“Population density creates opportunities, whilst democracy restricts them”

Which country is my headline referring to? None other than the world’s largest democracy – India.

With an estimated population in 2018 of 1.35 billion people of which;

  • 80% follow the Hindu religion.
  • 40% are vegetarians.
  • 23 official languages and more than 1000 minor languages and dialects and yet is second largest English speaking country.

Other fun, interesting facts about India:

  • 75 million pilgrims gathered in 2011 at Kumbh Mela – at one single event.
  • Indian Railways is the world’s largest employer.
  • India is the worlds’ largest milk producer.
  • The game “Snakes and Ladders” is reported to have been developed to teach children about “karma”.
  • It hosts the highest cricket ground in the world at an altitude of 2,444 meters
  • Freddie Mercury, the legendary singer of the rock band ‘Queen’ was born a Parsi with the name Farrokh Bulsara.

Traversing the India sub-continent ….

I’ve been blessed through my role to visit a great many cities across India’s diverse landscape, multiple times a year commencing in 2006. From New Delhi and Gurgaon in the north, Kolkata close to the Bangladesh boarder in the east, Mumbai & Pune in the west, Nagpur and Hyderabad in the centre, Chennai and Bangalore in the south.

With a history dating back some 5000 years and the majority of India boarding only oceans – the Arabian Sea on the western side, Indian Ocean to the south and Bay of Bengal on its east (this entire parameter is known as Coastal India), India becomes extremely accessible to anyone wishing to inhabit.

First a little perspective on this country’s potential ….

With a history dating back some 5000 years and the majority of India boarding only oceans – the Arabian Sea on the western side, Indian Ocean to the south and Bay of Bengal on its east (this entire parameter is known as Coastal India), India becomes extremely accessible to anyone wishing to inhabit.

However, in the northern region, it is also surrounded by major countries – Pakistan to the north west (also the rich Middle Eastern countries via the Arabian Sea), China, Nepal and Bhutan in north; Myanmar, Bangladesh in north east (as well as South East Asian countries via the Bay of Bengal) and Sri Lanka off the south eastern tip.

As you might imagine, it’s a land of many contrasts. The world’s highest mountain range, the Nepalayan Himalayas to the north, supports fertile soils across much of India, rich in mineral deposits and farming which connects nearly 50% of the population. India is a major producer of rice, wheat, jute, cotton, tea and coffee as major crops. The Ganges is the longest of an intricate river system which sprawls the length and breadth of India.

Also offering an arid desert in the west, alpine tundra and glaciers in the north and humid tropical regions supporting rainforests in the southwest and the islands.

Add to this image a sea of colours which adorn every corner of the bustling cities from brightly painted trucks to saris worn by the women and even the orange hair of the men. It’s a land of diversity and scale with few equals.

So enough on the history and geography lessons, now to the story behind this article.

Scarcity of ultra-high rise ….

Similar in population to China, India also struggles with a bulging population and hugely overcrowded cities across the country. Therefore, you might be forgiven for expecting a similar approach in dealing with this overcrowding – that is the solution of going vertical, but in reality there’s no comparison.

Whilst China boasts roughly 50% of the world’s 20 tallest buildings, all ranging in heights exceeding 400 metres, India strangely has none, even in the top 50.

The current tallest building as at the date of writing (Dec 2018), being the Imperial Tower in Mumbai topping off at 254 metres.

In fact, the 10 highest buildings across India, range in height between 200 metres and this one just over 250 metres. So why the difference?

After studying this topic for some years, I am still perplexed by the logic. To understand the situation requires that you have some first-hand exposure to the democratic process which is alive and well through-out India.

India is a country of considerable and strong lobby groups. As a result, there seems always a someone ready to oppose a proposal. Making approval through government channels a very slow process which can take years. In some extreme cases it may stretch longer than a decade with-out result.

Additional to this challenge of reaching agreement on almost anything, there appear several other factors at play – cultural reluctance to change, government greed, demonstrated through higher rates if you build up rather than out and adding greatly to the sprawl and crazy traffic.

And most surprisingly, many architects appear to favour the blended living (between residence and local shop fronts) as opposed to the vertical skyward race.

Plus, infrastructure as enjoyed in most mega cities globally today, does not really exist for the most part in India.

All the above, adding to the chaos and confusion. Still from the frequent visitors’ perspective this chaos does add to the uniqueness and adventure of travelling across India.

So, whilst this is a country of enormous potential, laden with a young, highly educated workforce, the present situation is a deeply divided country between the haves and have nots.

Even as a country which appears to struggle with planned development and the desire to improve living standards for the millions who struggle daily amidst the slums and their inert poverty, the people for the most part are gracious, curious and very helpful.

