Travels through Asia – dining in Kolkata

Kolkata Yauatcha

I had to visit the Michelin-starred Yauatcha in Kolkata’s high-end Quest Mall. Prices are around a third what you would pay at its twin/sister restaurant in London. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and still on the look-out wherever I go for the champagne/rose tea served there.

Special shout out also goes to the Bohemian Restaurant at 2/4, Old Ballygunge Place, 1st Lane, Kolkata. It’s a cab ride away from the mall. The menu includes enticing sounding dishes such as mutton and baby potatoes simmered with green mango and okra; prawn and crabmeat dumplings stewed in spicy Noler Gur reduction; jumbo prawns stewed with field grown herbs; mutton simmered with baby cabbage and fresh fennel served with steam rice and wilted greens; shall I continue? Main dishes are around 500 rupees (USD$8).

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The Bohemian restaurant. Kolkata, India
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Paraphernalia at The Bohemian restaurant.

Their home designed signature cocktails aren’t bad either, including the pictured Just Bohemian made up of Nolen Gur (Bengal date palm jaggery), ginger and dark rum. Cost around 230 rupees (USD$3.5). At this price, it’s tempting to go for more than one – but they are potent, you have been warned.

Kolkata Bohemian
The Bohemian

Turning right on human rights – the new world order? Philip Alston at the LSE

lse-alston-lecture

The second event I mentioned in my previous post was at the London School of Economics (LSE) on the 1st December, and nods to International Human Rights Day on December 10th.

Fresh from a flight, Professor Philip Alston delivered his lecture on populism to a packed theatre of listeners.

Right-wing populism was the focus, not only in a Trump-led United States, but also in Turkey, Russia, France, the United Kingdom (in relation to the rise of Farage and UKIP) and other countries. Whilst not quite a doomsday scenario, he said he believes we are certainly at a watershed point in history. At this time of ‘new word disorder’ it’s time to rethink our assumptions and re-evaluate our strategies about human rights, he said. In his view the key issues are:

  1. The threat to democracy – with many of us convinced that the need for security trade-offs legitimises (for example) extreme states of emergencies, such as the present one in France. Also, there is the constant erosion of civil liberties in some countries.
  2. Inequality and exclusion – we need a renewed focus on social rights, as well as the political
  3. International rule of law and international humanitarian law are dangerously undermined and threatened – including by the US and the UK
  4. The fragility of international institutions

Yes, he did offer some pointers towards potential solutions, including his urgent appeal for a social rights agenda that would address everyone and not only the most marginalised.

(My take on that last point is that he may or not be right. But I think one should have something concrete in place before viciously tearing up the rug from under peoples’ feet).

But his (almost) final pertinent point was the need for every individual to think about what their own personal human rights role or contribution might be, however seemingly small.

Professor Alston has worked broadly for the United Nations over many years but hasn’t been afraid to criticise it either, most recently in its treatment of Haitians over the cholera outbreak – read UN Chief apologises for Haiti cholera, six years later.

Grab a coffee and listen to the full lecture here.

Find and read The Economist’s review of the report The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John Judis (‘They want their countries back’ page 71 Dec 3rd -9th 2016)

 

Business Lives: Marko Mišulić

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© Rentlio

From time to time I’ll be running interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs and up-and-coming business leaders from around the world. Marko Mišulić (pictured) is the founder of Rentlio, an online property management platform aimed at rental owners. He lives and works in Zadar, Croatia.

Please introduce yourself and your business

I am the founder and CEO of Rentlio. I am 30 years old and I was born and raised in Zadar. I studied at the faculty of economics and business in Zagreb. I got my first job in the finance industry whilst being in the second year of faculty.

Rentlio was founded in 2014 in Zadar after I worked almost eight years in asset management industry, where I was a head of a team responsible for development of complex portfolio optimization models.

In April 2014 I quit my job as I didn’t enjoy it any more. I completely focused on Rentlio and prepared the stage for global exposure after successful launch of the product on the Croatian market in March 2015. Rentlio is a software service product that automates vacation rental management. Our typical users are small hotels, self-serviced apartments, hostels and other similar properties.

Explain the concept of Rentlio

I like to call Rentlio the ‘autopilot for vacation rentals’. Rentlio is property management and central reservation system that helps you manage bookings you receive over online channels you advertise your rental on.

When you receive a booking from, for example, Booking.com it automatically shows up in Rentlio and adjusts the availability on Expedia, AirBnB and other connected online travel agencies.

Besides that, Rentlio is a guest relationship management tool that helps you remember details about your guests so you can make their stay more personal in your property while giving you opportunity to boost your direct sales. Many vacation rental owners still rely on pen & paper management of their properties so we can call Rentlio a pen & paper killer as well. By automating all the boring and administrative things you need to do while managing your vacation rental we save a lot of time for our users.

What are the opportunities and challenges of starting a business in Zadar?

Well, I would say the challenges of starting business in Zadar are the same as the challenges of starting business in any other place in Croatia. I would even say that starting a business is not such a painful process, compared to the bureaucracy and administration you will face after you start to operate. You need to think about too many papers and rules which takes away precious focus and energy in running your business.

I see many opportunities in Zadar primarily connected with its unbelievable location. In less than two and a half hours you are in Zagreb, whilst in less than an hour and a half hour you are in Split. It is October, the sun is shining above 20 Celsius, and I am working while sitting on a terrace overlooking the sea. For me, this is most inspiring workspace you can imagine.

