Author Topic: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip  (Read 6236 times)

DocSnowball

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2019, 07:24:31 AM »
Thanks for sharing your journey Sanjeev, it's a treat. As someone who was born and grew up in Delhi, I really appreciate and enjoy your very astute perspectives!
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 07:26:42 AM by DocSnowball »


Parsad

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2019, 04:37:14 PM »
Sorry folks, I've been fighting a bad case of Montezuma's Revenge for the last three days, and am taking antibiotics.  I have a ton of posts and pictures I will put up probably in the next couple of days while in Mumbai.  The trip has been extraordinary...barring the stomach issues...I think all participants have been blown away by what we've seen.  BIAL alone in the Fairfax India portfolio would have been great, but add Catholic Syrian Bank, IIFL, SanMar, etc and it's a great portfolio.  But you have to on the ground here...you cannot do it just from overseas...knowing the culture, politics, economics, etc all play a part.  Cheers!
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Parsad

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2019, 12:25:28 PM »
After breakfast in the Qube Restaurant at the Leela Palace Hotel in Delhi, we made our way on coaches to Old Delhi.  A significant amount of spice, nut, grain trading still occurs here in the wholsale market.  At one time, India accounted for 25% of global GDP...I suspect India and China combined, will do that once again within a couple of decades.

Old Delhi and our rickshaw rides through it, were in stark contrast to the modern, sophisticated touch of say the Leela Palace Hotel.  This was India as well, very different than what we saw previously and what we will see going forward.  If nothing, India truly is a study in contrasts...it's people, economies, cities, culture, dialects, etc!  Old Delhi was a clear view of what will have to change in the future.  Modi's attempts at getting accountability from all citizens is essential...pay your taxes, pay your fair share of utilities, etc.  The barrage of utility wires you see intertwined between small low-rise buildings and hanging over the central walkways and thoroughfares is mind boggling.  How do you even tell which wire leads to which home?!

From Old Delhi, we headed over to a terrific Asian cuisine restaurant called Spice Route.  There we met up with the team from Fairfax India, including Chandran Ratnaswami, head of Fairfax India.  After lunch, we made a visit to UNESCO heritage site Qutab Minar, which was built in the 12th century.  A spiraling, majestic minaret, that showcased the tip of the iceberg of Indian engineering and construction feats!

After a brief respite back at the hotel, we all made our way to Canada House, where the High Commissioner of Canada in India, Nadir Patel, was waiting for us.  We had a wonderful dinner in an open courtyard of Canada House.  Nadir spoke about the potential of Indian-Canadian relationships, and we met a number of Canadian who offered their contacts to help facilitate business in India.

From Canada House, we headed back to the Leela Palace Hotel for some rest before departing to Agra the next morning!
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Parsad

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2019, 12:57:19 PM »
We arrived bright and early at the Delhi Train Station.  Looked relatively empty until we got closer to departure time.  Suddenly, the throng of commuters became apparent and we were surrounded by people.  We quickly boarded our private car in the Gatiman Express and made our way to Agra at a top speed of 160 km/h. 

After arriving in Agra, our coaches took us on a short trip to the entry way of the Taj Mahal complex.  We then shifted to small golf carts that took us right to the Taj Mahal Gateway.  Agra was quite different than Delhi.  The air was much cleaner, and the city less dense.  The one thing we noticed while travelling on the train to Agra was that there was huge amounts of land between the cities where the population was far less dense. 

As we disembarked our golf carts and made our way through the Gateway, the stunning view of the Taj Mahal left us all breathless.  Magnificent, grand, towering, gleaming in a white alabaster aura as the sun reflected off of it.  It was a postcard moment, and again, a nod to the stunning architectural brilliance of India.  Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal over 22 years with his own private wealth in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz.  The laborers were all paid very well in their time, and the engineering marvel was their crowning glory!  How could Indians not look on the Taj Mahal, and believe that anything is possible for them!

