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Monday, September 11, 2006

India - Trip Log - 09/11/06 – Getting to know Pune

Today, I feel like I got to know Pune (Poona), India a little bit. The first thing I know about this town is that it takes a long time to get anywhere. We had a driver who spoke good English and the drive is comfortable, it just to quite awhile to get there. It took us about an hour and a half to go about 15km (10 miles) from the center of town, to a technical development center on the outskirts.

Starting out, the Le Meridien hotel in Pune is a great place to stay. I highly recommend it! For starters, the service has been first class, since the instant we arrived. One member of our team needed to have some shirts pressed late last night (10:00pm) for today, and the staff was quick to make the accommodation.

This morning, awaking after a good night's sleep -- I had the pleasure of taking in a sunrise here in Pune. My window looks out the back of hotel into an area with trees and I can see the Pune train station just to the south of the hotel. Given the proximity, it is still relatively quiet at the hotel. The only unfortunate thing is that the gym at the Le Meridien in Pune does not open until after 7:30am in the morning. Unfortunately, a little too late for our schedule this morning.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel is excellent here as well. There is a full set of what I consider to be both American and Indian foods. To some extent, if you chose to -- you may not even have to try Indian food here in India. The hotels definitely cater to their international guests. In addition, there is a full juice and fruit bar worth trying. (On a side note, all of the information provided by the CDC recommends AGAINST trying the fruit, juices, or other prepared foods while in India because of the risk of several diseases. Based on the experience at the hotel, I chose to go ahead and try them -- and was fine.)

As it approached 7:30am, it was time to meet our driver. We headed across town for a days worth of meetings, but again I was impacted by the dichotomy separating the classes in India. It was apparent as we traveled across town. Under a badly run down neighborhood, there would be large billboards advertising luxury apartments and health spas. This is becoming very apparent to me quickly, that while there are a lot of people benefiting from the growth by high-technology outsourcing in India -- the county is still a 3rd World country where people are struggling to survive. There is a huge chasm between the classes here and one has to wonder how it can be sustained, even if 200k+ students are graduating from the top universities each year in country of 1.2 billion.

Our meetings were good. As I mentioned in my first post, I am not going to go into details -- but there is no questions that I am impressed this first group of Indians that I meet. To be brief, the people I have met are very confident about the future that is in store for them, their families, and their county. This is not something I come across here in Los Angeles.

After our meetings, we traverse the route we took to location, again it takes about an hour and half to go about 10 miles. This is a city that needs infrastructure badly. Street by street, it is hard to believe that this town supports over 6 million people. While there is a lot of construction everywhere you look, there is still a lot to be desired. One who was not aware of the geographical statistics might think the infrastructure in Pune only supports a city of 100k or so.
Tonight, the evening is pretty basic, and fortunately none of our team is suffering from jet lag. We have a nice dinner at the "Spice Island" restaurant in the Le Meridien hotel with our vendor and then enjoy some drinks in the Entresol bar. A very enjoyable and relaxing evening!
On a side note, telecommunications are a very important piece of our travel. I have my trusty Blackberry 8700c with me, and while the data functions worked great in Mumbai(Bombay), service has been completely unreliable in Pune. Hours at a time go buy where I have no service, then suddenly service is available. Apparently this is the norm for Pune (Poona), India. I am barely able to keep in touch back in the United States. With a 12 1/2 hour time difference, it is really not that big of a deal.