Bengaluru has always been known as the Silicon Valley of India for a long time now. However, as per the recent survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, Bengaluru has overtaken its namesake, the actual Silicon Valley to become the most dynamic city in the world. Joining Bengaluru in the Top 10 is its counterpart from Telangana, the City of Pearls, Hyderabad. In what can be termed as a landmark for India, total of 6 cities have been named in the list of 30 most dynamic cities in the world. The others being Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, and Delhi. Now what has driven this dynamism? The answer is simple and it is because of three things, namely innovation, education, and technology.
Bengaluru and Hyderabad are a cut above the rest in India when it comes to innovation and technology. The two cities have emerged as the biggest technology hubs in the country. Bengaluru alone accounts for 30-35% of the exports in the Information and Technology sector and Hyderabad comes second with 12-15%. What caused these two cities to emerge as technology hubs? This was not a spontaneous event which happened all of a sudden. A lot of planning was done and a lot of credit must be given to the Central Government, the State Governments of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, but most importantly to the people of these two cities who embraced technology with both hands.
The foundation for Bengaluru to emerge as a science and technology hub was laid out by the legendary Mysore Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar-IV and the founder of the the Tata Group, Jamsedji Tata, who in turn was inspired by Swami Vivekananda. These two men set up the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (then known as Tata Institute of Scince) in 1909. After India became an independent nation, the Government of India set up many premier institutions such as the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), all of which are now institutions of national importance in the science and technology sectors. Bengaluru is blessed with a wonderful climate and is placed in a strategic, relatively safer location which must have been the reason why the GOI chose Bengaluru.
The unsung hero behind Bengaluru’s success story was Ram Krishna Baliga who was the first Chairman and Managing Director of Karnataka Electronics or KEONICS. In the 1970’s Baliga dreamt of making Bengaluru the “Silicon Valley of India” but it was met with a lot of skepticism. But Baliga managed to convince the then Chief Minister of Karnataka, Devaraj Urs, who set up KEONICS in 1976 and made Baliga its first chairman. In 1978, KEONICS set up Electronics City on a 332-acre land acquired from Konappana Agrahara and Doddathogur villages on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Electronics City was not included in the Bengaluru Corporation for a very long time and this acted as kind of tax relief for software, electronics, and manufacturing companies who had to pay just the Panchayati tax to the two villages in which the area was set up. This encouraged many companies to set up shop over here with Infosys and Wipro being one of the first ones to set up in the 1980’s. The companies were there now, but what about skilled professionals? Where would they come from?
One event that changed the face of Bengaluru was the introduction of Computer Science as an engineering branch. Bangalore Institute of Technology (BIT) became the first private engineering college in Karnataka and maybe even in India to offer CS as a separate branch in engineering. Although there was a great deal of controversy regarding this decision, this move turned out to be masterstroke. Till the 1980’s, the number of engineering colleges were a few and none of them offered CS as a separate branch.
BIT’s move opened a Pandora’s box. A huge number of students chose CS and the demand was growing day by day. Slowly all colleges in Bangalore started offering CS as a separate branch. The demand rose exponentially and the number of colleges that came up in this period also increased. There were now many engineering colleges as compared to before. The term “software engineer” came into picture. Now there were IT companies in Bangalore which needed fresh graduates and the city was ready to offer them.
Today, Bengaluru has so many private and public sector organisations with a huge number of scientists and engineers living in the city. There are so many good engineering colleges like RV College of Engineering, BMS College of Engineering, and so on that there is a huge talent pool available in the city itself. These colleges attract students from all over India and hence, Bengaluru has a huge pool of talented young students from across the country. All these factors are the reason why Bengaluru, which was a silent, pensioner’s paradise in the 1990’s is now the most dynamic city in the world, having witnessed a tremendous amount of growth in the two decades.
The success story of Hyderabad is actually more extraordinary than that of Bengaluru. Bengaluru had the privilege of being under the watchful eyes of the Mysore Maharajas, the wonderful weather and the strategic location were an added advantage. Hyderabad didn’t have all these privileges to begin with but despite all odds, it has emerged as a brilliant city and has been consistently ranked as one of the best cities in India in the recent past.
A lot of credit for Hyderabad becoming a technology hub goes to N Chandrababu Naidu, who was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh from 1995 to 2004. Just the way R K Baliga established Electronics City, Naidu and his team at Hyderabad established HITEC City in Hyderabad in 1999 which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is spread across a land of 200-acres under the suburbs of Madhapur, Gachibowli, Manikonda, and Nanakramguda. HITEC City is located at just 2 km from the commercial and residential hub of Jubilee Hills. The whole technology hub is called as Cyberabad.
Naidu met with NRI entrepreneurs and invited them to set up shop in Hyderabad. He met with technology giants like Microsoft, made elaborate presentations and convinced them to invest in Hyderabad. He coined the slogan “Bye Bye Bangalore, hello Hyderabad” to carry forward his aim. Various engineering colleges were built not just in Hyderabad but across Andhra Pradesh to create a talent pool. If Bengaluru has IISc, Hyderabad has an IIT and also a campus of BITS in the city.
For his incredible efforts, Naidu was recognized as the IT Indian of the millennium ahead of giants like N R Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji. The IT exports in Hyderabad crossed $1billion in 2003-04 and this has only increased with time, thereby cementing Hyderabad’s position as a leading technology hub.
There are other reasons common to both the cities which have strengthened them. One was the liberalization of the Indian economy that was done under the Narasimha Rao government and the other was the general stable conditions in the two cities. Apart from the Telangana agitation in Hyderabad and the Kaveri agitation in Bengaluru, the two cities have generally been peaceful. But the most important reason for their success is the people of Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Both are cosmopolitan cities and the people have welcomed everyone with open arms because of which people from across the country have made them their home.
The two cities are shining lights within the Indian economy and their high rating in the list of the most dynamic cities in the world is well deserved. Innovation, education, and technology are the key factors in the development of any city and both Bengaluru and Hyderabad have been successful in getting a high score on all these three parameters. Hope the success story of these two cities is replicated in other upcoming technology hubs like Pune, Kochi, and Gurgaon. India will be dynamic if our cities are dynamic.