Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai is still a safe city, say expat CEOs

Expatriate CEOs, many of whom have made Mumbai their first homes, may be unnerved by the three-day terror strike in Mumbai, but none of them feel Mumbai or other parts of India have become unsafe to live and work in.

"This is a dreadful attack but not unprecedented. In Bali, for instance, only foreigners were targeted. There have been major terrorist attacks in many cities of the world -- Madrid, London, New York," said Alan Rosling, executive director, Tata Sons, adding, "By world standards, Mumbai is a very safe city to travel around, even late at night and for women."

Many expat CEOs Business Standard spoke to echoed these views. "I have always felt safe in Mumbai. Unfortunately, today we live in world where these events happen everywhere. Terror has become a part of our life," said Wolfgang Prock-Shauer, CEO, Jet Airways, who has been living in India for three years.

KR Kim, vice-chairman and MD of consumer electronics firm Videocon Group, who lives in Delhi and Mumbai with his wife, said India is a big country with leaky borders and incidents, small or big, could happen.

"Politically, India is a stable country. In Thailand, there have been 19 coups. I have stayed in many countries, including in Latin America," he pointed out.

"It was brutal attack but just because of this we cannot say Mumbai or India is becoming dangerous," he added.

"In daily life, we don't feel insecure. These kinds of events are exceptional," said Kim, a former CEO of LG India who made the Korean brand a household name in India.

Not everyone feels as secure. Gary Bennett, the Indian CEO of insurance major Max New York Life, has spent nearly 1,000 nights between the Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi-Trident.

But he shudders at the thought of bringing his family to Mumbai. "I have been an expat for 14 years, stayed across Asia. Mumbai is part of my life� but I will think twice before bringing my wife and daughter to Mumbai," said Bennet.

Friends and family have been calling up, some asking them to come back. "Of course, mothers, wives and children will be concerned. But this can happen in London or New York; you need to take sensible precautions," said Rosling.

"Mumbai is incredibly resilient; the local community will get on with life. We appreciate this 'can-do' attitude," he said.

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