(This profile of two first-generation women entrepreneurs who find it pays to showcase India was published in DNA edition dated August 3, 2006.)
For a successful entrepreneurial idea to be born, it needs an enabling environment that encourages the calculated risk-taker to slip the surly bonds of safety and go in hot pursuit of the Big Idea. For Jyoti Ramesh and Anita Garg, that Big Idea – of making a business out of promoting Brand India – fell in place in the fertile entrepreneurial breeding ground of Hong Kong, the world city at the doorstep of the world’s fastest growing dragon economy.
After fairly successful careers in several world cities, except for time-outs to step onto the mommy track, Jyoti and Anita met in Hong Kong’s “tandoori towers”, the upmarket Mid-Levels high-rises populated by an army of South Asian investment bankers and software professionals. “We were both at a stage where we wanted to take the entrepreneurial plunge,” recalls Jyoti. “There’s something about Hong Kong that makes it very business-friendly.”
After some frenetic ideation, they realised there was an untapped market in showcasing in this part of the world everything that’s good about India – from classical art to Bollywood to the supernormal economic growth of recent years that’s grabbed investor interest the world over. And thus was born the Jade Group (www.jadegrouphk.com), an event management company committed to showcasing diverse Indian cultural traditions, and investment opportunities in India, for audiences in the East.
Strikingly, Jyoti and Anita decided early on that they would endeavour to make Indian classical culture and art forms accessible to non-Indian audiences as well. In a city where audiences get to savour the best of world art – indicatively, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production The Phantom of the Opera is currently running to packed houses – this decision meant taking the road less travelled. “A lot of people felt we couldn’t sell Indian classical traditions to non-Indians, but we proved them wrong,” says Anita.
Their first major professional assignment came when the Sri Shakti Academy, the first Indian professional classical dance organisation in Hong Kong, staged Panchabhoota, a classical dance performance with difference dance traditions and elements of yoga in it. “We organised everything from the venue to marketing to logistics to the media,” says Anita. The show, in 2003, was a resounding success, and an enthused Jade Group spread its wings.
Over the next few years, Jyoti and Anita organised several shows by top-grade professional artists from India, including Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Hema Malini and her daughers Esha and Ahana… Many of them were shows they conceived from end to end for their cliets, typically financial institutions which want to organise exclusive premier events for their private banking customers. In addition, they helped with some aspects of organising the Shah Rukh Khan show, a sellout, where there was a bidding war even for tickets priced at HK$5,000 (about Rs 30,000).
More recently, the Jade Group organised an India Property Fair in Hong Kong, where property developers and home finance entities from various cities in India (including Mumbai) showcased their residential, commercial and retail property. Although the show was principally targeted at NRIs, it drew a fair sprinkling of Chinese and Western investors who had heard of the booming real estate market in India and wanted a piece of the action.
Those are the twists to the plot that give these two businesswomen a big thrill. “Running your own business is in itself an exhilarating feeling,” says Jyoti. “But to make a business out of promoting Brand India, in all its glory, is doubly exciting.