"Yunnan is a place in my heart. I have been in Yunnan three times: Once for China-South Asia(CSA) Expo and the other two times for business tours." Because of his busy schedule, Mr. Pradip Shetty, a well-known face in the field of trade and commerce in China and India, was not in Yunnan when accepting an exclusive interview with Yunnan Gateway. However, his love to Yunnan could still be sensed through his voice on the line.
A Mumbai native, Pradip Shetty is fondly known as Mr. Philip by his Chinese friends and well wishers (hereinafter referred to as Philip for the reader's convenience).
Philip stands at his Yiwu flag-ship store. It is designed in the style of the famous Mysore Palace in India. (Photo provided to yunnangateway.com)
The Shetty family have been in business for generations, and they are mainly engaged in international trade, with customers from various countries and regions. In 2012, Philip established an import-export company in Yiwu City, East China’s Zhejiang Province, and he proves to be a success in the following years. As an outstanding foreign businessman, Philip was cordially received by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2014, when Li paid an inspection visit to Yiwu City. Yiwu, which Philip describes is never short of any new wonder of the world, is a sea of daily-use commodities. As for Yunnan, it also reminds Philip of a special feeling. "Yunnan is mesmerizing. It has some of the most beautiful tourist spots in the world, and I am always attracted to do business there.”
Philip is received by Premier Li Keqiang in 2014. (Photo provided to yunnangateway.com)
CSA Expo brings Philip to mythical Yunnan
Philip’s initial perception to Yunnan was largely through a legend told by a Chinese friend: In western Yunnan, there is a high mountain. Chinese call it the Gaoligong mountain, while Indians name it the Gauri mountain, which is the wife of lord Shiva the Khailash Mountain. "The story seems very interesting to me," said Philip. Located in Tibet, China, Mt. Khailash is sacred to Buddhism and Hinduism, and thus Yunnan exerts a sense of intimacy in Philip's heart.
In June 2016, the Fourth China-South Asia Expo was held in Kunming. Knowing that the expo belongs to a first-class one in China, Philip came to Kunming for the event.
Philip joins the 2016 CSA Expo in Kunming. (Photo/A video screenshot from yunnan.cn)
In the Indian Pavilion of the CSA Expo, Philip's booth was noticeable, with his brand "Incredible India" known to more visitors. With exquisitely-designed packages, his essential oils, essential soaps and incense sticks gave off fragrance, attracting a lot of customers.
On June 13, Philip held a product promotion in India Pavilion, getting to know more customers. "Now, our Yunnan customers mainly come from Baoshan, Lijiang and Xishuangbanna. They either open stores in scenic areas or own shops in downtowns. The sales are very impressive." Philip thinks that by working with the customers, he can expand the Yunnan market and know more about ethnic cultures in the province.
Sales of incense sticks and other Indian products are generally good in Yunnan, but they also show geographical differences. In high-altitude areas such as northwest Yunnan’s Lijiang and Shangri-La, Indian scarves and other textile products sell better due to low temperature. In Xishuangbanna and other tropical rain forest areas, however, the incense stick is more popular. The Indian incense stick can make people relaxed and refreshed, and it represents a life style and high taste.
More than a myth between Yunnan and India
Before joining the expo, Philip also had two business trips in Yunnan, taking him to Baoshan and Lijiang in April and May 2016. Some Chinese friends suggested that he open shops to sell imported products from India. At the same time, Mount Gaoligong is near Tengchong in Baoshan, and Philip wanted to see the mountain there.
"My Tengchong friend Mr.Duan Zhikui (段治葵) was an excellent host for me and have been very enthusiastic in the development of the city. He discussed all his plans and dream as to what he want to do in this lovely city. The kind of commitment I saw in him felt that I must get into some kind of partnership and be part of the development," said Philip.
"Duan told me that the natural hot-spring water is rich in minerals, which can remove poison and toxic from the body. It is of great help for people who have gout and rheumatism. He is planning to have a health retreat for people to come, relax and rejuvenate from their hectic life style. I stayed there for 3 to 4 days and have good memories of the Chinese hospitality extended during my visit".
Philip has a business trip in Tengchong. (Photo provided to yunnangateway.com)
"At the parting Mr. Duan gave me large pot of Hot-Spring water for me to consume it which I have taken for long and have felt better. I still have about 1000ml water with me which looks still clean without any fungal growth and impurity in it," added Philip.
Philip thinks that Yunnan is blessed with so much natural beauty, and for sure there will be many places which will be of interest for visitor to experience.
A petty regret, however, is that Philip did not climb Mount Gaoligong. "When I was in Tengchong, I looked at it from far but had no time to visit. l was told that more than one bus ride are needed before I reach the mountain." In fact, Yunnan and India are not just related in the legend of Mt. Gaoligong. The historically significant Stilwell Road (Ledo Road) and the Hump air route once linked Yunnan up to India physically in 1940s. Philip valued the historic linkages.
In the end, Philip decided to work with a Singaporean friend to open a hotel in Tengchong. He will hire chefs from India and recruit hotel management talents in China. Currently, Philip is trying to identify excellent hotel management majors in Yunnan-based colleges.
Expecting the 2017 SSACEIF in Kunming
For the 2017 South and Southeast Asia Commodity Expo and Investment Fair (SSACEIF) that will take place in Kunming between June 12 and 18, Philip said he is looking forward to attending. Philip said he is a business advisor to the Export Promotion Council of Handicrafts in India and has resource and experience in organizing expos. In addition, his family has good control over Dubai and the Arabian Gulf market at large. He said that if Yunnan needs help in expos, he is willing to support on the basis of mutual benefit.
Philip and his son say Happy Chinese New Year to their friends. (Photo provided to yunnangateway.com)
"I have fallen in love with the lovely place Yunnan. It is in a way different from most of the places in China,” said Philip. “A place truly blessed.” Philip would also like to introduce more businessmen in Yunnan to do business in India. At present, Philip is organizing a Guangdong and Zhejiang business delegation to participate in an expo to be held in June in India's Prime Minister Modi’s hometown. He hopes that Yunnan businessmen can also participate in similar activities.
“We business people identify and create opportunities for the betterment of people. I am always wanting to make life good and be helpful for people,” said Philip. Now he often travels between China and India, promoting economic, cultural and business exchanges between the two countries. “For sure I love China. And since I am from India, I wish to forge deep understanding between the two great ancient civilisations whose values and way of living are not so different from each other.”
Reporting by Eric Wang; Editing by Mu Xu