My Business Tour last week

Last week,official business took me to 3 completely different locations in India – different in language spoken,in culture,life-style,work-style and even the way they do business. The places are Kanpur,Chennai and Goa. While Chennai is very conservative in all respects including business,Kanpur is perhaps slightly more daring with higher appetite for risk. Goa ,on the contrary,presents a completely laid back approach in all aspects of their lives which readily permeates into business as well. In fact it is almost like visiting 3 different countries. Of the three,Goa appears to be relatively unaffected by outside cultural influences. They maintain an unique identity of their own in many respects. Apart from the beaches for which the place is well known,a drive from the airport to our hotel (which is a full 40 minutes drive)shows the natural beauty at its very best. There is so much of open space(what a pleasant contrast to Mumbai!) and the natural greenery is unmatched especially during the present season as it keeps raining continuously. Goans,I was told by our driver, do not bother to carry umbrellas as they feel it is an unnecessary bother and in any case(according to them)it does not really protect much,with so much of wind around! In the hotels as well as offices one can readily sense a feeling of warmth and comradery – service with a genuine,natural and innocent smile!
Chennai,in contrast,offers a lukewarm(or rather cold) reception whether one is at the airport ,a customer’s place,a grocery shop or a vegetable vendor. The vegetable vendors in particular are notorious in handing out their choicest abuses in case one makes the mistake to inquire about a certain vegetable and not care to clinch a deal. It may not be an exaggeration to say that a friendly smile(natural or even artificial) is conspicuous by it absence in Chennai.
The atmosphere in Kanpur,on the other hand, is completely different. One can not miss people effortlessly speaking chaste Hindi interspersed with broken English (one example will suffice – the waiter in our hotel fondly enquired:”Aap ko kaunsa esnakes chaahiye”).

Our trip to Kanpur was more or less uneventful until Air India decided to add some excitement! As we were having our lunch before leaving for airport,my colleague received a call from Air India saying that the flight was delayed by an hour. The same people called me next to give the same message as expected. Therefore,we decided to have a more leisurely lunch and ordered a few more courses. As the food arrived and we settled down to savour the dishes,there came another call from Air India. My colleague could not believe what he heard. He was informed that our flight would be departing an hour ahead of the original schedule! The same message was conveyed to me by Air India staff the very next moment. We were left speechless and in any case there was no time left for any discussion on the subject. We gulped down whatever was served on the table,paid the bill and drove straight to the airport. Luckily ,we managed to reach in time.
The airport in Kanpur is a pretty small one. I believe it used to be a military Air base which was later converted for civilian convenience.
We were just a handful of people (literally) and surprisingly the airline staff far outnumbered the passengers. Therefore,the passengers were getting a lot of individual attention. We were literally received like VIPs by the staff,who did everything necessary to make us feel comfortable. (for instance,when we asked for coffee,it was served in trays without our having to stir out of our seats!).
We were to take the flight to Delhi which in turn was supposed to connect to a flight to Chennai at 8 pm. At the Kanpur airport,though,there was yet another surprise in store for us as we learnt that our flight would go to Delhi via Alahabad. I will not go into the reasons as to why our flight had to take such a detour.(I believe it is a combination of problems of logistics,delays,inadequate number of passengers etc). Anyway,this unexpected detour meant that we touched the Delhi airport only by 8pm and missed our connecting flight to Chennai. Stranded in Delhi thus,we demanded that Air India make all arrangements for our overnight stay as well as ensure a seat in an early morning flight to Chennai. Air India did all that without a murmur. We were royally put up in a 5-star hotel for the night,thanks to the ‘Maharaja’ !

I came to know later that only Air India operates in this sector with a guarantee of connecting flights from Delhi to Chennai or Mumbai. I am certain that with the kind of operational inefficiencies that we see with Air India,passengers must be missing their connecting flights often and happily enjoying free 5 star hospitality frequently. And yet no one from the airlines seems to be doing anything about it. No wonder,the Airlines today needs a Rs 20000 crore bail out package just to keep afloat!

Published in: on August 1, 2009 at 11:18 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Did you have 2 separate tickets for the DEL-KNP and DEL-MAA sector? Or was it all in the same ticket? I’m worried now coz I’m booked on the same flights but have them on 2 separate tickets. Do you think they will still put me up in a hotel and the next flight in case of any delays like you faced?

    • Of course it was one ticket issued for Kanpur to chennai via delhi. If it is not so, the airlines will have no accountability and therefore may not accommodate you in a hotel in case of delay.

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