Thursday, May 20, 2010

Odd meeting

I just thought I’d share some moments of a meeting I attended today.

Firstly: The tea boy. Every company you go to here will have an Indian (or Bangladeshi/Pakistani) tea boy who will be called (or shouted to) to come and take an order for drinks. So the lad comes in (by the way our tea boy at work is probably about 58!), and goes round the room. “yes sir..” he says to me. I say in very clear, pronounced English “coffee please, with milk, no sugar” to which he replies, “black coffee?”. I say “no, with milk please, no sugar” - tea boy shakes his head in an “ok I got you kind of way”. Drinks arrive. Mine is black. I say, “can I have some milk please”. “ok”, he takes it away. Sometime later he returns with white coffee! Hurrah! I drink some......It’s got sugar in! Aaagghhhhh! I just drink it. I know there could be a language problem, but he only has one job to do all day and that is make drinks, you would have thought he would have picked up the difference between black, white, with milk, sugar and no sugar!

The meeting was with the Project Management company and the Engineering Consultant for a building security project. The project is for a government organisation. Now, the client (the government organisation), had instructed the project team that under no circumstances shall there be any products installed in the building that originated from China. These days that is a tough call, because even if you propose a solution from a highly regarded, global manufacturer, they will inevitably have some manufacturing going on in China.

Products from China, per se, are not a problem. Products that come from some nondescript , generic, white-label factory that are then just “badged” as someone’s product may be a problem. In my industry we see plenty of examples of this and there can be some pretty poor products out there sold this way, so I can kind of understand the reticence about using products from China. However, the manufacturer in question built and owns their factory, it was built to the exact same standards as all their factories globally, it has the same manufacturing equipment, highly experienced staff from all over the world running it and the products produced are exactly the same as those produced elsewhere and carry the same warranty. But no, if the Country of Origin is China it is “haram”, not allowed. They made exceptions for products from Cisco and HP, as there was no other product source in some cases.

So now they will have pay up to 50% more in some cases to have the same items sourced from Europe. Oh, and Taiwan is ok apparently - go figure! I’m sure if we applied the same principle to our daily lives, we would not leave the house, or even get out of bed, as pretty much everything we touch has some connection to China these days it seems.

Two other things things made me smile in the meeting. The first was an exchange where the project manager was told “I know where you are coming from”, to which he replied, “yes, I am coming from Alexandria!”. The other was when we were asked to supply a revised proposal “later today, or before tomorrow” - yesterday maybe??!!

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