Archive for August, 2009
Don’t allow an elaborate menu card to spoil your appetite. Read on and make an informed choice..
Hungry kya, as the pizza advert says? Well, what are you waiting for? Just order some food to your room when you are on that business trip or conference.
Oh! Oh! So many choices… and much of it sounds peculiar.
Food is a very real problem for many Indians when they go abroad. Western cuisine is very different from what we are used to, and the sheer variety available in each section of a menu card sometimes makes ordering a meal at hotels and restaurants a very daunting task.
But I want to talk about ordering a meal in your room in this article to help the business traveller, mostly to the US.
First of all, we need to keep in mind that customising for individual tastes is a high priority in the West. That’s why there are so many choices on offer. You can pick and choose, mix and match.
For instance, the menu card may offer a:
1. Three-egg omelette with a choice of
a) Spinach (b) Cheddar (c) Wild mushrooms and (d) Ham.
2. Two eggs, which can be
a) Scrambled (b) Poached (c) Sunnyside Up and (d) Over easy
Now what will you make of that?
What’s cheddar, some of you may wonder. It’s just a type of cheese.
And what on earth is an over easy egg? Don’t fret, it’s another name for what we call “double fry” here in India. (Sunnyside up is ‘single fry’ of course, while poached means the egg is broken into a cup, dropped gently into a pan of boiling water and soft boiled, instead of fried.) And don’t think that you can’t go beyond the menu card. If you really like onions in your omelette, you can ask for it. Most probably, they’ll be happy to oblige.
You read on, and find that the eggs are accompanied by something called ‘hash browns’. That’s a tasty mashed potato dish, so give it a try. Then you come to the toast — you find you’re being asked to pick from whole wheat, rye, raisin, English muffin and white. Unless you’re the adventurous sort, I’d advise you to stick to the white bread, it suits Indians best although whole wheat is better for your health.
There will be a whole list of other choices as well, some of them most exotic-sounding, like, for example, Cinnamon-Cranberry French Toast. You probably are familiar with the Indian version of this — we call it Bombay Toast here. If you are offered the choice of malted waffle, I’d say go for it, it’s sweet, but tasty!
You might also come across a range of baked dishes, such as banana walnut bread, pumpkin bread, blueberry muffin and so on. It’s OK to try them out, but remember, they’re all sweet to the taste, and many Indians don’t like to have something sweet for the first meal of the day.
Old-fashioned oatmeal, cheddar cheese grits and granola are also familiar breakfast items on most foreign menu cards. The first is what we know as oats porridge, the second is something like potato upuma and the last on the list is a cereal.
Even good old coffee and tea come in a variety of choices — you can choose from regular, cream, milk, decaf, skim milk or black for the former, and milk, honey, lemon or black for the latter. You’ll be safe ordering the regular, milk or skim milk coffee and tea with milk.
I’ve tried to de-mystify the breakfast menu here; you’ll be able to find your way around other menus too if you keep in mind these basic facts — customisation is the way they aim to please, and some of the mysterious sounding items you will be familiar with by some other name, you just need to know what is what.
Here are some tips to get you over that initial nervousness in placing an order in room service:
Be ready with your choices before dialling room service, one person often mans two or three jobs and time is of essence to them.
However, do feel confident to ask for clarity if required.
And we need to know about tipping practices — look at your menu card: Does it mention something about service /delivery charges per order? If there is, you don’t need to tip, a fixed amount has already been added to your bill. If there isn’t such a provision, a $2 to $5 tip would be good.
And finally, most of us are used to being served in bed at home in India, but do remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ even to the waiter/waitress who serves you, our country’s image is at stake.
I am writing this sitting in a Mews house in London. Mews is the word for what was earlier a row of stables with living quarters above carriage houses and built around a paved yard. These rows usually ended in cul-de-sacs and were located behind large London homes in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Today, most of these mews have been converted into much-sought-after high-end residences. Groom Place on Belgrave Square is a fabulous example of such fashionable residences in an upmarket London neighbourhood.
