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City guide to New Delhi: Expat Mike on doing business in the capital city of India

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Name: Mike Kerr
Age: 42
Position: CEO Asian Golf Tour
Nationality: British


O1. How often do you travel to New Delhi?
Four to six times a year, and I spend three to four nights there on average.

O2. One thing everyone ought to know about New Delhi:
It’s a real melting pot. The ancient capital city has lots of history and culture but it has all the modern conveniences you need from a business perspective – you get the best of both worlds.

O3. How quickly can you get a visa?
Most nationalities have to get a visa. You can apply online or at one of the Visa Application Centres listed by the High Commission of India. It’s a fairly straightforward procedure and it takes a couple of days to process. If you’re going to visit India frequently, get a one-year business visa, which is what I do. You can also get a visa on arrival.

O4. Fastest way into the city?
Most of the time, I find myself heading straight to a golf event once I get off the plane so I usually have a car waiting at the airport. If you can’t get a hotel car to wait for you, a taxi is fine as well. I’ve never had a problem with any of the taxis there; they seem to have a well-managed system, are reasonably-priced and all taxis usually follow the meter. I’ve never rented and driven a car myself in the city and I certainly would not recommend trying to negotiate the traffic on your own. It’s better to rent a car and a driver. During rush hours and busy periods, it’s inevitable that you will get stuck in traffic. I don’t mind it that much as the city has lots of character and there’s always something uniquely Indian to see when you’re travelling around in the car. Modern Delhi itself dates back to over a century and it’s split into New Delhi and Old Delhi. From a cultural point of view, Old Delhi is a lot more interesting but most businessmen would usually find themselves in New Delhi, which still has lots to see and experience. Nowadays, some businesses are located on the outskirts of New Delhi, in Gurgaon.

O5. When are the good and bad times to visit New Delhi?
The best times to go are October to November and again from February to March, which is when we normally play our golf events. I find summer from April to June to be extremely hot, even by my standards after living in Asia for 20 years. Winter from December to January is infamously cold and foggy so it’s not a good idea to visit.

O6. Hotels you recommend:
I usually stay in the Crowne Plaza New Dehli Okhla. New Delhi has a wide range of accommodation to cater for every budget – everything from luxurious six-star hotels like The Taj Mahal Hotel and The Oberoi New Delhi to smaller mid-range hotels and motels. Most of the business hotels are central. The luxury hotels are expensive and have been getting more so recently, which reflects the increase in business travellers and luxury travellers. The business climate in New Delhi is
very healthy.

O7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
Usually, I’ll wear a suit and sometimes a tie too. Their business dress is fairly formal. The Indians themselves have their own traditional dress, which they will sometimes wear, especially at important events.

O8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
There are no real culture shocks, so to speak. English is very well understood. I find the Indians are very open, warm and welcoming. They are not overly formal but they are definitely polite. Just like when you’re doing business elsewhere, it’s good to be aware that they have long-standing traditions and there is a mix of different cultures and religions. What I find most exciting is seeing all the old traditional and historical sights in the city. Coming from a city like Singapore, we’re not used to their unique culture and the change of environment can be quite a pleasant surprise.

O9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
My meetings usually take place on golf courses and I often find myself at Delhi Golf Club, one of the most prestigious golf courses in Delhi. It was established in 1931 and is right in the heart of New Delhi. It’s a beautiful place and that’s where you should go if you have time for a game of golf. The food at Delhi Golf Club is some of the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted. I know some people have concerns about eating local Indian food, as they are worried about getting Delhi belly, which is basically food poisoning, but I’ve never had such problems. If you’re more conservative, you can get international and local dishes at the hotels, but I recommend venturing out to try the local street food, especially at Paharganj market. You can’t go wrong with prata, curry and lassi, a yoghurt-based drink. For we business travellers who don’t have time to explore and immerse ourselves in the culture, the least we can do is to taste it through their food. Indian cuisine is split into Northern and Southern cuisines but you can get both in New Delhi. South Indian food tends to be more vegetarian-friendly while North Indian food has more meat options.

10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
I usually just go to the Copper Bar & Lounge at Crown Plaza New Delhi Okhla. Most of the hotels have great bars that are well worth checking out. I’ve never experienced any hassling, nor do I know of any such places, really.

11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
I don’t believe so. Like in any major city, there are street vendors who will try to sell you their wares or ask you for money but it’s not a taxing problem. Just be aware of your surroundings.

12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
The Red Fort and India Gate are two that stand out for me. Red Fort is one of Delhi’s top tourist sights and lies along the Yamuna River. British architect Edwin Lutyens designed the India Gate in the 1920s and it’s worth a look. If you have longer and really want to see India, I highly recommend travelling on the Golden Triangle path that includes Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do this and it’s amazing.

13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
Traditional handicrafts are very popular, as are local sweets and treats. For the ladies, pashmina and silk items are good options. Gemstones are another good bargain to be had in New Delhi, but make sure you choose wisely. The best way to shop is just to walk around on foot, look at the shops and experience it all for yourself.

14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at the New Delhi Indira Gandhi Airport?
The airport is very efficient so you have nothing to worry about. But one tip would be to print out your flight confirmation as that makes the check-in process much easier. Personally, I think two hours before is too long, but it really depends on the time of the day you’re flying. If you’re expecting to travel to the airport during peak hours, always allow at least an extra 30 minutes. There are plenty of shops and restaurants for some last-minute shopping and to grab a quick bite.