A shop of products from India and other ‘exotic’ places, as well as a provider of Ayurvedic and Yoga services, in downtown Budapest caters to foreigners and Hungarians alike. It is also an 'institution' that helps attract Indian businesses to Hungary.
The Exotic India shop in the capital’s 7th district has several ‘departments’ on 240 sq meters of floor space (plus a 200 sq meter warehouse) that include gift items, textiles, Ayurvedic products, cosmetics, spiritual products, food and spices, as well Ayurvedic and Yoga sections. As Managing Director Dr. Santosh Sharma explains to Diplomacy & Trade, “the idea behind the ‘shop in the shop’ concept is that we are able to present a complete face of India, in particular and other exotic locations in general, to the Hungarian people and to the Indians living here so that they do not miss India and see that India is available in Budapest. Basically, when we opened the shop, we focused on serving Hungarians and still, 60% of our customers are Hungarians and 40% are expats from India, Africa, Latin-America, South East Asia, etc.
Most of the products available in the shop (also called ‘Szép Kis India’) in Budapest come from India as well as from wholesalers in the United Kingdom and Germany. Thus, with the same amount of money, one can have a bigger variety of products compared to a container of our particular selection shipped in from India.
One boss ia enough
Santosh Sharma, who owns the shop with his wife, Mrs. Kamlesh Sharma, came to Hungary 16 years ago to work for a multinational company in a senior position as an expatriate. He points out that “my wife is the driving force behind this shop. First, I was just helping out but then, after seven years at the firm I worked for, I thought ‘why have two bosses’? So, I left that company and I joined her.”
When they started the business in 2002, the number of Indians in Hungary was lower than today but there were more Africans, South-East Asians, Brazilians, Mexicans, etc. “So, we decided to expand the business step-by-step in that direction as well,” he explains.
The shop has seven employees but since Dr. Santosh Sharma is also a certified Ayurvedic doctor, as such, he provides work for another 15 people as massage therapists at ten different locations in Hungary, including prominent hotels. His daughter, Dr. Diksha Sharma, is the first, and so far the only, Yoga doctor in Hungary. Having her own separate place within the shop, she diagnoses patients and offers treatments based on specific Yoga exercises and life-style regimes to suit the patients’ needs.
Santosh Sharma says that “I’m convinced in my heart that the best people in Europe are the Hungarians. I know most Hungarians are not optimistic about this statement but this is what my own experience tells me. We visited a lot of countries in Europe, we assessed the conditions in 11 other countries and the conclusion was that Hungary was the best for us. The reasons include the location of Hungary, the people here and that this country is a very interesting mix of East and West.”
He is of the opinion that Hungarians by nature are very curious to know everything. “Unfortunately, their purchasing power is not the best and they have lived in a quite closed society throughout most of the second half of the 20th century but their curiosity to get to know foreign cultures is a niche market we found and we based on our business on it.”
At the same time, the existence of ‘Szép Kis India’ in itself is an attraction of Hungary, for the locals, for Indians and other expats living here; along with the entrepreneurs who can feel comfortable here if they come to do business in Hungary. That, the Managing Director points out, “should also be a point that the Hungarian business delegation accompanying the Prime Minister to India emphasize when they talk about what Indian businesses can expect in Hungary: the feel of comfort, the feel of home when they visit Exotic India in Budapest.”