Participating in the World HRD Congress was an honor. The conference was held in Mumbai from February 15th through the 17th, 2015. I was fascinated to return to India since it has been more than 5 years since my last trip to Mumbai. What I was not prepared for was how Mumbai has visibly changed over this time. The city is the financial capital of India, not unlike what New York is to the US. On my last visit, it was clear to see the poverty in the city alongside the emerging middle class development and the growth of the India business markets. This growth has been evolutionary as they are creating a world class city around ancient Bombay which is being preserved for history and culture.
When thinking of Mumbai, the stereotypes of 5 years ago are mostly obsolete. Real estate and high-rise development are apparent as you travel throughout the city. Five star hotels, corporate buildings, and condominiums, which exceed the costs of New York, are all part of the new developing landscape. Even the air pollution from jitneys is being reduced with new legislation. Rebuilding an ancient infrastructure will take more time, but progress is abound. With all of this, the culture appears to be intact. The people of India, regardless of financial means, still remain friendly and pleasant and very willing to talk and share with others.
Most impressive is the new/renovated international airport. One could see the attention to preserving the culture yet create a functional airport that recognizes the global security issues we all face in travel. When you start with a "clean sheet" of paper, you basically can create an environment that responds to the changes in global travel. There are two areas of observation that I found interesting. On the ticket/departure level, there are "banks of ticket counters" each marked with a letter from A through L. When you arrive outside by coach or car, there are electronic signs that inform you of the airline ticket location bank (A-L). Each airline must remove all of their materials when they close their ticket counter each day and most likely will NOT have the same location the next day depending on flights. This system allows the airport to maximize this space depending on which airlines are flying at specific times.
The second area of note was a surprise. As a passenger, you cannot go from the baggage/customs level up to the ticket counter level. This is especially frustrating when you have a cancelled flight when you are at the gate. You must exit the airport as if you just arrived on a flight at the street level and go through the parking garage area and go up to the ticketing level. You are not allowed to enter the terminal at ticket level unless you can show a paid airline receipt/ticket for an outbound international flight. This became a frustrating issue with non-English speaking military security guards. This level of security is designed to prevent terrorists from just entering the airport. In all, you will most likely complete 4 or 5 security checks before you board your flight! For a point of reference, it is a 16 ½ hour nonstop flight from Mumbai to Newark, NJ.
Overall, it was a great experience and I was asked to speak at the 2016 Conference.