Bengaluru has been one of the fastest growing cities in the world, growing at a CAGR of 4.66 per cent. The city’s unprecedented growth has been powered by the knowledge economy, namely the information technology (IT) and biotechnology (BT), which has changed the face of the city. These have created jobs for over 1.75 million people and five times that number in various secondary and tertiary support services.
It is India’s only global city with a vibrant start-up, research and innovation ecosystem working seamlessly across continents. It is a place of aspiration and opportunity and has seen rapid migration from other parts of the country. The growing opportunities in Bengaluru are drawing people from across the country as well as overseas. By 2031, the city is projected to have 20.3 million residents — beyond the current population in metros such as Mumbai and Delhi.
The presence of some of the country’s best research-led academic institutions and path-breaking government policies have enabled Bengaluru to go beyond being India’s ‘IT Capital’ and ‘BT Capital’ to being the country’s ‘Start-up Capital’.
The city figures among the Global Top 20 Startup Ecosystems, according to a report by US-based Startup Genome. It is ranked as the ‘most dynamic city in the world,’ ahead of Silicon Valley and Shanghai, on the JLL City Momentum Index for 2017. The entrepreneurial energy of the city is further propelled by the efforts of the Karnataka government to promote Bengaluru and the state as the ultimate start-up destination in the world. The Karnataka government unveiled a Startup Policy in 2015 to create a world-class startup ecosystem in the state through strategic investments and policy interventions and a vision to stimulate the growth of 20,000 tech start-ups by 2020, with Rs 30 crore being set aside in the form of grants or equity through its various fun for start-ups under ‘Innovate Karnataka.’ These forward-looking policies meant that Karnataka had about 2.2 start-ups per 10 lakh population compared to the national average of 1.4 in 2016.
Entrepreneurial energy coupled with progressive policies make Bengaluru today the home to many of the unicorns in the country, including Flipkart, Ola, Mu Sigma, InMobi and Quikr!
Success breeds success
A potent mix of high technology and entrepreneurship has also enabled Bengaluru to become a wealth generator. According to investment banking and asset management company Avendus Capital, Bengaluru is set to add more billionaires and millionaires than other metros in the next five years.
The city will churn wealth faster than other metros because all the new business models get delivered out of the city and all the new companies that are scaling up come out of Bengaluru , Avendus said. The entrepreneurial DNA of Bengaluru also means that it is the heart of India’s venture capital industry, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of all VCs.
Use of technology
The city is at the forefront of using technology for better delivery of services. Bengaluru Airport is planning to use biometrics-based technology to identify passengers, which could eliminate the need for paper and extensive security checks thus easing congestion. In fact, Kempegowda International Airport could potentially be the first international airport anywhere in the world to introduce such a ‘single-token’ system, according to a recent news report.Using ‘facial recognition’ technology at airports is a good example of how Bengaluru thrives on innovative thinking and stakes claim to being the 'Knowledge Capital’ of India. Bengaluru , the city of Sir M Visvesvaraya, has produced a crop of first-generation entrepreneurs who have put Indian IT and biotechnology on the world map. A city, once considered a retiree’s paradise, is today buzzing with an infectious kind of intellectual energy.
Challenges of rapid growth
This supercharged growth has created immense wealth for its residents but has not come without associated challenges with regard to infrastructure. Mobility, waste management, water, safety of women and children have become key concerns for citizens today.
But Bengaluru has always enjoyed a unique culture of active engagement by various citizen groups, which are concerned with the city's administration and its wellbeing. It is an engagement that makes them stakeholders in the city’s development and progress.
Citizens have been clamouring for a credible mass transport system that includes good Metro coverage, a good suburban rail transit system, increased fleet of buses, pot-hole free roads, last mile connectivity, walkable footpaths and cycling lanes to resolve the serious mobility challenge. With the 266-km Metro announcement, proposed suburban rail investments, announcement of the Electric Vehicles Policy, white topping of high density road corridors and all the associated investments in footpaths and cycling lanes, smart parking project, a modern information and traffic management system, Bengalureans have much to be hopeful and optimistic about. The government is also investing in a Peripheral Ring Road for easing traffic congestion within the city and accelerating Metro connectivity to the airport.
After several years of neglect, water conservation, supply enhancement, capacity for reuse of waste water are all being created. At a time when there was alarm over a recent BBC article listing Bengaluru among the 11 global cities most likely to run out of drinking water, the efforts of citizens’ groups have led to commitments from the state government to cover 90 per cent of households by providing them with drinking water.
Recently, the Supreme Court took cognizance of a PIL filed by the Bengaluru Political Action Committee (BPAC) to ensure adequate drinking water supply to the city. It contributed to the delivery of a speedy verdict by the apex court of the country on the decades-old Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu giving primacy to drinking water needs over all other uses.
Thanks also to the efforts of citizens’ groups, a road map has been created to achieve 100 per cent waste water treatment capacity of the 1,572 MLD (million litres per day) estimated to be generated by households in Bengaluru by 2020. The citizens now have to focus their attention to these capacities actually being utilised to the full extent.
Active civil society intervention
Citizens’ awareness of the levers of power, and the knowledge that they have access to them in times of need, determines how engaged and invested they are in a city. Given the city’s explosive growth in the last decade, it’s not surprising that Bengaluru is facing many of the problems that come from growing very rapidly in a developing country. However, it is not a cause for despair as citizens' groups in Bengaluru are playing a parallel governance role to improve the quality of life for its denizens. They are playing a key role in creating awareness among the public, initiating the dialogue process to engage citizens in participatory roles prior to policy introduction, and removing roadblocks for policies that could contribute to the sustainable development of Bengaluru.
These groups are playing the role of facilitators of democracy and development, as well as watchdogs. By working strategically with political parties, they are helping improve government responsiveness and transforming Bengaluru into a world class city. Bengaluru is proving to be a city of citizens, by citizens and for citizens. The common man is not only pushing the government to deliver but is also doing its bit in transforming the city into one of the most preferred an liveable destinations in the world.
The Writer is CMD, Biocon
(As told to Mini Tejaswi)