An Outsourcer's Passage to India: How to Do It, part II

Part I of this article listed all the things that you, an outsourcer, must do in preparation for a trip to India. It saw you up to the airport on your day of departure.

Now you’re on the plane and you’ve had dinner; your eyes close as you drift into sleep, to dream of maharajas, elephants and computer geeks…

After sailing the skies for an interminably long time, you finally arrive in the Indian subcontinent. Hot, humid air surrounds you as you disembark from the aircraft; flocks of parrots and other exotic birds streak by overhead.

Immigration takes anything between 10 and 90 minutes depending on the inflow of passengers… it pays to move fast and get a good position in the line.

Customs is usually a breeze, since the officers are only after the big offenders (and hopefully you’re not one of them!). They usually wave foreign citizens right by since they know these visitors are potential customers.

Incidentally, from the moment you entered the terminal, surveillance has been on, but since it’s hidden, you’ve no idea it’s in place.

If you now walk straight out of the terminal, voracious taxi drivers will descend upon you en masse, much like vultures on an African kill, after which they will proceed to confuse and destroy your thinking process in their attempt to sell you a ride.

So don’t venture outside unprotected. Buy a controlled-rate coupon inside the terminal at the ‘prepaid taxi’ counter for a taxi ride to your hotel. The salesperson will also assign a taxi and driver to you.

The prepaid taxi coupon is your body armor against those unregulated taxi-drivers… they will not come near you when they see that slip of paper in your hands. You can walk to your taxi without fear of attack.

Once you’re at your hotel, you’re in safe hands, because indeed, Indian business hotels are havens for travellers. Their managements are seriously concerned about guests’ well-being and comfort; their environs are restful and healing.

Knock back your welcome drink and decompress. Once that’s done, gently channel your thoughts towards acquiring a vital necessity: a mobile phone with GSM connectivity.

If you are a seasoned traveller, you will have a ‘tri-band’ mobile, in which case all you have to do is buy a SIM card and a prepaid connection, which will cost you about US$35 (as of 2005) including nearly 250 minutes of talk time.

If you don’t have a tri-band, buy an inexpensive GSM mobile for about $45 in addition to a SIM card. SIM cards and phones are available at any of the myriad phone shops in any Indian metropolis; your concierge will tell you where the nearest one is.

Take this advice on mobiles very seriously… one cannot stress how important it is… I’ll be you $10 you’ll thank me for it later!

Inaugurate your new phone by calling the vendor you came to see. Get to the vendor’s office by car (yours or theirs, as long as it has air conditioning); other means of transport like auto rickshaws may look exciting but will likely result in a missed appointment…

When at the vendor’s place, look for:

* Capacity: (workstations and people);

* Supervisory arrangements: (floor managers, project leaders, group heads);

* Security: (controlled physical access and password-protected network resources).

Most importantly, meet the person who will be in charge of the project you are thinking of giving the vendor. Is s/he articulate? Tech-savvy? Quality conscious? Deadline oriented? Easy to get along with? Is there a second line to take over if s/he is away?

You must of course also hand over a copy of your RFP and discuss each point in fine detail.

Bear in mind that most often, Indians are formal to begin with. If you invite the key people to a meal, they will be very happy to relate to you on a personal level… this is better for all parties concerned.

Conclude each visit by asking for your quotation within a specified timeframe; encourage the vendor to email you freely regarding any questions s/he may have.

At the end of a visit, ask yourself if you have a good feeling about the interaction. If the answer is an overwhelming “NO!”, you had better strike the vendor off the hopefuls list. For any other answer, keep them in the running.

Follow these steps for all the hopefuls, and do extensive Internet research on the final candidates from the broadband connection in your hotel room.

Great, the business part of your trip is over, it’s time for recreation!

There are many unusual things to see in any Indian city, and you’d best ask your mentor what these are. There’s no point seeing typical big-city sights… look for the ancient or the ethnic (Akbar’s tomb, Kerala waterways or the Hindu temple at Madurai, for instance).

Be careful when deciding what to eat or drink. Only eat in restaurants that are clean by your country’s standards; stick to bottled water from reputed companies like Kinley or Aqua Fina. And no matter how badly you may be tempted, do not eat from those small roadside carts and kiosks!

If you want to buy souvenirs to take home, ask your mentor where to shop, else you may very well end up paying twice what you should. Buy things that are not easy to come by in your home country: fine silks, carpets, and most importantly, Indian jewelry, of which only meagre selections are available outside the subcontinent.

So now, replete with silk, gold and an outsourcing vendor shortlist, you’re at the end of a memorable journey. Get on a plane, push the seat back and wonder how it all went by so fast.

Dream about how much you’re going to save in costs, the quality improvements you will see, what a good thing you’ve done for your company, and how glad you were that you planned your trip carefully.

You now have valuable knowledge and experience about travelling to India, and might very well soon be recognized as an expert in the subject. Fare thee well, bold traveller, and fearlessly guide all those who may follow in your footsteps.