Perhaps most relevant for our elevator-escalator tribe, is the consequence of having a slowly emerging urban giant, with building growth predicted to explode multiple times in as many years, but to date only modest growth has been realized – at best matching GDP

When looking at our comparison country China – companies saw year on year growth exceeding 20% during their expansionary period from 2005 – 2015. Typically double that of the GDP in the same period.

My early installation jobsite visits …

Having been initiated to the Asian jobsites during the previous 18 months, I was somewhat prepared for what was to follow with my first site visits in India.

As was my custom, during each country visit I required several site visits. In those early years, open shaft entrances looking into single plank scaffold decks, were an all too common phenomena on most sites.

One such visit to a ten floor, Mumbai construction site on a particularly sunny afternoon has left lasting, vivid memory and recurring nightmares. Having just descended from the machine room to the top floor, we observed a young, fit, local gentleman working near the edge of the building.

He was actively shovelling sand, rubble, concrete and water into the right slurry consistency for the bricklaying colleagues.

All fine, except for the lack of any perimeter guarding around the building edge and of course no fall protection of any kind. One minute he was there, the next he was gone. At first, I thought the sunlight must be playing tricks on my eyes, but the quick scurry of personnel to the slab edge confirmed my fears.

Monsoons and manual wooden landing doors …

As the elevator industry in India evolved and residential apartments became more common, the need for elevator prices to match the development company expectations, lead our tribes to find cheaper solutions – one such approach was the expansion in the use of manual doors. Sadly, in many cases this resulted in low quality product to match the low-price demands. One such situation was the over use of wooden doors. Why do I say that…. as there are many sites around the world where manual timber doors exist today? 

The answer – the period between June to September sees much of India experiencing torrential rain and flooding from the Monsoons – some locations such as Mumbai and Kolkata suffering more than the rest. These two locations also have the misfortune of poorer economies and the real issue starts to become apparent. In some tribes, more than 50% of their service portfolio consisted of manual doors (fortunately not all wooden).

Anyone still struggling to sense the dilemma, try the simple experiment of sitting your bathroom door in water for the day and see whether it can still be closed afterwards.

Swelling occurs in wood as the moisture content increases and shrinking occurs as it dries. The typical outcome after this cycle is warping. Now imagine our humble manual elevator door being exposed to this environment for months on end, each year – not a very successful design combination for our unfortunate service technician.

Fortunately, the wooden doors for the most part today have been replaced by metal (which is not with-out its own challenges – but that’s for another story at another time). Those manufacturers whom are still producing the wooden doors have thankfully learnt to produce to much higher quality standards in the past couple of decades.

To this end our Indian customers and service departments alike, thank you.

Round robin cricket tournament – an international triumph …

Cricket is the most popular sport in India by far and is played almost everywhere. A colleague even joked once that employees can often be found practicing in the toilets. It’s reported that the first cricket club was established in Kolkata (or Calcutta, as it was previously known) in 1792. The first A-grade match was played in 1864 between Chennai (Madras) vs Kolkata.

Whilst India’s national cricket team played its first Test match in 1932 at Lord’s, the country’s strength did not surface until the 1970’s.

The world of cricket was forever changed when a renegade ensemble of Asians, Europeans, Americans and Australians took to the field in early 2012.

We wagged our own international side, against the lively Mumbai squad which fielded 4 separate and highly professional teams for the event.

As you might imagine for many of our international squad, it was their first experience of this very selective sport. To their credit, they did a great job of hiding their fear after rounding the corner of the high fence which enclosed the field.

At first glance it was easy to see that our Indian colleagues were serious about this challenge. Each team was in full practice mode – batting, bowling and fielding. Young, fit, passionate and committed, they were playing for pride, they were playing for country, they were clearly playing to win.

The great news is that sanity prevailed, and our marginally less energetic international squad was quickly shared among the 4 Mumbai teams making it a real competition and one of the most enjoyable days of my long career.

Not to mention that as an Australian, I can now accurately claim that that I’ve played cricket in India.

Dancing with cobber’s and great friends in Bangalore ….

For most people living outside of India, we have heard of the world’s largest film and dance producer Bollywood where they produce some 350 films annually.

Dancing in Indian films like those from Bollywood, are often noted for their freeform of expression and are culturally very popular on the Indian subcontinent.

And as with our cricket adventure, we “travelling legends” of global origins, are keen to experience all things new and unique – so it was, on one fine Wednesday evening in a discreet nightclub, hidden in a Bangalore side streets that we found ourselves with Service colleagues dancing up a storm, shoulder to shoulder, hips swinging, twisting, the old and young together.

Casual and knowing winks at friends, waving to imaginary admirers in the distance. It was a night to remember.

