Often the remote employee enjoys their work from home lifestyle primarily because they are expected to leave that home on a regular basis and take the show on the road, so to speak. The trade off, in it’s simplest form from the corporate perspective, seems to be “we realize that most of the time we talk to you from your home office you are still wearing your pajamas and we don’t like that one bit so we are going to make you think about that as you chew on your kneecaps for five hours on a flight to out back of beyond.”
This last week “out back of beyond” turned out to be India. In should state up front that generally speaking, I love India. As with any place you go there are of course aspects of India I’m less fond of, but taken as a whole the country is just fantastic.
For those who haven’t been before, or have been for personal travel but not business travel, here a few thoughts for you. And if you are just there for business, do yourself a huge favor and break away from the work routine for a day and go out and explore everything else India has to offer. The business life of India is hardly representative of everything you can enjoy here. It is as the adverts say “Incredible India…” For all my whingeing and whining it really is one of my favorite places to visit. Outstanding food (albeit with severe consequences), amazingly polite people considering the constant crush of humanity and some of the best service in the world can be had in India. Anyway, back to my thoughts for the first time business traveler to India.
Coffee and Tea are going to be offered to you in nearly every business meeting. Unless you have a bladder the size of a camel’s and the intestinal fortitude to fight off god only knows what in the water supply, my advice is to politely decline. Should you accept be forewarned. Coffee = Nescafe in 90% of Indian offices. Tea = Chai or Masala. If you were expecting a nice French roast coffee or an Earl Grey tea, you will likely be disappointed. Not that there is anything WRONG with Nescafe. But when you are already a little worried about the water which seems to have only been heated to barely above tepid, the last thing you want is for a clump of poorly mixed Nescafe crystals to come bobbing to the surface of the cup. Similarly if you thought you were getting a traditional black tea and instead are served Masala, I assure you the spice will wake you up pretty quick after just one sip. It’s tasty stuff, but you gotta know what you are getting into or your taste buds may take the assault personally.
Of course the Coffee / Tea decision is moot if you never make it to the meeting in the first place. India traffic is utterly legendary, and comes as a double shock to those who are used to telecommuting. A triple shock for those who live on a very small island so even when they do head out don’t have to worry about it taking very long to get anywhere. You can cross the whole country of Singapore in under an hour. An hour’s driving in Mumbai will sometimes only result in getting to the end of the street. Four lanes of traffic congealed on a two lane road with tuk tuks and motorbikes swerving and scooting around you will have you quickly wondering why you ever thought face to face meetings were such a good idea. You are pretty much guaranteed to be late at least once a day, but that’s ok. Chances are the person you are supposed to be meeting with is also delayed, caught up bumper to tail with a cow on the highway. About the only things that do seem to run on time are the airlines, which domestically are about as no frills as any US domestic carrier, but (knock on wood) haven’t been delayed on me once in a dozen or so trips to the country.
The traffic congestion is actually a perfect symbol about what is great about India. Despite her headlong charge as an economic force in the world, India is still a very slow moving place. Development takes it’s own pace and the people tend to follow along. You may find yourself at some point barreling down the highway between Mumbai and Pune at a truly startling speed, but rest assured in a kilometer or two you will be back to a standstill. No matter how much you rush eventually India will slow you down.
In fact just about the only thing that doesn’t slow down in India is your digestive tract. No matter how cautious you are, unless you take a page from Gandhi’s book and fast for the duration of your stay in India, you will pick up a stomach bug. They are nasty little buggers, and all the more reason to avoid the caffeine.
There is nothing quite so embarrassing as finally arriving twenty minutes late for a meeting with a senior executive at one of your biggest customers only to have that first sip of Nescafe set off a chain reaction in your stomach the likes of which haven’t been seen since the last time the American military nuked an atoll in the south pacific. Audible gurglings, grimace inducing stomach twinges and the need to suddenly bolt from the meeting room in a frantic search for someplace to offload a couple pounds of chicken tikka and one ounce of coffee are hardly the positive first impressions one wishes to make on someone who can single-handedly make or break your annual quota.
Or so I’ve been told.
Now if you will excuse me, I have some reading I need to catch up on in another room…