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November 22, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Belated Report – Chennai India

How I Got There

Business Trip! Accenture’s India Development Center (IDC) is in Chennai, in southern India (the province of Tamil Nadu). The people at the IDC actually wrote most of the code in the project I’ve been helping plan.  Time to get them involved in figuring out what’s going to break when we upgrade the software infrastructure.  That led to a week-long trip — well, five work days, plus two more days of travel.

The Hotel

A Hilton is a Hilton, right? Well, kind of. Unless it’s in India (or probably many other countries in the world), which require a TSA-style package- and body-check for anybody to get into the hotel. Disturbing at first, but you get used to it.

You know it’s a hotel that caters to international travelers when all the electric plugs are universal — they’ll take any kind of national standard of electric plug.  No more having to look for the right converter plug. That’s good, because I couldn’t find my old US-to-India plug.

The first day there (I arrived Sunday at 3 AM, after having left Friday at 10:30 PM; love that International Dateline) I went for a swim. The rooftop pool is absolutely gorgeous.


Getting to the Office


Yes, there is traffic in India. Occasionally, the flow of cars was interrupted by a cow on the highway, but, more generally, the flow of cars was simply slowed by the flow of more cars … and motorcycles … and scooters.  I wouldn’t try to drive in India. The company had followed standard practice, and hired a car and driver to drive me and my co-worker on our daily commute between the hotel and the office.

The hotel dining room overlooked the National Highway that went through Chennai (and a newish metro platform). A cow had just wandered out of the frame when I snapped this photo, but what else is strange about this multi-lane highway?  There are no lane markings.  It actually wouldn’t make that much difference — lane markings are merely suggestions anyhow; why fit only one car per lane if three cars will fit across two lanes, maybe with an additional motorcycle or scooter thrown in.


The Office

Some aspects of the office were similar to tech offices in the US and/or Silicon Valley: An open floor plan (yech); buses to ferry people out to the office from the city; a huge complex; people speaking English, but with various accents and various degrees of success.

Some aspects of the office were entirely different: No coffee or eating allowed at the desks! (But excellent coffee in the snack areas and cafeteria.) No vending machines!  Men wore “western dress”, but all of the women were in “traditional dress” — salwar kameez, not saris.  (This was different than other offices I’d been in, in other areas of India. I was told that Southern India might be a bit more conservative than the tech centers in Gurgaon.)

The office day was governed partly by traffic. It took about an hour to travel the 20 kms there (some on the highway) if we left the hotel a little before 9. It took about the same time to get home if we left the office around 5:30. The buses left at 6:30.

I think it was a productive trip. After knowing the people in India only via IMs and emails, it was good to meet them. Also to figure out which names belonged to women and which to men. People really should put pictures in their corporate accounts. Especially when a language barrier prevents you from recognizing a typical female or male name.

The Day Off

I (stupidly) scheduled only one extra day in Chennai when I wasn’t working. It was the Saturday at the end of my stay. The company agreed to pay my driver for the extra day. It was up to me to decide how to spend the day — I didn’t want to spend it in the car, but wanted to take advantage of having the car.

I spent the morning and early afternoon in Mahabalipuram . It was worth the 50-km drive. It is the site of an ancient (7th century!) Dravidian city, with many temples and sculptures maintained by the Archeological Survey of India. The temples and sculptures are monolithic — that is, carved from a huge block of stone. The accomplishment — especially considering 7th century technology — is phenomenal.



Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of Chennai. It needs a return trip. I’d also like to get to Pondicherry, a city settled by the French (the French?) and still showing some French influence — about 100 miles south of Chennai.  Oh well, another work trip is tentatively scheduled.

One Comment

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  1. rootchopper / Nov 22 2016 8:09 pm

    Totally cool. I went to Chennault when it was still routinely called Madras . I agree that Mahabalipurum is amazing. As is the traffic.

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