Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Many a Slips before the Sip

There was a time, when I would sit and talk with a client purely on what they told me was the prospect for a particular region and go by their hunches.  Today, I am alright having lunch with them, but wouldn't entertain them for more than a couple of hours, if my intuition told me that there was an insurmountable gap between reality and expectation.  Last night, I was up making all the presentations for the Middle East Orders, and while I was drudging up old slides, I came across one such presentation that said Bahrain.  Instinctively I opened it up, and there was this 40 slides I had made for a Bahrain client, in 2010, all glossy and concise, to the extent that I was left wondering whether I had indeed ever made this one.

Pankaj Sehgal, the man from Bahrain, of Indian origins of course, was a brilliant mind, sharp and ruthless, he had seen a scope for Solar and had immediately invited me to Bahrain for a survey.  He had started his career in India and had then moved on to Bahrain working as a Delivery Service Owner, before making it big in the Computer Networking Business.  By 2010, he ran multiple businesses out of Bahrain, with a few beautiful villas in the country, as also a beautiful East European wife.  When I landed in Bahrain, it was my first trip to the Middle East, Manama had a relatively small airport, though the city looked clean and then we took a taxi to the suburbs and I saw dust and sand everywhere.  The township was built, as most Middle East economies, on oil and as I later found out, as we were driven to the outskirts to see the oilfields, that nobody dare touch the oil except the sheiks.  The country had a rich economy, an open culture which belied its muslim dominant populatin, allowed pubs and discotheques as also dance bars which I did sample during my stay there.

As I perused the slides, the learning's of those days came back sharply to me, and I do have a short memory these days as also a short fuse.  When I picked up the phone to call Ranjan about this latest inquiry from Middle East, I knew what I had to tell him.
"Hi ! how are you ?" he asked in a pleasant and positive tone.
"Rocking and you."
"Did you get my message, price is the key to this inquiry," he said sounding like he had put me under a road roller, his voice was pleasant as always and little distant.  Five Star hotels do that to voices and the Hilton, Double Tree, in Noida was a deluxe category hotel, I was sure he was enjoying his stay there and probably had used the in house massage service to good use.
"I did and I have news you will not like."
Eyes opened wide, " Tell me, Kya hua ? What happened ?"
"The order is not feasible, the oil prices in the Gulf are too low to compete with the Diesel Generator."
"The Chinese are doing it, they are selling panels for as low as 50 cents," he sounded gruff, and I almost felt that I didn't know what I was talking about.
"Ranjan, prices are as low as Rs 8-10 to a litre of diesel, that would peg the per unit cost of Diesel Electricity to about Rs 4, I can only guarantee you Rs 10 per unit with a Solar Energy System."
That stumped him, he should have done his homework, these were raw facts and they stared him straight in the face.

I was thinking, as I put the phone down, those slides were about 2 years old and yet they were well researched.  They had saved me a trip to Noida, as also spending too much time on a deal that was based solely on his hunch. I have often mentioned the advantages of understanding the 2 months away, ready to deliver baby to a 9 month itch.  This was a lifesaver, and I thanked myself for having backed up that presentation to an external hard disk, this is a Seagate 500 GB that I carry with me.  Sometimes life take us down new territories where only memories pave the road, I can still recount what it takes to design the Solar Energy System on my finger tips, the Array Sizing, Battery Sizing, Charge Controller Sizing to Inverter Sizing, I don't need a design book to design a system for any need.  What I do need is for someone to tell me, how to sell this system, what do I do to find someone who genuinely needs this.
Ahan, said the Solar Guy, I like this Trojan because it counts the AH.


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