After the Taj Mahal, our coaches took us for lunch, and then on to a military airport, where we caught our private chartered flight to Jaipur.  After arriving in Jaipur, we made our way to the historic and stunning Rambaugh Palace, which is an oasis smack in the middle of the city.  We are warmly greeted by the staff of the Rambaugh Palace and performers.  Everyone has a specific staff member who guides them to their room and gives an overview of the hotel.  What was originally the living quarters of the Prince of Jaipur, became a hotel after the Prince realized he needed to improve his cash flow to maintain his lifestyle.  The grounds are stunning, and one can only imagine how a single person lived on this property with only his staff waiting on him!  Again, the disparity between the "haves" and the "have nots" is deafening...more so than in North America! 
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Parsad

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2019, 10:50:13 AM »
We awake for breakfast and then depart by coach to the Amer Fort.  Jaipur's traffic seems a bit more serene than Delhi's with much less honking and cars running red lights.  We arrive at the base of the Amer Fort and Jeeps are used to ascend the winding and steep pathway to the entrance.  The interesting thing about the Fort is its self sufficiency.  It was meant to withstand a siege, with grain and food storage, it's own water supply from deep wells and secure ramparts. 

From the Amer Fort we travel to a fairly large jewelry shop, and are given a crash course in precious, semi-precious stones, and how they are cut.  After the presentation, we are provided the opportunity to purchase jewelry from the store, while being served refreshments.  It's both amazing and sad to remember that India at one time had vast resources of gems, gold, silver, etc...it was the richest nation several times in the last 2,000 years for centuries at a time. 

From the jewelry store, we travel to to hotel Samode Haveli, where we enjoyed a beautiful lunch on a sunny, open, courtyard terrace.  There was a festival in Jaipur, and residents were flying hand-made kites all over the city.  Some would cut off other kites, and we had a few land on the terrace.  Quite an Indian experience!

After a brief respite back at Rambaugh Palace, everyone prepared for an evening visit to the City Palace, where the Prince of Jaipur resides.  Fairfax (TCI) adorned all of the men with colorful turbans and the women received beautiful scarves.  We loaded up the coaches and made our way to City Palace.  As we enter City Palace, a large procession of elephants, horses, riders, and drummers lead us around the Palace courtyard a couple of times. 

We then enter an area that illuminates what the Prince's living room would have looked like in the past.  After which, we are guided to a huge beautiful open courtyard, lit up and prepared for a banquet.  A handful of performers dance for us, and then the entire crowd is pulled into a large dance circle.  After which, we are provided a sumptuous dinner, drinks and dessert.

We leave City Palace and are transported back to Rambaugh Palace.  The night leaves everyone thrilled and mesmerized!

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shalab

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2019, 07:39:30 AM »
Very useful insights - thanks for sharing!

Looks like the places you stayed are the top two for luxurious experience in India. https://traveljee.com/destination/asia/india-asia/most-expensive-hotels-in-india/


petec

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2019, 07:50:22 AM »
Sanjeev do you plan on sharing your notes & thoughts on the investments? It would be greatly appreciated if you can.

Parsad

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2019, 04:27:42 AM »
Very useful insights - thanks for sharing!

Looks like the places you stayed are the top two for luxurious experience in India. https://traveljee.com/destination/asia/india-asia/most-expensive-hotels-in-india/

We stayed at four of the top ten...also Taj Palace Mumbai and Oberoi Mumbai.  The Oberoi Mumbai was not part of the tour, but I stayed a couple of extra days in Mumbai and added it.  Extraordinary hotels, but the service put them all over the top.  You have very nice hotels in the U.S., but the service is nothing like what we experienced in India!  Cheers!
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 05:53:10 AM by Parsad »
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Parsad

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2019, 05:43:04 AM »
After an exhilarating night in Jaipur, we awake and make our way to Jaipur Airport for our flight to Bangalore.  We arrive at the Bengaluru Airport...incredibly modern and very well designed.  We are greeted by the entire BIAL executive team who walk us through the airport and outside to the Quad...their outdoor retail complex. 

Fairfax has essentially paid for 51% of BIAL's profits for the next 30 years, plus an option of another 30 years.  They have 4,000 acres of land to work with and are pushing ahead with a much needed 2nd runaway and terminal, as well as a city centre with residential and commercial development.  BIAL does about 25M passengers a year, putting it in the top 10, and is expected to hit 60M passengers in a little over a decade.  It is as sophisticated as any top airport in the world, and it's outdoor plaza is an enormous outdoor retail centre where passengers are picked up and dropped.  It keeps passenger traffic spread out and doesn't clog up the terminal.  Also encourages visitors to spend dollars at the airport.  From the Quad, we walk over to the Taj Bengaluru Airport for a fantastic lunch and presentation by BIAL's CEO, Hari Marar.

