Learn from the international engineer: India


Traveling internationally provides broad, enriching personal experiences, particularly in India. In millions of miles of travels to locations ranging from Manila to Moscow, I have learned a few things along the way. In recent travels to Mumbai (Bombay) and along the West Coast of India, reconfirmed lessons include the need to have a host, be prepared for economic diversity, do not plan to drive yourself, and ensure your papers are in order.

A "host" is a person that can advise about the best-suited accommodations, local customs, where it is safe to travel and eat, can communicate with locals in the native language and can assist in making arrangements for transport, meetings, or other important needs. They also can be a tour guide for more interesting experiences. Side trips in India included tours of parks, vista points, business centers, and, most memorable, a personal tour and explanation of a Krishna (Krsna) temple. A host may be a person from your company, your customer's company or a local business partner, but wherever they come from, they are of utmost importance. Unless you are well experienced with a location, do NOT "go it alone," particularly if your travels take you off the beaten path where only local languages are posted on signs and spoken. In India, you do not have to go far from the metropolitan areas to find English greeted only with inquisitive looks by most people. In my recent trip to Mumbai and onward north to Surat, my invaluable host was the definitive difference that made the trip a success.

India is one of the most economically diverse countries I have visited. The range of wealth, from mansions to ghettos, is extreme and at first, striking. In Mumbai, the magnitude of street people living in tattered plastic tarps, heated by burning street trash is, at first, concerning. Also expect to see beggars, often, young girls with babies, tapping on your cab window at streetlights. As time went on I was able to talk with people in all walks of life, and I found what I have found the world over: the vast majority of people are good, helpful, and kind. You just have to keep a watchful eye out for those very few that are otherwise.

Traffic is an extreme challenge in Mumbai, and, on highways connecting the cities, it’s probably among the worst in the world. Do NOT attempt to drive yourself. Even I, an aggressive confident driver, was intimidated by traffic and chaos, and I wasn't even driving. Consider it a requirement to hire a car or a taxi to go anywhere by auto. Taxis and hired cars are quite affordable and drivers well experienced. It is best that they dodge the tens of thousands of auto-rickshaws and swiftly cut through the swirling turbidity that is called "traffic" in Mumbai.

Seek hotels that are 4 stars and up. I stayed at the Le Royal Meridian near the Mumbai International Airport (BOM). It's about a mile from the airport, quiet, very nicely appointed, and well staffed with kind, courteous, quick-to-respond employees. If you stay in outlying areas, you must seek the advice of your host. In remote areas, larger companies have housing for guests, where you might find the rooms a bit shy of what you’re used to, but safe. As in many countries, do not drink the tap water, even at 4- and 5-star hotels. Keep bottled water at the ready. In case of symptoms of "exposure" to bad water or food, always carry proper medicines.

English is the lingual common denominator in India, the "Esperanto" of engineering and business. Gate guards may speak broken English, sufficient to succeed in entry/departure. Typically you’ll need to provide passport, visa, and perhaps your company ID when attempting entry into larger production facilities. It's best to keep your contact person's name and number at the ready and call ahead to confirm your entry time. This is important, because the traffic situation can vary your arrival time.

Most nationalities need a visa to travel to India, certainly if you are traveling from the USA. I got mine from the Chicago Indian Consulate, who serves my region. I had to send my U.S. passport, visa application forms, fees by bank draft and a supporting letter from my Indian host. Plan ahead; I had to wait two weeks to get mine, even when using a courier to and from. You can theoretically get it faster if you request and pay for expedited processing or go to the consulate in person. Once in the country, keep your passport/visa ready at all times, for identification for entry into production sites and offices, checking in at hotels, and for display for occasional stops by government authorities. I am occasionally stopped in airports and on city streets by officials who mean business; don’t be surprised if they carry sub-machine guns. No passport/visa in hand will bring trouble, guaranteed.

I wish you good business and happy travels.

—Carl Cook, President / CTO, BioComp Systems Inc .;
edited by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering editor in chief,

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Big Data and IIoT value; Monitoring Big Data; Robotics safety standards and programming; Learning about PID
Motor specification guidelines; Understanding multivariable control; Improving a safety instrumented system; 2017 Engineers' Choice Award Winners
Selecting the best controller from several viewpoints; System integrator advice for the IIoT; TSN and real-time Ethernet; Questions to ask when selecting a VFD; Action items for an aging PLC/DCS
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Big Data and bigger solutions; Tablet technologies; SCADA developments
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
click me