As soon as Karnataka Express pulled into Bangalore Cantonment station on that
January evening, I knew my stint as an IT journalist to cover South India would
be enjoyable. Right from the word go, the city proved to be very receptive. The
coolies who came in to take my luggage were very polite and accommodative, one
of my office colleagues had come to pick me at the station and take me to the
house where I would be staying, the railway station officials whom I contacted
for taking my bike from the brake-van were very co-operative. When I reached
home, the nice landlady had a good hot dosa meal ready for me.
Anybody with any common sense could have guessed that if IT was to grow in
India, if lots of multinationals were to come to India, Bangalore would be the
first choice for most of them. The people, the climate, the education
infrastructure, the work culture-or the works, as they say-influenced
hi-tech’s preference for Bangalore. Yet, nothing was done to keep pace with
the growing industry, and we can see the result-whether it is roads, or office
space, or environmental pollution, of cost of living, or crime, or power-the
city seems to have gone down on all fronts.
Bangalore is now paying the price for this very receptiveness. The city is
now paying a price for not having prepared itself to take care of the huge rush
of people and companies wanting to move to Bangalore. My suspicion is that many
other places such as Gurgaon, Pune, Hyderabad, and Noida, all popular and fast
growing IT cities, might also be heading in the same direction as Bangalore.
From my personal experience, Gurgaon-where my office and home is-is clearly
headed for trouble. Life, both at home and work, is slowly becoming problematic,
compared to what it was a few years ago.
Let us all thank people like Premji and Narayanamurthy who have now publicly
displayed their anger and agony about how things are in the Silicon Valley of
India. While they should be running their companies, they are now being forced
to take up some of the work that our political leaders should be doing.
In the process they have also set off the first of the alarm bells. In the
long run, if the overall infrastructure is ignored, growth will hit a
bottleneck. I must point out here that for many people in the US and Europe,
Indian IT is actually Bangalore. If they hear that Bangalore is running into
problems, they will not look at other cities in India, but at other countries.
It is therefore very important, that the industry does its utmost to convince
the government that if Bangalore gets a bad name, the entire country will be
What many of you might not know about Bangalore is the indifference that
state government seems to be showing to the plight of the IT community.
According to senior figures in the industry, the industry has been trying to sit
down with the government for a meaningful dialogue on this, but in vain. The
lesson for the IT industry in other states is that the government will take its
own sweet time to take action on these issues. The industry, therefore, needs to
make its voice heard in one clear stream so that things will start moving in the
next few months.
Industry associations such as MAIT and Nasscom will have to start considering
national physical infrastructure also as part of their mandate, if they want
India to be on the global IT map. They should start lobbying for better roads,
airports, and flyovers.
What is also important here is that industry leaders should also try out the
"Chandrababu Formula" for taking their state forward. It is said that
initially Naidu was not particularly keen about IT, but the moment he was made
to realize that infotech would generate revenue and employment for the state, he
got interested. West Bengal is another such story in the making, where the chief
minister has taken the driver’s seat. The un-co-operative chief ministers and
politicians cannot be enrolled by aggressive posturing alone, for not everybody
has the stature and courage to take on the mighty politicians.
The author is Editor of Dataquest IBRAHIM