We danced long into the night, aptly supported by the fine Kingfisher amber liquid.

And the next day as we fronted up back at our workshop, one could notice a few shy glances from the visitors towards the locals – as if a feeling of guilt for over stepping the boundaries of male bonding. For the locals however, it was a night of celebration and worthy of a good story to any would-be listeners.

Some months later, in a different southern city and for a different project, we again experienced the friendship of our male friends (but just as with the wooden doors this is a story for another time 😊 ).

2am roof top prowling in Bangalore ….

On a different occasion yours truly found myself stationed in a recently constructed 5-star hotel, supporting the local troubleshooting team, as we worked through software and mechanical issues left over from a less than savoury installation sub-contractor.

Whilst we could perform diagnostic work and conduct babysitting of the units during the day, it wasn’t until the guests were fast asleep that we could really go to town and shut elevators down for repair.

This meant that many a pleasant night was spent under the stars, striding between roof tops like Santa Claus at Christmas, the chimneys substituted by machine rooms and the pounding of reindeer’s hooves, replaced by the application of machine brakes on brake drums.

The experience was no less intoxicating and engaging however. There’s truly something to be said for the thrill of finding that problem and implementing the fix in readiness for those expectant clients and users the next morning.

On this occasion, the clients became great friends and a global case study for our tribe on the ways to turn the NPS detractor into a promoter.

It’s a scenario which we repeated on multiple sites across the country. The outcome for each of our trouble shooting technicians was a new-found confidence and belief in their ability to tackle those tough sites and convert contracts them being at risk of cancellation into resigns, often with attractive advance payments.

The 20-elevator machine room …

I grew up in Australia and joined my first industry tribe in Sydney. Whilst I spent 20 years of my career moving between New Zealand and Australian cities, it wasn’t until I migrated to Asia that I realized how little I had really experienced and knew about our industry.

The past 14 years have been a real eye opener and wake-up call. And something I’d highly recommend to everyone with an opportunity to experience it.

My trips to India ARE included in this Asian experience. During a customer visit in Gurgaon, a northern India city not far from Delhi, the team were showing me around different sites and casually led me into this mammoth of a machine room which houses no less than 20 x 2.0 m/s gearless machines.

Not sure if a record exists for largest machine room but I believe this must be one of the biggest single machine rooms – at least in the southern hemisphere.

In this instance, it was obvious that the local technicians held their role with pride. The machine room was immaculate, distribution boards with LOTO provision and ELCB’s, machines free of oil and grease, guards and signage fitted, ropes oiled and well tensioned, controllers clean and tidy, service records in order and a low break down rate as a result.

Not always the case in India, so it was a pleasant memorable experience for everyone.

All weather snakes ….

And to the penultimate item of this article. What article on India would be complete with-out the snake story.

During several recent visits to our factory, this snake topic has been on the agenda as there had been a numbered seen and caught. For those that aren’t aware, there are a number of highly venomous snake species in India.

Apparently, there is a group of four which are responsible for causing the greatest number of human snake bite cases. This group are sometimes collectively referred to as the Big Four. They are as follows:

                   The BIG 4

Indian cobra,

Common krait,

Russell’s viper,

Saw-scaled viper,

Here-in picture appears to be one of the above Vipers!

Now I believe in kindness to most animals, but… I must confess that I’m typically not the bravest in the room when there is a snake present and I wouldn’t think twice about terminating this slithering reptile if it meant my survival or safety. Provided I could of course. My experience from past encounters is that are much quicker to react than me.

The good news for anyone unfortunate enough to be bitten is that there is an antidot (serum) which effectively neutralizes the venom for each of these four snakes. Even better is the knowledge that it’s readily and widely available across India. is widely available in India. The less comforting realization however is that this solution, restates the reality about the frequency of people being bitten.

and to the CLOSING comments….

So that’s about a wrap on this article. Hoping you found the topics enjoyable?

My role is as the Coach and host of the site. You’ll find that in this blog site we have articles written by 4 different groups related to our elevator-escalator tribe. Each sharing details with our executives, from to their personal experience, insights and learnings.

Group 1:          Our Legends (those that have served 30 years or more in the industry),

Group 2:          Our Innovators (often lead by our younger generation

– but not always and are those helping shape the future direction of our tribe),

Group 3:          Our Cheque Writers (the clients that provide perspective to our thinking by guiding our direction).

Group 4:          Myself as your coach;

– as the “travelling wilbury” of the tribe, sharing stories from various countries I visit and work in.

This same clustering of groups will provide interviews which we host under the podcast title of couch TALK. And to round out the trilogy, is our You Tube channel called Mentors Rant.