How is it to study Bocconi Msc Finance as an Indian student? #Questions: I am an Indian student very interested in Bocconi Msc Finance. Could you please provide me an insider’s view of the job opportunities with this program in Milan, Italy? Is Bocconi Msc […]
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La dolce vita by the Italian Riviera
Cinque Terre or the Five villages located on the Italian Riviera are truly exclusive. Living in Milan, I finally visited this place after 5 years of arriving here. Like they say, it is never too late to see the light.
The 5 villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are all unique and are connected only by train, boats and hiking paths. Hence, a visit in peak seasons will have you stuck in the trains with heavy crowd.
Extremely popular among foreign tourists, the five villages on the Italian Riviera are located along the coastline and the impressive steep landscape. The vegetation of the region is dense and due to the heavy rainfall we also discovered snails on the ground.
Cinque Terre is Ideal for adventure seekers and nature lovers. Hiking along the ridges while relaxing for some great Italian meal rich in seafood and pesto. The green basil sauce originates from Genoa in the Liguria region.
There are too many reasons to visit these pretty Italian villages, but more important is how do you prepare yourself for the trip to Cinque Terre?
Four things to prepare for before going to Cinque Terre
Best time to visit Cinque Terre:
- For swimming in the sea: May to September is the ideal time that can ensure you warm waters.
- For Hiking along the 5 villages: March to October is good, though it may start raining on October.
- Best value for money months to visit: June and July are the perfect months as August becomes expensive with rise in Domestic tourism.
Things to carry along on an adventure trip to the Italian Riviera:
- Running Shoes: The terrain is a cliff facing the sea.
- Bring Umbrellas and Rain coats: Make sure to check the weather and take appropriate precautions.
- Wear Jeans or sportive wear. You can always change in your Hotel in one of the 5 villages.
- Bring Swim wear if you there in the summer.
Things not to miss in Cinque Terre:
- Visit the world war 2 bunker at Monterosso. Still preserved, this turret looks familiar from the Hollywood film “Saving Private Ryan” that shows the Allied sea invasion of Normandy.
- Eating deep fried fish with local wine.
- Hiking at least one of the trails.
- Go for swimming and scuba diving.
- Vernazza: Rated as one of the top 100 most beautiful villages in Italy. Italian villages are incredible. Having traveled extensively across Northern Italy during my work as a Territory Sales Executive with Western Union, I can accredit this first hand. It is recommended by one blogger to visit this place by sea. Maybe a boat from the other villages can bring you here.
- Visit the Giant statue of Neptune at Monterosso.
- Walk by the Via dell’Amore or the Pathway of Love in Riomaggiore. The romantic foot path drops you at Manarola.
- Climb the 382 stairs to reach Corniglia.
Good food for everyone at Cinque Terre:
- The main diet is seafood based, but the fresh vegetation of the place ensures a wide variety of vegetarian food. Even the green Pasta made with the Pesto sauce originated from the Ligurian region.
- Good place for white wine, goes very well with the fish.
- For cheap eats, I remember having great Focaccias at Monterosso. Freshly baked bread with various toppings is almost a Pizza and is a popular fast food snack.
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Territory Sales Executive with Western Union Italy
As a Territory Sales Executive at Western Union for a year,
But first, what does a Territory Sales Executive do?
Responsible for different territories across Italy, a Territory Sales Executive is responsible for growing the business in his region by participating in business development activities with existing agents as well as building up long term partnerships with new potential agents. Usually, the TSE has a rotation across territories.
What is a Community Consultant?
In a business like the money transfer industry, your customer segments are based on the final destination of transfers which finally comes down to different national communities residing in a country. As an Indian Community Consultant, I was the expert for dealing with the Indian community. Responsible for sales & business development, I also organized marketing events across multiple key locations in north Italy targeting the Indian community successfully. Here is me at the Saturday night Diwali function at Pegognaga, Mantova. My manager had great positive feedback about this event.
What is a typical day as a Territory Sales Executive like?
There is no typical day, but we do have a typical week.
As a non native Italian speaker, the job was a bit more challenging for me. But I made up for lapses in linguistic abilities with strengths in sound selling points.
I say this because, the responsibilities as a Territory Sales Executive is quite broad. As a fresh recruit originally hired for doing more of the Community Consultant Role, I had a lot of flexibilities to do my own market research and bring in new results. Later while I worked on key territories like Milan as a TSA dealing directly with Italian clients, my responsibilities included more of getting the contractual documents processed.
