Greetings from New Delhi, India.
Last week I was telling you about a Chinese wedding with a brass band and an accountant. You can read about it here.
Since the wedding in China, I have been on a whistlestop tour of Bali. Started one or two projects, checked in on a number of suppliers and caught up with our man in Indonesia; Ringo.
Then by AirAsia to Kuala Lumpur and down to Delhi on the night flight and an hour and half drive across Delhi to my hotel in Greater Noida to the North of Delhi where I am attending the Spring Gift Fair.
I have really just arrived so I'll update you on the trade show next week, but if you have any "India requests" now is the time to email me.. If you have something you think AW should sell from India please let me know.
Adat. To do business in Indonesia, you need to know about Adat.
Adat is complicated, Ringo understands it much better than me, and adapts our business approach to take account of it, but what is it?
I'm reading a brilliant book about Indonesia at the moment. It's by a lady called Elizabeth Pisan and called: Indonesia - Exploring the Improbable Nation. This lady travels to all parts of this incredible diverse nation, living with locals, getting to grips with the concept of adat and she discusses it and describes it quite a bit in her book.
A google translation will describe adat as habit or tradition. Which doesn't help. There are 13,000 plus islands of Indonesia, all shades of Muslim culture, quite a few Christian, some even animist and very uniquely Bali which is Hindu/Buddhist, but the concept of adat permeates across all these cultures. Elizabeth describes it as life and death, as the fabric that holds society together, even as cultural capital. But what actually is it?
Are you ready to get your head around this?
I'm going to try and explain..
You remember last week I was telling you about the Red Envelope culture of China.. this is kind of related. Say you receive a juicy fat envelope stuffed with cash. Are you happy? Well yes.. and no. Because in this culture you have to stuff your envelope to give back just a little bit fatter.. well you do, if don't want to lose face or friends quickly.
In Indonesia it's not Red Envelopes - but Social Obligations. Or as I call them "Ceremonies" there are endless ceremonies in Indonesia, and Bali is the worst place of all. Dedication ceremonies, for homes, babies, businesses, temples even for blessing your car. It's a little expensive in offerings (rice, coconuts and incense) but hugely disruptive in time off work - and this disrupts business endlessly. Your friends and relatives come to yours and you must go to theirs - it's like a debt to be repaid. At least that is; without a very compelling reason.
So there I am with Ringo placing an order - or re-order as it happens for those nice carved wood angel wings. Ringo has made an impressive looking contract that we now get signed with every order and give to the business owner. It describes the total order value, the completion date, how much deposit has been paid.. and crucially the percentage penalty if the order is not ready by the completion date.. typically 5%. This guy, inspects the contract (in English and Indonesian) and calls his wife over to check it. There is a problem.. it's about the 5%..- get this!.. could we possibly make it 10%?
Amazingly.. Ringo unphased, agrees and changes the contract. I'm flabbergasted, am I missing something?
So it turns out this is adat in action. The guy just wanted something substantial he could wave under the nose of the local holy man, who organises endless ceremonies, to show that the time spent was costing potentially quite a lot. The problem here is they are basically nice people who have trouble saying no.. this contract gave them (socially acceptable) permission to say no.
And Ringo..what can I say.. he is practically a genius :)
The concept of Adat applies across much of Asia and Arabia in one form or another. It explains why families arrange marriages, pay dowries, why Chinese hate tips, all those strange customs we in the west cannot grasp are in some shape or form to do with Adat..
Well.. I hope you learned something ..
That's amazing.. now you are in my debt, and subject to the rules of adat - you must immediately place an order..
Haha.. I'm only joking!!
But feel free :)
More news from India next week.