Another Day, Another Town

Updated: Aug 25 2004, 05:30am hrs
Youve briskly walked into your office on Monday morning.... to be told you need to go out of station tomorrow. There is a client you just HAVE to meet there. So says your boss.

When you took on this job, you knew you had to travel. So travel you will then. And this is the 19th tour youre logging for your company.

Today, business travel has become an integral part of work. And if you are a woman on the job, you might have already worked out a few ground rules for yourself when you travel. Perhaps the following women, who come from different professions, could tell you a few more things you could keep in mind the next time you travel.

Dr. Reena Ramachandran
Dr. Reena Ramachandran
director general, Fortune Institute of International Business

The first thing I ensure when Im travelling for work is that the concerned papers are in order. If I dont have the basic material for the forthcoming job, my going out of station will be meaningless.

The second thing I keep in mind is my attire. I make sure I travel in comfortable clothes, especially when I am on long journeys. In such situations I normally prefer wearing salwaar kameezes to saris as they aid movement. Also, I pack for official parties and formal meetings that might be part of the itinerary. So packing of appropriate clothes is important.

As a frequent flier, it is important for me to have a good rapport with the airlines. So, in case Im late or I need to change my plans at the last moment, they know who I am and therefore, can assist me adequately. Also, it is important to have contingency plans. I once got stuck in a traffic jam in Mumbai because of some religious procession and had to miss the flight. But thankfully, I had made alternate arrangements which helped me tide over the situation. Carrying credit cards and travelling light also help.

For me, combining business and pleasure on trips doesnt work. I know a lot of people do it, but for me, neither the work nor the fun happens then.

The thing I look forward to when I check into a five star is using their health facilities. I also carry booksnot fiction, because Im not much of a fiction reader, but books on management may be. So whenever I have free time, books keep me occupied.

As far as security is concerned, it is all in the mind and I dont ask for anything special, just because I am a woman.

Anita Nayyar
executive director, Starcom Worldwide

Security is a big issue when a woman travels. At my level, I get to check into a five star hotel. But there have been times when I wasnt seniour enough and my allowances didnt permit me to check into a good hotel. So, the best bet in such situations was to move into the company guest house or stay the nights with friends or relatives in that city. In the last 20 years that I have worked, I always preferred to come back home that very evening, even if I was going out of station. So, if I had to go from Delhi to Mumbai, I preferred to take the early morning flight out, attend to work there and be back that very night. If might be really late at night, but the comfort of your own bed is something else. It isnt always possible to do that, though.

So, the company guest house used to be my best bet if I didnt have relatives or friends living in that city. But it is also a fact that because I have refused to go on some out-of-station assignments, my promotions have taken their time in coming. In fact, I would have made it as an executive director in 10 years instead of the 20 years it has taken me, had I been open to travelling on work. But my family and children were perhaps more important to me at that time.

Even though Im a seasoned traveller today, I still check the door at least five times before I sleep. Sometimes the hiss of the air conditioner wakes me up with a start. But yes, there are certain ground rules I follow. I always make sure the conveyance Im using in that city comes from a known transport agencysome place that my company has been doing business with for a while. I dont befriend people and prefer to keep to myself simply because in todays day and age you dont know how anyone is going to react to you. Blending in is a good idea. I know a lot of women executives who dress provocatively. This attracts attention and can get you into trouble as well. The best is to quietly do your bit and not get noticed in public, especially in an unknown city.

Akhila Sivadas
executive director, Centre for Advocacy and Research

In the development sector, we need to travel in the cities as well as in the villages. But my experience has shown it is probably safer travelling in the villages than in the metros. When women in NGOs have to visit villages for their research work, most of them take a place in the nearby town and come back there to spend the night. Villagers are far more hospitable than us city dwellers. It comes naturally to them. In fact sometimes it is a better idea to stay over in the village and not travel back to the dirty hotel in the nearby town. But wherever you travel, it makes sense to make discreet enquiries about directions.

Word shouldnt spread round that you are new to a town/city. You might get cheated in the process. It is also important to be amidst people when you are waiting for conveyancewhether it is a car, train or plane. Striking up a general conversation with a couple of people sitting closeby might help, or else you might stand out as the unfriendly one.

As told to Priya Kanungo