From the airport, we travelled to the Taj Westend where we stayed overnight.  In the evening, we had an amazing dinner hosted by Quess and its CEO, Ajit Issac.  Quess is owned by Thomas Cook India and Fairfax directly, not through Fairfax India. 

The next morning, we flew from Bengaluru to Mumbai and arrived at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel...right across from the Gateway of India.  Really a beautiful and fantastic hotel!  The Leela Palace in Delhi, Rambaugh Palace in Jaipur and the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai...three extraordinary hotels with service to match!  We had lunch and then went on a double-decker tour of Mumbai.  Mumbai is extremely cosmopolitan.  It is a city rich in history, architecture, art, food, music and people!  25M people coexisting, surviving and thriving...I loved it!  In evening, we had a dinner hosted by Madhaven Menon, Chair of Thomas Cook India, at the Konkon Cafe.

The next morning we enjoyed a presentation by the Dabbawala's and the great-great-grandson of the founder.  The Dabbawala's are a cooperative of 5,000 employees who collect tiffin containers of lunch from the homes of 200,000 patrons, and deliver them by 1pm to the patron's office.  They have a 99.999999% accuracy rate, and have been studied by Google, Amazon, Fedex, Harvard and a whole host of researchers and corporations.  They employ a decades old color key code system that helps identify, location, building, address and patron.  We learned about how they operate, their service to the community and visited one of their sorting sites during the lunch hour rush.  Their existence comes from the fact that patrons cannot carry their lunch containers onto the frantic rush of people when they board trains and buses, as they need both hands to climb aboard and hold on...the essentially have 10 seconds to board.

During lunch we enjoyed expansive presentations by Chandran Ratnaswami, Head of Fairfax India, Madhaven Menon, and CEO's of other Fairfax India companies, including the youngest CEO, Ragahav Agarwalia, CEO of Saurashtra Shipping.  We covered Thomas Cook India, Sanmar, Fairchem, Saurashtra and Catholic Syrian Bank.  I was most interested in Thomas Cook India and Catholic Syrian Bank.  Two terrific businesses and Fairfax is the first foreign investor granted a majority stake in an Indian bank.  They will have to dilute their ownership over time, but CSB (they are rebranding) will naturally be multiple times bigger as the do so. 

In the evening, we were taken to an old abandoned mill (Mukesh Mills) which was staged and decorated for a soiree hosted by Nirmal Jain and IIFL.  It was stunning as we approached the mills, and inside was a beautiful event staged in pink hues, a jazz band/singer playing, bar and fantastic dinner.  We enjoyed an extensive presentation by IIFL.  Very, very exciting around its business and prospects.  Stunning growth, and we all know what a great business the wealth management business is! 

All 45 attendees had a spectacular time.  Other than the occasional bout of stomach flu, no one had been on such a trip in their lifetime.  We packed a ton into each day, and saw, heard and experienced the wonders of India.  For investors, we walked away understanding India better and the opportunities available.  For travellers, they enjoyed such a broad and diverse culture, food, art, music and history.  I cannot thank enough Vinodh Loganadhan, Madhaven Menon and his team at Thomas Cook India, and Manoj Pamneja!  They made this a trip of a lifetime for everyone that went, and took special care of each and everyone of us.  It was executed with near military precision and we walked away changed forever!  Thanks to Fairfax and everyone involved!  Cheers!
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shalab

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Re: Fairfax Financial Shareholder's India Trip
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2019, 12:28:43 PM »
Congrats - indeed experience of a life time! I can totally see how service would be in a different league compared to USA and Canada. The highest I have paid for a hotel is around $400/day on biz trip and had no time to check out different aspects of the property.  I stayed at a top hotel in Thailand for a few days and it was a very different (in a nice way) experience as well.

Rambagh palace hotel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOArSASLi48

Leela palace hotel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ6kStHDMs4



Very useful insights - thanks for sharing!

Looks like the places you stayed are the top two for luxurious experience in India. https://traveljee.com/destination/asia/india-asia/most-expensive-hotels-in-india/

We stayed at four of the top ten...also Taj Palace Mumbai and Oberoi Mumbai.  The Oberoi Mumbai was not part of the tour, but I stayed a couple of extra days in Mumbai and added it.  Extraordinary hotels, but the service put them all over the top.  You have very nice hotels in the U.S., but the service is nothing like what we experienced in India!  Cheers!
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 12:56:56 PM by shalab »