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Businessman’s guide to Mumbai

Woman in Mumbai 

Did you know that it’s acceptable for your Indian counterparts to call you after working hours or on the weekends? Here is everything you need to know about doing business in Mumbai, best restaurants to eat at and places to visit.

Joy Ghosh (43)

Asia Pacific and Japan Vice President at Extreme Networks
American

1. How often do you travel to Mumbai and who do you fly with?
I travel there four to five times a year and stay there for two nights. For the four-and-a-half-hour flight, I almost always take Singapore Airlines. Another good option is Jet Airways.

2. One thing everyone ought to know about Mumbai:
The city is a great melting pot of people from all around the world. It’s a colourful city.

Mumbai 

3. How quickly can you get a visa?
Nearly all passport holders need to apply for a visa from the High Commission of India in Singapore. Singaporeans can obtain a same-day emergency visa but the processing time for most passport holders is five days. I usually apply for a visa online.

4. Fastest way to get into the city?
Mumbai airport is right in the middle of the city. To get around, I recommend renting a car with a driver for a flat day fee. It’s a very common practice and you can arrange it with your hotel or a travel agent, especially if you do multiple meetings in different locations like myself. If you’re just going to the office and back, it’s easier to take a taxi.

Because land is very expensive in Mumbai, lots of businesses have moved up north away from Nariman Point, which used to be the centre of gravity for businesses. Popular business areas now include Bandra Kurla Complex and Andheri.

5. When are the good and bad times to visit Mumbai?
Avoid July to September, as it’s the monsoon season. Like all Indian summers, it is hot and sticky during summer right up to the end of October. Winter, from November to February, is the most pleasant. Going during the festive season, especially Diwali in November, is a great exposure to the culture. Traffic gets a little chaotic but I don’t mind.

6. Hotels you recommend:
The Indian chain hotels like The Oberoi (+9122 6632 5757) and The Taj Mahal Palace (+9122 6665 3366) have brilliant hospitality and amazing service. The American chains like Hyatt and Marriott also have a touch of Indian hospitality, so it’s a very different experience from hotel chains elsewhere.

7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
Because of the nature of my job, I always wear a suit. Usually, a formal shirt and trousers will do.

8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
The standard Western business approach works here. The locals are very open and are definitely not shy about expressing their views. You won’t have any doubts after the meeting if it went well or badly. They don’t “shut up shop” at 6pm as they are expected to work later. People may call you at 9pm or on the weekends. It’s not the norm but it’s acceptable.

9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
Mumbai is famous for its seafood. Trishna Restaurant (+9122 2270 3213) is my favourite place for seafood. It’s a famous restaurant that has been featured in multiple food and travel magazines. I recommend trying the Bombay duck, which is actually a fish. The two Indian chain hotels I recommended have good restaurants too. The dining scene in Mumbai is very extensive; you’ll never go hungry.

10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
When I dine with business partners, we usually do dinner and drinks at the same place. Perhaps it’s the traffic or the fact that people work late that means they don’t have the luxury of going elsewhere for drinks. That said, there are a couple of good bars in the city. I go to Toto Garage (+9122 2600 5494) in Bandra. Many expats and Bollywood stars go to Bandra so naturally there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area.

11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
I think Mumbai is probably the safest city in India. Women can walk around safely at night and the trains run till 2am. But just like any other big city, employ some common sense and you’ll be fine.

12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
There are few historical places or monuments to visit in Mumbai but it’s nice to take a walk down the streets. It’s possibly the most vibrant city in India in terms of people, culture, food, entertainment and definitely business. It’s got the whole package and you have to experience it for yourself. If I have more time, I go to the beaches in Goa. It’s a one-hour flight from Mumbai. 

13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
Carpets and fabric are popular gift options. Go to the Thieves Market for handicrafts, ceramics, furniture and everything else under the sun.

14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport?
I’m always rushed for time but I aim for 90 minutes. The airport is massive and very efficient. Immigration and customs are quick; it’s the traffic that may delay you. If you’re staying downtown, which is not close to the airport, allow some extra time. 

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