Belgrave Square is a commanding 19th Century square that houses many High Commissions and Embassies today.David and Anabel Loyd are a British couple who must really have been Indian in a previous birth, as we gel so well across the oceans. Our friendship was formed in what was then Bombay, where they lived earlier, through a common bond of doing volunteer work for an NGO for street children. Who would have thought that this British woman, eating on the floor along with urchins rescued from VT station, shares a lineage with the top end of London’s society!
As they headed off for a trek to Ladakh this week, we arranged to have their home here in London; we didn’t realise it was going to be such a treat as it is a Mews house. What a unique home, a much-coveted dwelling, springing up from a yesteryear tradition.
I see rows of chimney tops (a la Mary Poppins) from my window, the windowsill across mine is laced with multi-hued flowers hanging down prettily and fashionably (neighbours nod approval only if you maintain yours in full bloom). When we moved in, Anabel told us one unwritten rule was that the quiet and solitude of Mews houses were not to be broken by noisy children. So we watched my nine-year-old niece and encouraged her wise reading habit over other, more boisterous pursuits.
The Mews house is thin and tall, a compact three storeys containing four bedrooms and baths; the fittings are modern but the façade is quaint and dated. The pretty courtyard in the centre and the windows in each room offering much cross breeze for the English weather to come blowing in made this stay one of my most memorable London experiences.
The Beatles manager once lived in these Mews; so the corner pub “Horse and Groom” was made famous by the frequent visits of the group. The cobble-stoned pathway that leads up to this famous pub on our street and the corner coffee shop “General Stores” are a delight to savour.
At the pub
“Horse and Groom” is a typical pub, where local people meet every evening for an hour or two to relax over a pint (the menu even includes the paradoxical “Beef Madras served with rice and poppadams”), watch the news (ranging from cricket at Lords to Swine Flu pandemics), spill over to standing room only outside on the cobbled pathway before heading back home with shouts of camaraderie — “Cheers old chap!”.
The “General Stores” is modern and practical as the manager comes out in his apron each morning to announce his special tarts of the day. My “wise and quiet” niece takes her coin collection of pounds out to buy a toffee chiffon tart and I helplessly break my vow of ‘no sweets’ and share a delicious mouth-watering bite. This w-ifi enabled coffee shop was once the stables belonging to a wealthy home, so difficult to imagine when you see the brisk business it does.
It makes us acutely aware of the phenomenon that the fashion of today was the tradition of yesteryears. Each has its place in time and each feeds the other’s memory.
An entrepreneurial manager’s checklist for success.
Entrepreneurship is all about doing new things or doing the same things in a new way, taking the risk of succeeding. In today’s work scenarios, most successful people are ‘intrapreneurial’ managers who treat the company as their own and forge ahead bravely, taking their chances; blazing a trail, in other words. Some countries and cultures are traditionally more geared towards this than others. The US, for instance, has long had a reputation for innovation and invention. Perhaps, it has something to do with the pioneering spirit of the early settlers who found that entrepreneurship was non-negotiable for survival.
Cultural background of business in India
Today, the spirit of entrepreneurship or, shall we say, enterprise has set roots in India. In my own teams, I have leaders who are willing to go the extra mile, setting up a new division from scratch, working out a formula for success. What makes this work?
Nothing succeeds like success
Infosys has been one of the best known success stories and we had the chance to get advice from its creators on the eve of India’s 62nd year of Independence. N. R. Narayana Murthy said: “I believe that we can make India’s image better only by aspirations, achievements through hard work, smartness, honesty, sincerity and discipline. It is necessary to raise the image of India and we may have to use modern achievements such as the launch of the Chandrayaan and the exploits of chess Grandmaster, Viswanathan Anand, as examples rather than images from our past.”
When we met Nandan Nilekani, who calls himself an accidental entrepreneur, he encouraged us to follow our dream, tenaciously following the path of change and innovation. The arrival of challenges in business led to a rethinking of our business model recently, which I quote as a personal example.
