or "Chinese New Year".. it's seems a great time to start. New Year.. a New Blog.
Yesterday in a place called Chon Burri visiting Incense Factory. Interesting! Ordered new range of incense for our Incense Dept 
Seen our current order being actually packed.