Being small and big enough both at the same time, I think Zadar can be attractive for many independent professionals and companies, especially in the IT industry. So, further development of IT companies is a main challenge. More companies working on advanced technologies for clients all over the world will be the reason to stay and move to Zadar.

In your opinion how can government contribute to the success of small business in Croatia?

Government should contribute to the success of small business in Croatia by making administration smaller and much more effective, by lowering the tax burden that is among the highest in Europe, and by giving you the opportunity to stay focused on your business not on the paperwork.

What would be your advice to young entrepreneurs in general and especially in Croatia?

I am sure this is something said a trillion times, but saying it again can’t hurt: enjoy what you are doing but love the problem, not the solution. For Croatian young entrepreneurs additional advice would be: don’t let overall negativism bother your vision. Don’t be afraid.

Good advice. And your thoughts about the COIN co-working space?

COIN co-working space is an example of good practice in Zadar. By giving young entrepreneurs a place to gather, network and help each other, COIN is promoting an entrepreneurial mindset while connecting local people with people from all around the world.

For more information about Rentlio please visit:

https://rentl.io/en

 

Seven work spots in Zadar for digital nomads

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Public library, Zadar
  1. COIN

For consistently high-speed wi-fi access, for those times when you just want to be around other professionals, for printers, lockers and for general modern suite working facilities, it has to be the co-working space COIN. Most if not all digital nomads will find themselves here as it’s the only co-working space in town (at the moment). It’s growing in reputation in Zadar and abroad. It also periodically hosts talks, workshops and social events such as a recent jazz evening. Because it is publically run, and especially targeted at the local community, prices are kept at reasonable rates.

COIN Coworking

Put Murvice, 16, Zadar, Croatia

Open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Contact: info@coinzadar.hr

https://www.facebook.com/coinZD/

https://www.instagram.com/coinzadar/

  1. Public library

For a quiet work space why not pop into the local public library. It seems well run, with toilets, wi-fi, plug points and numerous work spaces. And when you tire of the near-monastic type silence, check out the adjacent café (just walk past the giant chess board) with both interior and exterior tables. Best Moroccan mint tea I’ve had in ages.

Gradska Knjiznica 

  1. Coffee & Cake

This was one of the first places recommended to me by a Zadarian as a desirable place for work and coffee. It doesn’t disappoint as long as you are aware of your own work habits.

Personally, I prefer to do lighter reading and planning in cafes and those places where music plays overhead. I don’t always find that ambiance conducive to focused concentration, and headphones may not always be the solution. In addition, I do carry around my portable charger for those times when phone and iPad batteries are low and I just can’t get to a plug point.

But Coffee & Cake has plug points, delicious cakes, good drinks including coffee, tea and alcohol. And wi-fi of course. The cosy contemporary feel and look pulls it all together as a light airy hangout that’s open from 7am until 11 pm.

Coffee & Cake (Facebook page – no website yet)

Ulica Brace Vranjanina, 14 Zadar, Croatia

coffee-cake

  1. Zara Beach Lounge

Maraschino sundowners, sea waves lashing against the shore as you breathe in the fresh air from comfortable seats on the deck, macchiato also to hand. Work if you want, but you may just want to save this location for a Sunday afternoon unwind. Call it preparing for the week ahead. The only negative is that the food could be better.

zara-beach-lounge
Zara Beach Lounge
  1. Hotel Bastion

Despite its popularity with tourists, Zadar isn’t yet a top destination for major business and international conferences, and the lack of big name five-star hotels perhaps reflects this. Zadar mainly relies on smaller hotels, guesthouses and private houses (see the FT special report on Croatia: ‘Boost for Croatia’s tourism as visitors seek strife-free holidays’ Oct 17th, 2016).

There are times when the calm ambiance of a luxury hotel lounge fits the working bill, despite the sometimes overpriced beverages. Four-starred Hotel Bastion somewhat fills the gap on a smaller, more boutique scale, with the added bonus of a spa and outside seating. Shout out also to Art Hotel Kalelarga and its adjoining café-restaurant. Pricey but nice. Both these hotels are in the Old Town where I spent most of my time.

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Natalie Cole and Jose Carreras were Bastion guests
  1. Your local hideaway down the road

You’ll find that free wi-fi is readily accessible in nearly all parts of Zadar. It did drop off in one particular café but on the whole, I’ve been able to log in online at most places I’ve stopped for a drink. This includes just down the road from my Zadar apartment.

One such place is Bistro Still down my road which, along with wi-fi availability, served up the most delicious fish and chips – succulently fresh wholesome tuna in this case, complete with tartar sauce, sea-view and more reasonable prices than some other restaurants.  So, don’t necessarily dismiss that humble looking café or restaurant round your corner.

  1. Home

There are days when I just want to roll out of bed, go out for a jog nearby, then hide myself away to work and drink my own coffee, jazz or classical music playing (very) gently in the background, or take breaks to listen to BBC Radio 3 or 4. I can get my head down and work with nothing to distract me.

To be honest, there’s always something to distract, but that can be managed. And having a home or even just a room of one’s own with reliable wi-fi is a necessity for most working writers and other independent professionals. My current lovely space was found through Airbnb.

These are just snapshots of what’s available in Zadar, and you will find your own sweet work spot, of course.