Home to Bollywood, Tata Group and India's biggest stock exchanges, Mumbai is a big, booming chaotic city. Many business visitors jet in for meetings and then jet straight back out again, but the street food alone is worth staying another night for. Just don't expect to get around quickly. The traffic can be crazy.
Each month our resident business travel expert Mark Frary writes the Heathrow Express travel guide to a major city. This month: Mumbai
Business travel buzz
It is 20 years since one of world’s most populous and best known cities changed its official name to Mumbai. The city has continued its spectacular growth and it remains one of the fastest growing city economies in the world. Mumbai is India’s financial capital, with the two main stock exchanges and various banks, based here. The country’s three biggest companies– the conglomerates Tata Group (parent of Jaguar Land Rover), Reliance Industries and Aditya Birla Group - also have their headquarters here.
Entertainment is huge in Mumbai too. It is the home of Bollywood and most of the major Indian television channels. Bollywood cranks out more than 1,500 films a year (three to four times what Hollywood does), generating almost four billion ticket sales worldwide.
In the past Mumbai’s economy was dominated by textiles but now other industries such as diamonds and IT play a huge role in the city.
South Mumbai, where the land narrows to a tip, is the traditional main business district of the city, centred around Nariman Point. The appeal is that the Reserve Bank of India and Bombay Stock Exchange are here are in the area. High rents and congestion have seen some corporates move to other areas of South Mumbai but also to newer business districts such as the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), between Nariman Point and the airport.
Mumbai is extremely well connected to Heathrow, with three carriers (Air India, British Airways and Jet Airways) offering direct services. Air India has a daily 787 service from terminal 4 while BA and Jet Airways both have two 777 services daily (from T5 and T4 respectively). The journey time is around nine hours. The Middle Eastern carriers also have a huge number of services between Heathrow and Mumbai via their hubs in Doha and the UAE.
Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji International airport (whose code, BOM, reflects the city’s former name) is 30 kilometres north of the city. Originally two separate airports, they are now one, with 4km between the domestic and international terminals.
The journey to downtown can take anywhere between 45 minutes and two hours. You should expect to pay between around 700 rupees (around £7) for a prepaid taxi.
Similarly getting around can take a lot of time, especially if you have to cross the city so leave plenty of time between meetings.
English is the language of business and you will need to remember to take plenty of business cards. Punctuality is less rigid than in European business circles.
The Shree Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi is more than 200 years old and is the most important temple for the worship of Ganesha. It was originally built for a rich woman who could not have children in order that other women could pray to Ganesha and be granted the gift of a child. Since then the temple has become a popular place to pray for politicians and Bollywood stars. The temple is home to a large four-handed statue of Ganesha, with his elephant head and human body.
Another religious building worth a look is the Mount Mary Roman Catholic church on Bandra, with its position looking out over the Arabian Sea. Its beautiful architecture and altar means it makes regular appearances in Bollywood movies.
The black book
The strengthening of sterling against the rupee means that business hotel rates in 2014 were £110.65 against £122.40 the previous year, with downward pressure also caused by new hotels opening in the key northern business districts of the city, according to business travel agent HRG.
At the top end of the business market is the Oberoi ‒ one of the world’s great business hotels. It has a stunning location on Marine Drive overlooking Back Bay. The hotel is opulent – think silk armchairs and mother of pearl dressers – but with the latest in-room tech. The staff deliver exceptional levels of service. Expect to pay from around £150 a night for a room.
The Indian ITC group has two good business properties in the city, the ITC Grand Central and the ITC Maratha. These offer great service and with more warmth than the big global hotel chains. Great food too.
At the value end of the market, the Hotel Shalimar is a decent option It’s clean, has good facilities including free wi-fi and the staff are friendly. Rates from around £70 a night.
With its important trading position and huge size, it is no surprise that Mumbai’s food is special. Find a guide (TripAdvisor can recommend many) and take a food tour after a day of meetings to explore the Fort District, eating street food, such as tandoori chicken and Parsi specialities, at well-chosen locations.
To get some wi-fi to catch up on email and a coffee, try one of the branches of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or Barista Lavazza.
Mumbai can be daunting but get to know these social influencers and you will get a great insight into how it all works.
Gopal MS shares photos of the colourful food and slices of life from the city streets at the Mumbai Paused blog and on Instagram @mumbaipaused. The BBC appointed Yogita Limaye as its Mumbai business correspondent in 2012. Follow her thoughts on the city and world news @yogital.
Mumbai’s favourite son is cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and is one of the most followed people on Twitter, with 7.5 million followers. He’s @sachin_rt
Listings mag Time Out has a Mumbai edition. Follow it on Twitter @timeout_mumbai for good recommendations on places to eat and things to do.
Food blogger MoodyFoodie also has some great recommendations on places to eat and shares photos of the best on Instagram @abhilashlr
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