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Andrew’s First Visit to India Office

Categories: People

Our chief operating officer Andrew Cloke, who joined on July 4, 2022, visited our India office for the first time on August 1, with founder Saravana Kumar and vice president, Sales, and Customer Success, Gowri Ramkumar.

He spent a week in the office meeting all the India office members on both floors and interacting with his operations and administration team members. He also got to attend one of our get-togethers that week. Andrew talks to us about his first visit to our India officer, which also turned out to be his first visit to India itself.

Landing in India

So, it was decided that I would visit India when Saravana Kumar and Gowri would also be present in the India office. However, my visa arrived only two days earlier than my tentative departure. With not too many flight options open, I took the flight on July 30, a Saturday, and found myself landing in Kochi at 4 am the following morning.

The immigration experience was not too pleased with officers making me sit apart and clear biometrics scanning all 10 fingers, since I had a non-Indian passport. The rest of the trip made up for it.

Soaking in the landscape

When I finally got out of the airport and got into my taxi, I chose to stay awake and absorb the Indian landscape. Since it was my first time in India, I was both excited and curious. My taxi driver and I chatted away through the three-and-half-hour journey.

Being from the UK, I appreciated the contrasting landscapes on either side of my window. I even observed a group of boys playing a well-organized game of football at 5 am in the morning, which is unthinkable in UK, simply because no one would be up at that hour on Sunday.

Once I checked into my hotel in Racecourse, I caught up on some sleep and later walked a few rounds on the Race Course walking track to explore the area. It was a great experience. I was just taking it all in, the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the speed and vibrancy of the whole place. Yeah, it’s something to behold if you’re not familiar with it.

First time at the India office

Deciding to make the most of my short trip, I got into the office at 9 am on Monday morning, being one of the first people to step into work. Arunkumar Kumaresan, head of operations, was kind enough to give me a lift to the office. It was relatively empty. But soon people began coming in and things began getting busier and noisier.

The first thing that struck me about the office was the incredible views from the 7th and 8th floors. I think Saravana picked a great location going higher up. I also loved the layout of the office, the décor, and the color schemes. I especially loved the way the walls have been decorated by a wall muralist.

After tracing out the company’s journey through one wall mural, I walked into the cafeteria to see the wall decorated with Kovai slang. It was a lot of fun trying to pronounce a few of the slang and making a fool out of myself more than once.

Through my first day I was given at least four tours of the office by people including Arunkumar Kumaresan, Indhirani Rangasamy, Manikandan Subramaniam, and Gowri. It was lovely getting introduced to everyone and often bumping into people I got introduced to before.

Working with India Team Members

Working with my India team members for a week was a, great experience. It made me realize that you feel quite remote if you’re not actually involved closely in India operations. Especially in a role like mine, it is very important for me to be feeling the temperature and understand what is happening.

Because we might strategically direct from the top, but at the end of the day the execution is done from India. So, I definitely plan to visit India as often as possible, maybe once again this year, and repeat the pattern in 2023.

Most comical experiences

My funniest experience this trip was at the cafeteria, where I began eating with my hands and trying to groove to Indian beats at the office get-together. In the hotel, I had begun trying Indian food, but ate with a fork and knife. In the office cafeteria too, I began eating with a spoon but soon like the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, I ditched the cutlery and went at it with my hands.

Andrew India Visit

Honestly, I don’t think you have experienced Indian culture until you eat with your hands, which I later learnt helps in the process of digestion a lot. One afternoon when I was sitting next to Saravana, I popped a piece of drumstick in my mouth and soon realized something was not right. I said, “I don’t think I’m supposed to be eating this”. Saravana, with a chuckle, explained that I am not supposed to eat the drumstick whole but put a piece of it in my mouth and suck out the pulp.

Andrew India Visit

The office get-together, which saw some very brave people taking on the stage, was also amazing. I did some sort of duet with Manikandan, a group dance with Saravana, Gowri, Kunal, and a few others and then just joined the crowd once everyone got on the dance floor. While I obviously tried grooving to the beats, there was a bit of a comical lag as I had to take a few seconds to watch others’ moves and listen to the song before I jumped into it.

Can’t wait to Return

While my first visit gave me a glimpse into Kovai’s culture within and outside the office, I can’t wait to return and immerse myself again. Looking forward to more interactions, collaborations, experiments, and of course the learning and fun that comes along with it.

Andrew Cloke

Sep 1, 2022