Bengaluru, India’s answer to Silicon Valley?

I am about to complete 1.5 years in Bengaluru (erstwhile Bangalore) and have been thinking of blogging about my experience/thoughts as someone who has experienced both these regions. Getting the time was the issue. A late Friday evening, with a cup of coffee in place, I feel perfectly in the mood to attempt this. So here goes …

(A) Weather

Weather is, bar none, the biggest advantage Bengaluru has over other Indian cities, in my opinion. That puts Bengaluru weather very similar to Silicon Valley weather. Moderate, year round. As many of my friends have told me, to appreciate the Bengaluru weather, you have to travel to another Indian city and return 🙂 How long such weather conditions will last needs to be seen, as lakes are disappearing fast or they are getting polluted fast. The city is not expanding, it is exploding!

(B) Technological Hub (and number of Corporations)

Again, very similar to San Jose. Though people quote Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi-Gurgaon, Kolkata etc., let me mention two facts to illustrate my point:

– In my complex of 1000+ flats, atleast 40% of the population are from North India (I mean North of Mumbai). These are folks who gave up on Delhi, Pune, Mumbai etc. and decided to be based in the South.

– We recently had a batch of new college graduates from IIT-Kharagpur join our company. From a class of around 40 students, apparently 26 headed to Bengaluru.

So, rest of the Indian cities can blow their horns all they want, Bengaluru is the King (and Queen) as far as technical jobs go. A lot of immigrants never move out of Silicon Valley, even though the home prices are ridiculous and the state is in deep trouble with its finances, because of the sheer number of companies in the area. Almost every major corporation has a base in Silicon Valley. Though other places like Boise, Dallas, Chicago suburbs, NY-NJ, Boston, Seattle etc. are supposed to be competitors, based on my visits to these places and analysis, these regions are far from catching up with the valley.

Almost all the big global players, IBM, Oracle, Cisco, LSI, Intel, Accenture, Phillips, Samsung, TI etc. and the Indian giants like Infosys, Wipro, HCL etc. are all based in Bengaluru.

(C) Cosmopolitan Nature

Bengaluru has always been 2-3 steps ahead of the rest of India in terms of, how should I put it, western influence. I mean, very well-spoken people, people who have seen the world and people who have liberal views. Even cab drivers, cafeteria workers, security workers etc. speak a bit of English and are seen to use latest gadgets.

(D) Ethnical Diversity

Hah! Surely a huge similarity between the two regions. San Francisco Bay Area (in general) is one of the most ethnically diverse regions you will see in the World, let alone USA. You name a cuisine, I bet you, a restaurant is available for that cuisine in the Bay Area, and that too run by natives from that country. For example, Korean restaurant run by Koreans.

Similarily, Bengaluru is also very diverse. Please keep in mind that the differences between states in India are much more than the differences between states in USA. You may not find much difference between nearby states (in terms of culture, for example) like Mississippi and Alabama, but consider Kerala and Karnataka. There are a lot of differences, in language, customs, festivals, food etc. In our group (within my company), there are the following states of India represented:

Andhra Pradesh (By far the biggest representation :-))
Tamil Nadu
West bengal
Uttar Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
New Delhi
That is 15 (of India’s 28 states) being represented in a group of 50-60 people, in one company! Of course, I am aware that in Silicon Valley, the diversity is with respect to Nations. But hey, USA has been free and independent for 236 years and India for only 65 years 🙂
Both the regions are very well served by this diversity, as diversity makes these regions an invigorating hotspot of ideas and thoughts.
(E) Entrepreneurship/IPOs/StartUps
Though not the dominant center in India, Bengaluru has a lot of entrepreneurship activity, like the successful example RedBus. A lot of it has to do with the inflow of young and sharp minds from all over the country. Innovation is one of the biggest reasons for Silicon Valley’s success. There is something in the air, I guess 🙂 It is mind-boggling how many ideas and corporations have been born in the Valley.
(F) Cost of living
Ouch! A painful similarity. Just today, the new Indian Diesel price list was published in the newspaper and other than Mumbai (which beat Bengaluru by a few paise) Bengaluru has the most pricey Diesel. Even otherwise, almost all the items are 30-40% more expensive if you buy in one of the famed Bengaluru malls or similar branded stores. Homes (which are almost as expensive as in Silicon Valley!) Restaurants, Hotels, Stores, Movies etc. You name it, it will pinch your pocket.
I could almost say the same for the San Francisco Bay Area. Tiny “homes” costing upwards of 1M$, gas prices over 4$ and restaurants picking menu prices out of the hat.
(G) Traffic
Ouch! Another painful similarity. But Silicon Valley traffic is nothing (I mean NOTHING!) compared to Bengaluru. I read that automobiles on Bengaluru roads are increasing 50+% year to year. If that is true, tell me, which city’s infrastructure (even assuming that city has the most pious and trustworthy politicians/bureaucrats) can keep up with this pace?
California roads are one of the worst when compared with other states and it probably has to do with the amount of traffic the roads handle. Keep in mind that California is one of the largest economies in the World (not just USA).
(H) Population Density
How much is Bengaluru growing? Well, consider this. Chennai almost stood static, when Bengaluru blazed past it to become India’s 4th largest Metro. I predict that at this pace, Kolakata better watch out (Mumbai and Greater Delhi regions are way way ahead at this point). Congestion in Bengaluru is nowhere near that in a global-size city like Mumbai, but it is still very high. Same with Silicon Valley. I will never forget the times when I had to land in SFO (San Francisco International Airport) in the night and I got to see the huge sea of lights from above. In fact there is not a dark spot for miles and miles.
(I) Quality of life
Though the traffic conditions (during peak hours. Non-peak hours is pretty okay) and the general lower levels of cleanliness (which is a common trait in most non-Western regions) causes some issues, the offices, the flats/homes etc. are roughly on par for the two regions. Though there are other disadvantages in Bengaluru (when compared to Silicon Valley), like mosquitos (mainly outside of Summer), poor air quality, corruption in day-to-day life etc., overall, assuming you earn quite okay, it is possible to have a very good life in Bengaluru.
Now I wonder if it is just a coincidence that I moved from one region to another region which has so much similarities to the former? 🙂

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