BANGALORE: In the early 1990s, when Electronics City was in its nascent stage, there were many who thought Infosys was a bus company, as buses emblazoned with the company’s name became ubiquitous, as they ferried employees from home to work and back.
Today, this tucked-away-in-a-corner work hub hosts litfests which draw thousands of people and has speakers ranging from actor-director Farhan Akhtar to writer Ramachandra Guha holding forth to a worshipful audience.
It’s taken a while, but E-City is finally transforming from the back-office of the world, a must-visit spot for visiting global CEOs and national leaders, to a more integrated township where people can live, work, study and be entertained.
Improving connectivity to the place – the elevated expressway has been a game-changer – is the most important reason for this transformation. Unlike Whitefield, where residential spaces came up simultaneously with the commercial, E-City lived in its splendid work-only environment for close to three decades.
With the township tag for E-City coming in March this year and formation of the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (Elcita), there are ambitious plans to transform the area.
Kiron D Shah, chief executive officer and managing director, Velankani Group, and chairman of Elcita, said they have a master plan ready to take roads and other infrastructure in E-City to a new level. The idea is to make E-City self-sufficient in solid waste management and other aspects.
The emergence of the 800-acre E-City — home to 200-odd companies and a workforce of 1.2 lakh people — as a new social hub is clearly visible. As Rama NS, chief executive officer, Electronics City Industrial Association (Elcia) puts it, gone are the days when people considered E-City as a ‘come-work-leave’ destination. It is fast emerging as a ‘live-work-recreation’ zone with residential hubs mushrooming around the tech hub. With educational institutions also strengthening their base, the scope for cultural and entertainment space has enlarged, she added.
Rama believes the recently concluded litfest was just the beginning. It also celebrated Dasara in a big way, with a number of cultural activities. “We are also an important destination for students as E-City is home to schools such as Ebenezer International and management institutes like XIME, IFIM, ISBR and Symbiosis etc. Travellers coming here on business have the option of staying at good hotels like the Crowne Plaza and Lemon Tree within E-City,” she added.
G Raj Narayan, managing director of Radel Electronics Private Limited and member of Elcita, has seen E-City from its initial stage. “We have plans to make E-City a level playing field not only for big companies but also smaller units comprising hardware, service units etc. We want this township model to get replicated in other partas of India and the world,” he said.
A Social Space
The Bangalore LitFest, held on the lawns of Velankani Park, saw around 14,000 footfalls. During the fest, many visitors were not just exposed to great literature but also the new face of E-City. Santrupti Jagannath, a bank employee and resident of Sadashivnagar, said she could see a transformation in people’s perception towards E-City. The IT brand got a makeover and “there is scope for a social space here now,” she added.
Nirmal PV, head of the hotel division in Velankani Tech Park, said that not many years ago, women would shoot down plans of their techie husbands to buy flats around the area. The homemakers’ concern was that there was no social infrastructure for them in the technology centre. Today, the situation has changed, he added.
Nirmal felt the elevated flyover was the game changer, as travel time from the core city got dramatically reduced. Reaching areas like Koramangala became easier. With companies now providing space for recreation and other activities, and developers set to launch residential units, malls and other social spaces, E-City is getting the flavour of a township.
Deepak Mehta, CEO of Ajmera Housing Corporation, said techies have explored the advantages of being close to their workplace. The 24X7 work needs of companies have also forced employees to look for residential opportunities close by. Around 50 lakh sqft of residential development has already taken place here. “While flats (in planned development zones) cost between Rs 3,800 and Rs 4,000 per sqft, high-end villas cost around Rs 7,000 per sqft. Here, 70% of the occupants are techies. The direction of growth is towards Dodda Toguru as this area falls between E-City and Bommasandra, another industrial hub. There is scope for development towards Bannerghatta Road as well,” he added.
A concern is that the residential sprawl around the township is unplanned. Antony Raju, who works and lives around E-City, says the roads connecting E-City to residential hubs are not good. “Forget asphalting, a road from Wipro gate towards the residential hub is muddy, and when it rains, commuting is a nightmare. Drainage network and proper drinking water are still a dream. Those in huge apartment blocks and villas have a self-sustained network. But people in small apartments suffer,” he added.
The cost of living is also rising. As Sundar K, a cab driver, pointed out, E-City has become a “costly duniya” for many like him. “Prices in hotels and restaurants in and around E-City are high. There’s no control,” he added.
Aruna C Newton, president of ELCIA, said the association is working towards finding solutions to the problem. “We don’t have a hold on the planning of areas around E-City. However, we are in talks with the surrounding gram panchayats for a planned development model.” she said.