Realising that the smallest part of our business — bringing out a free cultural magazine — had the potential to grow into a much bigger success, we worked on changing and improving it. Sustained quality has seen readership expand to include discerning Indians as much as expatriates in the country.
An ‘intrapreneurial’ business manager turned our four city copies into one national edition, making it available for the asking online and in hard copy. It is available free on www.globaladjustments.com, and we have almost sold out all the advertising space as a result.
China and India – spot the differences
Harvard Business School Professor Tarun Khanna’s highly acclaimed book — Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India are Reshaping their Futures and Yours — makes a comparative study of the factors acting as catalysts to the spirit of enterprise in both these countries, which the world acknowledges are going to be the powers of the future. I was at the Harvard COOP — the cooperative society and famous bookshop at Harvard — when I heard him speak at his book signing. “For the first time since the rise of the West, entrepreneurs in Asia can ignore New York and London almost entirely and still build companies worth billions. The economic centre of gravity is moving toward the East,” he says.
Talking of another aspect, Khanna says: “In recent times, China’s hard-power global expansion has been the result of premeditated and orchestrated State policy, while India’s influence in the world has largely been achieved through soft power. India oozes soft power. In India’s noisy political economy, creativity and the arts thrive.”
Talking of soft power, here is my personal 10-point checklist for success as an entrepreneur or an ‘intrapreneurial’ new manager:
Communication: Be clear, concise and kind internally and externally. Put yourself in the shoes of those who are to receive your message and see if you would have understood your message or if you would have liked working with yourself. Team building: Pay attention to all the players and improve cohesiveness by leading from the front. Once they know you truly care, a team can change and adapt no matter where you drive the bus.
Interpersonal skills: Use phrases such as “I need you to include me more when disseminating information” instead of “You did not tell me” while interacting.
Composure: Don’t react, but weigh the situation and postpone an emotional response. Leave hastily composed e-mails in draft mode for an hour or two, mull over them, before hitting ‘send’.
Handling ambiguity: Be prepared to chop and change in keeping with customer needs. Be flexible and adaptive. We recently ran a facilitation workshop for five Americans on the core team of a Fortune 500 company. When we asked for registration forms to be filled, they didn’t get around to doing it. So when we showed up, expecting to see five Caucasian, 6-foot-tall engineers, we found instead a Mexican American, a Vietnamese American, an African American, a Japanese American and even an Indian American. We had to change our delivery method to include consensus building among them first!
Big picture: This talent allows you to fulfil your customer’s latent needs, anticipating where the road will curve and getting to it ahead of the others. Nowadays new managers, as ‘intrapreneurs’, are empowered to work towards the future needs of their customers, thus ensuring the longevity of the company.
Patience: This is a must for results — for performance, for new ventures to succeed. Sometimes, a year into a new business, it seems worthless to be plodding on, but when you believe strongly in your mission, the right path opens up.
Writing skills: This encompasses text messages and e-mails. All forms of messaging should be treated as business communication. Paying careful attention to my correspondence has led to many top, seemingly out-of-reach leaders, responding to me. I did nothing extraordinary, just wrote sincerely and took care to compose the message.
Empathy: Feel for your customer and your team mates, success will follow. If someone wants to change track, let them go; someone better almost always comes along. If a customer needs speed or slowing down, feel his pain; if you treat him well, your business automatically grows.
Global mindset: Understand, strategise and act knowing yourself, knowing the other side, adapting as the situation demands. What you are doing is bound to have a larger footprint, so see how it impacts the world and open up your mind to include the global village. Make the Internet your teacher.
The entrepreneurial landscape is definitely changing — away from the marked tendency to keep it all in the family. Today, talent and drive, not birth and upbringing, are the factors that determine the like spirits who draw together to set up and run successful ventures. Let’s welcome the professionally qualified, ever-innovative, brave new business Indian.