My Week In Hyderabad

It’s been a non-stop week and as I write this I’m currently in the air flying to Delhi for the next leg of my trip. My week in Hyderabad was extremely productive and it was fantastic to finally meet all of the people I’ve been working with for months. I was especially thrilled to have lunch with one of the Googlers who went on the corporate volunteer program I co-led to Ghana last May. It was so nice to catch up and hear all about her impressive work both internally and externally. She started a nonprofit organization called Make A Difference (MAD), which is one of India’s fastest growing nonprofits. She has been incredibly successful and has managed to run the nonprofit in 22 cities while also maintaining her day job.

My partner in crime for the volunteer program is also flying to Delhi to meet up this weekend so we can meet with several potential partners to launch our second program in Delhi. The best part about traveling to Delhi is that we are going to visit one of the orphanages that MAD runs its program through.

I happened to be staying at the Westin located in the IT Park and didn’t quite understand what they meant by “IT Park.” Now, I get it…. Hyderabad is like the Silicon Valley of India and so many companies like Accenture, Deloitte, HP, and Dell have opened up huge offices in the city. Google is located 5 minutes from the IT Park and my hotel, which made things very convenient.
 The hotel was all open with an atrium as the roof...really cool!

The transportation team at Google was wonderful and made everything so easy for me! They assigned a driver to pick me up from the airport and to shuffle me to and from the office each day. I couldn’t have imagined not having a driver….The driving in Hyderabad is INSANE…. I thought Ghana was bad…..Boy was I mistaken. The only traffic rule I could decipher was which side of the road to drive on and that was event debatable. There is non-stop people and honking and absolutely no traffic lights, stop signs or police to regulate traffic. It is literally a free-fo-rall and each car, motorbike, and rickshaw are on their own. I was also shocked to see very few people even wear helmets on the motorbikes. As I was driving to work on my first day in India, I saw a man and a woman on a motorbike. Neither of them were wearing helmets and they went flying past us and over a huge speed bump. The woman hanging on to the man’s t-shirt literally went airborne. Thankfully, she managed to land back on the bike seat and was fine. I on the other hand let out a huge gasp and my driver replied……”Welcome to India.” Needless to say, the driving was quite intense!

The time change was 9.5 & 12.5 hours (NYC & CA); so when I was ending my day, the offices in the states were just starting. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much time to explore Hyderabad because I had late night VCs back in the states. However, my coworker pulled me out of the office for a quick shopping trip in between meetings. It was so nice to get outside of the office and hotel and get to experience some of the city. She took me to a local cultural market near the office where there were all kinds of clothing, art, and furniture booths. 
 Inside the market is a huge park and tons of families come and congregate on the lawn. It was really great to walk around and explore. I managed to find these old, hand-painted postcards that were really beautiful. As you might know, I’m a sucker for paper and couldn’t resist these beautiful pieces of art. 
 On our way out, my coworker stopped by the henna ladies to get henna art done on her hand. Our other coworker is getting married next week and she wanted the design for the wedding. I was so amazed at how quickly these woman work. It literally took the lady 5 minutes to do that intricate design on her hand!
 
I spent all of my meals either at the Google office or the hotel. The food at the Google office was good and it was a nice relief not to worry about the quality of the food. You have to be very careful not to eat certain foods that have been washed with the water; however, Google has a chemistry lab at the bottom of the building where they test all of the food. Quite impressive! The meals at the hotel were great and I managed to eat butter chicken and garlic naan 3 out of the 5 nights. Hyderabad is known for its extremely spicy food, which I can’t tolerate. My favorite Indian dish is butter chicken, which my mother dearest prepares beautifully. I had to plead with the staff at the hotel not to make it spicy…They would make fun of me for my lack of tolerance as well as my obsession with garlic naan and butter chicken!

Other highlights from the week or things I learned…..
  • Getting to know the wonderful team here in Hyderabad. The team was so wonderful and really made sure that I had everything I needed and was comfortable.  They took me out for a departing lunch at one of their favorite Indian buffets. It was really nice to spend time with them outside of the office and get to know them on a more personal level.
  • Being educated on many of the cultural traditions. Two of the guys on the team are getting married and they explained the significance of all the rituals and traditions. Indian weddings are so elaborate…..they last for several days, 1000 guests attend, and on average cost about $1million! A bride’s family starts saving for the wedding the moment the girl is born. It’s quite incredible!
  • My driver was very sweet and whenever I would say thank you, he would always respond with a “don’t mention it.” For some reason, this cracked me up every time because he barely spoke English and used this phrase for everything! He also made sure to ask me how my morning was going or how my day went, which made for a nice drive home.
  • The garlic naan was out of this world! It was so delicious and I literally would have eaten for every meal if it was available!
  • The landscape of Hyderabad reminded me so much of Ghana….very dry with red soil and relatively flat. The heat was intense as it’s summertime in India (roughly 45-48 Celsius), but at night it was quite pleasant as it’s extremely tropical.
  • There is a ton of security both at the hotel and at all of the offices. At the hotel, each car that drives through the hotel gates are searched for bombs. After pulling up to the hotel, you go through similar security as the airport; all bags are passed through an x-ray machine and you are forced through a metal detector. At the office, there were several security guards manning the gate. Additionally, there is netting placed all around the building to prevent anyone from throwing an object and causing harm to the employees. All female employees are assigned a driver to ad from work as it’s not safe for women to take regular cabs off of the sheet. More than anything, I was incredibly impressed with the attention to detail and care to have all of these security measures in place.
 
Netting protecting the Google office
 
I had a wonderful week experiencing Hyderabad and I’m really excited to spend the weekend in Delhi. Up next, is touring Delhi and making a day trip to Agra, which is the home of the Taj Mahal!

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