Mumbai is a hot, crowded and hectic city - and if you’re aren't prepared it will soon overwhelm you. After ten years of travelling to India’s commercial capital for work, I’ve put together some tips to help your trip go as smoothly as possible.
1. Be flexible
Don’t expect to have all your meetings arranged in advance of your trip. It’s not uncommon for people to be non-committal, or to ask you to contact them once you arrive. That’ll probably make you nervous if you’re coming from afar, but it’s unavoidable.
Have a rough sketch of what you want to achieve during the week, but accept you’ll need to be flexible. It may only be possible to arrange some meetings on the day. Meetings may start later in the morning than you might expect, and you might be lucky enough to be invited for dinner/ evening meetings.
2. Work smart
Plan. Set off half an hour earlier than you need to for your meeting. Everything takes longer than you expect. Just stopping for petrol or hailing a cab will eat into your valuable time, and you’ll end up feeling stressed and on the back-foot if you’re running late.
Be patient with Google maps - it doesn’t seem to work so well in Mumbai. If it says your journey will take 30 minutes, you can bank on at least an hour. Organise your meetings as logically as you can. Mumbai is a big city and you’ll waste your entire day stuck in Mumbai’s famous traffic if you plan on crossing the city for each appointment.
If your calls are spread out, stay somewhere central like the ITC Grand Central in Lower Parel. Keep a day for meetings near the airport, and another for appointments in Fort or Colaba. Depending on where you are headed, it may only be realistic to do 3-5 calls per day.
3. Stay cool
Go with the flow. Nothing goes exactly to plan in India. Stay calm. Your car might break down, or the person you are visiting might have forgotten you are coming. It happens, so keep your cool.
If you are running late, don’t stress too much - a 30-minute delay isn’t even considered late in Mumbai :)
4. Find a good driver
Don’t rely on taxi drivers (even Uber drivers) being able to speak English. Although it costs a little more, it’s a good idea to ask your hotel to book you a driver for the day (usually an external provider).
The car will be more comfortable and your driver will speak better English. Once you know he’s reliable, consider using him on your next trip.
5. Be generous with your time
Give time. In India, personal relationships are important and people will be happy to give their time, especially as your relationships strengthen. People will expect you to have tea or coffee with them, possibly a meal, or to meet their relatives.
Make the time to do this, and on your future visits you’ll find more doors open, and the locals make more of an effort to help you.
6. Buddy up
Making a genuine friend in Mumbai may take time, but it’s the most rewarding thing you can do. By having a buddy in the city, you will be exposed to people, places and experiences you otherwise wouldn’t have.
Let your friend give you a taste of life as the locals live it. Indians can be very generous, especially when it comes to food - you won’t go hungry! Enjoy their hospitality and generosity, and reciprocate when you can by bringing gifts or treats from your home city.
What’s your advice for a hassle-free business trip to Mumbai?