Know your product, Industry, customer.
- Read on-line, speak with existing agents, customers, potential agents, small shop keepers etc. Do your market research properly to learn as much as you can. Always ask questions. Do your e-learning on time. Very important to understand the Western Union culture, anti money laundering checks etc. Helps immensely in determining our actions and decisions at work.
Plan a weekly schedule in advance.
- Traveling long distances require detailed planning to optimize travel. Activities of your busy week, needs to be recorded in terms of weekly reports. Keep information on schedule, appointments, work done, expense reports, research etc. A detailed report submitted to your manager will give you more flexibility and independence as he begins to trust you more.
Calling up leads to fix appointments.
- Can be tricky to reach busy business owners, but its important to call them before you visit and try to be a top notch sales man selling in a foreign language. Speaking confidently on the phone to communicate trust and interest is an art honed by practice.
Getting the contract signed:
- Starts out rough, but convincing them about the money transfer business is just the first win. Real challenge is getting them to complete the contractual process with all the documents. Money transfer is a highly regulated industry and requires a proper agent verification. In order to save time, I sometimes prefer to meet my lead and get the contract signed the same day. This is easier said than done. To meet a busy central Milan business man and convince him to take up a new business activity the same day he is learning about it for the first time is not an easy task. You should never be too pushy. Also definitely be ready to welcome an other appointment. The huge number of signatures, and documents required could be handled patiently at a convenient time.
Prepare a check list before meeting clients.
- You don’t want to travel miles to only forget something. Make sure to collect all the important documents from a checklist. Write down the process you need to follow in your job. Time is money, and your supervisor prefers that you can conclude a business from a shop as soon as possible to work on other potential agents.
Customer service is very important.
- With increasing competition, agents may be biased in using other money transfer services that have promised a higher commission to them. Good customer service will allow you to learn more about the agent concerns and complaints. Just by being a great person to work with can motivate your agents to continue to work with you. Even enthusiastically despite industry headwinds. I have personally helped calm down one of our agents who was earlier not satisfied with a customer service call on the phone. As I visited him and heard him out, he was more willing to give our service an other shot. But never entertain unnecessary information on how to make large money transfers etc.
Driving around safely.
- You drive a lot, so be careful. Getting speeding tickets should motivate you to plan in advance and never rush.
Talk to people to get awesome leads:
- Use word of mouth: have discovered a gold mine of leads just by talking with people. How many? Let us just say that Western Union will be thanking me for ages for those leads.
What did I learn from my sales experience?
- We all have a style to deal with people. Some of us like to make compromises and be nicer and friendlier even though the other person may not reciprocate the same. Hoping to receive mercy in return for kindness. The other way is to make the other person think highly of you with respect. Letting the other person seek your approval and guidance in helping him. Which ever approach you choose remember that you would have to do it with loads of people. Being too nice with loads of people, puts you into high liabilities or obligations to help them with every small detail. A demanding client will try to outsource more of his work to you, when instead of doing customer service, you are supposed to be finding newer clients. My advice is that always try to take the horse to the water, but remember you cant make it drink. Be the teacher and enlighten your new students. teach the client something new and present your product as the solution.
Other important things to remember in a sales job
- Have no clue how to go about with your sales job. Remember to always knock on the door and enter like its your first sales call. Same enthusiasm. No single way to get the job done. Head out and meet 100 clients, and you will find a bunch of really sweet people. You will also find a bunch of @$$#o£€$, some really smart and interesting people and some ignorant ones. Just by visiting all the 100 clients, you could definitely find an accord with a good percentage of them.
- Be assertive but not too sleazy. You have to be approachable and capable of getting things done.
- Never underestimate word of mouth and networking. I found many interesting deals in chit-chat.
- Read the Challenger Sale, Book by Brent Adamson and Matthew C. Dixon
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10 things to prepare for an Indian family trip to Europe
My elder brother and me have been living in Europe for over 5 years now. While I moved to Milan for study and then work, my brother is now a proud Doctorate at a reputed university at Germany. No better way to celebrate than with a nice long due family trip.
Planning an Indian family trip in Europe for our Parent’s first visit was a fun filled challenge that would test our organizational abilities in optimizing comfort, food and sightseeing. Not an easy task for typical Indian parents of 25+ year old children visiting Europe for the first time.
So how should you exactly prepare yourself for an Indian family trip in Europe?
Especially when you are traveling in a group.
