On the first week of January 2018, I began my work as Hinrich Foundation’s export consultant based in my home state of Kerala — the banana-shaped state in South India (Yes! It literally looks like a banana in the map).

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Vineet Jain (right) poses with me for a photograph during my visit at his office in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Vineet is the manager of Creative Novelties, one of the Hinrich Foundation Export Trade Assistance beneficiaries in India.

Part of my role as an export consultant is to introduce Hinrich Foundation’s Export Trade Assistance program to small and medium-size exporters in India to help them find new international buyers through an online B2B export marketing platform hosted by Global Sources.

I also interview and write different sourcing reports for my country to help foreign buyers source different products more efficiently.

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Mr. Kizhakoot Manikandan, owner of wooden handicraft manufacturer, Srikrishna Laxmisri Handicrafts, at his work station in Trissur, Kerala.
Lessons in Kerala

Kerala is one of the most beautiful states in India. I had the comfort of my home, and everything seemed pleasant in the beginning but as with any type of work, it also came with challenges.

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A view from the beach located just 2 kilometers away from my home in Kerala.

The limited number of export manufacturers, who are struggling to survive under the daunting anti-manufacturing policies of the state government, were scattered around the different parts of the 24,000-square-mile region, and not concentrated in a single area. Visiting suppliers then, meant traveling across Kerala from my home town located in the central part to southern part or to the northern part, wherever the suppliers are based.

It was difficult to get around since there are no direct transport available to and from these areas so, I usually end up taking multiple mode of transportation to get there: buses, auto rickshaws and jeepneys. Often, I had to travel more than a hundred miles to meet the suppliers.

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Chennai, a former British colonial administrative center earlier known as Madras, is known for a number of Victorian-era architectures such as the Legislative Assembly Building – just a few kilometers from where I live.

Looking at the bright side, these challenges in a way helped me to improve my skills of planning journeys and meetings ahead of time. Besides learning the nature of manufacturing industry in Kerala, I also learned about the geography of Kerala, and different modes of transports, which I had not experienced before. Traveling was pleasant, however, long hours on the road kept me from finishing my tasks on time and I must always come up with a better way to work more efficiently.

Opportunities in Chennai

I decided to move to Chennai after several consultations with my superiors. Chennai is a metropolitan city located in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where the export manufacturing industry is comparatively better.

I made arrangements to move in the last week of March 2018 after researching on the best location to be at that I’ll be near the exporters area. So far, I managed to visit as many as six suppliers from Chennai in one month, which indicates doubled productivity than in Kerala.

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Chennai Central Railway station – another example of a Victorian-era building.

Though I still face few challenges while recruiting suppliers, traveling to visit and train suppliers became easier and convenient. Another bonus is that I also got to learn a new regional language – Tamil – by interacting with the suppliers there. I have been learning the language with the help of online tutorials, neighbours, cab drivers, and even suppliers, who I interact with regularly.

About the author – Abdul Rahoof K.K.

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Abdul Rahoof K.K. is a Hinrich Global Trade Leader currently taking up his master’s degree in International Journalism Studies at the Hong Kong Baptist University (Class of 2017). He is currently rendering his 1-year internship as an export consultant for the Export Trade Assistance Program in India. Before joining the Foundation, he worked as a journalist for various news organizations and websites.