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Monty Munford Headshot

The Future's Orange...The Future's Orange Business Services

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It's not every day that I am presented with a silk scarf, have to negotiate a terrestrial design of lotus flowers and have a bindi plastered to the middle of my forehead, but sometimes you just have to roll with it.

I was at the Delhi offices of Orange Business Services (OBS) and I felt like a diplomat, an honoured guest rather like being Richard Gere in Dharamsala or a Chinese decision-maker in Brussels. It was an impressive welcome, a greeting that would be followed up by similar revelations about OBS and its offering.

But first some background. This was my first trip back to India since I had left the country 12 months previously. I had stayed in the country for two years after (fortuitously) fleeing the recession and taking my wife and young son to the beach.

We had planned to stay for one year but had loved the lifestyle so much that we stayed for two. I (fortuitously) became a Bollywood film star and acted as a white villain in two big movies and had one of the most interesting times in my life.

Professionally it had also been interesting. At one stage I found myself in my Bollywood trailer writing a proposal for Paramount Digital Entertainment and the release of Iron Man 2 across mobile in India. It was a pitch that was successful. From Bollywood to Hollywood in one jump; how I loved myself.

Consequently I had good knowledge of the Indian mobile industry after meeting all the operators on behalf of Paramount... and I also had some idea of how do business in India and how it is much more complicated than it first seems.

That goes from for the sub-continent as a whole. Poverty juxtaposes with wealth and this so-called land of contrasts is exactly that. So the reaction of my fellow journalists and writers as our bus made its way through beggars and mayhem to the gated business city of Gurgaon in Delhi was revelatory. It was the same as when I came to India the first time; bewilderment.

The rest of the day was more eye-opening for me. I was aware of Orange the operator and its branded relationship with France Telecom. I knew it was doing interesting things in emerging economies and I liked how it was growing its operator business in Africa and its CEO's commitment to visit all of those African territories in the first two years of his tenure.

What I didn't know about was Orange Business Services and the €7.2 billion of revenues it did in 2010. I didn't even know about the 2,100 people it employs in the four data centres it runs in Delhi, Rio, Cairo and Mauritius.

Furthermore in the course of the day I also learnt through the third eye of my recently acquired bindi that every airport and airline in the world is connected to the OBS network through the world's check-in kiosks and, through the company's acquisition of Equant, that it has been operating a telecoms networks since 1948.

The company's business continuity management is also impressive. During this year's Japanese tsunami OBS was the only network to operate normally and parent company France Telecom even owns a fleet of ships to fix cables whenever they're damaged by events of this magnitude.

Rather more disconcerting was the company's announcement that in their Delhi office, "78% of our employees has pledged their eyes." While I wondered on the meaning of such a statement I then realised that this was part of OBS's commitment to organ donation.

After the trip around the Gurgaon offices we were taken away to a reception at the Belgian Embassy where I learnt about the Embassy's relationship with OBS and its Hermes project that secures communications.

Bearing in mind that TinTin is the country's most famous brand I did think that the project should have been called Hergé rather than Hermes after the author, but that was childish so I didn't.

By now the day was coming to an end and after a farewell speech from the charming Vivek Badrinath CEO of OBS in India at a rooftop restaurant complete with tabla band and sushi water-pipes it was back to the hotel.

As I packed away my newly acquired silk scarf and looked at what remained of the bindi on my forehead I reflected on my return to India. Rather like that faded mark, my memories were the same. Same old India, different new India, but always opening eyes.