Business has long ceased to be limited by geographic boundaries. But globalisation has its dreary, exhausting side—long days away from home, red-eye flights and messed up body clocks.
The human body isn’t equipped to handle some of the stresses and strains that travel puts it through: The lower pressure inside airplanes, cramped seats (and sitting for long periods) and quick adjustments to different temperatures, languages, cultures, cuisines, customs—oh, and did we mention messed up body clocks?
No, it isn’t easy being a global citizen.
Just how tough is it, and how does one cope with it? Forbes India asked Sanjay Reddy who travels for work. Arriving in top shape is critical for him. How did he get to his destinations razor-sharp and alert? He shares some helpful insights. Here are his travel-ready mantras
Sanjay Reddy cut his teeth in his family’s hotel and infrastructure business in India. But over the years he has charted a new course for the group, taking huge bets that few cash-strapped Indian businessmen would. His biggest gambit is in Australia, where GVK is building one of the world’s biggest integrated coal mining operations, involving mining, railroad and port operations.
As managing director of Mumbai International Airport, he has shaped the transformation of India’s busiest airport into a world-class facility. He is also the managing director of Kempe Gowda International Airport in Bangalore. GVK is building airports in Indonesia too. Reddy’s work takes him across the world. In fact, in 2013, he took more flights than there were working days in the year, even if you include Saturdays. And he copes with all that travel with a matter-of-fact ease.
A flight on every working day: Due to the nature of our business, I travel a lot, whether within India or abroad. We have projects in Australia and Indonesia; in India, we have projects in over 15 states. This is in addition to going to Mumbai frequently to meet bankers and to New Delhi to meet with government.
The total number of flights in 2013 is 315, which is on average more than one flight every working day including Saturdays. Most people don’t believe it when I tell them this number. I get a report the first of every month analysing my travel for the previous month and also which projects and business I spent my time on that month. That helps me plan better.
How to fight jet lag? Force yourself to sleep: A lot of people ask me about how to cope with jet lag and for me it is quite simple. I just don’t think about it as a problem and let it get the better of me. People worry too much about it and the body reacts according to how they think. When I land anywhere in the evening, I force myself to sleep and do not get out of bed even if I can’t sleep due to jet lag. If I land in the morning, I go directly to work and, at the most, I yawn a lot on that day. I am also lucky as I sleep very well on flights. I never miss a chance to catch up on sleep, which is my first priority—whether it is in the car, on a flight or at airports.
Most of my trips to Singapore, London or New York are for one day. I land in the morning and come back the same night. I prefer to get back home whenever I can.
Efficient packing is key: My standard rule is that I never ever check-in any luggage. I have two standard pieces of luggage: One pulley bag and one suit bag. I can manage with these even if I travel for a few weeks. I pack very efficiently and do not carry even one thing which I do not need. I work out every day in the room so I do not need exercise clothes or shoes as they take up space. Even if I travel to cold countries in winter, I do not carry an overcoat. I am mostly in the hotel or car or meeting rooms which are air conditioned in any case.
Manage delays by using time well: Due to my travel, I manage most of my work through mails and conference calls. Whenever I have time, Sudha, my assistant, fixes tele-meetings, even while travelling to and from airports. I never waste any time and rarely have spare time.
London is a favourite: Both my wife Pinky and I love London. It is a modern city with an old world charm. It feels very safe and it is a walking city so you can walk to most places if you stay downtown. It is also very cosmopolitan and has everything for everyone.
T2, of course: My favourite airport is Mumbai (the new terminal T2). Because we built it.
A memorable business trip: One of my favourite trips was when I went to New York along with my wife Pinky, [fashion designer] Sandeep Khosla and [art curator] Rajeev Sethi to showcase to SOM [the architects for T2] what India is all about. The design philosophy for T2 evolved after this journey—things started getting crystallised and SOM got inspired by what they saw. Until this trip it was very difficult to get across to SOM that my design vision for T2 was based on and inspired by Indian elements..
Favourite place to unwind: I like many hotels in Maldives as it is literally paradise on earth. There is no other place that I can completely relax and rejuvenate the way I can in Maldives.
A nightmare in Washington: One of my worst journeys was when I went to Washington DC many years ago during winter. We were snowed out; all the airports and most railway stations were closed on the East Coast. I managed to get a train ticket from DC to New York but had to walk a lot outside as there were no taxis and most roads were snowed out. Since I do not carry an overcoat, it was a big challenge. When I reached NY, I felt I had frost bite. I suffered for a long time. But even with this lesson I don’t carry an overcoat; it is too cumbersome and this kind of experience is rare.
The gadgets I need: My lifeline is my Blackberry, iPad and charger. I will struggle to survive without any one of these gadgets.
Work as I move: The road is my office. There are times I don’t go to my office in Hyderabad for weeks. I manage through mails and teleconferences. In fact, when I travel I also get spare time to think and relax even if the trip is hectic. The only thing I really miss is time with family. That is why when I am in India, I try to come back home to Hyderabad every night even if I have to go back to the same place the next morning.
The future of travel: A few years ago, there was a belief that video conferences will reduce the amount of travel. But it has not happened in the industry that we are in. There is nothing like face time, especially when you don’t know the person well. However, travel is going to be made much easier and more comfortable with technology. You can then be the master of your schedule and your dependence on others will reduce significantly.
(This story appears in the 07 March, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)