How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

Location: India

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A tale of two cities - I

I went to Bangalore this weekend with a friend. I now have many sets of friends in Bangalore to meet. Unfortunately, I could meet only the people from IIML and a great friend from school. Anyway, the trip was very enjoyable as it felt like visiting a hill station after being in Chennai. I visited Lalbagh, The Forum and a couple of my favourite restaurants. I also got to stay in an IIMB hostel room and a look around the campus.

While talking to my friend from school, who had come there from Ahmedabad to work, we both wondered why Ahmedabad had a very negligible (nearly non-existent) IT industry. Except for some stellar firms like eInfochips, Ahmedabad has nothing to boast about in this sphere. Why is this so? And more importantly, should this be so? One way to answer these questions might be to list the major strengths of Bangalore and see how Ahmedabad fares on those points, and then also, to complete the picture, list areas where Bangalore is weak and see if Ahmedabad is any better in those.

Bangalore's strengths

There is no doubt that Bangalore beats Ahmedabad and all other Indian cities on this score. It is by far the most pleasant city I have been in. However, is climate really a driver of progress for the IT industry? I don't think so. How else would one explain a thriving software industry in Chennai or Hyderabad, which don't have great climate to boast of?

Good educational institutions
Gujarat doesn't lack good engineering colleges and higher education facilities. I would say that Karnataka does score over Gujarat overall, both in quantity and quality. However, Gujarat's job, at least initially, would be to attract professionals from outside the state, while building new institutes and bettering existing ones. If Bangalore has great scientific institutions, Ahmedabad can also boast of quite a few.

Availability of talent
Bangalore and other places already have quite a few Gujarati engineers and managers, so it is not as if Gujaratis don't do well in this field. Ahmedabad is also quite cosmopolitan, maybe less than Bangalore, but just as receptive to outsiders. Once the seeds of a strong industry are sown, attracting talent should not be impossible. (One disincentive for outsiders to settle in Gujarat is its prohibition law, but then thousands of people from other states do manage to live and enjoy in Gujarat even with prohibition. ) Also, the exodus of fresh engineers to the US would also slow down if they saw the opportunity to do well right there, in their own city. If anything, the commercial mindset of the Gujarati would come in most handy to the industry.

Supportive government
So far, this had been the trump card for Karnataka, really. But with the exit of S. M. Krishna and the advent of Dharam Singh, the government has gone from 'extremely supportive' to 'neutral'. The Gujarat government has always been supportive of industry, as is well known. But none of the governments concentrated on attracting the IT industry, and all efforts have been half-hearted at best. This is where Gujarat has tripped up and needs to pull up its socks badly.

Communal peace
Bangalore does not have a record of communal riots, at least not of the scale of Ahmedabad. And post-Godhra riots have given Ahmedabad a much worse name than it has ever deserved. But
in this, I think it would be safe to say that Amdavadis (and Gujaratis) would ultimately prefer business and prosperity over mindless propagandist religion which disrupts their day-to-day business life.



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