The Financial Crime Forum's mission is multi-faceted and one of the founding principles is to go to places that high-level financial crime events don't go. But that, sometimes, makes our lives difficult (we expect that) but worse it makes the lives of our sponsors and delegates difficult.
We are looking for places that are interesting for many reasons especially if we can find a local slant to the issues that the Forum covers. When Chandigarh in north-east India was suggested, we found that it is a fascinating place. It is a relatively new city but it's a very old district. The city was created by amalgamating some 50 villages and part of it was laid out by the architect Le Corbusier. The architecture is amazing including many historical buildings.
It has a recorded history some 8,000 years old and, as a district, has seen many conflicts. It is the capital of The Punjab and uprisings have been a feature of its modern history. Indeed, Chandigarh was created as the capital of The Punjab while the former capital, Lahore, became part of Pakistan at the time of Partition. It is also a major commercial and commercial centre.
So we started planning and we looked at accessibility. This is a major issue for us because we are taking perhaps 750 people including some teenagers and children travelling as families in total to events and some of our team need to visit three or four times. It was fine. There were direct flights from several of our major markets as well as direct flights from our advance team's base.
But things changed. Now there are barely any direct flights. In terms of India, Chandigarh is close to Delhi, only 165 kilometres. "No," said our logistics manager who takes tour parties have adventures. "I've done it. We can't bus people from Delhi and back. The roads are awful. Buses are dodgy and it takes a very long time." We argued that adventure is part of the adventure. "No," she said. I'm not even going to try to co-ordinate a convoy of more than 20 buses and maybe two or three luggage trucks on those roads and back, especially as we'll be meeting people off flights and - on the way back - people won't all travel back at the same time."
The arguments continued but at the end of the day, she's the one who in another life takes people and their stuff into jungles, up mountains, exploring islands and even into the Hindu Kush - and brings them out again. And if she says "no" then "no" it is. Where the boss sees fun and the romance of adventure, she sees a large number of very grumpy people. "Put it in Delhi and go to Chandigarh on a personal side-trip if you like," she said. Hm... cogs begin to turn. Well, there is a train....
What is especially galling is that there are domestic flights from domestic airports but to try to match those up for transit from international flights - in and out - would mean that many people would be hanging around in airports for hours. We would have a very fragmented arrival schedule and, from our own coordination point of view, we want people to arrive within a relatively short window. So it's a definite no-go for Forum there for the time being.
It is with regret that we've made the decision to relocate The Financial Crime Forum India 2023 to another city. We've made the decision early so that there is disappointment but not disruption. Hopefully, when normal service is resumed, we'll be able to restore the plans to take the Forum to Chandigarh.
But those cogs are turning. What if we put the Forum in Delhi and then our logistics manager swapped hats to her adventure tour business. She could take a small party to Chandigarh: just a couple of Land Rovers or some such. How may speakers, delegates and sponsors would fancy a bit of adventure after the Forum ends?
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