“Namaste”… and welcome to India!
I’ve travelled to India several times over the past few years on business, mostly to Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad. It is truly an amazing country, huge in many aspects relative to geography and population. India is the second-most populated country in the world after China, with more than 1.2 billion people. Yet, the entire population lives in a country roughly one-third the size of the U.S. and ranks seventh overall in the world in square miles.
India is also one of the most diverse countries in the world. It is a sophisticated, modern, industrial leader that is home to many primitive tribes and millions of poor people. Religion and language separate people—and a wide gap separates the few wealthy from the many poor.
There’s much to India that makes a visit to this country so appealing, exciting and potentially stressful for some Western visitors. With two sides of India bordering major oceans and the northernmost border backing up to Nepal, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, India offers a multitude of sights to view the country from a cultural and historical perspective. The massive population and traffic congestion throughout the major cities can make travel difficult.
Before your trip to India, ensure you have your visa in order. If you’re visiting for tourist purposes only, there is a relatively new streamlined process call an “e-Tourist Visa” (eTV) that can be done electronically. If you are like most Global Trade readers, however, then you probably will be there for business and will need the more formal, traditional type of visa. Best to contact the Indian Consulate in Washington, D.C.; alternatively, there are many online visa services that will gladly take your USD in exchange for a formal Indian business visa.
Once you have sorted all the formalities, it’s time to book a flight to your Indian destination. I prefer the most reputable airline services with the most direct connections. It’s a long flight, so best to limit your connections depending on your port of debarkation. My favorite from LAX to Delhi is on Emirates, with a stopover in Dubai. This route gives you some time in Dubai for shopping or additional business meetings, and the Emirates service is beyond perfect. India also has two major airlines, Air India and Jet Airways, the former offering better service in my opinion.
Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi is a massive airport that has been updated over the past few years. Once you arrive and step off the plane, take a moment to stop and engage your five senses. You will find that the first three—olfactory, sight and sound—will come to you first … very quickly!
Delhi, India’s capital territory, is a massive metropolitan area in the country’s north. In Old Delhi, vibrant bazaars are filled with food carts, sweets shops and spice stalls. Almost 16 million people live here and it is known as the most polluted city in the world. Climate can be up to 100 Fahrenheit April through July, so plan accordingly. Heat aside, I find very nice accommodations at The Leela Palace; they have transportation services from Indira Gandhi Airport to make your journey seamless.
Chennai (Madras) is located on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India. You will get spoiled by Indira Gandhi airport if you went there first—Chennai’s is in need of some updates, though the international terminal was recently given a face-lift. Chennai is the largest industrial and commercial center in the southern part of India.
Although it has a heavy industrial and commercial automotive and automotive component manufacturing base, Chennai has attracted the highest number of foreign tourists than any other city in the country. For accommodations, I recommend the Leela Palace Chennai or the Westin Chennai as good business hotels that offer a variety of meeting facilities and excellent restaurants. Travel from any other major Indian cities to Chennai is best accomplished through local airlines such as Jet Airways.
Hyderabad is the capital of southern India’s Telangana state. Otherwise know as “The City of Pearls,” Hyderabad is a major center for the technology industry and is also home to many upscale restaurants and shops. Be sure to take in a few visits to the pearl stores; they are fascinating.
Unlike many other airports in India, the Hyderabad airport is modern and very appealing. Once outside of the airport ring, you can experience the rugged, barren roads leading to the main city. It’s about a 45 minute taxi ride. The Mindspace Enclave in Hyderabad is a modern information technology and technical park that is home to Qualcommmm, Novartis, IBM India and Accenture. The Westin Mindspace is a wonderful new hotel with accommodations for the traveling businessman.
While doing business in India, keep in mind that meetings are rarely held on time and appointment attendees are usually quite tardy. A quick and infamous Indian head bob from your business host will in most cases mean yes—not no—so become acutely aware of your surrounding guests and culture.
At the end of a busy day, take time to enjoy the Indian cuisine native to the region you are visiting. Choices while sampling Indian cuisine are vast and flavorful. My favorites are tandoori style cooking with chicken or chicken tikka and curried rice followed by an ice cold Kingfisher beer.
How Suite It Is