India – perfectly imperfect

I haven’t written a post in two weeks and, although the change has been as good as a rest, the call of the blog has been growing in my mind over the last few days as we have travelled across Mumbai and then around the Golden Triangle from Delhi to Agra, Agra to Jaipur and back again to Delhi.

The sights have been breathtaking and thought-provoking.

I may get in trouble for saying this but the Taj Mahal was the appetiser in our meal, Fatehpur Sikri was the first course and Jaipur’s Amber Fort, Water Palace and Pink City were the main dish. For all of that, I will remember Dharavi the longest.

We have feasted our senses under the experienced tutelage of four expert tour guides, Shailendra, Anu, Bunti and Narinder and in the careful hands of our driver, Mr. Singh for almost 1,000km.

We have journeyed to the most aesthetically beautiful building in the world, through a series of opulent palaces, ending in an astrological park built in the 1750’s and capable of telling the time to within 2 seconds of accuracy. India has not failed to deliver.

We have struggled through the traffic of nightmares in smog-ridden cities and across endless miles of sparsely populated countryside on roads that seem post-apocalyptic.

But we began our journey in Mumbai and experienced life in a city of 22 million people (unofficially perhaps over 30 million). On New Year’s Eve we celebrated with the nouveaux riche having spent the first part of the day visiting the 1 million people who live in Dharavi, surviving, secure and belonging but with little in the way of comforts.

India forces you to look and see people living side by side and yet at every level of existence, from poverty to unimaginable affluence. India forces you not to judge on appearances but on behaviour.

Dharavi is sold to tourists as “the slum tour” and yet it is not a slum. There is sanitation, electricity, healthcare, 100% employment and 100% compulsory education – and people pay their bills for all of these benefits. Civilisation exists at a few rupees a day and there is little in the way of crime or corruption for the majority of the inhabitants.

Dharavi is industrious, doing the things that the rest of us don’t want to do – recycling aluminium, plastic and toxic chemicals; creating art from leather, wood and clay.

I took some photographs but choose not to post them on social media as Dharavi is not a zoo or a modern day Bedlam.

We experienced more politeness in Dharavi than in the over-priced, over-hyped Dome Bar at the Intercontinental in South Mumbai, where wealthy young westerners and westernised young Indians compete to display their affluence, paying through the nose for drinks, poor quality bar snacks and indifferent service.

An overused phrase is that India is a land of contrasts and yet the truth cannot be expressed in more accurate terms.

In India, the 2018 prediction is over 300,000 dentists and 5,000 dental labs, 90% of whom operate close to major cities with a ratio of 1:9,000 in urban areas and 1:200,000 in rural parts.

10% of medical tourism here is dental and is expected to grow at between 20% and 30% per annum, compared to 5% dental growth globally.

(Morulaa Health Tech)

90% of dentistry is delivered privately and the majority of dentists are sole-practitioners, with the emergence of a few multi-location corporates driving the change in attitude that brings me here at the request of the Dental Business Masters team.

I’m answering questions on time management, life balance, how to start a new business, how to grow beyond one chair, how to mentor associates, how to recruit and train receptionists and, most often, how to market for new patients.

India now has the largest number of regular Facebook users in the world, with over 250 million people checking in every day. With over 40 million new smartphones registered every 12 weeks, the interest in my thoughts on internal digital marketing is potentially stronger than back home and carries none of the prejudices and traditions I hear as I travel the UK and Ireland.

This morning I’ll be sharing my thoughts with a group of Delhi dentists, meeting in the training suite of a multi-chair practice. I’m so looking forward to meeting them.

I’ve fallen a little bit in love with this country and it’s people.

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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

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