Plan a short trip in advance:
- 2 weeks is good for a first trip. It allows them to experience all the good stuff Europe has to offer without prompting too many complaints about the cold, food, language problems, walking, prices, etc.
- Getting homesick within the first week is natural, try to plan visits to Indian restaurants in the second week as they look forward to their return back to India. Maybe you can also download Swades music for their flight back home. Just kidding.
Encourage them to enjoy what Europe has to offer:
- Check Trip advisor for top notch affordable places recommended for families.
- So we introduced Dad to good Italian wine and German beer, while Mom enjoyed one of the best Italian Pizzas in Milan with a nice road trip through Switzerland.
- You cannot expect them to wholeheartedly adapt to a new culture straight away, and good Indian food may be difficult to find in Europe. While good local food is always easier to find.
- So that they can enjoy time away from hotels and relax for a day between travels from one city. I chose a nice Airbnb in Milan, to give them a place all for themselves.
- Travel can be challenging in Europe between grabbing an expensive cold Mozzarella and Pomodoro Panino with Basil paste while traveling through Switzerland. A nice warm home cooked Rajma Chawal or spicy Chicken curry prepared with Italian Lal Mirch or Red Chillies, will bring back the vitality required to keep them going.
- Great Indian food with turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, black pepper, red chili powder, toasted cumin, Methi and other Garam Masala can be an Indian’s Kryptonite in Europe.
Do Hop on Hop off, though it may be a bit pricey.
- City Sightseeing is a popular chain across European cities with more friendly staff in my opinion based on Amsterdam and Lisbon trips. In Rome I had tried Green Line Tours which was less fun. The city bus tours charged over 20 € for 24 hours, but this comes with a catch. The bus runs only in the day, so that 24 hours is just a marketing gimmick.
- Though frequency of the buses may be good, you may not find one before 9 AM or after 8 PM. If you stop and look around each stop, time may not be sufficient, but the constraint also allows you to quickly visit all the major attractions at least from an elevated view point from top of the bus.
- Though I would personally never do a City bus tour like the Hop on- Hop off myself, I would still recommend it to save energy walking in confusion and to get an overview of what the whole city looks like.
Do one day trips from base city by trains:
- In Italy you often can get great deals for one day going & return journeys in the best trains. Your parents most probably would only want to have a brief look at a city and may not be really willing to visit all the museums in town.
- Make sure to book in advance though, or you may have to use the regional trains that are not bad either. They just don’t have wifi. 😉
Try visits to Mac Donald’s, Burger King etc:
- These fast food places are nevertheless familiar and also serve Salads, Vegetarian and Chicken options etc.
- Use of public washroom is also an option. Though these days these places near city centers are so busy that washrooms could definitely use a higher frequency of cleaning service.
Beware of Pick Pockets,
- Avoid dark lonely alleys, wearing expensive Jewelery, loose pant pockets which are popular in India.
- Check my previous blog post (Click here), to read about how my Dads wallet got stolen at the Milan central station, but luckily returned all safe, due to an alert Italian Ticket Collector who was fortunately present at the right place at the right time.
- Milan is still not that bad, when you consider the number of tourists robbed in Barcelona ( I personally know at least 5+ people) and the recent celebrity tourist robberies in Paris (Kim Kardeshian & Mallika Sherawat).
Teach them to speak simple loud English:
- To more easily communicate with the locals. Use of complex English words, or strong Indian accents may make communication more difficult.
- Just like in Blogging, you need to write simple to improve readability, Indians speaking English with non native speakers should try to speak loud, slow and clear.
Convince them that tap water is good to drink in a lot of places:
- My Dad was convinced, my Mom would not at all drink water from the bathroom. Even our great 4 star hotel bathroom was avoided for drinking water.
- Visit Indian/Asian shops mostly run by people from the Indian subcontinent.. Don’t have to get in line to buy quickly a big bottle of water. It would cost half the price it would cost at the hotel bar or the mini-bar in the room.
- Mini-bar is a bait, I plan to one day sell a tape with that message to other Indians in Europe so that they can stick it on every hotel they visit to prevent unsuspecting parents to take the bait of paying 4-5 € for a little pack of chips.
- Recently a stay at a Milan Hotel named Barcèlo was quite satisfying as the mini bar was appropriately priced.
Make sure to carry all documents safely
- Keep soft copies available on Smart Phone and email.
- Make sure they are Tech friendly with Whatsapp, Facebook and Bushlark installed in their Smart Phones. Make sure they can catch wifi signals when needed.
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