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‘India Wants To Offer Services, But Doesn’t Know How’

Deep Singhania, director- business development, Middle-East and Far East Asia, Tata Infotech Ltd, has been an avid traveller for nearly two decades. In conversation with Raadia Mukadam, he takes a birds eye view of the global predicament of the growing corporate travel segment. Excerpts

Business development as a profile entails extensive travelling globally. But, currently my profile demands frequent travel to the Middle-East, as we are now shifting focus from the American and European markets to new and emerging markets like Middle-East Asia. The IT market here has not yet been tapped to its maximum potential yet. Although in recent times, my travel is warranted to the 15-20 Gulf countries, the most frequented destination would definitely be Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, besides growing markets like Iran, where the economy is now opening up, and Singapore in the Far East.

Which is your preferred international airport?
Amongst the most impressive airports is Singapore’s Changi and the newly-constructed Shaikh Rashid terminal at the Dubai International Airport. The terminal is a congenial mix of aesthetics and technology. Considering the vast expanse it spreads over, the airport authorities have passenger cars and ground escalators to facilitate passengers. A very striking characteristic of this airport is that despite boasting the latest technology, its ambience is not at all intimidating. Its unique architecture has an almost tranquil effect elevating spirits of passengers while they await their flights. In terms of service, there are several airports globally that offer excellent service, but the service standards at the Changi airport are commendable.

How often do you travel domestically, and what are your impressions of the domestic airports?
In this era of cost cutting, I do not engage in unrequited travelling. However, I am required to travel domestically at least a couple of times a week, as we have business development centres all over India. Delhi, Bangalore and Pune are amongst the most frequently visited cities. Rating our airports is an exercise that I do not want to engage in. We are decades behind developed countries in this area, and do not compare with international standards at all.

“The newly-constructed Shaikh Rashid terminal at the Dubai International Airport is a congenial mix of aesthetics and technology. A very striking characteristic of this airport is that despite boasting the latest technology, its ambience is not at all intimidating”

As director (business development) of one of the leading IT firms in India, how often does your profile necessitate you to travel?

Which international airline meets your expectations with regards to in-flight services offered by them?
In-flight services are crucial to a frequent traveller. Demanding and stressful schedules are an integral part of a business traveller’s itinerary, thus, making it imperative to experience a pleasant flight. This is where in-flight services have a vital role to play. To avail of exceptional services while flying business class is not unique, it is the service extended to the economy class passenger that actually determines the quality of the in-flight service of the airline. By this yardstick only Emirates and Singapore Airlines truly provide extraordinary in-flight service and a fulfilling flying experience.

Spanning the last few years, what significant developments have you seen geared towards the corporate traveller?
The most critical development in terms of facilities offered to business travellers is tele check-in. It has proved to be considerably effective in economising time. Electronic ticketing offered by a good number of airlines, today, called ETS has also been extremely beneficial. But the unequaled evolution I have seen in recent years is the formation of airline alliances like Star and Oneworld. They offer multiple destinations to a passenger on a common platform.

Which are your premier business destinations, domestically and globally?
As far as the best Indian business destination is concerned, my preference is, undoubtedly, Bangalore. In the IT business, most of our visitors from the government as well as the industrial

groups are either visiting Mumbai or Bangalore. Only political purposes necessitate visits to Delhi. Since my travel is dominated by the countries in the Middle-East, Dubai would certainly rank as a first-rate business hub in the region. But globally in IT, the US is the most favoured business destination owing to the paramount gamut of infrastructure and opportunity provided to this sector. In terms of infrastructure, no one can match America but Europe is a close second.

Any particularly memorable episode that you have encountered in your diverse travel experiences?
One of the most shockingly absurd things that happened to me was on my tour to Istanbul in Turkey. One fine day, I was summoned by the hotel authority while I was in my room, informing me that the local police needed to see me urgently. It was only on reaching the reception that I realised that I was required to interpret the Indian language between the local authority and another tourist. But, I will never forget the agonising moments I spent walking to the lobby without a clue of what I was to expect.