Life Beyond the Metro

DQI Bureau
New Update

This month, India crossed a landmark in mobile phone numbers.

While I dont know where the 200 millionth mobile was sold, it was

probably outside of our metropolitan cities.


The market is shifting away from the metros. Over the past two

years, subscribers in the metros have grown at 50% a year; in the A-category

telecom circles, 70%; the B circles, 100%; and the C circles, nearly 200%. Yes,

the circles have smaller bases and ARPU (average revenue per user). But the ARPU

actually grew in the smaller circles, and fell in the metros and A-circles.

And so it is for FMCG products, for services, for banking. Even

foreign banks: of their 13 new branches approved by the RBI over the past year,

11 were in tier-2/3 cities like Jodhpur, Lucknow, Udaipur and Ahmedabad. Small

base29 foreign banks in India have 268 branchesbut it points to where the

growth is.

Our metros are bursting at the seams. And still they grow,

creaking under the strain: apartments, shops, dealers, malls, software

companies, BPOs...


Thus, reversal is a strong word, but the first signs of

change came about from the shifting market, the realization of rural spending

power. Two decades ago, villagers queued up to make overpriced long-distance

calls. Today, theyre a key customer base for telcos. And the bottom of the

pyramid forms a key part of the strategy of FMCG and other sectors.

But the big change, the step to a reverse flow from the

metros, requires infrastructure.

An expressway brought Pune closer to Mumbai, transforming the

small citys fortunes, and providing an alternative to the megapolis.


A revamped NH-8 brought Jaipur closer to the national capital

region, allowing tech and BPO companies to look beyond the NCR. Genpact set up

base, and others followed.

Mumbai got some breathing space in New Bombay. But connect

that to Nariman Point by an expressway over a short sea route and watch the

financial capital transform.

Imagine an eight-lane expressway alongside a fast train

connecting to Mysore, taking the load off Bangalore, and also creating other

townships en route.


Market, development, investment, economic growth...theyre

capped and trapped in the metros. They need to spread beyond: into tier-2/3

cities, and new satellite townships. Services majors such as TCS, Wipro, IBM and

Genpact have been forced to look beyond the metros. Others have stepped into

Kolkata, Indore, Jaipur and elsewhere. Reluctant migrants, maybe, but pioneers


Our metros urgently need good road and rail links to satellite

towns. For a more healthy distribution of the market and buying power. And of

economic, industrial and technology growth. Physical infrastructure, alongside

all the fiber and wireless, is the key.

Prasanto K Roy