Till 1986 Uma and I did work for other exporters. One particular customer from Buffalo, New York, who knew me from my previous partnership gave me my first order of around Rs. 1 Lakh which we shipped successfully. In 1986, I made my first trip to the USA. I had no money to buy tickets, so I bought it on one month credit through a friend. Borrowed some money from my brother and bought 300 dollars took a British Airways. I can’t explain the feeling boarding a 747 for the first time.
Economy felt like more than first class.
I had a childhood friend in America. He was into the Gems and Diamonds business. He came to pick me up at the JFK Airport. I was flabbergasted, “such huge airports and highways, unbelievable”. You can imagine how Delhi was in the year 1986.
I stayed with him. He had a nice house. Looking at their lifestyle I decided that I was not going to live in a joint family because at that time I was living with my brother and mother. Uma and I moved out and rented a house in Rajouri garden. My mother moved out with us. Coming back to the US trip I started meeting clients. I visited my client in Buffalo. He was my mentor as well. He taught me how to follow some etiquettes in America. He taught me a lot, he taught me that when you stay at people’s house as a courtesy you must invite them for dinner to a restaurant before you leave. I learned a lot from him.
I was never comfortable with English and the American accent was a huge problem. At the end of the trip, I had collected orders worth Rs 5L. I was worried as I had no capital to execute the orders. My friend helped me with 2000 dollars. My mentor, the buffalo client, also helped me with 3000 dollars. We executed all orders and before we knew it we became garment exporters. We took a small bank loan for our working capital and returned all the loans. Uma’s parents helped us to mortgage their house to the bank which was a big thing and I will always be grateful for that.