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Correspondent’s week

This week by Money Marketing features editor Philip Scott.

It is Sunday morning and I am flying to India for a tour of Norwich Union’s offshore call centres. I manage not to forget my passport and tickets but nicotine patches have slipped my mind and, being a 20-a-day man, half my dosage is about to be denied. Eight and a half hours without fags has its downsides, including irritability and potential cannibalism.

Lots of food, drink and films are needed but my morale is crushed when I discover that the films I want to see are not available. Cannibalism it is, then.

My hosts, fellow journalists and I arrive in Delhi on Monday morning at 3.30am. The journey to the hotel introduces me to what must be one of India’s most beloved extreme sports – driving.

After an intake of enough Marlboro Lights to get my smoker’s cough back to its healthy level, I go to bed. Ordering a wake-up call proves pointless as the car horns provide this service.

Monday involves a cultural tour of Delhi. The streets are so busy and vibrant that they make Oxford Street seem like a morgue.

In New Delhi, we view an impressive array of buildings. A boulevard, the Rajpath, joins up the president’s palace with a number of government buildings as well as the Delhi Gate. It here that I see a pair of monkeys roaming about, one of which is wearing a dress.

Next is a tour of memorials for murdered Indian leaders, including the spot where Indira Gandhi was shot.

On Tuesday, we fly to Bangalore to see the first of the call centres but not before yours truly causes a delay as a result of having some disposable lighters hidden in the depths of my hand luggage. Two trips through the x-ray and they are located. I find this security rule slightly odd as, when lunch is served on the plane, I am provided with a stainless steel set of cutlery.

The first meeting at the call centre and it is down to business. One of my fellow hacks is keen to get to the bottom of how British culture is dealt with at call centres in India. Questions asked include: “Do you make your workers eat Marmite?” and “Do they have to watch Eastenders?”

After meeting for a Q&A with what must be the most content and friendly workforce I have ever come across, it is back to the hotel for some very good curry. A night out in Brick Lane will never be the same again.

On Wednesday, I need to buy some sunglasses. A street vendor catches my squinting eyes and I happily exchange about 2.50 for a pair of Ray-Cans.

It is back to the call centre for more meetings. The traffic we encounter later during rush hour is akin to the panic of people trying to escape from an alien invasion.

On Thursday, we are off to Pune. Following an other flurry of call-centre chat, we go to the home of Rajnish Virmani, chief executive of Aviva Offshore Services. The food is excellent but I hide my glass as it is being filled up with beer too regularly.

On Friday, it is a last trip to the call centre in Pune before heading back to Delhi to catch a flight home to the UK.

I still have not bought any patches so I fill myself with as many fags as I can indecently allow as irritability and cannibalism is frowned upon by BA. At 3.30am, we are on the plane. We arrive at Heathrow at 7.30am and I decide that now would be a good time to call the boss and tell him that I am taking Monday off.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


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