Monday, April 25, 2005

Is Bangalore doomed ?

Via Ravikiran Rao comes this story about Bangalore's crumbling infrastructure, and how it could seriously affect the (further) development of IT and ITES industry. The story requires subscription to the Economist, but Rajesh Jain has some extracts. The following is a slightly expanded version of the comment I posted on Ravikiran Rao's post.

This “Bangalore-is-doomed” meme dates back, to me at least, to this post by Tyler Cowen. Since then, I have seen stories in several Indian magazines (India Today, The Week, Outlook …) on the infrastructure bottlenecks in Bangalore. The Bangalore edition of the Hindu ran a story a couple of days ago about how air travel time (including waiting time at the airport) may actually be shorter than the time one spends getting to the airport!

As a citizen of Bangalore, what do I think? All of it is true! Traffic snarls are common, so are electricity cuts. Fortunately, we don’t have a port that could add to our woes…

However, the real question is whether all this will “doom” Bangalore, and my guess is that it will probably not. Bangalore has many assets, its benign weather being the most prominent. Firms are coming here in droves. Microsoft, Google, Bell Labs, Yahoo are all here, and so are Oracle and SAP, and they have all announced plans to expand their Bangalore operations. A major biotechnology convention just happened, and reports indicate that all the biggies were here.

Bottomline: The current momentum could carry the city for another 2-3 years; now, if the politicians so desire, that is ample time to repair the damage, and put things back into shape.

In spite of the pious stuff mouthed by the State Government (at the inauguration of the biotech conference, the Chief Minister said something to the effect that his government is fully siezed of the importance of infrastructure, and they are making every effort -- every effort! -- possible to improve it), companies do keep coming here to set up shop, or to expand their existing shops. It is probably worth pointing out that it is the confidence and cockiness derived from this inflow that probably led the Government to not pay much attention to veiled threats from people like Azim Premji (Chairman, Wipro) that they may take their business elsewhere.