Candy Li, 30, got a marble Taj Mahal made for her office in Beijing. It charmed visitors coming to Go India Journeys, until a Chinese girl fell in love with it and carted it home.
The job of Candy, whose real name is Jinglin Li, is to convince wealthy Chinese men aged 30-50 years to go on their first discovery of India, with family. Budget no bar.
“The Chinese born post-1980 are openly romantic… I describe the Taj in all my presentations as the call of love.” She has visited India only once, last April, as the North China representative at the one-year-old Beijing office of Go India Journeys. But India is such a blur in the Chinese citizen’s worldview that her presentations — pieced together from books and the Internet —headline the country as ‘colourful and secretive’.
Delhi’s transport system is not ‘harmonious’ and there are animals on the roads, she gently warns in these presentations that have reached tour agents across China since last year.
Go India Journeys is the China arm of the Delhi-based Le Passage to India. “They are doing India in a big way, with an upmarket clientele,” confirms Shoeb Samad, director of India Tourism in Beijing.
But the passage is bumpy inside China, as over a dozen companies in Beijing alone are aggressively marketing the ‘new India’. Only 94,000 Chinese — most of them businessmen driving bilateral trade — visited India last year, compared to 4,60,000 Indians who visited China.
“India is a great destination in terms of dollar value, but the only problem is that few Chinese know how to really feel or enjoy India,” says Candy. “India is not the top Chinese destination,” she says apologetically, and hastens to add: “But it’s a growing market.”
Her first introduction to India happened at Glasgow University, UK. “Indians in the UK are very clever. They study very hard,” she says. Then, she pointed to the India map with Chinese script on her computer . On it, Arabian Sea roughly translated as ‘beach love’.