Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Interviewed a self-confessed criminal, and an unwitting moron, today. This was for my newspaper, for a column where we profile first-generation entrepreneurs who have made it big. (Yes, I realise this is the Internet, a public domain, and I’m being imprudent, but have to get this out of my system.) The chap in question had the idea, a few years ago, of sourcing “gizmos and gadgets” not easily available in India, from countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, and retailing them here; he now has a showroom in a part of Delhi that has a reputation for somehow being simultaneously posh and shady. To this showroom went I at 11 AM today, armed with the printout of the press release that I had been sent.

In fairness, the press release should have prepared me for the experience. (Reminder: another blog on press releases and the PR types who compose them.) I can’t quote it at length but one of the more intelligible passages read: “Mr ________ is a gizmo passionate man. It was really his passion since childhood to do something about this world on its own which has now turned in his profession.”

[There was also a sentence that began “Looking for a place to satiate all your gizmotic desires? …”, which had the girlies in my corner of the office giggling girlishly at each other and whispering “sex toys!” But I stray.]

As it turned out, the press release wasn’t far off the mark; the way it had been written was remarkably similar to the way Gizmo Guy actually spoke. Which didn’t stop him from disagreeing with it completely. “It says here that your father presented you with a laptop on your 15th birthday,” I began tentatively. “Oh no, oh no, what rubbish surely, whoever told you suchathing?” he chortled back. On the sofa behind us three unctuous PR people (one of whom had presumably written the vile thing I held in my hand) beamed at each other; they were all dressed formally, reminding me of those smarmy bowtie-and-coattails-clad frogs in the comic strip (I forget which). The PRs didn’t look shamefaced, in case you’re wondering.

The press release had also led me to believe that Mr ______ had an exclusive tie-up with some major electronics companies, for dealership of their products. When I asked him about the nature of these deals, he beamed at me. “No no oh no, there are no deals,” he said happily, “in fact, so-and-so company is threatening to sue us for illegally retailing their products Ha ha ha.”

Not knowing your own press release is one thing; not knowing your own age is quite another. “How old were you seven years ago, when you started the business?” I asked “Uhh, ahh, ohh, err,” he answered, looking toward the frogs for succour (they chuckled noisily).

Needless to say, with all my journalistic integrity, I’m still doing the story. Watch out for it this Saturday; it’s about a young visionary who established a (perfectly legitimate) multi-crore business through years of sweat and toil. Should be inspirational.

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