BANGALORE: Bangalore today is more than a geographical identity. “Back in the 90s and the early 2000s Bangalore was known as much for its climate, and defense and engineering antecedents, as it was for being a retiree’s paradise. Over the last 15 years as outsourcing and BPOs became household words, Bangalore became a brand, first to be admired, and then envied, and an investment destination for businesses and property.
The BPO industry wave created the Knowledge Industry. It also resulted in a young, affluent, cosmopolitan society, which was leisure focused. Secondly, the 2000s saw a wave of entrepreneurs – in IT, ITeS, life sciences and retail. The ‘have idea, and online presence, will build and sell’ wave attracted entrepreneurs. Bangalore also emerged as a ‘test’ and ‘launch market’ for retail and lifestyle concepts (micro-breweries) and international brands, which wanted a market reaction from a cosmopolitan audience without making large investments.
Bangalore is not land-locked and hence the city has been growing consistently. Urban planning did not keep pace – though three ring roads and a few flyovers were created. Each wave of expansion created ‘mini townships’ – self sufficient suburbs with commercial and residential spaces – Whitefield, Bannerghatta Road, and Sarjapur Road.
The leisure focus of the workforce meant the creation of ‘second homes’ on the outskirts – often around a golf course or around some agricultural land, a ‘farm away from home’. This was another factor leading to the outward expansion of the city, aided by the new airport that opened in 2008, 45 km from the center of the city.
Another factor driving investments has been the historical link with the NRI community. The first ‘migration’ wave outwards in the 1970s was Bangalore centric as technical specialists from its engineering schools settled down in the States. This provided a captive audience with the ability and willingness to invest. In the 1990s real estate developers started converting the ‘township’ thought process into high-end gated communities. These gated communities provided a way to stay ‘rooted’ for the NRI community. They also provide an easy bridge for expat workers to live in India, insulated within a slice of ‘suburban California’.
The recent redrawing of electoral lists has meant that Bangalore metropolitan area accounts for about 25 percent of Karnataka’s legislature. These structural changes should increase focus on infrastructure. Some of this is visible – Phase II of the Metro has picked up, the NICE Road has been commissioned. The investment case for Bangalore has proven its mettle in the 2008-12 recession – residential yields have been steady, and have been driven by the increased number of ‘hubs’ and mini suburbs being created. Bangalore has also started to witness ‘iconic’ properties.
It only remains for growth plans to get a bit more structured and include retail spaces and social infrastructure as part of the whole – in order to create a long range vision for the city to be truly India’s most livable one.